First Note: I'm ignoring all continuity here, folks. This story is set somewhere in the pre-Christmas season, but there are no Angel complications, Buffy and Riley have no idea about their respective secret identities, and Spike is now a fully iniciated member of the Scooby Gang.
Second Note: I have yet to see the B/A two-parter, which (ick) airs tonight. There is fear, and fear leads to denial, which leads to fic. Betcha thought that it would lead to the Dark Side, huh?
Third Note: The Latin classes were making their annual 'Pax In Terra' cards, and I ended up walking around for most of the day with tinsel in my hair. This fic is directly inspired by this incident.
Fourth Note: There shall be no more notes. Make a note of that.
Dedication: Rebecca, Prophesy, Gypsy, Andrea, and all the B/R fans on the lists. Enjoy!
Riley stood in the Stevenson hallway a moment, mentally prepping himself to knock on the faux-wood door in front of him. He and Buffy had been out on eight formal dates, but he still felt the need to give himself a little mental pep-talk before he saw her. He also checked his pockets quickly, making sure that there would be no critical forgetfulness.
Keys? Check. Riley wanted no repeat of the infamous second date when he had forgotten his car keys and he and Buffy had had to walk back to his frat house. Of course, then he had remembered that his door key was on the keychain with his car keys, and they had waited almost two hours on the front step for one of the other guys to arrive home and let them in.
Movie tickets? Check. This was the third time that they were trying to see 'Dogma', and he was mentally praying that for once there would be no crisis for either of them which would result in the cutting short of the date.
Beeper? Check. Much as he hated the necessity of it, his duties with the Initiative required that he carry it. He paused a moment to indulge in a brief fantasy that involved throwing the stupid thing off of the Empire State Building, but quickly abandoned it. There were undoubtedly better ways to dispose of it. More painful ways. Possibly involving acid of some kind.
Celphone? Check. This was so that he could contact the Initiative base at any moment, no matter where he was. The downside of it was that he had no excuses for *not* contacting them at any moment, no matter where he was. Not only was the phone responsible for breaking up a grand total of five dates with Buffy, but it was probably also going to give him cancer. Where was the justice?
Pants? Check. No real reason, just the result of a rather disturbing recuring nightmare.
Riley shifted his shoulders, cleared his throat, ran a hand through his hair, and knocked on the door.
Buffy gravely scrutinized her image in the mirror for a long moment before finally turning away, satisfied. Not only did she have to worry about looking great in an outfit, but she had to make sure that she could fight in it too. Made shopping a double challenge.
Walking over to her bed, she began to pack her small purse. She still had a few minutes before Riley arrived, and it was probably a good idea to go over inventory. Asking Riley to turn around because she forgot something would not be good, especially since she was determined that they would finally break the cycle and have a nice date without any interruptions of the demony kind.
Keys? Check. She had forgotten those often enough to find out that it was a royal pain to climb in the window from two stories down and it was an equal pain to stand in the hallway for hours waiting for Willow to get back.
Hairbrush? Check. Messy hair was something that was to be avoided at all costs. How was it that Riley could always manage to look cute, even when his hair looked like he had been standing in a hurricane? It was either a male thing or a Riley thing, and either way she was jealous as hell.
Beeper? Check. It had been a birthday present from Willow, but no matter how cute the little thing was with its little turtle pattern, she really wanted to just put it in a little box and ship it to Paraguay sometimes. It would be pretty hard for Giles to interrupt her date *then*.
Stake? Check. Though if Riley ever found it, she had no idea *what* she was going to tell him. Though 'gag gift from Xander' was high on the list of possibilities...
Buttons? Check. Her shirt buttoned up the front, and looked great, but a double-check was always needed before heading out into public. She'd been really busy lately, and that was always the time that she would forget to button a crucial button on either a top or a dress.
As she walked past the dresser, Buffy caught sight of some tinsel left over from decorating the room. Grinning, she grabbed a handful and worked quickly. Before she was done, she heard Riley signature knock on the door.
"Come in!" she called.
Riley walked into the room, and promptly burst out laughing. Sitting in front of the mirror and calmly braiding long strands of tinsel into her blonde hair, Buffy grinned at him. Once Riley could look at her with a straight face, he walked over to stand behind her.
"Festive." he said, still working to suppress his laughter.
"'Tis the season." she responded pertly, "I'll be done in just minute, okay?"
"Take your time." he said easily, watching in fascination as her clever hands worked the brilliant silver tinsel through the blonde strands of her hair easily. How girls managed to do such complex things with their hair was completely beyond him. Beyond a quick gel-and-comb, his hair care talents were pretty meagre.
She worked for another few minutes in silence, continuing the dizzyingly complex pattern until she reached the point just below the nape of her neck. Glancing up in the mirror, Riley met her inquisitive green eyes.
"Can you braid?" she asked. Caught by surprise, Riley blinked a few times.
"Yeah, why?" he asked curiously. She gave a brief shrug as she responded, "It's just that below this it really makes my shoulders ache. I can do it, but-"
"No, no problem." Riley said with a grin. He loved how Buffy never failed to surprise him. After all, when was the last time a girl had asked him to braid her hair? Not counting his little sister, never. Taking over, he continued the pattern with the same meticulous care that had always marked any project he worked on. Finishing, he carefully tied the end of the braid with the small elastic that she handed him. As she ran a hand over his work, he placed his hands casually on her shoulders. Looking for casual ways to touch her was something of a mission for him. Whether holding her hand or 'accidentally' brushing his arm against hers when they walked, it was his mission.
Buffy turned around quickly, and he suddenly found himself not only in close proximity to her, but with his arms around her.
"You do a better job braiding it than I do!" Buffy said, and the sudden intensity of the moment faded.
"I'm always willing to learn a new skill." he said with a grin. Though his grin faded somewhat as he noticed the sudden evil gleam in her eyes. He had sisters, and he recognized that look. Before he could run for his life, though, Buffy had slipped a hand down to his ribcage and was tickling him unmercifully. Laughing helplessly, he fell to the floor, but not before dragging her down on top of him.
"Let's see how *you* look in it!" Buffy said gleefully, using one hand to tickle him while the other quickly tangled tinsel into his hair. Turning the tables suddenly, though, Riley rolled them over and discovered that she, too, was horribly ticklish.
Long minutes later, they lay helplessly on the floor, winded from laughing so hard. Riley glanced over at a stray moment, while Buffy did the same thing. When their gazes locked, he felt that same intensity from before snap back. Almost unconsciously, Riley moved his face down to hers, at the same time that hers moved up to his. Staring into each other's eyes, their mouths moved just a whisper closer, then-
-both beepers went off at the same time, causing them to jump in surprise, and the moment was gone. With twin grimaces, Buffy went over to use the phone on the nightstand while Riley walked to the other side of the room to use his cellphone. After brief greetings, both stood and listened as their evening plans were cut out from beneath them. In tandem, they hung up and turned to face each other.
"Buffy, I-" Riley said just as Buffy began, "Riley, I-"
Both paused a moment, before Buffy waved him on. With a deep sigh, Riley continued.
"Professor Walsh needs me to correct a whole slew of papers that are due tomorrow. I have to bail."
"It's just as well," Buffy said, disappointment still written across her face, "Willow's at Xander's, and she just ran across a towel or something that Oz left there once. She needs me to go do the supportive friend thing."
"No problem." Riley said, trying not to let his shoulders slump as though his strings had suddenly been cut.
"We'll try this again, though, right?" she asked hopefully.
"Definitely," he said. "Next Tuesday sound good?"
"Then," with a grin, he tried to make the best of it, "since I won't be walking you back to your dorm tonight after the date, as we planned, can I at least walk you *out* of your dorm?"
"You may." she said with a smile, slipping her arm through his.
So they walked casually out of the dorm, parted with a few regretful words, walked casually away, then once both were certain that the other was out of sight, bolted.
"Could you stop bitching, Slayer? Next time a huge chaos demon decides to come to town and munch on everyone, I'll tell them to wait until a night when the scourge of the underworld *isn't* on a date."
"That's not what I'm mad about. I'm mad that you couldn't have at least *tried* to handle this one on your own before beeping me."
"If you'll remember, pet, I'm under something of a handicap these days."
"That's right, Spike, I keep forgetting that unlike Barqs, you lack bite."
"You know, I'm happy that this recent trouble of mine has given you *so* many chances to use your infamous quips. Really."
"Would you just shut up and hunt? I'd like to salvage the rest of my evening."
"Lover Boy waiting up for you?"
"Not that it's any of your business, but no. He has to correct papers tonight."
"Oh, how *exciting*."
"What the hell is in your hair?"
"Yes, tinsel. It's festive. Of course, I'm talking to someone whose idea of festivity is to drain a caroller."
"Or one of those street Santas. Joy to the world and all that crap. But tinsel? Looks mighty cheap, luv."
"Shut up, Spike."
"All right, no activity on Grid F. Let's move into the woods."
"You're pretty pissy tonight, Riley. What's up?"
"Well, sorry, but we really can't hold an operation without you. Consider yourself special."
"It's not that, Forest. It's just that for once I wish the demons could've chosen some *other* night to attack."
"What's the matter, finally getting into uncharted territory with Buffy?"
"Not that it's any of your business, but no. I just hate having to cancel on her time after time."
"Was she angry?"
"No, she had to go see a friend anyway, but she was disappointed."
"You know, she was probably running off to have hot naked sex with some guy."
"Shut up, Forest."
"What's that in your hair?"
"I'm not going to ask, but I'm getting one hell of a mental picture."
"Shut up, Grant."