“Howdy all,” Xander gave them a jovial wave and a grin as he approached the table, Anya in tow. Cracker’s ‘The Good Life’ was blaring from the Bronze’s speakers and Buffy sipped idly on her drink, giving him a smile. She was sitting comfortably on her stool with Riley’s arm wrapped around her shoulders, listening to Willow and Tara discuss the last history exam.
“Hey, man.” Riley greeted him, tipping his beer in welcome. He gave Anya a warm smile as she sat down before taking a mouthful of his drink. His second one of the night, he was starting to loosen up from his usually relatively rigid demeanor. He was moving his head to the beat of the music, and he was smiling at nothing. Obviously he’d been having a good day.
“So, Will, how’d that I’m-a-lesbian-too group thing go yesterday?” Xander asked, earning himself a kick in the shins from the redhead. “Ouch!”
“It was fine thanks.” Willow rolled her eyes, taking Tara’s hand. “It’s nice to be with a non judgmental crowd.”
“Hey! Who’s judging?” Xander held up his hands in mock-hurt. “I’m loving the lesbian love over here.”
Tara and Willow laughed, while Anya just looked hurt. “You love lesbian love? What about our love?”
“Love that too!” Xander reassured her quickly, “Lots of love for Anya-love.”
“The Alliance was cool, Xander, thank you for asking.” Tara supplied, saving him from an argument with his girlfriend. Xander smiled gratefully, giggling slightly at the ‘alliance’ made it sound like some superhero group.
Riley laughed before turning his attention and his grin Buffy’s way. “You’re kind of quiet. What’s up?”
Buffy started slightly, snapped out of the daze she was in. She hadn’t really spoken since he’d picked her up, besides a quick hello, a kiss on the cheek and a cheerful ‘let’s party’. She couldn’t help it. Her mind was stuck on that rose.
She hadn’t really been able to stop thinking about it since yesterday. She hadn’t given Riley a key and she didn’t really see her boyfriend as the type that would climb the tree, traipse precariously along the branches, jump onto the slanted roof and climb into her room through the window. He didn’t have the same agility she had, or even Angel had for that matter. Angel, she considered the possibility before shaking it off. He left her. And he knew about Riley. He wouldn’t be doing this.
She noticed that Riley was waiting for an answer. “Huh? Oh, sorry. Just space-y, I guess.” She shrugged good-naturedly, giving him a quick, closed mouth kiss. “You haven’t been by the house over the last few days, have you?”
Riley’s brow furrowed. “Not until I picked you up tonight, no. Not since Wednesday. Why?”
Buffy blushed slightly as she realized they had the entire gang’s attention. “Oh, um… nothing really. I just thought maybe you’d been in my room.”
“What? Why?” The crease between Riley’s eyebrows deepened.
“Uh, someone left a… left a rose on my bed.” Buffy admitted, almost sheepishly. She would have been happy to leave it at that, but huffed a sigh and launched into her story once she noticed the looks the gang were giving her.
“Oh, that’s really romantic!” Willow cooed, faltering as Riley shot a glare at her. “I mean, well.. it-its obviously not ro-romantic because, well duh, you’re her boyfriend and you didn’t give it to her… so…” She blushed and fell silent.
“So… no idea at all who it’s from?” Xander ventured, stealing a nervous glance at the other man.
Buffy shook her head, forcing a shrug. “It’s probably just Dawn thinking she’s being funny. No sweat.” She shrugged again, noticing that Riley’s arm had moved from her shoulders to wrap possessively around her waist. “You know what? I think I’m gonna just call it an early night. Go catch Dawnie before she goes to bed and grill her about el mystery rose.”
She stood quickly, stumbling a little as she wormed her way out if Riley’s grasp. He followed suit. “You sure, baby? I’ll take you home if you want.”
“No, it’s ok. I’m gonna do a quick sweep of the cemeteries on my way, so you might as well stay here and relax. Have a few drinks. I’ll see you tomorrow, honey.” She leaned up to press her lips to his, purposefully making it more enthusiastic than a usual goodbye, to prove to herself… no, to him… that the rose was nothing to think about.
Buffy gave him another kiss on the cheek, grabbed her jacket and left.
From the darker booths of the Bronze, Spike watched, pained as Buffy dismissed the rose in discussion with her Scoobies, kissed the soldier goodbye, and he downed another beer as she left.
* * * * * * *
Buffy groped for the phone, knocking a photo frame off the bedside table. “Damn it!” Pushing her hair out of her face, she rolled onto her side and pressed the receiver to her ear, muttering. “The one day I get to sleep in. The one day, and someone calls. Why couldn’t they call when— Hello?”
“Buffy! Are you up?” Willow’s voice rang through the line, and Buffy flinched as it met her sleepy ears.
“I am now,” Buffy groaned, “Barely. Don’t you have class?”
“Nope,” Willow chirped happily. “Class got cancelled. Professor’s out sick and they couldn’t find a replacement. Where have you been? I’ve been calling for the last three days!”
Buffy grimaced, running a hand over her eyes as she propped herself up on her elbows. “I’ve been busy, you know with slayage and classes and everything.”
“You’ve been avoiding me, haven’t you?”
“Yeah,” The blonde admitted sheepishly, giggling at Willow’s offended gasp on the other end of the line.
“Buffy!” Willow scolded good-naturedly. “Can you really blame me for wanting to talk? Is that why you’re staying in your dorm instead of your home this weekend? Avoiding me?” Buffy could almost picture the pout on her best friend’s face.
“No, not really…” Buffy hedged, before huffing a sigh. “Well, partly. It’s kind of a avoiding you, Riley and the Rose-giver blend.”
“So it wasn’t Dawn?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “Willow, I knew it wasn’t Dawn. She didn’t do it. For one thing, she’s been at Janice’s for the last few days. And for another, I lock my bedroom door, so she couldn’t have gotten in if she tried. She hasn’t mastered the lock-picking tricks yet.”
“So you really do have a secret admirer?”
“I guess so.” Stretching, Buffy headed for her dresser, pulling out fresh clothes.
“That is so cool!” Willow squealed, “Just like in a movie.”
“Yeah, but with my luck, it’s a horror.” Buffy muttered.
“So… have you gotten anything new from Rosy?” Willow questioned curiously.
“I don’t know,” she replied, “I haven’t been back to the house, and apparently, they don’t deliver at the dorm.” There was a knock on her door, and she went to answer it. “I don’t know if it was a onetime thing or it’s going to keep happening.
Buffy opened the door to be met with a grinning Willow, dressed in an ankle-length denim skirt and a green paisley singlet, a red cardigan with frayed sleeves over the top, lowering her cell phone from her ear.
“Let’s go see then, shall we?”
Author's Note: Hi guys, so sorry about the lack of an update in so long. I've had raging plot bunnies and writer's block for this one to contend with. I have another two chapters ready to post so comment and review away!
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