// Caroline sat on the bench, surrounded by a group of men vying for her attention. Each waiting for the chance to freshen her drink for her or get her dessert. It was a beautiful spring day. A warm breeze floated through the air carrying a mix of smells from the afternoon's barbeque with it. Some of the smells were very pleasant and some were not. Life on a plantation did not stop for the darkies who had both corn and winter wheat to tend to at this time of year.
Charles Montgomery and Aaron Harrison were engaged in some sort of political talk that Caroline had no desire to listen to. She tried, really, she did. Her father insisted that Caroline at least be familiar with how things worked outside of the home where the men were in charge. But politics were so very dull.
Her attention drifted to other things as she took in her surroundings. She could not believe that Cathleen Krinsky was wearing the same dress as she wore to the last barbeque. She could not imagine being seen in the same dress two parties in a row. While Caroline's dress for the afternoon barbeque was nothing special the red and gold taffeta gown she had for the evening's dance was going to make Daniel wish he had already asked her father for her hand in marriage. The gown was daringly low cut and the sleeves were so low on her upper arms that a generous amount of skin would be showing while still remaining within propriety.\\
Buffy woke, stretching out in her bed. For the briefest of moments she smelled the scent of lemons and food being cooked on open-pit fires ever so faintly. She recalled her latest dream and opened the notebook by her bed to write down the details. Not even Willow knew about the latest dreams Buffy had been having.
She wondered if she was dreaming about characters from an old movie she had watched with her mom. None of it seemed familiar, but she did not remember every movie she had seen. The woman in her dream was beautiful. She was always dressed perfectly with her long dark hair coiffed just-so all of the time. Her skin was creamy white without a blemish on it, as if the woman had never been out in the sun. She seemed happy and confident, things Buffy could not relate to. She had confidence in herself when it came to slaying but that was about it. And happiness? What was that? Angel had left her, Parker had used her, Willow would be just fine at UC Sunnydale without her. Xander still liked having her around, but that was nothing new where Xander was concerned. She sighed as she finished recording her description of the dream in her notebook.
It was the fourth dream she had involving the same people. Each dream seemed to draw her in deeper, as if there was something she was supposed to see or know. Whatever it was she was missing the point at least so far she was.
"Oh hi, Buffy, I wasn't expecting you to be awake yet," Willow said as she entered their room. She had obviously just taken her shower.
"Hey, Wil." Now that Oz had left, Buffy was not sure how to treat Willow. Her friend was obviously hurting, Buffy knew how she felt but there was a chance Oz would come back. Buffy did not think she had that same possibility open to her regarding Angel. She was quite sure the pain both of them felt was reflected clearly in one another's eyes.
"Oh nothing, just a dream journal."
"No, I just like to keep track of them so if it turns out to be a slayer-like dream I can remember what all I've dreamt so far."
"Oh, that makes sense."
"I thought so. I started doing it in high school when I was having dreams about The Master." She shrugged as she capped her pen and slid her notebook into her nightstand drawer. She was not worried about Willow snooping. She was not going to inconvenience Willow right now with dreams that probably meant nothing as far as doom and gloom approaching went. The dreams were strangely nice, she always felt well rested and calm when she woke up from them.
"I'll see you in Psych class then," Willow said collecting her book bag.
"Okay," Buffy called out as Willow closed the door. "Time for a shower and breakfast," Buffy said as she stood from bed.
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 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.
//Caroline could not believe they were finally alone. Well, as alone as they could be with nosey servants never too far away. Her heart pounded at the idea that Daniel was going to kiss her. She dropped her gaze flirtatiously and fluttered her lashes coquettishly at the expectation of his kiss. She was an expert at the art of flirtation. Her mother had taught her some but Caroline had an innate ability at wrapping a man around her little finger with very little effort.
Daniel was the one she had set her sights on for the purpose of marriage on her fifteenth birthday almost two years ago. He was a skilled rider, native to the area, and his family owned the plantation that bordered along the south side of Shady Oaks. It helped that he was incredibly handsome. There were times she wondered what was taking him so long to ask for her hand. Their parents were in favor of the two plantations becoming one someday. When he kissed her thoughts of marriage and the responsibilities that would go with it drifted away.
Her hands burrowed in his dark hair, wind blown from the ride to Shady Oaks, arching into him. Something amazing always happened when he kissed her, this time was no different.\\
"Daniel," Buffy said with a start as she came to. To her humiliation she had apparently drifted off in class. Sinking low in her chair as more than a few of the other students as well as Riley and Professor Walsh glanced in her direction. "Great," she whispered under her breath. Just what she needed, Riley was going to think she wanted him to help her cheat to pass this class. This was not the first time she had fallen asleep.
"Who's Daniel?" Willow leaned over and asked.
"That's the name you called out, and it sounded sexy-like."
"I don't know anyone named Daniel, Wil." She could not explain to Willow that Daniel was a man who lived only in her dreams. She could not explain that she had woken up from this little dozing off episode feeling as if she had actually been the one getting kissed instead of the girl in her dream. Her body was humming like crazy right now. If it was nighttime she could go patrolling, but the sun was all bright and shiny out there so there was no possibility of a quick slay to burn off this energy.
She pressed the pads of her fingers to her lips and thought that they actually felt slightly swollen. "What's happening to me," she whispered.
"Nothing," Buffy said. Her eyes met Riley's who was watching her curiously and she smiled wryly at him. He would probably think she was just too bizarre to bother with now. It was sad, because he was kinda cute and he seemed nice. And normal. If only she could explain to him about being the slayer and the dreams that came with it.
"Now I'm thinking in circles," she mumbled again, drawing circles with her blue pen in her notebook. There was no sense taking notes today, she had no idea what Professor Walsh's lecture was about.
As she sat there doodling in her notebook she glanced discreetly in Riley's direction and gasped when for the briefest of moments it was the man from her dreams instead of Riley.
"Buffy," Willow whispered, her concern for Buffy evident even with such a low tone of voice.
"Miss Summers," Professor Walsh said, stopping her lecture to address her.
"Yes, Professor Walsh."
"Is there something the matter?"
"I," Buffy said and glanced around the room. Everyone probably thought she was some kind of freak. Everyone except Willow who was worried for her best friend. "I'm not feeling very well. I think I need to go to the health center."
"Perhaps you should rather than disrupting my class. Again."
"Yes," Buffy said, gathering her things together. "I'm sorry," she whispered as she brushed past Professor Walsh on her way out of the classroom. She spared a glance at Riley who was not looking at her as if she was a freak. There was something to be said for that.
Buffy turned around and saw Riley standing in the hallway, the classroom door held ajar by his foot. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, we'll talk another time."
"Sure, no problem. It's just that if you needed someone to walk you to the health center I will."
"No, I'll be fine, you don't need Professor Walsh mad at you, too."
"I'm not too worried about it," Riley said.
"Well, in that case, if you're sure."
"I'm sure. Be right back," he said and disappeared into the classroom. He joined her a few minutes later, his book bag over his right shoulder. "So, do you have the flu or what?"
"No, nothing like that. I don't know what's going on, Riley." She glanced at him from the corner of her eye and smiled. "I wish I could explain it to you, but just weirdness that is Buffy's life."
"Aww, come on, you can't be that weird. You look pretty normal to me."
"Really. I've checked you out. I mean," he blushed a rather embarrassing shade of red and Buffy could not help but smile. "Well, you know, you seem normal to me. I've watched you."
"Have you now? Should I be worried that I have a stalker?"
"I was teasing, Riley."
"Oh," he said sheepishly. "You're not going to the health center, are you?"
"No, there's nothing wrong that they can help me with anyway. I have to go into town for a while to see a friend."
"A friend or a boyfriend?"
"Just a friend," Buffy said flirtatiously.
"Would you like company?"
"Some other time," she said. She wished she could tell him the truth, but she did not want to put him in danger or make him think she was even crazier than he probably already believed she was.
"I'll hold you to that."
"Good," she said and offered him a smile. They had walked to the point in campus where she had to go her own way if she was going to visit Giles. "Well, this is my stop I think."
"I hope you get to feeling better, Buffy."
"Thanks, Riley." She began walking toward town but stopped when she heard him call her name.
"You wanted to talk to me after class."
"Maybe later, okay?"
"Well, I'll be back at my room in Lowell House. All night," he said. Buffy laughed lightly, getting the hint. He wanted her to come by. She did not see a problem with that.
"Is there a time that's too late?"
Riley seemed to think about this, finally shaking his head. "No, any time is fine. I mean, if it's three in the morning I will be asleep, but you know, any reasonable time."
"Okay," Buffy said, tucking some hair behind her ear. "I'll see you later then."
"What's the use of having all those books if they don't tell him anything," Buffy muttered as she turned onto the sidewalk leading to Lowell House. Her visit to Giles had resulted in nothing. He did not seem to think she was experiencing anything out of the ordinary. He did not understand that she did not normally fall asleep in class and have dreams. Or that she had made a fool of herself in front of the one professor who actually seemed to respect Buffy.
She spotted a couple of the commando guys on her way home. She should have followed them but she looked wicked conspicuous dressed in a white miniskirt and hot pink top. So she decided to hold off her clandestine adventures for now. Too bad, she really wanted to find out what was going on so that Spike could go on his merry way and quit bothering them.
//Her gown was a royal blue silk with black piping throughout the skirt. Her dark brown hair was piled atop her head in a mass of uncontrollable curls. She twirled in front of her grand floor length mirror when the seamstress was not looking. She had been raised not to be vain but she could not help but appreciate how flattering the gown was to both her coloring and her figure.
"You look lovely, dear."
"Thank you, Mother," she said formally. Her voice carried a hint of a southern drawl. "It will be perfect for our dinner party at the Grant's next week. Don't you agree?"
Caroline was more excited than she let on for the dinner party she spoke of. Surely his family had extended the invitation because Daniel was finally ready to ask her father for her hand. There could be no other reason for such an invitation so soon after the Taylor barbeque.\\
"Huh?" She stood in the middle of the sidewalk coming out of it suddenly, turning in the direction of the voice. There was no way she had fallen asleep while walking, but it was the same woman she had been dreaming about lately. There was something way weird going on. She did not need Giles' books to tell her that. The faint smell of lemons was there again and Buffy took a deep breath, finding the scent calming. She could feel the smooth, cool silk as it caressed and hugged the curves of her body.
"Oh no, there's nothing wrong with me at all, Giles. I'm just having hallucinations while I'm walking," she muttered under her breath. "Xander? What are you doing here?"
"Oh I just, you know, came by to see how my girls were."
"Just a little."
"Was Willow not in our room?"
"No sign of her, unless she was hiding in that shoebox they call a closet."
Buffy laughed. "I don't think so. I was about to go see a friend," she nibbled on her lower lip and glanced at Lowell House. "I really do need to see him tonight."
"Oh sure, hey, no sweat. I'll catch up with you guys tomorrow."
"Okay, Xan, I'm sorry, another time I promise."
"Is this potential dateage?"
"Potentially potential, yes."
"Well, then, nothing to be sorry about. Go get ‘em, Tiger."
"Thanks, Xander," she said not sure he was sincere. She knew he was feeling like the odd man out right now. Buffy was a little, too. Willow and Oz seemed to adjust to college life so much easier than she had.
"Night," she said with a wave as she continued on toward Lowell House. She thought of inviting Xander to come with her, but she did not want to talk about this stuff in front of Xander. He was liable to say something he should not about who she was and then she would have some explaining to do.
She walked up the stairs to Riley's room and was about to knock when she saw one of his friends. She did not know his name, but he was nice looking and had been nice to her the couple times before this she had seen him. He looked a little disheveled tonight and had some fresh bruises on his face. "Hi," she said with a smile. He did not seem to think there was anything odd about his appearance, so she did not bring it up. There were times she had wicked looking bruises and she preferred not to be asked where they came from.
"Hi, it's Buffy, right?"
"Yeah," she said, surprised he knew her name. That must mean Riley talked about her. Hopefully, he said good things about her. "I don't know your name."
"Graham," he said. "He was expecting you, so you can probably just go right on in. See ya'," he said and walked in the direction of the showers. He had a dry towel slung over his shoulder and was carrying a shower caddy so she assumed that was where he was going.
"Bye," she said cheerily, surprised at his friendliness.
She paused at Riley's door. Graham said she could just walk in, but she felt a little weird doing that. She hardly knew Riley. She liked to think he was a friend, but would she want Riley walking into her room without knocking? Then again, guys were different about things like that. With that in mind, she opened the door and walked in.
His room seemed bigger than hers, probably because there was only one bed. "Riley," she said. A desk lamp was on, a text book open with a pen in the center, and she could hear music playing softly but she did not see Riley sitting at the desk.
"What are you doing in my bedroom?" It was not the question that caught Buffy off guard but rather the way Riley sounded when he asked it. She knew he was from the Midwest somewhere, but had not noticed an accent before now.
"I should have knocked," she whispered. "I saw Graham in the hallway, he told me to come right in."
"It's too early yet," he said. "The servants will talk, Caroline."
"This is not possible," Buffy whispered as she observed Riley on his bed. He was an attractive man, built without being Mister Universe. He was tall, dark, and handsome without the broodiness that she had grown accustomed to with Angel. Thoughts of Angel brought to mind last Christmas when they starred in one another's dreams. So she knew it was, contrary to what she had just said, in fact possible.
She was tempted to call him Daniel and see what would happen from there, but decided against it. She had no idea what powers might be at work here. "Riley?" She walked to the bed and placed a hand on his forearm. He was warm to the touch. Angel had not been. The only time he had ever been was when the poison was eating away at him, killing him.
His eyes opened wide suddenly and he stared at Buffy for a moment, confusion etched on his face. "Buffy?"
"I must have fallen asleep. Sorry," he said with a smile.
"I guess so," she said and laughed lightly.
"I wasn't sure you'd come over."
"Well, I got done sooner than I thought."
"Yeah," she said with a smile and sat on the edge of his bed. It was a little weird sitting that close to him when he had just been sleeping. It seemed so intimate, private, things she had shared only with Angel until now. "I can come back tomorrow if you're tired."
"No," he said, propping himself up on an elbow. Their eyes met and Buffy had to shift her gaze to the poster on the wall above his bed. This was just too weird. He was looking at her so intensely. "Stay, Buffy, please. You said there was something you wanted to talk to me about."
"Well," she paused not sure what to say. It would be nice to talk to someone who had a psych background about her dreams. Psychology people studied dreams; at least she thought they did. She could not talk to him about her dreams, though, or what she had heard him say a minute ago. He might think that she was making it up or just flat out crazy. "I really didn't have anything specific I wanted to talk about."
"Really? I mean, I sort of hoped that was all it was. I'd like to get to know you."
"Me, too." It no longer felt weird to be sitting on his bed. Dorm rooms were not houses so there were not many choices when it came to sitting. She just wished she knew what to say to him without sounding stupid. The sting from Angel leaving and then Parker were still fresh. "That was some lecture today."
"You didn't come here to talk to me about class, did you?"
"No, I just," she shrugged. "Now that I'm here I guess I'm not sure what to say."
He sat up and Buffy stood from the bed to give him room. "Well, who says we have to say anything?"
Buffy was surprised at his boldness. He did not strike her as being so forward. One of the things she liked about him was his politeness. Was he just another Parker after all? Were all guys Parker's? The only guy she had spent time with over the past two years was Angel so she really did not know anymore what guys were like. "Well, I'm sure we can come up with something to say."
She sidestepped him quickly when he walked forward before realizing he was going to his cube-sized refrigerator. "Do you want a beer? A pop?"
"Diet if you have it, if not regular is fine." Her three million B.C. Buffy experience was still fresh in her mind so beer was not an option. The only good to have come out of that whole experience was being able to club Parker over the head. He deserved it. He was such a player, though it still stung even though she accepted that.
"I don't but hold on I'll get you one."
"No, regular is fine."
"Are you sure? It's no trouble." He took a beer and a Dr. Pepper out of the refrigerator, handing the Dr. Pepper to her.
"I'm sure," she said opening the can of Dr. Pepper as he popped the top on his beer.
He took a sip before setting it on the desk beside him. "I'll work on getting some diet. If you're going to be coming around." She watched his eyes dart around the room as he cracked his knuckles. She could not help but smiling. It was kind of sweet actually. "Do you want to play some hoops?"
He grabbed a Nerf basketball and gestured to the basketball hoop on the back of his door. "Basketball?"
"Um," she said. She had never been big with sports even in gym class. She tended to forget about being stronger than everyone else and mess up in a big way. It usually ended up in her being embarrassed.
"I take that as a no," he said and tossed the ball onto his desk where it bounced off the desk behind the lamp. It came close to knocking over his beer, but he picked the can up before the ball could hit it and took a sip.
She was relieved that he was apparently no more comfortable than she was. Whatever it was they were doing. Things with Angel just sort of happened. She had been attracted to him the first time she saw him no question. But moving from "gloom and doom" prophesier to being her honey just wove its way into her life naturally.
Scott Hope was a transition guy. Buffy dated him knowing she had to put Angel where he belonged, in the past forever. So, really, Buffy had not been datey girl while she was the slayer. Back in LA she had been like Cordelia, a new boy waiting in the wings for when she broke up with her latest crush. She could hardly believe she was the same girl anymore so much had happened to her.
When she first came to Sunnydale Buffy would have given anything to be that girl in LA, especially the night she overheard Giles and Angel talking about her dying. She no longer felt that way. Sure the slaying got to be a drag and put a damper on her social life. The kids in high school seemed to understand there were weird things going on, even if they did not know they were. There were people from all over the country on campus, most probably had no idea what was here. Someone like Riley sure would not have a clue.
No, she would not trade it for anything but it left her lacking in social skills. Willow seemed right at home here on campus. She was busy going to parties, wicca groups, and doing other fun things. Buffy was stuck having weird dreams and slaying vampires when she could be at frat parties or football games.
"I'm just not much of a basketball person."
"I don't have much to offer you. I don't get company too often. Well, girls anyway. Forrest and Graham, they're always good for a game of horse."
She smiled with a nod. He seemed truly shy. She was not so sure she was a very good judge of character anymore. She trusted too easily, which led to her getting hurt. That really was not the best logic because she had not trusted Angel right away either and she still ended up hurting.
"How about a movie? I could make some popcorn."
"Sure," she said. She glanced at his desk, spotted the Nerf basketball behind the lamp and realized he probably had studying to do. He had obviously been doing something earlier. "If you have papers to grade or something, though, I can go."
"No, I got everything done earlier. Just in case you made it."
He really had been counting on her coming by. She was not really sure she would come until she actually walked up the sidewalk leading to his dorm instead of hers. Had Xander really pushed wanting to spend time with her, she might have gone with him instead of coming up here. She liked Riley, he seemed nice, but she was not sure she was ready to alter her daily plans for him.
"Oh. Well, then, sure, a movie sounds fine."
"I'm sensing you're not really sure you want to be here. I can open the door a little if you're worried about what people will say."
"No," she said with a light laugh. She was not going to have sex again unless she was sure the guy was not going to turn evil afterward. Since she was not sure there was such a guarantee she imagined she would lead a very quiet life. She really was not concerned about what his friends and people on his floor thought. They would think whatever they wanted anyway, door open or closed. "I'm not worried about it."
"Okay then," he said offering her a smile. He had a way of looking at her so deeply that she wondered if he was able to see right through her. His eyes were nice, soft, not harsh or judgmental. It was nice to look into the face of someone who knew nothing about the monsters and did not know she made with the death night after night. She considered him a potential date like she told Xander but she did not want to seem too eager. Coming to his dorm room this late probably was not the thing to do.
"I've got Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, and," he said walking to his TV/VCR combo unit, "Airplane."
"You're a comedy fan I take it."
"Yeah, I mean, isn't everybody? Who doesn't like a good laugh?"
"Nobody," she said unable to disagree with him there. He had a point. Maybe that was Buffy's problem, she did not laugh enough. "You pick," she said, setting the Dr. Pepper on his desk before she sat on the foot of his bed.
"I have a few non-comedies, but they're war movies and westerns. I'm not sure you'd go for those. The Magnificent Seven? Apocalypse Now? Platoon?"
She scrunched her nose and shook her head with a light laugh. "Comedy is good." Charlie Sheen was in Platoon she thought and he was cute, but it was a little too intense for her mood.
"Okay," he said taking the movie out of its sleeve and sliding it into the VCR. He turned the TV on and walked to the microwave which was next to the bed. It was kind of intimidating looking up at him, he was a big guy. She really never paid attention to it until now when he was standing over her. "I prefer to be comfortable when I'm watching a movie. So, we can either move to where the pillows are or move the pillows here and lay on our stomachs. I don't have any chairs to offer you, sorry."
"That's okay I can sit here with you, Riley." She was tempted to tell him she trusted him, because she did for reasons she could not understand. But she was not willing to be so open and giving with her heart this time around. She was still healing from Angel leaving. Parker had ripped off the bandage on the healing wound that was her heart, but the bandage had not really been doing its job to begin with.
"Okay, good," he said and put the bag of popcorn into the microwave. Once the popcorn was done he used the remote control to start the movie. Buffy settled back on the pillows with him, not getting too close to him even though that was hard to accomplish. It turned out he had chosen Caddyshack.
It was after ten when Buffy first looked at the bedside alarm clock. She should be out patrolling, but she had to admit it was kind of nice just to sit here. They had watched Caddyshack and had finished off two bags of popcorn. Now, though, it seemed like it was time to go. She was not sure what else they had to do with the movie over.
She was so not having sex with him, though he had not made one gesture that said he wanted to have sex with her. Maybe he really was just a nice guy and having sex with her had not crossed his mind.
Patrolling, she reminded herself as the credits kept rolling. "Riley." He did not respond. She looked closer at him and realized he had fallen asleep. He was obviously tired when she got there in the first place. He must have really wanted to spend time with her if he gave up sleeping. She reached over him to grab the remote control from the shelf behind his head.
It took her a minute to realize that he was touching her. His fingers were light against her forearm, caressing up along the length of her arm. "You made it," he whispered, his voice husky and rough from sleep.
"I did not think you were going to get away tonight."
"I," she paused. "Daniel?"
"Who else were you expecting to be in my bedchamber then?"
She pulled away quickly, hoping in a way that her sudden movement would wake him up. It did not seem to. "Riley," she whispered not at all wanting to believe this was happening. What in the hell did this mean? Yes, she had shared dreams with Angel but he had always been Angel. She had never really been in his dreams either. She had been an outsider looking in not part of the actual events.
His arm slid around her waist and he drew her to him. "I've been waiting for you," he whispered kissing her ear. "Your side of the bed is too cold when you're not here."
"Okay, that does it," Buffy whispered. She broke his hold on her easily and slid off the bed, glad that he was sleeping. He would not remember how easy it had been for her to get out of his arms. She was beginning to wonder if this was some type of spell, though why Riley would be involved with it if it was she did not know.
Maybe Giles had been the wrong person to see tonight for information. Willow was not taking Oz's leaving very well, not that Buffy could blame her. Buffy had no idea what spells her best friend had been experimenting with lately. Buffy did know that Willow's spells did not always go the way she wanted them to.
She stood by the edge of the bed, watching Riley as he slept. He looked so happy in a devilish sort of way. She wondered what he was thinking about that he had that look on his face. She probably did not want to know. She shut the TV and his desk lamp off and threw the empty popcorn bags and cans into the garbage before leaving.
She tried not to think about it, but walking back to her dorm she had nothing but time to dwell on what had happened with Riley. She had a nice time with him. He had been a perfect gentleman. The thing that frightened her was that for the briefest of moments she was tempted to stay in his arms and let him hold her. It made her wonder just what she lacked in her life that she was so starved for affection from anyone.
She thought she had a decent relationship with her parents. Her father had drifted away from Buffy, but that was not too unexpected with the drive between LA and Sunnydale being over an hour. Her mother had adjusted fairly well to Buffy being the slayer, though there were times Buffy still thought her mom just did not get the fact that Buffy's life was in danger every night.
Maybe it was the freshness of Angel's leaving and how easily she had let herself get played by Parker that made her that way. The important thing, though, was that she had not done it. She had left and she had passed enough of his friends in the hallway on her way out that she did not need to worry about what anyone would think of her in the morning.
Daniel heard the footsteps as they approached his chamber. He smiled as he took a sip of his warmed brandy. He wore a black silk smoking jacket with a hunter green and russet paisley print on the lapels. He wore a white cotton night shirt underneath and nothing else in anticipation of this visit. He and Caroline seldom had more than an hour or two together. Each night she visited him clandestinely it was harder and harder to fight the urges of the flesh he knew were meant to be shared between a man and a woman only after they had exchanged marriage vows.
His father was being unexpectedly difficult about supporting Daniel's desire to marry Caroline. The merger of the two plantations would result in Daniel owning the largest plantation in three counties. His father was breaking, though. Soon, Daniel hoped, he would be able to have Caroline as his bride and as a man was supposed to have a woman.
His body hardened in anticipation of the feel of her soft skin. She never allowed him to touch anywhere her corset prevented him from seeing, but they both seemed to enjoy finding out just how low the corset could go. He ached for her, if his father did not agree to the marriage soon Daniel was not so sure eloping would be out of the question where he was concerned. He would have no other but Caroline and no one but he would be a suitable match for her.
"I thought you'd never get here," he whispered before turning to face her. He almost choked on the brandy when he saw her. Her brown hair was an array of curls and bordered on making her look as if she had just gotten up from a tussle, her hazel eyes were fixated on him, and she had applied rouge to her cheeks and color to her lips. The green damask day dress was at her feet. A white cotton shift which left very little to the imagination was all that stood in the way of being completely naked. He swallowed quickly, the brandy burning as it traveled along his throat.
"I'm sorry I kept you waiting," she whispered, her voice containing a note of huskiness, wantonness he had never heard her emit before.
"I'm not so sure that you need to apologize," he whispered.
"Perhaps a display of how sorry I am then?"
He dropped his gaze, feeling it was somehow rude to stare at her. He had never seen a naked woman before. He had planned on Caroline being his first, just not before they were married. "Yes, I'm sure that might be in order." He had never thought of her being the aggressor, taking the step to bring their relationship to fruition.
"Am I unpleasant to look at then?"
He did not need to be looking at her to know averting his gaze had hurt her. "Of course not," he replied, swallowing hard, forcing his mouth to work. He watched as she walked the few steps to his bed, the white silk stockings a contrast in color to her pale skin. She sat on the bed and removed her stockings, rolling them delicately along the length of her leg and off. "Can I help you then?"
"I was beginning to think you'd never ask," she whispered. That was all it took. It was not the tone of her voice but the look in her beautifully expressive and inviting hazel eyes that made him rush to his bed, the snifter of brandy fell to the carpeted floor with a dull thud.
Riley woke with a start. He groaned softly as he realized he was having another one of his dreams. This one left him in a bit of a predicament. The images of the nearly naked woman and the mood of the liaison he was witness to had left their mark on him. There was no way he could head to the showers now. He sat up in bed, folding the spare pillow in half and stuffing it behind his head. The dull ache of need in his body led him to thoughts of Buffy.
Parker had hinted she was a tiger in bed. Riley had punched him for it because he thought it was rude of anyone to kiss and tell. He did not like to think about Buffy falling for a guy like Parker's lines, but he knew Buffy was not to blame. Freshmen girls were vulnerable to the lines and lures of the experienced upper classmen.
His eyes scanned his room and he realized, belatedly, that she had cleaned up some. He must have really crashed and burned quickly. Professor Walsh had them out late the night before searching for the missing hostile as well as the werewolf that attacked her a short while ago.
Riley had been looking for a way to talk to Buffy outside of class for weeks. So when she had approached him, well, he could not turn the chance down. If only he had not fallen asleep. He also needed to work on getting a better assortment of movies in his collection. Nothing like movies as old as he was, if not older, to really impress the girls.
He sighed, his thoughts having strayed enough from sex by now that he was no longer suffering from the plight the same as all men did first thing in the morning. She was different, special. Riley was not sure what it was about Buffy but she was the first girl in a while he had actually cared about impressing. The Initiative and classes really kept his plate more than full. He had never given much thought to adding a girlfriend into the mix. He was not a deceptive person by nature and to have a girlfriend would mean keeping secrets from her, something Riley did not believe in. Anyone he dated he considered to be someone who thought he could potentially end up with for the rest of his life. You did not lie to your husband or wife.
His thoughts drifted to the man and woman he had been dealing with. He was only being granted entrance into the man's mind. Riley was sure that should mean something, but dream analysis was not his forte and he could not ask Professor Walsh about it. She would want to monitor him and he did not want to be put on a leash, especially now that Buffy seemed to be showing interest in him.
He got out of bed, determined to put the odd dreams and thoughts of Buffy out of his mind. The dreams were easy to slide to the back of his mind, Buffy was a different story. He saw her everywhere now that she had been in his room. She had sat on his bed, her head had been against a pillow. "I'm so whipped," he said and could not help but noticing the smug grin on his face when he glanced in his mirror. He knew whenever he fell it would be hard. He was just that type of guy, his heart was open and receptive to a relationship. He had been waiting for the right girl for a long time.
He just hoped he was not putting the cart before the horse where Buffy was concerned. The fact of the matter was she had gone out with Parker. Maybe she was a tiger in the sack and wanted to get into as many sacks as she could. She certainly had not behaved that way last night. He could not even say whether or not she was interested in him as more than a friend. He would have to keep an eye on her, though, wait and see if he was placing his heart in capable hands.
Until then, he would go about his routine as normal. For right now that included taking a shower and going to chow with Forrest and Graham. They probably would think he was nuts for falling asleep with Buffy not just in his room but in his bed. He was not sure he would ever live it down. As their commanding officer he decided it was best not to tell them. He was not going to lose their respect out in the field because of a girl in his civilian life.
Daniel sat on the porch steps clutching the note the darkie from Shady Oaks had hand-delivered. Caroline rarely sent him notes afraid a parent would intercept it. He recognized the sprawling handwriting that was his one true love's instantly after he broke the wax seal holding the envelope closed.
He held the envelope close taking in the scent of lemon verbena and lavender that were so familiar to him. Those scents embodied Caroline and made him want her despite knowing it was a sin. Daniel's body involuntarily hardened remembering how Caroline's felt underneath his. He had never dreamed lovemaking could be fulfilling for both the man and the woman. Listening to his married friends talk, he had been led to believe that was not the case.
At twenty-three, he was the last of the men he had grown up with to marry. No one understood what it was about Caroline that made him wait until she was eighteen. Many girls were married and having babies by sixteen or seventeen, some even younger than that. None saw what Daniel did. Her physical beauty could not be rivaled by anyone in the area. He had known Caroline for years, she and his younger brother had been playmates as children. He had always assumed the match would be made between Caroline and Archibald.
Two years ago everything changed. Caroline turned to look at him during mass, her brown eyes shimmered brightly from the sun shining through the window near her. She had smiled, just a slight upturn of one side of her mouth really and nodded in his direction before returning her attention to the prayer in process. It was bold and daring on her part, anyone in the parish could have seen her and she would have been severely reprimanded.
His life had never been the same. With one partial smile she had managed to throw his life off its axis. And now she was sending him notes more than a month after they had made love. They had met clandestinely since then, but that night would be forever etched in his mind.
Had they not been careful? Had someone spotted her sneaking into his room or back into hers? They had agreed after the night they had made love to meet somewhere more neutral. He was close to getting his father to agree to a marriage between he and Caroline, he did not want to enter into a marriage with heaps of sin already weighing heavy on it.
The alarm clock went off and Riley reached over to turn it off. It took him a moment to realize that there was someone standing next to his bed. He had gone to a frat party the night before after patrol but could not remember talking to anyone at the party beside Forrest and Graham. He had hoped Buffy might show at the party, but no such luck. She seemed to be avoiding him since the night they watched Caddyshack.
Not that he could blame her it was not exactly an impression maker to fall asleep during a date. He was not even sure it had been a date, but he wanted it to be. That brought to mind the person in his room. He was fully clothed so nothing exciting could have happened. He had not drunk at the party so he should remember bringing someone home with him.
He was trying to figure a way out of this without ruining any chance with Buffy when he opened his eyes and saw that it was neither a girl nor an adult. "What the hell?" he asked as he kicked off the covers and slid to the other side of his full-size bed. The boy was probably around seven or eight with sandy brown hair and hazel eyes looking at him very intently just then. He wore a suit like Riley had seen the boys in Little Rascals reruns wear. He shook his head and closed his eyes, opening them again only to find the boy was still there. Wildly he darted his eyes around the room, ensuring that he was indeed in his room.
"Papa," the boy said as he stared at Riley. He rubbed at his eyes with his fists and then opened them again. He looked as panicky as Riley felt, but seemed confused more than anything.
Riley knew he had to do something or the boy was going to cause a scene. Riley's military career would become stagnant if even the whiff of a rumor that he engaged in something perverse started. "It's okay," he said calmly. "I'm not going to hurt you. If you tell me your name we'll find your parents."
"Kincaide Grant, Sir," he whispered meekly. "What did you do with my father?"
"I didn't do anything with him." Kincaide crawled up onto Riley's bed then causing Riley to back away further. If Forrest or Graham were out in the hallway with a camera he was going to throttle his friends.
Kincaide placed a hand on either side of Riley's face. He leaned closer to Riley so there were mere inches separating their faces. His hazel eyes were intent as they stared into Riley's. "But he's in you."
Riley shook his head, not sure what the boy was talking about. "Are you visiting someone on my floor?" he asked. It was possible this was someone's younger brother.
He shook his head and dropped his hands from Riley's face, clutching the bed covers between his fists.
"Okay," Riley said frustrated. "Where are you from then?"
"Shady Oaks, Sir."
"What?" Riley asked a bit more gruffly than he had intended. The name sounded familiar. He knew it from somewhere, but was at a loss as to how.
"It's my grandfather's plantation, Sir, Shady Oaks. Do you know of it?"
"I, no." Riley was perplexed. Shady Oaks was the name of a place in the dreams he had been having. But that was impossible. Plantations, at least of the magnitude in his dreams, had been defunct for years now.
"Are you sure?" the boy asked quite adamantly.
"How far is Shady Oaks from here?" It could not have been too far if the boy wandered onto campus. Maybe he had passed it at some point on one of his late night road trips without realizing what it was.
"I'm not sure."
"All right, let me get dressed and we'll go outside and see if we can find your way home."
The boy just stared at him, a look in his eyes that Riley was not sure about.
They had driven around for over two hours, Riley had blown off his morning classes. There were no plantations around and Kincaide said nothing was familiar to him. He was left with one last option and it was with getting Kincaide back home where he belonged that he entered Stevenson Hall and made his way upstairs to Buffy's room.
"Riley, hi," she said after opening the door.
"Uh yeah, I am. Did you not want me to be?" Her eyes dropped to Kincaide standing next to him and she looked puzzled. "Who's this?"
He looked up and down her hall. "Can we come in?"
"You know Sunnydale and the area pretty well, right?"
"Sure, I've lived here four years now."
"Any plantations that you know of?"
She shook her head. "Not that I can think of, no. There might be some almond or walnut farms around. What are you looking for?"
"I'm trying to get Kincaide home."
"Kincaide," she said, her eyes dropping back to the boy. Kincaide was openly staring at Buffy now, but what was strange is Buffy was looking just as intently back.
"Do you know him?"
"I, uh, no. Do I? This is too weird."
"Sit down, Riley."
Kincaide went to sit next to Buffy instead of Riley, which confused him even more. What in the hell was going on? Buffy looked into the young boy's face.
"Mama," he whispered.
He expected Buffy to react, get offended, what twenty year old would have a boy this age? If that was true, his opinion of her just went downhill.
"Where do you live, Kincaide?"
Buffy's eyes fell closed and she turned away, walking toward the windows that overlooked campus. "What are you doing here?"
"I do not know. I woke up in Papa's bed, but he's not Papa. Just as you're not really Mama. This place, I do not recognize it. I'm far from home."
"I think you are, further than you think."
"What's going on, Buffy."
"I think he's ours."
"What?" Riley glanced from Kincaide to Buffy, certain the idea that he thought she was insane was written clearly on his face. "I think I'd know if I had a son, particularly with you, Buffy."
"No, not ours. Not Buffy Summers and Riley Finn. Does the name Daniel mean anything to you?"
"How about Caroline?"
"No. What's this about?" But as he made his denials, the dreams drifted into his mind. Wasn't the man's name he was dreaming about Daniel. And the woman, the object of his affections, she was Caroline.
"I heard you, the other night. You fell asleep during Caddyshack and you were dreaming. You thought I was her, Caroline. She had come to your room from what I gathered."
"It was just a dream."
"I don't think so."
"This is insane."
"You have no idea, Riley. If only you know."
"If only I knew what?"
"Daniel's last name is Grant."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I've been having the same, or similar dreams. I think they were us."
"But it was like one hundred years ago."
"So you do remember?"
"Vaguely. And there was no boy in my dreams."
"He said his last name was Grant, so they must have gotten married."
"Buffy, this is crazy."
"It sounds that way, doesn't it? Unfortunately, my life has been full of crazy things."
"What is he doing here then?"
"I don't know," she turned around then and looked at Kincaide. "Do you know why you're here?"
He shook his head. He didn't seem frightened or anything, Riley gave the boy credit for that. If he was lost at that age he would have been a wreck.
"Why aren't you together?"
"We hardly know each other, Kincaide."
"But you do," he demanded. The tone sounded so strange coming from a boy his size. "I know you. You loved one another very much."
"Were we married?"
"Yes, though not at first. I read in a letter that I wasn't supposed to see that you eloped."
Riley's eyes fell closed. "Oh God," he muttered. Remembering thoughts of eloping due to impatience with his father's granting permission for Daniel and Caroline to marry.
"That means something to you?"
"I remember Daniel thinking about eloping, yes. I think she was already pregnant, though."
Riley watched as Buffy rubbed her temples. She was entirely too calm about this. It was bizarre. "She loved him."
"He loved her."
"It was an odd thing I got the impression. Marriages based on love."
"I don't think it happened commonly, no."
"And Shady Oaks?"
"It is where we lived."
"And it belonged to Caroline's family. His father must not have been happy."
"I got the feeling from the dreams that his father was dragging his feet about marriage."
"I wonder why."
"What are we supposed to do with him?" Riley asked.
"I don't know. I could bring him home to my mother."
"Would she go for that?"
"Probably, I don't know. Kincaide. That's kind of a stuffy sounding name. Maybe we can call you Kenny or Ken?"
"No calling me Mama. I'm Buffy. And this is Riley."
"I can come with you."
"No, I'll have to try and explain this to my mother. I mean, she knows I don't have any kids. How old are you?"
"Hmm, no, no seven year old children for sure."
Buffy offered him her hand, which he took. He looked up at her with such adoration that Riley felt a little jealous.
"You sure you don't want me to come with?"
"We'll be okay."
"But Buffy, he came to me."
"Trust me on this one, Riley, my mom will listen to me better if it's just me and Kenny."
Kincaide released Buffy's hand and ran to Riley, hugging him tightly. Riley couldn't stop from hugging the boy back. "It's okay, Kenny, we'll figure this all out somehow."
Kincaide drew away and Buffy did the most amazing thing. At least in Riley's eyes it was. She walked up to him and hugged him, too. She kissed him lightly, but it was a kiss full of promise. She touched his cheek lightly, looking into his eyes. She was intense, as if trying to see something. He wondered what she was looking for.
"All this time I thought it was Angel."
She shook her head. "Nothing. I'll see you later."
"Okay. Buffy, you're sure?"
"Yeah, we'll be fine."
They left Stevenson together, but once they got further onto campus Riley headed back to Lowell while Buffy headed toward town. If Buffy thought this was strange she didn't show it, or at least didn't seem to be upset by it. It made him wonder just who she was.
"So, Kenny," Buffy said as they walked toward town. "You don't seem too weirded out by what's going on."
He shrugged, though Buffy noticed he was hanging onto her hand for dear life. "I know you. I mean, not you, but inside you."
"That sounds a little creepy, but I think I know what you mean. My soul, right. Riley's soul?"
"Yes. You look very different than Mama, but he doesn't look so different."
"I noticed that, too," Buffy said. And she had. It wasn't an uncanny resemblance or anything, but Riley definitely looked more like Daniel than Buffy did Caroline. She wondered why that was.
Once at her house she was surprised her mother accepted Kincaide with the barest of explanations. Buffy had no idea why he was here, maybe he was in danger. If so, leaving him with her mom was the safest idea Buffy could come up.
"Are you sure he's going to be all right, Buffy?"
"No, Mom, I don't. I don't know what's going on at all. But I can't research with him along. That's my next stop, Giles'. I just need you to keep an eye on him, feed him or whatever seven year olds need."
"All right, I'm doing a lot on faith here."
"I know you are, Mom, and I love you for it." She kissed her mom on the cheek and then went to say goodbye to Kincaide.
"Kenny, I have to go try and find out what you're doing here. How to get you back to Shady Oaks. You'll be okay with my mom, okay?"
He nodded, eyes wide. He seemed to trust her, it was more than Buffy had hoped for and probably more than she'd do if the situations were reversed. "I'll be back as soon as I can for you. But you'll be safe here. Mom will get you cookies or something I'm sure." She frowned, wondering if he would go back to his own time spoiled with stuff he got and saw here. Feeling maternal for whatever reason she brushed back his bangs from his forehead and kissed him lightly there. "I'll see you later."
"Yes, we can't very well do this without him, can we?"
"Okay," she said ruffling his hair before she left the house. She felt a little bad laying this in her mom's lap but it wasn't as if she had another choice.
It wasn't long and she found herself at Giles'. She walked in after a light knock.
"Good morning, Buffy. You're up and out early. Don't you have class this morning?"
"I do yeah, but I have some weirdness going on."
"Yes. And I need you to explain what soul mates are exactly." It took longer than she thought to explain the situation to him. He was very interested in her dreams. She told him what she remembered, said she'd look over her journal and let him know if she left out any details.
"I think bringing him to your mother's was the wisest decision. Who knows what this could mean?"
"So what does a soul mate mean, Giles? I mean, I thought, I assumed, mine was Angel."
"Mm, yes, that must be a difficult thing to come to terms with. That certainly does not mean you did not love him, Buffy. Or that your love meant less. There is only one soul mate for each person. Some speculate that if soul mates are not requited during the life they were created in, that they will continue searching for one another. It sounds as if perhaps something happened to keep Daniel and Caroline apart. You've had no dreams post the baby?"
"No, but Kenny says they were married."
"Hmm, okay. I don't know, Buffy. Another possibility may simply be that rather than unfinished business or unrequited love now that you two are near one another your souls wish to be complete again."
"I don't get it."
"Well, I certainly don't either. You're dealing with mystical, spiritual forces that I'm not sure anyone understands. Do you like this Riley?"
"Well, yeah, I don't know him well enough to say he's my soul mate."
"Yes, well, unfortunately, I'm not sure that plays any part in the decision. And this could be the fates at work if you two are staying apart despite their efforts to put you together. I mean the statistics of someone actually finding their soul mate. The one in all of the world that is the other half to their soul, that completes them. Well, the odds are against you. Not that you couldn't find love without it. Clearly, not every marriage or relationship is one involving soul mates. I'd like to meet him."
"Do you think that's wise? Is this because I'm the slayer? I mean, would this be happening to me if I wasn't?"
"Again, I don't know, Buffy. We're branching into unfamiliar territory. There are some things that are just rumor, speculation, there are no books or texts covering it."
"Should we tell him I'm the slayer?"
"No, just hear me out. What if this has something to do with my being the slayer? What if he's in danger somehow?"
"Riley or Kincaide?"
"Both of them."
"I think the wisest course of action would be to explore your feelings without exposing your identity. Just because your souls recognize each other does not mean you have to force yourself to be with him."
"Well, I do like him."
"Just exercise caution, Buffy. I don't know what else to tell you, but I will look into it."
"Thank you. So, do I leave him at my mom's?"
"I guess I would, maybe you can spend the night there. Or bring Riley with you to see him, keep him at ease. You're strangers. It's your ethereal beings he recognizes, not you, so being near him should offer him comfort. And Joyce won't supply that, beyond the fact that she's a nurturer."
"So, I'm supposed to go to class, patrol and now be responsible for a seven year old kid."
"It would seem so."
"Just making sure I'm not missing anything."
"You can handle it, Buffy."
"Well, I guess I'm back to campus to find Riley and see if I can explain this to him without revealing anything about who I really am."
"I'm sorry, Buffy, I just don't think it's wise just yet. Not until we know more about both him and the boy."
"Yeah, you're right," she said. Things were never easy where she was concerned, at least with relationships. "So this soul thing, is that why I was attracted to him?"
"Possibly. The soul doesn't make the person, Buffy, not entirely. So, I don't think that you would be attracted to a man who was unkind or anything just because your soul recognizes his."
"That's good. Okay, I'll let you know what's going on later."
"Thank you, Buffy, and I appreciate your coming to me immediately with this."
"I've learned my lesson about not telling you stuff."
It wasn't difficult to find Riley. He was where she expected he'd be. His room with his door open, welcoming-like. She liked that about him. He was a friendly guy and he seemed sincere with it, too. It was funny that she couldn't tell that with Parker, but maybe it had taken her experience with Parker to appreciate the real deal. She shut the door once she entered the room, her back flush against it as she looked at him. He sat at his desk, deep in thought or really immersed in the book he was reading.
"Oh Buffy, you scared me."
"Sorry. I thought you heard me."
"No, I was zoning out. You got Kincaide to your mom?"
"Yeah, she doesn't understand, but she was willing to watch him for me. She's used to the weirdness that is Buffy's life so she didn't ask too many questions."
"While I was out I stopped and saw a friend of mine from high school. He worked as the librarian there and we kind of became friends. He's quick with the information."
"He has some opinions on what's going on."
"Really? I'd like to hear them."
She walked toward him then. She wasn't sure what made her do it, but almost as if her body had a mind of its own her arms went around him.
"Do you like me, Riley?"
"Well, I thought that was rather obvious in an indirect sort of way."
She smiled at that.
"Do you believe in magic? Mystical things? Prophecies?"
"Um, I'm not sure. I guess I'd have to hear it out first, think it through."
"No leaps of faith?"
"I'm a pretty fact-based guy."
She lowered her mouth to his and kissed him. She felt him jerk away at first but soon he gave in and kissed her back. Kissing Angel had been amazing. She had been able to kiss him for hours and everything around them would fade to black. Nothing prepared her, though, for the feeling she had when she kissed Riley. It wasn't earth shattering or fireworks worthy, but with one touch of her lips to his she knew she was home. It was the oddest feeling. She drew away slowly, not wanting to be separated from him for even a minute.
"Giles believes we're soul mates. Fated to be together once our souls recognized one another."
"Okay, let's just say for a minute I believe that. What's the kid have to do with this?"
"I don't know. I wondered that, too. He said something, Giles I mean, about unfinished business. So, maybe Kincaide is here to see that it gets finished."
"You believe that?"
"I don't see you coming up with any more rational explanations."
"After a kiss like that you're lucky I can talk."
"You felt it too?"
"Felt what? I've never kissed anyone like that if that's what you're asking. I know about Parker, so I understand you can't say the same."
"Oh God, Riley, I just shared something more with you than anything I did with Parker came close to being."
Buffy had to make a quick decision, she just hoped it was the right one. Without thought she was sticking her heart out there to get it torn to pieces again. Her attempts at being assertive girl had backfired on her in the past. Angel had lost his soul, Parker had used her. And while in the back of her mind was the idea that she needed to take things much slower with Riley she couldn't do it. She wasn't sure what this soul mate business was or what it all meant.
She tugged him out of his chair, exerting some of her slayer strength. She gave a soft giggle at the surprised look on his face that she had the ability to do that. If only he knew. She kissed him again, tugging him to the bed while taking his shirt out of his jeans. She fell against the bed, breaking the kiss before she meant to but took advantage of the situation to gaze at him in appreciation. He was nice looking and she could tell that he had not planned on this happening between them. At least not today.
"Buffy, we shouldn't."
"You know, I told my friend that I had a motto when I first met her. Seize the day. You never know when it's going to be your last. You know about Parker, but other than him I don't do this sort of thing. I thought he liked me, he made me believe he did."
"He's good at that."
"I get that now. And I also get that you're not like that."
"No, it's despicable."
"I think so, too." They were talking too much, thinking too hard. She sat up and removed her shirt, tossing it onto the floor by his feet.
"Why don't you join me?"
She sat up further then and tugged on his shirt tails, working the buttons as far up his chest as she could reach. Her hands slid up his stomach. "Impressive," she murmured her eyes never leaving his face. She leaned in to kiss him on the abdomen, her hands following the plains of his chest.
She swirled his belly button with her tongue and chuckled when he reached to undo the rest of his shirt. At least she knew she could be convincing if she wanted to be. Her hands reached for the front of his pants, working the fly. He stepped away then, but his eyes told her he was not going to stop. She reclined on the bed and watched as he kicked off his shoes and began to shed his jeans.
He reached into the drawer of his nightstand. It took him a minute or two to find what he sought, which made Buffy feel good. If they weren't right there at his reach it meant he didn't do this every night.
"Never more sure," she whispered, removing her skirt. She sat up to remove her shoes but he stopped her by placing a hand on her foot.
"Okay," she whispered. She was about to ask him if he had a shoe fetish or something when he moved to the foot of the bed and slipped her shoes off himself. He rubbed each foot, bringing it to his mouth to kiss the tip of her big toe before moving to the other foot.
"I knew you were beautiful. I dreamt about you. You, not her, but I'm happy to report my dreams didn't come close to the real thing, Buffy. You're," he shook his head, rubbing the side of his face against her calf before releasing it and joining her on the bed. "Perfect."
"I'm not," she whispered, though his words warmed her right down to her soul.
"To me you are. Beautiful, strong, smart."
"Now I know you're full of it."
"Don't talk about yourself that way. You get distracted easily, but you're not dumb. And if these dreams we've been having are the reason you've been slacking off in Psych class lately, I can't blame you. I was having them, too."
He slanted his mouth over hers, Buffy welcomed the kiss. Welcomed his hands as they explored her body. She knew she was deceptively strong. She didn't look like one of those triathlon athletes or a Ms. Olympia candidate. She looked like a normal girl. It was part of what gave her an advantage against the things she fought, they didn't see her as posing much of a threat.
She felt him sheath himself with the protection and shift his body on top of hers. She welcomed him instinctively, a soft groan emitting from her when he was inside of her. It was apparent that he was probably no more experienced than she was, but he took his time. There was nothing speedy or rushed about it and she relished in it, basked in his gentleness, his attention coming close to worship. She arched against him as he slid deeper inside of her, followed by a gasp as he continued to heighten her pleasure before bringing her over the edge. It wasn't long afterward that he followed.
She felt cherished, loved, whole and relished being able to bask in the afterglow that was him petting and kissing her. It was almost as if he didn't believe she was real. She understood that.
Distantly, she was aware of the sound of her pager going off. She forced her mind to rejoin her body and shifted on the bed, turning to face him. She draped a leg over his and ran a finger along his jaw. "I have to get that."
"It could be my mom, or my friend with information."
"It's okay, Buffy, I don't think you planned this and had someone page you to bail on me. I realize I was probably a somewhat sure thing, but I hope I wasn't that transparent."
"No," she said with a laugh, kissing him lightly before leaving the bed. She found her pager and drew his discarded shirt on as she sat at his desk to use his phone. She dialed the number, glancing at Riley who was watching her intently. His arms were behind his head, propped up on the pillow. He looked like he wanted to start all over again, and she had to admit her body and mind were more than willing to go along with that idea. She just hoped there wasn't something wrong.
"Hi Buffy, sorry to bother you, but your mom called. It sounded kind of important. She wouldn't say anything, but said it was about Kenny."
"I'm assuming that means something to you because I was racking my brain while waiting for you to call back and I don't know anyone named Kenny."
"Yes, I'll explain later, Will."
"You'd better. I don't like feeling out of the loop."
"Never, I just haven't seen you."
"Okay. I'll see you later."
"Should I ask where you are?"
"Oh really?" Buffy could tell even over the phone what the unspoken question was.
"I'll tell you later."
"I want details!"
"All right. I'm going to call Mom."
"Okay, bye Buffy."
Buffy hung up and dialed her home number. Her mom answered on the third ring. "Hi Mom."
"I'm glad Willow was in your room, I looked for your pager number but it's gone. It must have fallen off the refrigerator and gotten thrown away."
"It's okay, Mom, what's up?"
"What about him?"
"He's gone, Buffy. One minute he was here, the next minute he was gone."
"What do you mean gone?"
"I mean, Buffy, he was sitting in the kitchen eating a grilled cheese sandwich and then he wasn't there anymore."
"Is he okay, Buffy?"
"Did he say anything?"
"Well, no, but for the past hour or so he was acting very strange. Like he couldn't concentrate."
"The past hour?" Buffy asked, glancing at Riley's clock. It was about an hour ago that they had started. Could that be it?
"Yes. About that. Until then, he was fine. He didn't want to watch TV, but he sort of followed me around asking me about the different things in the house. But then he just sort of stopped. I made him the sandwich thinking he was hungry or something."
"You did fine, Mom."
"You think he's gone or did something happen?"
"I don't know. I'll call Giles and tell him."
"Okay, Buffy, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Mom. You didn't do anything wrong."
"I just feel like I let you down. You never ask anything of me when it comes to your slaying."
"Mom, it's okay. I think I have an idea but I'll talk to Giles. I'll see you on Thursday for dinner." Her eyes flicked to Riley then and she smiled at him since he was still watching her. "I'm bringing someone."
"I'll set the table for three then. Good night, Buffy."
She set the phone on the cradle and glanced at Riley.
"How'd you guess?"
"I'm pretty good at filling in the blanks."
"I need to call my friend, the one I mentioned earlier and tell him."
"Okay. You look like you need some privacy. I'll head to the bathroom and come back in a few minutes."
He slid a pair of sweatpants on and sat forward on the bed to kiss her. "I think I'd do about anything you asked looking as you do wearing my shirt."
"The fact I know what you have, or don't have, underneath helps too."
"I'll keep that in mind."
He stood, bringing the shirt front together, his knuckles brushing against her breasts. "Oh, I'll remind you, don't worry."
She dialed Giles' number once Riley had left the room and relayed the information to him. He was perplexed until she'd informed him of what she and Riley had done that afternoon.
"Well, perhaps that was his purpose. It sounds as if you two were fighting your attraction to one another, so maybe the powers thought you needed a little push."
"They want me with Riley?"
"It would appear so."
She nibbled on her lower lip, that thought had occurred to her when she heard the news from her mom. "Okay, Giles, I'm going to go, I'm on his phone."
"Okay, Buffy, be careful."
"I will be."
She set the phone down and went to the bed. She opened the nightstand and drew out a second packet, sliding it into the shirtfront pocket of his shirt before laying on the bed waiting for him to come back.
"Wow. I thought for a minute I'd imagined the whole afternoon."
"Nope, you've really got Buffy in your bed."
"I don't think I'll ever get tired of that."
"Really?" she asked as he joined her on the bed.
He kissed her, touching her jaw and neck before his hand drifted lower. She knew as soon as he found the packet in the pocket.
"Are you trying to tell me something, Miss Summers?"
"I believe I am."
"Well then. Us farm boys don't leave a task unfinished."
"Is that right?"
"Let me show you."
"Actions do speak louder than words."
"So, I've heard."
A month had gone by since Kincaide's visit. Buffy had a couple more dreams about Caroline and Daniel but nothing that suggested there was unfinished business between the couple. Giles' theory was that perhaps Caroline and Daniel was actually the first joining of the souls and once that part of Buffy recognized Riley and vice versa the souls did not want to be apart again. It was the only reasonable explanation, even if it sounded farfetched to Buffy.
The most astounding thing to Buffy was not the soul mate thing. She wasn't sure how much she banked on that being true, but she did know that Riley hadn't bailed on her left. He hadn't gone psycho. Both now knew who they were and he more often than not joined her on patrol instead of going with the Initiative guys.
She had no idea love could feel like this. At least she thought it was love, neither were overly forthcoming with spouting their feelings. She knew, though, that Riley wasn't the type to lead a girl on. It was a refreshing feeling. She woke up in the morning and he was still there. She left his room in the mornings and got back to her room and there was a message from him telling her to have a nice day. Things she hadn't gotten with her first couple of experiences.
Riley's Initiative buddies weren't too keen on Buffy. Most thought they were the amateurs, when Buffy knew the truth. Sure they had computers and statistical analysis and government funding. But nine times out of ten, Buffy and her friends came up with the same answers going through books more quickly than the Initiative's computer database did.
Buffy suspected Riley was beginning to question his loyalties, and eventually he had to make his choice. Buffy had expected never to see him again. So when Xander brought her to the old high school where Riley was hiding out she couldn't remember being so happy. He had chosen her.
Adam now defeated, the Initiative disbanned, the facility destroyed, Riley was free to be just Riley Finn. And Buffy loved just Riley Finn. She tried to repay the favor he had shown her by showing him through actions rather than words that she was not going to leave him because he was no longer super-strong soldier boy.
She sat in the cemetery, reclined against a comfort bearing Angel. They had said little since she saw him. Riley had not been happy about leaving her with Angel, but Buffy had proven more than once that her heart rested with her current rather than her former boyfriend. That did not mean that she did not welcome the comfort he offered.
Angel kissed the top of her head and Buffy sighed against him. It was nice to have him here and as much as she enjoyed the comfort he was offering she knew that her place wasn't with him anymore.
"Yeah, Angel, I am."
"That's all I ever wanted for you."
"I know that now."
"I'm glad. I never meant to hurt you, it was the last thing I wanted."
"And if he ever hurts you."
"He won't. Not in the way you mean anyway. He's a good guy. He's coming to terms with the fact he's just human, but we'll get through it."
"I knew it would happen."
"The chance at a normal life."
"You were right."
"I admit I wish it hadn't happened so soon."
"It's strange coming here, holding you, knowing you don't belong to me anymore."
Tears formed in her eyes. She loved him, always would. He was her first everything. Any boys she'd dated before him were nothing, meant nothing. Souls aside, there was a part of her that would always be his. His girl. Forever. Things they had talked about once, but she knew now were not just no longer possible. They were never possible. Fate had dealt them a stacked deck.
"I'll always love you, Angel. I'll always be here for you. We said talked about forever once."
"You're going to give that to another guy."
"But he can't take the slayer out of me, Angel. He can't take my life until now away from me. You taught me so much, made me feel so much. I'll never forget that."
"Thank you," he said shortly and Buffy could tell he was crying now, too. It didn't help that they were sitting beside her mother's grave. A sad occasion to begin with. It was why he'd come. There was no love lost between Joyce and Angel, but he had come because he knew it would mean something to her. And it did.
She turned in his arms, cupping his face with his hand. "I love you so much, Angel, don't ever doubt that. Or doubt that what we had was real."
"It's so hard seeing you moving on. Moving away. Soon, three years of your life will be a drop in the bucket."
"Never. There will never be anything insignificant about my time with you." She leaned down to kiss him. It wasn't a passionate kiss, not like the kisses they once shared.
"I should go," he whispered, his voice sounding forced, hoarse.
"I know," she whispered, kissing his jaw. Somehow she managed to stifle the sob. She didn't want to sound overly pathetic. "Thank you for coming."
"Anytime, you know that. I wish I could handle this and stay a little longer, but if you need me."
"I know, thank you."
He stood slowly, offering her his hand to help her up which she took without question. His arm went around her, she did the same as they left the cemetery. They got to the street just outside of her house, saying little on the way. It was a path they had traveled together countless times over the years.
"I have to let you go here, Buffy. I can't do it, know that he gets to comfort you tonight."
He leaned down to kiss her, little more than a brush of his lips over hers. "Good bye, Buffy." He stepped out of her arms and turned away.
"Good bye," she said to his already retreating back. She waited to walk up the sidewalk leading to her house until she couldn't see him anymore.
She entered the house in tears, not realizing she had it in her to cry so much. It seemed that's all she'd been doing since her mom had been diagnosed. It happened so fast, they'd barely had a chance to get used to the idea that she was sick. Life was just not fair.
"Did he hurt you?"
"What?" She wiped her nose and her face with her shirt sleeve.
"Angel? Did he hurt you?"
"No, Riley, it just hurts to say good bye. It's like with my mom dying that part of my life is done. Over. I'm not a girl anymore. The dreams I had once upon a time aren't going to come true."
"Do you want him?"
She laughed and shook her head. "No, that's not what I'm saying. It's just the permanence of it I guess. I want you, Riley. Dawn needs both of us, I couldn't do this without you."
"If you're sure."
"Of course I'm sure. Angel's my past, you're my future. I know that. It just felt so," she shrugged. "It felt like it was really good bye this time."
She could see that he was holding back. There was no love lost between Riley and Angel, the two had tolerated one another the brief time they'd ever met. After beating the crap out of each other anyway. "It's just been a tough day."
"Well, I hope this will help."
He walked her to the dining room where Dawn, Willow and Xander were seated. She saw remnants of rootbeer float makings and smiled. She sniffled, getting her emotions in check. "I'm sorry, Dawn."
"I'm fine, Buffy. I mean, not fine, but you had to do what you had to do. I get that. We get that."
"Did Angel leave?" Willow glanced behind Buffy and then back to her.
"Yeah. He's gone."
"Hey, Xander, why don't you help me clean up in here?"
"What? Oh, okay, sure."
Willow led Buffy to the living room where they sat on the couch. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. It just seemed so permanent. Not just a temporary good bye, but the real deal."
"Well, you don't need him anymore, Buffy."
"I know. I mean, I never thought I'd think that way so it's impressive I do so soon."
"He loves you, that's why he's letting you go."
"I know. I just hate that it hurts so much."
Willow gave her a hug, which Buffy returned glad for her friend's companionship. "I think you should go into the kitchen and talk to Riley. He's been worrying all evening that you were going to come back with a change of heart."
"I don't know why he'd think that."
Willow shrugged. "He's jealous. It's hard to compete with a girl's first. And when he's still strong and capable it doesn't help either."
"You're right. How's Dawn?"
"She's okay. Giles was here for a while but left just before you got home. I think it helped we were all here with her."
"I wouldn't have stayed with Angel if you weren't."
"I know that, Buffy, no one's accusing you of being a bad sister or daughter."
"Thanks." She stood from the couch and walked toward the stairs. "Would you send Riley up?"
"Sure," Willow said with a smile.
In the bathroom upstairs Buffy splashed water on her face to hopefully help combat the effects of such a tear-filled day. She couldn't remember crying this much ever. She opened the door after hearing the light knocking and stepped out. She took Riley's hand and led him to her room, closing the door.
"Are you sure you're okay, Buffy?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just wasn't very fair to you. Going off with Angel, leaving you to deal with Dawn."
"I don't mind." She arched a brow at him, knowing that wasn't entirely a true statement. "Okay, I hated every minute of it, knowing you were with him. But I trust you, Buffy. I have to or we'll never work. There are times I wish I had an ex so that I understood, but any ex of mind would not be able to compete with Angel. I get that."
"I'm glad." She sat on the edge of her bed, took hold of Mr. Gordo and stroked the pig's head. "I kissed him."
"I kissed him. Not like a soul-losing kiss or anything, but I needed to tell you."
"Okay. I guess I should be glad you told me, though I'm not seeing that just now."
"It was a comfort thing, appreciation for the fact he came here. He didn't have to, you know. He knows I'm with you and it would have probably been easier if he didn't come. I just wanted you to know."
"And that was it?"
"That was it. Oh I cried some, he cried some, we said good bye. He knows I'm happy, but it hurts."
"What? I feel like I'm the only one suffering sometimes. It hurts to know what you shared with him, that he can still help you in areas I can't anymore."
She stood and took his hands, pulling him to the bed to sit with her. "But see, I plan to come home to you. To wake up to you. To love you. You're right, Riley, there will be times that I need Angel's help. That I need Spike's help. I'm not dumb enough to turn down help. It's one of the reasons I'm still here. I have help and I'm not afraid to use it. That doesn't mean I want to be with them. I like knowing you're safe. I like knowing that one thing in my life is good and free of evil."
"No evil here."
"See that's what I'm saying," she said curling up on the bed. He laid beside her, wrapping his arm around her waist. She glanced at the window where she and Angel had spent so much time talking, kissing. She would never give up those memories, wouldn't trade them for anything, but they weren't her future. Her future was here, in Riley's arms.
She liked to think they would have gotten together eventually even if it weren't for some freaky happenstance that brought a child from their past lives to this time to help them identify one another.
"You know I was thinking."
"What's that," she asked with a smile.
"I like the name Ken for a boy."
"You do, huh?"
She sighed heavily, the idea of a boy that looked like Riley not at all offensive. "Me, too. Not anytime soon, though."
"No, but one day."
"Yes, one day."
He smoothed down her hair, his touch betraying his feelings for her. He was gentle, affectionate, forgiving. "Get some sleep Buffy."
"Night," she whispered, knowing she didn't need her dreams anymore she had everything she needed right here.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com