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Riley reached forward to turn the tap and stepped back away from the spray to wait for the water to warm up. Steam rose around him, and he had just dropped his towel on the bench when a voice spoke. "Group showers, huh? Kinky."

Riley grinned as he stepped under the water. He tilted his head back to soak his hair before looking over at Xander. "Not usually," he said truthfully. "I've never been propositioned here with a dropped bar of soap. I haven't been propositioned here at all." He pouted a little as he said it.

"I'm horrified. I have been lied to by my porn." Xander moved closer until he was standing right in front of Riley. He was just as naked as Riley, and Riley took a moment to appreciate his lean body. Xander preened a bit under the scrutiny, flexing his wet muscles so the light caught them. He leaned closer and ran one finger down Riley's chest, following the path between his pecs where the water streamed. "Wanna fix your sad lack of shower sex?" he asked with a wicked grin. In answer, Riley cupped his hand around the back of Xander's neck and dragged him closer for a kiss.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Riley lashed out with a heavy arm to silence the clock. Stupid alarm! If he was going to have inappropriate sex dreams about Buffy's friends, he should at least get to enjoy them. That thought jerked him fully awake, and he crushed it ruthlessly. He shouldn't be dreaming that way about his girlfriend's male friend, much less enjoying it. Riley glared at the clock as though it was to blame for his subconscious. The clock stared back, unimpressed with his wrath.

Riley considered pulling the covers over his head and going back to sleep. But no. He'd always been proud of his self discipline. If he gave up on it now, it would be an admission that discipline had been forced on him by the military instead of something he'd worked for. Instead of something that was a part of him. Riley didn't think his ego could take a blow like that right now. Groaning, he hauled himself out of bed and tugged on his gym clothes. He went off to work out still yawning.

Despite his early morning laziness, Riley loved working out. The way his body did what he asked of it, what he expected of it. The way he could sculpt himself into something different, something better, with just his own determination and effort. It gave him a feeling of accomplishment that the rest of his life was sadly lacking lately.

After his workout, Riley jogged through the UC Sunnydale campus, giving Lowell House a wide berth. Fall semester hadn't started yet, and the campus felt empty in the way that only ghost towns and schools out of session could. There were so few people to occupy so much space that their voices and footsteps echoed oddly in the quad. He stopped in at the bookstore, startling its dozing clerk, to check on the textbooks he would need to buy. They weren't in stock yet, but he could check the prices. Jogging home, Riley wondered what he would do next year, when he had his degree. He couldn't quite see himself going for his PhD, but he didn't know how he could apply a Master's in Psychology to the job market, either. Why couldn't Professor Walsh's cover have been in the Business Department? Riley pushed himself into a run, letting the pounding rhythm of his feet drown out the worries in his head.

He showered before going to Buffy's, although she tended to be more willing to put up with sweat and dirt than most of the girls he'd dated. When he got there, she stared up at him with her big hazel eyes, and he winced internally. He mentally referred to that look as the 'sad eyes of doom.' He'd been seeing it a lot lately.

"I have to meet Giles for training in half an hour," she said. He sighed, but she wasn't done talking. "But I'll be done around five, and then I'm free until patrol. Do you want to spend some Buffy-Riley time?"

"Do you have to ask?" He grinned down at her. By his calculations, that should give them almost five whole hours together. He hadn't spent that much time with Buffy in weeks, unless they were sleeping. And from the state of the blankets some mornings, he doubted she was even in bed the entire time he was asleep.

The sports show he turned on when he got back to his apartment bled into a block of home improvement shows. Riley spent the afternoon in a half doze, watching people paint and build, waiting until Buffy finished training. He tried not to notice that she was twenty minutes late to meet him. He ignored the way she curbed her strength to hug him hello. He turned away from the eager look in her eyes when she announced it was time to leave on patrol.

When Riley woke up the next morning dazed from another night of Xander in the locker room, he ignored that too.

***

"I could help you out with that," Xander offered, running gentle fingers over Riley's erection. Riley smiled lazily at him from his sprawl in the middle of the bed. Xander was propped up on one elbow beside him, his dark hair still toussled from sleep.

"Hmmmm," Riley hummed in agreement. He felt warm and contented and completely relaxed. Even as Xander's hand shifted to a firmer hold, Riley could barely convince his body to move enough to encourage him. "You gonna give me a hand?" he asked, languidly amused at his own wit.

"Oh, I think I can do better than that," Xander protested. He slid over until he was pressed against Riley, his own hardness caught between them. Bending his head, he nibbled at Riley's bare shoulder. "If you want me to, that is." He raised his eyebrows questioningly. Riley nodded, bringing his arms up to loosely circle Xander's waist. Xander grinned down at him. "Well alright, then." He returned his mouth to its previous place and devoted himself to the study of Riley Finn.

Riley's arms fell to his side, and soon his hands were clutching the sheets. It was amazing. Riley had never been the focus of so much attention before. Xander moved over him, tasting and touching. No reaction escaped him, and he found all of the places that Riley loved to be touched. Apparently Xander was more than just a student, because he taught Riley things he had never known about his own body. He hadn't known that having one particular spot on his collarbone licked sent shivers down spine. He had never learned that, while he liked having his nipples licked, he loved it when Xander bit them. But most of all, he hadn't known that dark eyes watching him, wanting him, could make him squirm with desire. Those eyes kept sweeping over him as Xander moved down his body.

Then Xander was kneeling between Riley's legs, watching Riley intently from beneath his lashes as he lowered his head and lapped at his needy, hard cock. Riley couldn't bear it; the sight and the sensation together were overwhelming. He had to close his eyes. Instead of taking Riley into his mouth right away, Xander continued to map his reactions, massaging the sensitive skin behind his balls with his tongue and fingertips, then gently nipping and stroking his way upward.

Every little touch built the anticipation higher. By the time he finally took Riley's cock in his mouth, Riley was barely hanging on. He'd kept his eyes closed for long enough; if he was about to lose control anyway, he wanted to watch. Opening his eyes, Riley stared in blatant fascination. The dark head bobbing up and down, the muscular arms tensed to support Xander's body, the glimpses of a hard, full cock hanging down to brush lightly against the sheets - it was the most erotic thing Riley had ever seen. He gasped and thrust up into Xander's mouth.

"Hey, is that for me?" Riley jerked awake, squinting at the brightness of the bed side lamp. Buffy leaned over him, the light gilding her hair and making her look as supernatural as she was. Though he wore only the undershirt and boxers he had put on before bed, she was still fully dressed. He must have fallen asleep waiting for her to come in from patrol. Riley blinked as he realized that her hand was on his dick, still rock hard from his dream.

He felt a momentary resentment at having been awakened from such an intense dream, but he forced it down. There was no possible way he would prefer a dream about a guy to the reality of his beautiful girlfriend. To prove it, he sat up and pulled Buffy to him, kissing her long and hard. She kissed back with interest, making happy little noises as he started to tug her clothes off. Once she was naked, Buffy returned the favor, stripping him bare and running her small, strong hands over him appreciatively. She pressed him down to the bed and took her favorite position astride him, moving to the rhythm that brought her off fastest. Fast being a relative term.

Riley had once decked Parker Abrams for talking about Buffy's stamina in bed. Much as he still hated the man, he had to agree with the sentiment. Buffy could go all night, her strength, flexibility, and endurance making her every man's fantasy. The problem was, most men weren't equipped to handle their fantasies. Riley was in great shape, but he secretly feared he hadn't been satisfying his girl. Her excitement at finding him hard when she got home only added to that conviction. He reached up and stroked her body, encouraging her even as he steeled himself not to come until she was there, too. If a tiny, traitorous part of him wished she would lavish him with the attention he'd gotten from Xander in his dream, he didn't acknowledge it.

The next morning he dug out the course pack from his seminar on dream analysis. He could deal with the dreams if he could just prove they were symbolic. None of the articles yielded an explanation that felt appropriate, though, and Riley finally dropped his head to the desk in defeat, the edges of the papers scoring lines in his face.

***

"God, you're tense. Whatever you've been doing, quit it," Xander complained. He arranged Riley so that he lay face down on the bed, his head turned to the side and his arms relaxed. He straddled Riley's back lightly and started rubbing his shoulders.

"I've just been living," Riley protested.

"Okay, don't quit it." He pressed into the tight muscles with the pads of his thumbs and worked them in a circular motion. "So you haven't been doing anything other than living to put yourself into this state, hmm?" he asked skeptically.

Riley gasped as he hit a particularly sore spot. "Ahh! Okay, maybe sparring with Buffy yesterday wasn't such a good idea."

"Ya think?" Xander didn't scold, but his voice showed how he felt about Riley's foolishness. He shifted a bit lower and kneaded at the muscles of Riley's upper back.

"I just want to keep my hand in," Riley explained, settling his head more comfortably on his pillow. "I miss the days when I knew exactly what I was doing and how I was supposed to do it. Before I met Buffy and found out the truth about Professor Walsh."

"Do you ever resent her?" Xander asked.

"Of course I do. I mean, she treated me like a guinea pig. The sad thing is, I trusted her. I probably would have agreed to whatever she asked. But she never asked." Riley closed his eyes tightly, like a child denying an unpleasant truth. Maggie Walsh had been a combination of mother, employer, and superior officer. Her betrayal had cut deep.

"Not Professor Walsh, Buffy. Do you ever resent Buffy?" Xander asked. His hands were steady and his voice was reasonable, and Riley had to replay that sentence in his head to be sure he'd heard it right.

"What? Why would I resent Buffy? None of it was her fault?" He could feel his shoulders tensing up again, and Xander stroked them soothingly.

"Sometimes I do," he said quietly.

"You ... you resent Buffy?" Riley fought to stay still when he really wanted to flip over and to look the other man in the face. The statement simply didn't fit with what he knew of Xander Harris.

"Sometimes. The vampires and the witches and the evil mayors were here before Buffy showed up, but I didn't know about them. I was just a kid in a small town. Then suddenly, it's 'Hey, meet the Slayer and, by the way, you're living on a Hellmouth.' Did you know, my friend Jesse died the first week she was here? I know it's not her fault. I know that better than my times tables. But ... sometimes I resent her for it anyway."

Riley was silent under Xander's hands. Did he resent Buffy? Not consciously, but deep down, maybe he linked her arrival in his life to the destruction of his career. Was that fair? Probably not, but he didn't know how to stop. Xander moved to massage his lower back, and Riley came back to the present. "Better than your times tables, huh?" he asked with a weak smile.

"Seven times nine gets me every time."

"How come you always get to be the funny one?" Riley asked. He didn't open his eyes, but he could picture the crooked grin on Xander's face. "I think I should get to be funny for a while, and you should have to play the straight man."

"Oh, really?" Xander leaned forward just a bit, and Riley was suddenly acutely aware that they were both naked. And that Xander was now kneeling over his ass. "You want me to be the straight man?" he asked in a low voice, sliding his cock along the cleft of Riley's ass.

"M-maybe not the straight man. Maybe the very serious likes-to-have-sex-with-dudes man," Riley amended. He shivered as Xander lowered his head and dropped a soft kiss right between his shoulder blades. The kisses continued on right down his spine and Riley arched into them like a cat. When Xander got down to the small of his back, he placed his hands on either side of Riley's hips and guided them up into the air.

The kisses moved, forming a curving vee that outlined the swell of his buttocks. Riley leaned into them in a state of aroused contentment. He tensed for a moment when he felt a slick touch at his puckered hole, but he forced himself to relax. Xander had never done anything he hadn't enjoyed. Curious and a little anxious, Riley waited to see what would happen.

At first, not much did happen. The cool, slick digit stroked lightly while Xander continued to kiss across his lower back. Riley was almost shocked at how good it felt. He'd known that people did this, of course he did, but he'd never considered his ass an erogenous zone before. When Xander's finger started to push inside, Riley struggled not to resist it; he wanted this. Xander showed him the same care he always had, giving Riley time to adjust to the intrusion before he began sliding the finger in and out. It was ... odd. Riley didn't like it as much as he had the earlier caresses, but he didn't want to disappoint Xander, so he kept quiet.

Xander seemed to know what Riley was feeling, even without being told. He began speaking in a low voice, encouraging Riley to be patient, promising to make him feel good. The thought that he was being gentled, like a horse, made Riley snort, but he didn't object. It was nice that Xander cared enough to reassure him like this. Riley was still smiling when Xander crooked a finger inside him and made the world stop. When the earth resumed its motion, Riley was panting.

"Do that again," he moaned. God, had he ever sounded that needy before? Did he care?

"I will," Xander promised. "Just wait." He changed his motion; instead of sliding his finger in and out, he was using it to stretch Riley open. Soon he added another finger, then another, scissoring and twisting. He continued to coax Riley, giving him advice and praise. And every once in a while he would touch that spot that made Riley feel like he was rewriting the laws of physics. Slowly, slowly, the strange feeling of being invaded had morphed into something different, and Riley found himself relishing the new sensations.

"You're doing so good, Riley," Xander said. The huskiness of his voice made Riley look back over his shoulder. Xander's eyes were nearly black with arousal and his face was flushed. The thought that he was the cause of that made Riley feel wanton and powerful. He licked his lips and pressed back onto the fingers inside him. Xander took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He pulled his fingers out of Riley's body and reached down, out of Riley's sight. "I'm going to take you now, okay?"

He waited for a response. Riley actually believed that, even this far in, Xander would stop if he said no. The realization robbed him of speech for a moment before he could gasp out a yes. He felt cared for in a way that made him shake.

Xander entered him slowly. Despite his care, Riley's breath caught at the burning sensation. Xander noticed and halted his forward motion. Riley stammered an apology, but Xander shushed him. "It's okay. This is supposed to be for both of us. If you need me to stop for a minute, just say so."

Riley nodded and forced his body to relax as much as possible. Soon Xander was moving again, bit by tiny bit until he was all the way in. Riley's head hung down, his flanks quivering as he dealt with the sensation of fullness and pressure. When Xander started to pull out, Riley wasn't sure if he wanted to protest it or not. But then he was back, and his return hit that spot, and Riley groaned. Xander settled into a smooth rhythm, thrusting in and out, making sure that Riley was comfortable. Then Riley was too lost in the experience to care about comfort.

When Xander reached around and began stroking Riley's forgotten erection, Riley nearly yelled at the new intensity it brought. Xander hit that spot inside him three times in a row, and Riley did yell. His shout didn't die down until his orgasm had swept over him. He would have collapsed, but he realized that Xander hadn't come yet. Riley tensed the muscles in his legs to hold him up as Xander drove himself in again, thrusting to his own peak. Xander held tight to Riley's hips when he came, as though afraid Riley would slip away. Had he been able to speak, Riley would have told him that was unnecessary. He couldn't have moved away if he had wanted to, and he emphatically didn't want to.

They slumped together to the bad, Xander draped over Riley's back like a very heavy comforter. As he drifted off to sleep, Riley felt soft, warm kisses on his bare shoulder.

Riley woke with a groan. He felt ... sated. Like that had been more than just a dream. When he threw back the sheets, he saw why. His boxers were a sticky mess. Riley flushed, humiliated even though there was no one here to see his predicament. He hadn't had a wet dream since he was fourteen years old. Ten years! And now he was getting off dreaming about a guy. A friend of his girlfriend! He shoved the covers to the floor in a violent motion and scrambled out of the bed. He peeled the boxers off on the way to the bathroom and dropped them disgustedly to the floor.

In the shower, Riley washed himself with a rough hand, unwilling to do anything that felt similar to the caresses of his dreams. Breathing hard, Riley rested his head against the cold tiles and tried to get himself under control. He wasn't gay. He knew he wasn't gay. Didn't he have a girlfriend? An extremely hot, sexy girlfriend ... who didn't turn him on half as much as dreams about her best buddy.

Riley groaned. He'd never thought he was bigoted, but the idea that he might be gay made him cringe. It was like a betrayal, like his body had been lying to him for the last twenty four years. Like he didn't know who he was anymore. He's had way too much of that kind of feeling lately.

Riley turned around and let the water hit him in the face. Did he even find men attractive? Maybe he was freaking out over nothing. He ran through a mental list of all the men he knew, testing himself for signs of attraction or arousal. Graham? Nope. Forrest? Nope. He was starting to feel relieved when the image of Bobby Andrews from his undergrad basketball team popped into his head. Bobby had had really great shoulders. And a smile that always made Riley feel slightly giddy. He slumped despondently against the shower wall. He might really be gay. Or at least bi.

But that still didn't explain his sudden dream fixation on Xander Harris, of all people. Not that there was anything wrong with Xander, but he wasn't exactly fantasy material. He was clumsy and goofy, and if he was brave enough to jump into the fray, he often lacked the skills to get himself back out again. But he was also loyal and handsome and funny ... Riley shook his head and turned off the rapidly cooling water. He needed to see Buffy. He needed to look at her, and feel the love and lust he used to feel for her.

Riley dried off and dressed quickly, then ran all the way to Giles' house. He knocked at the door and fidgeted while he waited for an answer. Anya let him in, and Riley ducked his head reflexively as he stepped inside. The lintel was high enough, but Riley always felt like he was going to bash his head. He scanned the living room for Buffy, but its only occupants were Anya and Tara. He perched uncomfortably on the edge of a chair while Anya rejoined Tara on the couch.

Anya picked up what had apparently been an ongoing conversation. "I'm willing to share my training tips with you. If you follow them, you'll find that your partner can provide you with oral stimulation for up to an hour at a time. Xander has been able to provide me with multiple orgasms that way," she said, her voice earnest and friendly.

Riley jerked his head up and stared at them. Anya's back was to him, but he could see that Tara's face was scarlet. Riley's mouth opened, but no sound came out. Was this all Anya's fault? Riley must have absorbed countless Xander-sex stories without even realizing it. He grinned as relief washed over him. He wasn't gay! He'd just been infected by Anya's inappropriate sharing. He was about to tell her to stop it when the front door swung open, admitting Xander. He carried paper grocery bags in both arms. One look at Tara's crimson cheeks and guilty expression was enough to tell Xander what had been going on.

"Anya! We've talked about this. People don't want to hear about our sex life," Xander said in an exasperated tone. Riley told himself his heart was only pounding because of the unexpectedness of Xander's entry.

"On the contrary, Xander. I'm sure Tara has been finding our conversation most educational, and the woman who lives next door to me always asks for more details," Anya explained with a confused frown.

"How about this? I don't want you telling other people about our sex life."

"If you leave the room, you won't hear us, and you can pretend not to know," Anya said logically.

Xander shook his head, defeated. "Yeah, I'm gonna take my dignity and these groceries and go to the kitchen." He shifted the bags in his arms and summoned a weak smile for Tara and Riley. He turned and walked a few steps before looking back over his shoulder and saying, "Hey, Riley. Buffy's meditating under a tree down the block with Giles. You want me to go pull her away from contemplating her navel after I put the food up?"

"Thanks, but I can go. The big maple tree?" Riley asked. Xander nodded and gave him an encouraging grin. Riley felt a little glow that Xander wanted to help him with Buffy even when he was having problems with his own girlfriend. Riley stared after him until he realized he was watching Xander's ass as he walked to the kitchen. He pulled his eyes upward and took a deep breath. Squaring his shoulders, Riley headed for the door and started walking toward the big maple tree.

When she caught sight of him, Buffy's face lit in a smile, and she excused herself from Giles. Riley lifted her into his embrace, grateful as always that she let him have these moments when he got to be the strong one. Buffy yielded readily to his kiss, and he let himself be comforted by the familiar pulse of affection and desire for her. Holding her light body against his chest, Riley mentally tallied all the reasons he loved her, all the reasons he couldn't resent her.

The good thing about dating the Slayer was, when he held her a little too tightly and kissed her a little too desperately, she never noticed.

***

Riley popped a strawberry into his mouth and watched Xander happily. He'd been determined to have a nighttime picnic, but he'd been stumped for a way to make it safe on the Hellmouth. He'd finally had the idea to set it up on a rooftop, and he was thrilled with the result. It was outdoors, but private, and the view was spectacular.

"Tell me about your first time," Riley said, twirling his strawberry stem.

Xander swallowed hard on a mouthful of lemonade. "What?" he asked, jerking from his slouch to stare at Riley.

"Tell me about your first time," Riley repeated firmly.

Xander stared at Riley as though he'd lost his mind. "No!"

"Why not?" He'd meant to sound challenging, but Riley was afraid that had come out more as a whine.

"Because it's embarrassing, that's why not."

"Everybody's first time was embarrassing," Riley replied logically. "It's inevitable. I just ... I just want to hear it."

Xander's eyes were wide and dark, and Riley felt like they were measuring him. "You really want to hear this?" he asked, his voice full of doubt.

"I really do." Riley grinned, knowing he'd won.

"Okay." Xander stood up and walked to the edge of the roof. He stood silently for a moment, staring out at the deceptively peaceful night. Riley came up behind him and slid his arms around Xander's waist, pressing himself against his warm back. "Do you remember Faith?" Xander asked.

Riley snorted and nuzzled Xander's neck. "Oh, yeah." Technically, he'd never seen Faith while she was in her own body, but he had run into Buffy in Faith's body, and he'd spent some quality time with Faith in Buffy's body. He figured that was close enough.

Xander leaned back against Riley's chest and continued. "She was fighting these demon chicks, and they had her outnumbered. I rescued her by heroically hitting the demons with my car." The sarcasm was thick in his voice. "I drove her back to her hotel, and ... It wasn't about me at all. Wasn't even a reward for saving her. She was just horny and I was convenient."

Riley tightened his arms around Xander. "Well, then she must be dumber than I thought. Tell me how it went," he said, his voice steady.

Xander took a deep breath. "She pulled me inside and told me to strip."

Riley released his hold and took a step back. "Take your clothes off, Xander. Keep talking."

Xander turned to face him uncertainly. He studied Riley's face to see if he was serious, then slowly raised his hands to his shirt and released the top button. His voice was uncertain when he continued. "Faith got her clothes off first, and she stood there, watching me and touching herself."

"Yeah?" Riley asked breathlessly. He shucked out of his clothes, tossing them down on the roof. He felt more naked than he ever had before, as though the walls that usually surrounded him were another layer of clothing he had shed. He shivered as a warm breeze teased at his skin. Riley ran one hand up his chest and pinched a nipple. "Like this?"

"God! Riley." Xander's eyes had gone from nervous to nearly black with lust, and he started undressing in earnest, fighting with his buttons and shoes. Riley let his hand drop to his erection, stroking it slowly as he watched Xander shed the last of his clothes.

"Then what?"

"The-then Faith told me to lay down on the bed," Xander said, licking his lips. Riley wanted to just admire the sight of Xander naked in the moonlight, but he didn't have the patience.

"Lie on the blanket, Xander," he ordered, his voice rough. He followed Xander back to the picnic blanket and watched as he lowered himself to sprawl across it, his legs splayed open and his hands flat on the plaid blanket. Xander's lips were parted, and he panted slightly, staring up at Riley.

"What happened next?" Riley asked. He could practically feel Xander's eyes on him as he slid his hand slowly, slowly down his cock to caress his balls.

The blanket crumpled as Xander's hands closed. His voice was thick when he answered. "She climbed on top of me and took me in. And then she rode me."

Riley closed his hand tight around the base of his cock and closed his eyes against the image of Xander waiting for him on the blanket, skin washed pale by the moon, mouth wet and open. When he regained his control, Riley closed the distance between them and lowered himself onto the blanket. He crawled up Xander's body until he was straddling it. He took Xander's heavy, full cock in his hand and positioned it carefully, then lowered himself over it. Xander groaned out his name incredulously as Riley opened for him, and Riley grinned smugly. Prepping himself ahead of time had been his best idea ever.

The smug grin turned into a frown of concentration as Riley focused on relaxing around Xander and keeping his balance at the same time. It was more difficult than he'd thought it would be. Xander's hands came up to grip his hips, steadying him. Centimeter by centimeter, Riley sank down, taking him in. Finally resting on Xander's hips, Riley positioned his knees under him so he could use his strong thigh muscles to propel himself up and down. He rose and fell, watching his lover beneath him. Xander's face was all eyes and mouth, dark and staring and wet and wanting.

"Who came first?" Riley gasped out, arching his back and sliding down hard.

Xander opened his mouth twice before he managed an answer. "I did," he said around a breathy moan. "Sh-she kept going until she came." That meant Riley needed to hold on. He tilted his hips, angling so that Xander wasn't hitting his prostate, and started clenching tight around Xander on the upstrokes. Within moments, he had Xander shuddering and crying out. Riley rode out Xander's orgasm, then reached down and took hold of his own neglected cock. He canted his hips as he continued to move over Xander, stroking himself in a harsh rhythm. He came with a strangled shout that seemed to take all of his strength with it. He went boneless and nearly toppled over sideways, but Xander steadied him and drew him down to his chest.

"You," Xander said, his voice a rumble under Riley's ear, "are the sexiest man alive. I don't care what People magazine says."

Riley grinned against Xander's warm skin. "What happened after that?" he asked sleepily.

"She kicked me out before I even had my clothes on," Xander sighed. "And the next time I talked to her, she tried to kill me."

Riley stroked Xander's arm and reminded himself that he couldn't break Faith out of jail to kill her. "Yeah, she was way dumber than I thought," he said. He let Xander slip from his body with a sigh of regret.

Riley woke up, hard and quivering, more than half surprised that he hadn't come already. His head was full of Xander. He tried to think about Buffy or the latest centerfold or anyone female, but they wouldn't stick. No matter how hard he tried, they kept being overridden by Xander, writhing under him, reaching up toward him. Riley's hand moved of its own volition, reaching down to stroke his insistent cock before he'd even thought about it. His hips jerked, and in his head Xander moaned out Riley's name. It was irresistible. He fisted his cock, tight and fast, letting the dream play over in his mind like his own personal porno.

It wasn't until he was finished, gasping and messy on his bed, that he realized what he'd done. He'd been wide awake, and he'd gotten himself off to the thought of Xander Harris. He winced. He wasn't uninformed; he'd taken classes on human sexuality, and he knew that many men had some sexual encounters with other men while still considering themselves straight. And he knew that fantasies didn't always match people's desires for real life encounters. But these dreams were so intense, emotionally as well as sexually, that he didn't know if he could deny their appeal any longer without lying to himself.

Riley let his head drop back on the pillow, thinking it might be nice to lie to himself for a while. He didn't want to lose what he had with Buffy; the fact that someone like her chose to be with him made Riley feel special. Worthwhile. He needed a plan. He had to either rid himself of these Xander dreams and all their implications, or he needed to admit to Buffy that he wasn't getting what he needed from their relationship.

He didn't know which outcome he feared the most.

***

Riley decided the first step to getting Xander out of his dreams was to spend more time with him in real life. His subconscious might stop inventing details about the man if Riley already knew about him. With this in mind, Riley dropped back on group patrol that night to walk beside Xander, who appeared to be trying to twirl his stake like a baton.

"Hey, Riley." Riley fought down the warmth he felt when Xander gave him a big, pleased smile along with the greeting.

"Hi, um, Xander. I was wondering if you wanted to do something sometime." Xander's smile got even brighter, and Riley felt mildly guilty at never having suggested this without an ulterior motive.

"Sure! Like what?" Xander asked, passing his stake back and forth from hand to hand.

Riley had spent far too much time thinking about things he and Xander could do together. Unfortunately, most of his ideas were highly inappropriate. After three cold showers, he'd finally come up with a reasonable option. "I thought we could get a game together. What sports do you play?" He was pretty smug about his own brilliance; sports were firmly rooted in heterosexual male bonding.

"Um, will I lose all my street cred if I admit to bowling?" Xander asked. He gave his stake a thoughtful twirl. "That won't work, though. The bowling alley is being renovated." He grinned happily. "I get to help lay the new lanes." He considered for another moment. "I like to swim," he offered.

Riley almost missed his next step. Swimming involved much less clothing than bowling, which wasn't exactly conducive to Riley's plan of uncoupling the concepts of Xander and sex in his brain. He shook his head to clear it and found Xander watching him curiously, waiting for a response.

Riley opened his mouth to object to Xander's suggestion when a new thought occurred to him. Seeing Xander semi-nude could be a good thing. If nothing else, it would point out the differences between his dream Xander's body and the real one, which - Riley ran a critical eye the form hidden under loose cargo pants and an ill fitting shirt - could not possibly measure up.

"Sure," Riley said. "Swimming is good."

Riley realized his error as soon as he stepped onto the deck of the pool the next day. Xander had arrived first and staked out an empty lane. He was standing at the side of the pool, goggles in hand. His small, red swimsuit showed just how accurate Riley's dreams had been. Disturbingly accurate.

Riley's breath was loud in his ears, and he could feel the flush stealing up his face. He bit his lip and turned away. Trying to look casual, he dropped his bag on a deck chair and bent to fish out his goggles. He rummaged in his bag longer than strictly necessary, trying to will away the blush still staining his cheeks. The concrete was hot and prickly under his toes as he straightened and walked over to Xander, providing a welcome distraction. Xander's face lit up when he saw him approaching, and Riley's stomach fluttered.

"Hey, Riley. I was about to start without you. Is side by side okay with you, or do you want to come behind me?" Xander asked. There was no possible way he meant that the way Riley's dick chose to take it. Riley had to jump into the pool before he could publicly humiliate himself.

The water was heated, but it still had enough of a chill to be effective. When he came up, he was surprised to find Xander in the water next to him. Riley blinked the water out of his eyes and shoved back his dripping hair. "We can go side by side," he said.

"Cool. That way it won't matter if you're faster than me." Xander stretched backward to dunk his head in the water, and Riley stared, defenseless against the arch of his throat. The water wasn't nearly cold enough.

"Yeah," Riley breathed. He fumbled his goggles on and pushed off the wall into a fast crawl. He hadn't taken a proper breath before he started, and he found the burning in his lungs to be an excellent remedy for his burgeoning erection.

They swam. Riley was surprised to see Xander moving cleanly through the water and making smooth, experienced flip turns at the end of the lane. He'd had the impression that the other man was clumsy, but in the water Xander seemed to find a balance he lacked on dry land. Riley tried to block him out, letting the rhythm of his strokes, the pattern of his breathing blank his mind. He pushed himself until his shoulders and thighs protested the effort, then glided to a halt by the wall to rest. On his next lap, Xander pulled himself to a stop next to Riley.

The two men floated companionably. Riley held the wall with one hand, occasionally kicking himself back toward it when he started to drift. Xander faced out toward the pool, both hands clutching the wall behind him. The posture thrust his chest out and pulled his shoulder muscles taut. Riley realized he was staring appreciatively and scrambled for something to say.

"Where'd you learn to swim?" he asked.

Xander lifted one hand from the wall to shove his goggles up to his forehead. "Willow's parents used to get her swimming lessons every year, and she would pass them along. We must have looked ridiculous, practicing strokes in the backyard when we couldn't get to the pool. But it was fun. Willow's a good teacher, you know? And we were already so used to her knowing more than us that we let her boss us around." He smiled at the memory, but it didn't light his eyes the way most of his smiles did. Riley told himself it was just the rings pressed around his eyes by the goggles that gave Xander's face that shadowed cast, but he wasn't entirely convinced.

"We?" he asked. The way Xander used the plural made Riley think of the Myslewski twins, who had been in his class all through elementary school. They'd been inseparable. Xander's eyes went dim at the question, and there was no way Riley could blame it on the goggles.

"Me and Jesse," Xander said, clinging tighter to the wall. "He died ... sophomore year." Xander stared at the water, tracking the tiny, choppy waves generated by dozens of swimmers. Riley's breath caught in his throat. Jesse.

"I'm gonna see if I can still do the butterfly," Xander announced suddenly. He tugged his goggles back into place and launched himself down the lane.

Riley watched as Xander swam with explosive grace, feeling like he'd been hit from behind. Xander had said his friend's name was Jesse. Jesse who'd died in their sophomore year. Riley's mind stuttered over the implications, seeking an explanation. Someone must have mentioned Jesse before, that's all. Someone mentioned him, and Riley's mind had stored the information and inferred how much his death would have hurt Xander. It should have been a comforting explanation, but Riley kept circling one question: How long had he been paying this much attention to Xander?

Riley's breathing sped up, and he realized he was panicking. He pushed himself off the wall into a slow, easy breast stroke, forcing his breath to conform to the requirements of the stroke. He ducked his head into the water smoothly. Remembering a detail about Xander's childhood friend didn't mean anything. It didn't mean he'd been obsessed with Xander all along. It didn't.

When Riley got to the end of the lane, he turned slowly and saw Xander already out of the water, holding his towel and lingering uncertainly at the edge of the pool. Riley raised a hand and waved to him to let him know it was fine for him to go. Xander waved back, then turned and walked to the locker room door. Riley swam slower on his return down the pool, determinedly not thinking about Xander in the showers, the way he looked with steam curling around his face.

'It's not real,' he told himself, kicking. 'You don't want him,' he thought as he pulled through his stroke. It became a litany as he crept slowly through the water, 'It's not real. You don't want him.' Over and over, hoping it would sink in.

When he reached the end of his lane, Riley climbed out reluctantly, his eyes flickering to the locker room door every few seconds. He plodded over to the chair where he'd left his things and collapsed onto it. He sat there dripping and watching the locker room door, for a very long time.

***

Riley was pretty sure he didn't need as much sleep as he'd been getting. He tested his hypothesis by drinking massive amounts of energy drinks and by not going to bed at night. It was kind of fun, actually. He hadn't made a concerted effort to stay up all night in years; once he had outgrown having a bedtime, staying up had lost its attraction.

Late night television wasn't the same, Riley found, flipping through channels at three in the morning. It was too similar to regular daytime programming now, full of Baywatch reruns and old episodes of Behind the Music. He missed sneaking out of his room in the middle of the night to goggle at Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death or wish he was old enough to buy his own Amazing Food Dehydrator for three easy payments.

He couldn't avoid sleeping all together. When he dropped off in the middle of Def Leppard's rise to fame, he found himself wrapped in strong, warm arms, cradled against a broad chest with gentle hands stroking his hair. He woke feeling comforted and groggily resentful that his dream Xander was so willing to give him what he needed. It didn't make it any easier for Riley to put the man out of his head.

Buffy didn't help, either. She had decreed a double date night with Xander and Anya. It was strange, sitting with the woman he was dating and the man he was dreaming about in a musty basement. Riley trained his attention on Buffy, determined not to give up on her yet, determined to show Xander that Riley wasn't obsessed with him. The fact that that thought wouldn't even occur to the Xander of the waking world didn't deter him. Riley slid his hands along Buffy's narrow shoulders, pressing his thumbs into the tight muscles of her neck. She responded to his ministrations so enthusiastically, Riley had to wonder if she was putting on as much of a show as he was.

When Xander's parents started shouting and crashing around upstairs, Riley didn't know what to do. His family was so far from that - the anger he was hearing, the suggestion that this was a common occurrence - that he had trouble understanding it. Intellectually, he knew that plenty of violent families and abusive relationships existed right here in Sunnydale. Emotionally, it was a shock. He wanted to hold Xander and tell him that it wasn't his fault, that he deserved better. Fortunately, the girls' presence kept him from making a fool out of himself. Dream Xander would have welcomed his comfort, but Riley couldn't predict how the real Xander would react.

Buffy led the escape from Xander's basement soon after the Harrises' vocal arrival upstairs, but she kept scheduling activities with Xander. Riley didn't remember spending this much time with Buffy's friends before he'd developed this new and interesting fixation, but he couldn't think of a good excuse to cry off. Instead, he poured himself into being Buffy's boyfriend, growing more and more aware that it felt like playing a part.

When he came face to face with two separate Xanders the next night, the act fell away and all Riley could do was stare. A pair of Xanders would have been fascinating under any circumstances, but now ... He studied their similarities and differences while Willow and Giles worked on a way to reunite them. Physically, they were identical - matching crooked grins, warm, dark eyes, broad shoulders. The differences were most apparent in their personalities.

One Xander was goofy and clumsy, nervous and slightly defensive. Riley was familiar with this side of Xander from countless Scooby meetings, movie nights, and patrols. He had foolishly, shallowly, assumed that this was who Xander really was. The other Xander proved that assumption wrong. He had an easy confidence and tact, knowing what to say to get what he wanted and needed. He was more like Riley's dream Xander than he'd thought possible. Riley wanted them both.

He watched their hands as the two Xanders talked and joked together, wondering what it would be like to feel all those hands on his bodies. To feel two mouths kissing and nibbling, working him over in tandem. Riley hoped he would find out when he went to sleep that night.

Buffy perched on the arm of his chair, startling Riley out of his fantasies. He flushed guiltily as he looked at her, worried that his thoughts might show on his face. He wasn't comforted when she smiled at him tiredly. He knew, even if she didn't. He wasn't just enduring his nighttime visitations anymore; he was hoping for them, planning them. It might not be happening while he was awake, but he was cheating on Buffy.

Riley was still struggling over his new perception of his reactions to Xander when Buffy called him to help Xander move. He went along meekly, doing his best to stay out of Xander's way. Unfortunately, there were only the three of them packing and moving, so keeping a low profile wasn't a terribly realistic goal. He ended up alone in the basement with Xander, trying not to look like he was desperately seeking an escape route.

"So," Riley said uncomfortably, loading another box, "Where's Anya? I thought she'd be all gung ho for the move."

Xander stilled. "We ... we kinda broke up. 'Kinda' meaning definitely, totally broke up."

Riley stared at him, meeting Xander's eyes for the first time all day. "Why? I thought you were good together," he protested.

"In some ways we were. I mean, clearly we got along fine in bed, and we had fun together. But emotionally we were so not on the same page. If our relationship was the world book encyclopedia, I was over on 'Aardvark through Absinthe' and she was way down around Zimbabwe. We didn't want the same things. And," he swallowed and looked down, "I never really felt like she wanted me. I didn't want to be what she settled for."

Riley blinked. He grabbed a random knick-knack from the table and stuffed it in his box. "When?" His voice came out high, and Riley had to clear his throat. "When did this happen? You were just together."

"The smooth half of me did more than just get promoted," Xander answered wryly. "I don't know if I ever would have broken up with her otherwise. I didn't think I was going to find someone I connected with better than Anya, so I was willing to stay. Love the one you're with, right? Well, Smooth Xander thought different."

"That's so weird!" Riley exclaimed, shaking his head. "Are you okay with that? Do you ... do you want her back?"

Xander added a few more things to his box. "No," he said simply. "I wouldn't have done it, but I'm relieved that it's done. Besides," he added, hoisting the box in his arms, "She deserves better than me." He headed up the stairs with his load.

Riley stared after him, disagreeing fervently. He wasn't sure there was anyone better than him.

***

Xander squirmed against him, pinned against the wall by Riley's greater bulk. His mouth was hot and desperate, kissing him with lips and tongue and teeth. Riley ground his hips against Xander's, sliding a knee between Xander's legs for better leverage. He held Xander's face in his hands, stroking his thumbs over the stubbled flesh of his jaw. Nothing made him feel more alive than this.

Xander's hands worked under Riley's shirt, skating over his back and sides, dipping into the narrow gap at the back of his pants to tease at the top of his ass. His hands wormed their way around to the front of Riley's pants, where they fumbled with his belt and buttons. For a moment, Riley went with it, leaning his body away to give Xander room to work. Then he remembered: There was something he'd been meaning to do.

Riley raised his head with a gasp. "No," he said, shoving Xander's hands away.

Xander raised his eyebrows. "No?" he asked incredulously. "Are you feeling okay? I thought the flush was from making out, but maybe you've got a fever."

Riley grinned and shook his head. "I'm fine. I just wanted to ... try something."

"Try what? Breaking the record on blue balls?" Xander demanded, rolling his hips so Riley could feel how hard he was.

"No, I wanted to give you a blow job." His voice sank as he said it, and Riley dropped his head to Xander's shoulder to hide the flush staining his cheeks.

"Oh! Okay, that's ... I'm definitely okay with that."

Riley raised his head. His face was still hot, but he gave Xander a saucy grin. "I thought you might be," he said. He pulled out of Xander's arms, and dropped carefully to his knees. He popped the button on Xander's jeans and tugged down the zipper, not quite slow enough to tease, but not as quickly as he wanted to, either. He let his fingers trail back up to Xander's waistband and eased it down, pulling Xander's boxers down at the same time. He forgot to pull them away from Xander's body, and he caught Xander's cock on the way down.

"Oops," he said, trying not to giggle at the way it bounced. Xander gave him a mock glare and impatiently shoved his jeans and boxers down around his calves. Riley found himself suddenly face to face with Xander's cock. It shouldn't have been a surprise; he'd seen it before, after all, and his plan wouldn't work very well without getting up close and personal with that particular body part. Still, it was different, seeing it from this angle. It looked bigger from down here, for one thing. Riley slid his hand around Xander's shaft, angling it so he could choose his approach.

The head was right there, smooth and flushed and damp, so Riley licked it. Xander's cock twitched in response, and Riley smiled, delightedly. He ran his tongue over and around the head, learning the shape and taste, certain he'd never forget this. Xander groaned when he pointed his tongue and pressed it against the slit, so he did that again.

A quick glance up showed Xander standing with his face flushed and his eyes closed, hands fisted by his sides. Riley felt ... powerful. There was something intensely empowering about giving this much pleasure to another person, knowing that he was the one creating these sensations.

Riley opened his mouth and let the head of Xander's cock sink inside. His lips pulled a bit as he tried to take him deeper, so he pulled back and circled it with his tongue again and again, getting it wet and slippery. When he tried again, it slid in much easier, and Riley hummed his approval.

"Oh, God!" Xander groaned. Riley would have smiled if his mouth weren't otherwise occupied. He moved lower, until his lips brushed the hand that was still wrapped around the shaft, then pulled back. The next time he tried it, he added suction.

It was good. The amazingly smooth, round fullness of Xander's cock against his tongue, brushing the roof of his mouth. The hard length filling his hand and mouth. It wasn't perfect; Riley's lips weren't used to doing this much work, and his jaw was starting to get sore. That didn't seem to matter much though. Not as much as the power and joy of making Xander feel wonderful, the lust of hearing him reduced to moans above him.

When Xander came, Riley wasn't ready for it. He swallowed in self defense, grimacing at the taste. It wasn't horrible, but he wouldn't exactly be wanting it on his ice cream any time soon. He suckled gently for one more moment, then pulled off and sank back on his heels. Licking his lips, Riley looked up to get Xander's reaction.

"You are so amazing," Xander said, his voice husky from the sex and gentle from the love shining in his eyes. He toed off his shoes and shimmied the rest of the way out of his pants. Lowering himself unsteadily to the floor, Xander shoved Riley flat on his back. "You didn’t have to do that," he said, wrapping his arms around Riley.

"I wanted to," Riley protested, wriggling to gain some friction on his erection.

"Good." Xander shifted his hands to Riley's hips and pressed them to the floor. "Hold still," he ordered, "I want to try something."

Riley grinned until he couldn't hold back the gasps of pleasure anymore.

Riley resisted waking with all his strength, wishing a dream was solid enough to grab onto. Instead, it slipped away despite his efforts, and he was left awake in his bed, aching and alone. He wanted to take his erection in hand and relive the dream until he came, but he didn't. He'd make a promise to himself that as long as he was still with Buffy, he wasn't going to get off to thoughts of Xander. Since Buffy had been too worried about hurting him lately to come near him in bed, Riley hadn't had an orgasm in well over a week. If his conscience hadn't already been prompting Riley to break up with her, his dick would have.

Riley had been terrified of being put under by Initiative doctors. His history with the Initiative made him distrust them, but, more than that, he hadn't wanted the results of the operation. He didn't want to be relegated to the ordinary-therefore-useless category. Since he'd begun dreaming about Xander, he'd paid a lot more attention to the way the other man was treated on patrols. Riley didn't want to be protected like Xander was. He didn't want to be ignored.

Riley had half-hoped Buffy would dump him after his operation. She had the excuse that he'd been hiding things from her and that he couldn't keep up with her. More importantly, it would have meant that Riley didn't have to break up with her. Unfortunately, she'd been sweet and understanding, and Riley was stuck with a beautiful girl friend he no longer wanted.

He walked to the Magic Box that night, taking his time to prolong his discussion with Buffy. When he got there, he walked straight into a dispute. Riley didn't know the people standing antagonistically at the front of the store, and he didn't know what the argument was about, so he ducked to the side and watched.

Once again, Riley was struck with that feeling of unreality that people he knew had families like this. He saw the sympathy and anger in the faces of Buffy and her friends, empathy in Xander's. A bitter, sluggish resentment roiled in Riley's stomach. He hated that he couldn't fix this. Tara was such a sweet person, quietly loving Willow and offering her support. She didn't deserve to be hurt by her own family. Buffy was magnificent. Riley watched her stand up to the Maclays and ached at the thought of giving her up.

When the drama was over and the Maclay family banished, Willow swept her girlfriend away to comfort her, and Xander and Spike went off to their separate homes. Buffy and Giles were left, and Riley approached them uncertainly.

"Buffy? Can I talk to you?" he asked. She must have seen something in his face, because her smile muted to something less vibrant.

"Okay. Let's use the training room," she agreed, leading the way.

Once he had her alone, Riley didn't know where to start. He had actually rehearsed his speech, planning exactly what he wanted to say, but now it all seemed ridiculous. He realized he was rubbing his hands together and stuffed them in his pocket to stop himself.

He couldn't look at Buffy, so he stared up at the ceiling. "You are an incredible woman," he began. "You're smart and strong and beautiful. And you're nice, too. You don't know how rare that its, to be all those things at the same time. I don't want to lose you. But I - I don't think we should be together anymore, either."

"You're saying you want to just be friends?" she asked skeptically.

Riley let his gaze fall until he was looking at her face. "There's no 'just' about it. I don't have very many friends right now. What you did tonight ... that was amazing. I want to be your friend, to be a part of your life like that. I know 'Let's be friends' is a cliché, but I mean it."

Buffy nodded, but her face crumpled sadly. "What happened? I thought you loved me. I love you," she said defiantly.

"You love me, but it's ... it's either not enough, or it's not in the right way." Riley shook his head, trying to organize his thoughts. "If you loved me the way I need, you would have noticed that you're shutting me out. I come in fourth in your life, after your family and your Slaying and your friends."

She crossed her arms and stepped closer. "So this is my fault?" she challenged.

"No! That's not what I'm saying. I don't love you right, either. If I did, I would appreciate you without resenting how much stronger you are than I am. I really ... I know I don't deserve you. I'm just saying, maybe you don't deserve me either." Riley shrugged helplessly.

"Is there somebody else?" Buffy asked. The fact that it was the classic, soap opera question didn't make it funny, especially when it came out in such a small, hurt voice.

Riley pulled a hand from his pocket to rub the back of his neck. "That's the other thing." he said slowly. "I think I might be kind of gay. Or at least into guys?"

"Oh my God!" she breathed, staring at him unbelievingly. She turned away from him, and Riley felt something clench inside him, a hurt and rejection he hadn't been prepared for. Then she glanced back over her shoulder and said, "Aren't you coming? I don't know if I'll be able to do this friend thing, but if I'm gonna try, this conversation needs brownies. So many brownies."

Riley hurried to catch up, letting himself hope they would be okay.

***

The park was glowing in the autumn sun, and usually Riley would have taken advantage of it on the track or the basketball court. Today he just wandered, though, mingling with the people walking their dogs, smiling at the old lady feeding the ducks. He wound up on a bench near the playground, watching the kids. One group of boys was trying to climb the long, slippery slide instead of using the ladder. A couple of girls were taking turns pushing each other on the swings. One tiny child sat in the sand, building something complicated involving leaves and twigs. Riley propped his chin on his hand and his elbow on his knee and watched.

He hadn't been consciously expecting Xander, but he wasn't surprised when a long body slid onto the bench next to him. Xander's arm wormed its way around Riley's shoulder.

"Whatchya thinking?" Xander asked, tilting his head so it leaned against Riley's.

"I always knew I was going to be a dad someday," Riley said, his eyes fixed on the little boy on the sand. "It wasn't a question, I was going to be a dad. And now ..."

"Now you're dating someone without fallopian tubes, and it's making you think?" Xander suggested.

Riley shrugged noncommittally. "I feel like I've lost something. Like I'm saying goodbye to the kids I would have had."

Xander started shaking, the motion translating down his arm to jostle Riley. Riley looked over and saw that the bastard was laughing. "This isn't funny," Riley growled, jerking out of his grasp and walking away.

Xander sobered quickly. "I'm sorry," he said, catching up with Riley. "I'm really, really sorry. It's just, I've already had the gay, children-having conversation once today. Am I putting out some kind of pheromone? Never mind." He held up his hand. "I am the non-laughing, serious Xander here for your conversing pleasure. Go ahead."

Riley let himself be mollified. "Who else did you have the conversation with?" he asked, half curious, half irritated that somebody beat him to it.

"Willow. She was doing the girl in love thing- you know, where they plan the wedding and think of possible names for their future children? Well, it just hit her that neither she nor her significant other has sperm."

"Hence the conversation." Riley nodded.

"Hence the conversation," Xander agreed. "But it makes things super easy for us. I told Will I would donate the little swimmers, and either she or Tara would carry the baby. I bet you dollars to donuts one of them knows a spell to guarantee twins. They could carry one for them and one for us."

Riley snapped his fingers. "Just like that?"

"Just like that. Deus ex Magicka. Don't you love dating a guy with witchy friends who want to have his baby?" Xander asked with a crooked grin.

"When you say it like that you make it sound so dirty," Riley protested.

"You like dirty," Xander accused. He hooked his fingers through Riley's belt loops and dragged him closer. "Admit it."

Riley looked down at Xander, drinking in the happiness in his dark brown eyes, the way his mouth stretched wider than it should have been able to. "I'm not going to admit anything in the middle of the park," he said.

Xander released him. "Spoilsport," he snorted. "Race you to my place, then." He was running before he even finished the sentence. He didn't have a hope of beating Riley, who still worked out every morning. Riley kept his pace down, staying a few feet in front of Xander, just enough to taunt the other man into making occasional attempts to overtake him. They arrived at Xander's apartment breathless and laughing, stumbling over one another in an attempt to get inside first.

"I win," Riley declared. "What's my prize?"

"You can have anything you want," Xander promised, shaking the hair back out of his face.

"Anything?" Riley knew what he wanted. He pulled Xander to the bedroom and started yanking clothes off of them both, scattering them on the floor. He pushed his laughing, naked Xander down on the bed and scrambled for the bedside drawer where Xander usually kept supplies.

"In a hurry?" Xander asked, propping himself up on his elbows and eyeing Riley with amusement.

"You said I could have anything I want. I want you," Riley said, pulling lube and condoms out of the drawer.

"Really?" Xander squeaked. Riley nodded, and Xander shivered. "Yeah, okay."

Riley arranged Xander on the bed, positioning a pillow under his ass and spreading his legs wide to allow Riley access. Xander didn't protest, watching Riley the whole time with eyes nearly gone black. Once he had Xander just how he wanted him, Riley sat back on his haunches to admire the picture he made. Smooth, golden skin, spread out just for Riley, the muscles on his stomach tensing in anticipation - Xander was gorgeous.

Riley opened a condom and set it near Xander's foot. He slicked the fingers of his right hand and set them at the very tip of Xander's cock. He let them trail down, all the way to the base and over his balls. Then he did it again, this time moving lower to caress the delicate skin behind Xander's balls. Over and over, he slid his hand down, reaching lower until each pass took him over Xander's puckered opening.

"You're trying to kill me, aren't you? You're still mad at me for laughing, and this is your revenge," Xander panted out. Riley looked up to see dazed lust in Xander's face.

"Oh, this isn't revenge. This is a reward," Riley promised, circling one slippery finger around and around Xander's entrance, letting it dip inside the tiniest bit. Xander was paying attention, because the next time Riley's finger entered him, Xander shifted his hips to draw it in farther.

"Now who's in a hurry?" Riley taunted. He pushed his finger into the tight heat of Xander's body and dragged it back out. He was entranced by the sight of it, his finger disappearing into Xander again and again. He started twisting his finger on each thrust, and Xander made a sound Riley had never heard before. Soon he had two fingers scissoring Xander open. The sight of it was still erotic, but now the purpose was starting to press on Riley, the idea that he was opening Xander up so he could fuck him. Riley had to close his eyes.

After three fingers, neither of them was willing to wait anymore. Riley fumbled on the condom and coated his length with more lube, then crouched between Xander's thighs. "Here goes nothing," Riley muttered, lining him up to push in.

Xander snorted with laughter at Riley's comment, but the sound transformed into a breathy moan as Riley entered him. Xander bit his lip and bore down, and Riley felt himself gliding in deeper. The breath caught in his throat, but he didn't care if he never breathed again as long as he could keep feeling this.

There was an incredible dichotomy to having sex with a Xander that Riley had never experienced with a woman. Xander's cock was so hard, but the skin was so soft at the same time; it was startling. It was the same inside him. Xander gripped tight, tight, tight, but he felt so smooth. He was all hard muscles and yielding acceptance and Riley didn't think he would ever get enough.

They were too close to the edge to build a rhythm. A few strokes pushed Riley over, whimpering because he didn't want it to end. Xander wrapped his legs around Riley's waist and held him inside, gripping his own cock and jerking himself to completion. When he came, Xander's body clenched and spasmed around Riley, and Riley swore to himself that next time he would hold off his orgasm until he could feel that again.

Riley pulled out reluctantly and threw away the condom, grabbing a shirt off the floor to clean Xander off with. Throwing the soiled shirt in the corner, he climbed back on the bed and curled his body around Xander's.

"You're the best prize I ever won," Riley whispered into Xander's hair.

When Riley woke up, he wasn't at all surprised by how sated and happy he felt. He threw his dirty boxers in the laundry hamper and started his shower, letting himself replay the dream as he washed. Once he was dressed, he grabbed his books and headed off for his ethics seminar.

When his seminar let out, Riley spotted Willow sitting by herself on a bench in the quad. He strolled over, still feeling confident and relaxed, and plopped down next to her.

"Hey, Riley!" she said with a smile. Riley smiled back; he'd always liked Willow, and he was grateful she hadn't seen the need to bludgeon him with a shovel.

"What's up?" Riley asked, peeking over her shoulder at her notebook. He'd expected to see pages of color coded class notes, but instead he saw lists of names, written in curly handwriting. "Kaylen, Morgan, Sorscha? The poor little thing would get your hair instead of Xander's, and then she'd never be able to watch the movie Willow without being teased."

Willow's hand shot out to cover the page, and she stared at him, aghast. "Xander told you?" she asked, her voice approaching registers heard only by animals. "I'm going to kill him so dead he'll envy zombies."

Riley's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "No! Don't kill him. He ... oh God! He didn't tell me."

"Nice try, but you can't protect a weasel from his fate." She stuffed the notebook in her bag and started to stand, but Riley grabbed onto her arm and didn't let go.

"He really didn't tell me," he insisted, swallowing hard. "I-I dreamed about it." Willow sat back down with a plunk.

"Tell me about it," she said. He'd heard of it, but he'd never had the resolve face aimed at him before, so he was unprepared for the force of it. He told her. He managed to edit out the more explicit details, but he told Willow all of it.

"They aren't like other dreams," he explained. "You know, usually you see you Cousin Barbara, and she lives in a tree house, but it has your bedroom in it, and when she turns into Bob Dylan, it all makes sense?" Willow nodded. "These aren't like that. I'm just me and Xander is just Xander. It's this world, and nothing changes into anything. The only difference is," he paused and squinched his eyes shut, "we're in love."

"Wow." Riley opened his eyes and looked at her, waiting for more. "What?" she demanded, "I think 'Wow' pretty much covers it."

"Yeah," he agreed with a sigh.

Willow pulled the notebook back out and turned to a blank page. "We need to figure this out. For one thing, it's having consequences on your life. And for another thing," she looked at him seriously, "This is like eavesdropping."

"I didn't know it was real," he said defensively. "I thought I heard about Jesse some other time and just remembered it, and I figured I made up the rest."

"Well, you didn't. Now that you know you're eavesdropping on Xander's mind, you have to try to stop." She nodded in agreement with her own comment.

Riley nodded miserably. He didn't really want to stop it.

***

Riley lived the next few days in fearful anticipation, certain Willow was going to let something slip about Riley and his dreams. He wasn't worried she wouldn't find a cure; she was Willow. She would find a cure. He just didn't want one.

Riley spent a lot of time napping, trying to build up as many dream memories as he could. They were good. They were so good that when he finally had a message on his machine telling him to call Willow back, he almost erased it instead.

But she'd been right. He couldn't keep this up, spying on Xander's mind, even if his spying did come with great sex. So he gathered his courage and went to Willow and Tara's room.

"Hi!" Willow said, greeting him with a beaming smile. "Come in. Are you okay? You look worried. Don't be worried; I promise everything will be fine." He let Willow lead him in and push him down on the rug, babbling the whole time.

Once they were seated, Willow took a deep breath and got herself under control. "I think I figured it out. You remember the chip Professor Walsh put in you?" She shook her head. "That's a stupid question. Of course you remember. Anyway, she was mixing magic and science in really groundbreaking ways. I wish she hadn't been such a complete psycho, 'cause now I can't admire her properly. It would be like praising Hitler for his leadership skills. So anyway, she was messing with your heart. Physiologically, the heart pumps blood, but spiritually, the heart is the source of emotional strength, the wellspring of love and compassion."

Willow paused, and Riley nodded to show he was following along. "When we were fighting Adam, we did a spell to unite the four of us. I was the spirit. Xander was the heart. I think ... I think that it might be because Buffy and Professor Walsh both cared about you, but somehow the magic Professor Walsh put into you reacted to the huge amounts of power in our spell. This, these dreams, are a side effect."

"So it's just an accident?" Riley whispered. He didn't know what he'd hoped to hear. Maybe that he and Xander were soulmates, and the dreams were a mystical guidebook. Something more encouraging than 'side effect,' anyway.

"An accident," Willow repeated. "But the good news is, since I cast the original spell, I should be able to fix this." She hopped up and fetched a small bag, then returned to his side. She started pulling herbs and cards from the bag and arranging them on the rug.

"Wait! Now?" Riley asked, feeling panicked.

Willow's hands stilled, and she looked at him sympathetically. "The sooner the better, Riley," she told him.

"Okay. Okay."

It happened quickly. Too quickly, considering how these dreams had dominated his life for months. When she was finished, Willow asked Riley if he wanted some tea, but he only wanted to leave.

Riley walked. He didn't have a destination in mind, but he found himself headed for the Magic Box out of sheer force of habit. He saw Xander stepping out onto the street and would have turned away if Xander hadn't already spotted him.

"Riley! Hey, man, I haven't seen you lately," Xander called out, walking toward him.

"Yeah, sorry," Riley muttered as Xander came to stand in front of him.

"Um, so Buffy says you wanted to be friends, and I-I was hoping that went for the rest of us, too." Xander looked vulnerable, fidgeting with his hands and looking up at Riley through his lashes. Riley wanted to tell him no. No, he did not want to be just friends with him.

Xander gave an odd little nod, like he was encouraging himself, and went on, "I was wondering if you wanted to hang out some time. We could ... I don't know. You could try to teach me how to play basketball. Do you want to?"

Riley went still, thinking about what he wanted to do. "Do I want to? I want to go out with you some time," he said, supremely aware of the difference between his phrasing and Xander's. "Will you go out with me?" He felt shaky and open and very, very scared. It really sucked.

"Like, like go out on a date?" Xander asked, half laughing, preparing himself to hear that he'd misunderstood.

"Yeah," Riley confirmed, looking down at his shoes. "We might be on the same page. About stuff."

"Huh. That's really unexpected." Riley risked a look and saw that Xander seemed stunned. Then that crooked grin Riley loved broke out over his face. "You know what? 'Unexpected' is my middle name. Well, it's not, but it's better than my middle name. Um, we could try it out."

"Really?" Riley asked, already beaming.

"Really," Xander confirmed.

***

When Riley kissed Xander for the first time, at the end of their date, he was so nervous he almost blew it. Their noses bumped together, and the both went left at the same time. Once they finally got coordinated, though, Riley knew this was what he wanted. It was brand new and awkward, and he didn't know where to put his hands, but Xander tasted just like he remembered.

He dreamed about that kiss all night long.