A Strange Attraction



Rating: Adult
Disclaimer:  They're not mine
Email: saone@yahoo.com
Notes: Yet another one of Criss' evil plot kittens. Not sure if this is exactly what she was looking for, but...
Thank you to Charles for the beta.


**********

Riley anxiously paced the length of the hospital waiting room.  His concern was almost palpable as he periodically glanced at the double doors the gurney had disappeared through.  Somewhere behind that 'Authorized Personnel Only' sign was his best friend, hurt, in pain, incredibly pissed off... Riley resumed his pacing.

He needed to figure out what he was going to say to try and smooth this over.  It was going to have to be a doozy.  Regardless of the fact that the accident had been just that, an *accident*, he was almost positive Graham wasn't going to be very forgiving.  Tensions had just been running too high between the Marine and the Scoobies.  But still, *accident*.  Well... for the most part.

Okay, so Buffy shouldn't have been playing... uh, *training* with Olaf's hammer in the shop area, but it's not like she had specifically aimed for Graham's leg...

Riley sighed.  This was going to take some work.

Suddenly, those secretive doors opened, emitting the same doctor who Riley had last seen trying to glean Graham's insurance information before the pain medication kicked in.

Riley rushed up to him.  "Doctor?"

"Ah, yes, you came in with Mr."  He glanced down at the clipboard in his hand.  "Miller."

"Yes.  Right.  Is he..."

"He's going to be fine, young man."  The doctor said reassuringly.  "Just fine... eventually."

"Eventually?"

"Yes, well, your friend's leg *was* broken, and with the nature of the injury I'm afraid he's going to have to stay immobile for a bit."

"Immobile?"

"We have him in traction on the fourth floor if you'd care to go up and see him?"

"Traction?"  Riley's voice cracked slightly.  Okay, this was going to take a lot of work.

*****

Riley silently stood outside room 408, steadily working up the nerve to go in and see his friend.  If he was really lucky, Graham would be doped up and he could make his escape before lucidity kicked back in.

With high hopes for a steadily dripping source of morphine, Riley perfunctorily rapped a few times on the door, then opened it.  His hopes were immediately dashed when a pair of glacial blue eyes focused on him, and narrowed dangerously.

Graham was sitting up, as much as he could in his present state.  His arms were folded across his chest.  The only movement in his otherwise stony face was the slight twitch of a muscle in his tightly clenched jaw.  And the topper to this picture of barely suppressed fury was his left leg, which was encased in plaster from his thigh to his toes.

Riley forced a nervous smile.  "H-hey, Graham."

The muscle twitched again.  "Let me guess, your girlfriend sent you to finish the job?"

Riley grimaced, and moved a little further into the room, though he stayed well out of striking distance.  "Look, Buffy's... *really* sorry about this.  *Really*."  He nodded solemnly.  "If it's any consolation, she feels just horrible about what happened."

"Oh.  She feels horrible.  That's too bad."  Graham frowned.  "You know what I feel, Ri?  I feel like SHE BROKE MY LEG!!!"

"I think somebody needs another pain pill."  Riley's nervous chuckles died under Graham's glare.  "She didn't mean to."  He said feebly.

Graham continued to glare at him.

"It's not like you were her specific target, you just got in the way.  Not that it was *your* fault, because it wasn't.  It wasn't anyone's fault.  That's why accidents are called accidents, because they're accidental..."

Graham glared on.

Fortunately for Riley, and his dwindling rationalization skills, he was saved by Willow's perky, and bright, and *perky* voice.  "Hi!" She bounced into the room, and immediately heaved the overstuffed tote bag she had been carrying into a visitor's chair.  "Sorry we took so long to get here. Had to pick up a few things before we came."

Tara closely followed behind her girlfriend, her own arms laden with a rather garish baby blue flower and balloon arrangement.  She blushed under the befuddled stares of the two men.  "All the 'Get Well Soon' stuff had already been snatched up.  The only thing they had left was for birth announcements."  She placed it on the bedside table so Graham could clearly see the proud 'It's a boy!' stenciled on the mylar.

Graham shut his eyes for a moment, then took a deep, fortifying breath and asked,  "Why are you here?"

"Because you're hurt."  Willow's tone of voice silently added the 'duh'.  "We came to make sure that you?re going to be okay. And,"  She grinned.  "To cheer you up!"

Graham blanched at the saccharine flavored joy that oozed out of that statement, as Riley slowly began to edge his way towards the door.  The former Initiative commander knew a good escape opportunity when he saw one.

"It's just, you've always been so nice to us..."  Willow paused, her face scrunching into a frown.  "Well, except for that time you tried to mow us down with a machine gun, but, generally, you've been really sweet, and I feel *so* bad about what happened-"

"We all do."  Tara added earnestly.

Willow nodded.  "Especially Buffy.  And, I thought we should all do something to try and help you through this time."

"You..."  Graham swallowed.  "How, exactly..."

"We're going to take shifts."

"Shifts?"

"Yeah."  The grin was back.  "I made a schedule and someone's going to be with you all the time, during visiting hours, so you won't have to be alone.  Tara and I are here first."

Graham's mind reeled at the thought of hours upon hours of Scooby Gang sponsored companionship.  Hours, and hours, and hours...  "No!  Really, no.  You, you don't have to do-"

"Oh, but we *want* to."

He wondered how far he could get out of the hospital hopping.  After all, you really only need one leg to hop.  "But, I, you-"

"It'll be *fun*."  Willow said, her eyes shinning.

"But... but..."

"We can *talk*.  Really get to know you."

"But..."  Graham knew, deep inside, that there was nothing he could say, no point he could make, that would drive these strange, strange people away from him.  He was stuck, trapped.  But, he took comfort in knowing that while his mind would suffer from their visit, physically, he was safe.  There was nothing else these girls could do to him...

"Ooh, and look!  I brought markers.  For your cast.  We can all sign it!  I draw a mean teddy bear, mister."

*****
2:04 pm

"Hmm, I remember one time in twelve thirty four... or was it thirty five?  You know, I really should start writing this stuff down.  Anyway, this baroness wished that every time her husband got an erection one of his bones would break."  Anya smiled wistfully.  "A wish like that could have gone on for a while, but unfortunately after a serving wench bent over in front of him, and his arm broke, some marrow got into his bloodstream and stopped his heart..."  She raised an eyebrow.  "You don?t think that might happen to *you*, do you?"

*****

3:38 pm

"So, then Marcy asked me to sleep over Saturday night, and I was like 'Yeah', but then when I told Buffy she was like 'No way', and I was like 'Why not', and she was like 'Because I say so', and I was like 'That's not a reason' and she was like '*Dawn*', you know, in that really snotty, condescending voice, and I was like 'you can't tell me what to do', and she was like 'yes I can', and, God, my sister is such a bitch!"  Dawn looked up from her rainbow doodle on the formerly pristine white plaster.  "But, then, I'm guessing you've already figured that out."

*****

5:37 pm

"I *am* frightfully sorry about this, Mr. Miller.  I swear, I don't know *what* possesses the girl half the time.  No other slayer in history has caused so much extemporaneous damage.  Believe me, I've checked the chronicles.  Don't get me wrong, Buffy is an excellent fighter.  But, display cases, legs..."  Giles frowned.  "I have half a mind to take that troll hammer away from her, you know."

*****

7:10 pm

Graham buried his head in his hands as the door to his room opened once again.  "Oh God, not another one."

Xander stopped short at the plaintive cry.  "Well, that's not the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me.  And, sadly enough, it's not the rudest either."  He squinted at the figure in the bed.  "Aren't you supposed to be in a coma?"

"What?"

"The message Willow left on my machine said that Buffy had put you in the hospital, and I was assigned the seven to eight thirty shift.  I was really expecting a coma."  Xander glanced at the magazines he was carrying.  "I mean, I brought all these things to read to you."

Graham rolled his eyes.  "Sorry to disappoint."

"Hey, it's not your fault you're conscious."

"You know, if it would make you feel better, you could hold a pillow over my face until I passed out."

Xander thoughtfully rubbed his chin.  "Maybe later."  He plopped down in the chair nearest to the bed and bemusedly studied the patient.  "So... What'd you do, tell her those polyester pants she's been wearing make her ass look big?"

Graham caught himself before he could smile.  "Actually, I've never checked out Buffy's ass, so, no."  Xander waited expectantly. Graham sighed, then continued.  "She was twirling around that big hammer thing-"

"Olaf's hammer?"

Graham shrugged.  "The big hammer thing.  I guess she didn't see me standing by the magazine rack, and when she spun around she-"

"Got you."

"And I-"

"Dropped like a sack of potatoes."

"Yep."

"Hmmm."  Xander leaned closer to Graham's leg, reading the various inscriptions adorning the cast.  "Looks like Dawn was here. And, she did her patented unicorn."

"What?!"  Alarmed, Graham attempted to get a better view of his foot.  "I thought she just did the rainbow, there's a *unicorn* down there too?"

"With lots of little flowers in it's tail."  Xander smirked.

Graham's upper body collapsed back onto the bed.  "Oh God. How the hell am I supposed to go back on base with unicorns, and teddy bears, and rainbows-"

"Don't forget the flowers."

Graham glared at Xander.  "This funny to you?"

"No, not funny. It's just..."  Xander grinned.  "Look, you can't understand how nice it is to have some other guys around to help take the brunt of all that girly stuff.  For a long time it was just me.  Giles doesn't count because he's old and British.  I don't know,"  Xander leaned back in his chair.  "It's just nice to not be the only guy in the club anymore."

Graham slowly nodded.  "No, I think I understand."  He studied Xander for a moment.  "Could you do me a favor?"

"Sure.  As long as it doesn't somehow involve the words 'bed', and 'pan'."

"No.  No, nothing like that."  Graham fidgeted a bit.  "Um, could you go away?"

Xander blinked.  "And, *still* not the rudest thing anyone's ever said to me."

Graham flushed slightly.  "It's not, I didn't mean to be rude.  I just... Out of all of the people that have come through here today you seem like the most reasonable, and-"

"I do?  Wait.  I do?!"

"Yeah."

"You're kidding?"

"Uh, no."

"My God.  You have had a rough time of it, haven't you?"

"You have no idea.  See, I just want to be alone.  Just... left alone.  Can you do that?"

Xander tried to ignore the hope he saw in those deep blue eyes.  "Don't get me wrong, I would love to leave you by yourself to wallow in misery and self pity, but... I can't."

Graham's face fell.  "Oh."

"Look, this came as a direct order from Willow and if she ever found out I'd shirked my duty I would have to deal with her pouty face.  Nothing you could throw at me could be worse then her pouty face."

"Not even the bedpan?"

Xander paused, eyes narrowed, until he saw the ghost of a smile tug at the Marine's lips.  He let his own lips quirk up in response, then turned his attention back to the cast.  "You know, I think I know of a way to fix this.  Maybe temper all the mushy stuff."

"I'm almost afraid to ask."  Graham said wisely.

"We'll bribe Spike to come over and draw some dead bodies on it.  I bet, if you asked real nice, he'd probably use lots and lots of red."

Graham grimaced at the thought of the kind of artistic skills the blonde vampire might excel at.  "That's okay. Really."

"Suit yourself."  He suddenly pitched his magazines onto Graham's lap.  "Here, read. I'm going to draw something."  He uncapped a green marker and moved in on Graham's leg.

"I should be frightened, shouldn't I?"

Xander looked at him levelly.  "Hey, I think it would be physically impossible for me to do anything worse than what's already been done."

"That's true."  Graham glanced through the pile of magazines and tried to ignore the soft scrape of color laden felt against the plaster surrounding his leg.  Without his consent, his eyes drifted over, and since he couldn't see that part of his cast without being obvious about it, he instead chose to observe Xander's face.  Graham rather firmly told himself that it was simply to try and discern from the younger man's expression what his doodle might be.  It had nothing at all to do with the way Xander's face looked as he worked.  How his eyes narrowed and focused.  How his bottom lip was pulled in a bit, being nibbled, or sucked on in concentration.

Xander looked up, catching Graham's eyes, and grinned, misinterpreting the strange look on the Marines' face.  "Don't worry,"  He said,  "There won't be any kittens, or bunnies, or anything remotely fluffy."

"Oh."  Graham blinked.  "Uh, right. Thanks."  He cleared his throat.  "So, what exactly are you putting down there?"  He lifted himself up a bit and craned his neck, firmly making his eyes stay on the cast and not wander over to Xander's neck, and the way his hair brushed against the back of his neck...

"It's a shrieking tree demon."  Xander said proudly.  He picked up the red marker.  "Are you sure you don't want some blood?"

"Um..."

"Oh, come on. Just a little.  It would be much more realistic."

"Well... okay."  Graham settled back and let his eyes fix on the younger man again.

"You know, you're probably not going to have to put up with all of this for very long."  Xander said quietly.

Graham frowned.  "The cast?"

"The extra attention of the Scoobies."  Xander sighed, but smiled.  "In a couple days some new, evil thing will pop up and Willow and Giles will completely forget to come in and terrorize you with markers and tales of English boarding schools.  To get rid of Anya all you have to do is remind her that every moment spent with you is a moment she's not making money.  And, Dawn will probably have some earth shattering crisis of the teenage variety.  I guarantee that by this time next week everyone will be like 'Graham, who?'."

"You're just trying to make me feel better."  Graham paused, lips pursed.  "You know, they're not *all* bad. I mean, they mean well."

Xander nodded.  "Willow tends to overdo things occasionally... uh, more often that not.  It's just her way, it always has been.  I'll talk to her, see if I can get her to ease up a little."

"You mean, you'd face the horrors of a pouty Willow?"

Xander ducked his head.  "I'd live."  He thought for a moment, then got up and placed the marker pack on Graham's stomach.  "You know, I'm just gonna go ahead and leave now."

Graham's eyes widened.  "What? Why?"

"Because you asked me to."  He gently placed a hand on the cast.  "Willow will learn this isn't about her, and her misplaced guilt, and she'll deal.  Without her prodding you're rid of Tara and Giles too.  Use my advice on Anya, and wait for Dawn to get something else to obsess on, like a zit, or bad hair day, or something."

Joy at those thoughts was overshadowed by Xander heading for the door.  "What if I want someone to come back?"  Graham asked quickly.

Xander turned back towards the bed.  "Like who?"

"Like you."

Xander blinked in surprise.  "You *want* me to come back?"

Graham's gaze was locked on his cast, not wanting to see the look on Xander's face, still not quite believing he actually extended himself this far.  "Yeah. I would."

Xander cocked his head and studied the Marine, wondering just what was going on inside that expressionless head.  "Okay."  He said finally.  "I will."

Strange relief filled Graham as he nodded, his eyes traveling up to meet Xander's.  "Okay."

"Okay."  Xander smiled.  "I'm still going to go now though, you need rest."

"But, you'll be back tomorrow?"

"Definitely."

Graham returned Xander's grin, but before the younger man could leave, he called out again. "Wait. Before you go, could you do something for me?"

"Once again, excluding the words 'bed', and 'pan'."

Graham smiled, and handed Xander the red marker.  "Kill one of the teddy bears, please."

*********

Chapter 2
**********
6:17 pm

Graham anxiously glanced at the clock on the wall, then smoothed down his hospital gown.  Then, glanced up at the clock, then, smoothed down his gown.  Then, glanced at the clock, then... snorted in disgust when he realized what he was doing.

He was being ridiculous.  The whole situation was ridiculous.  He was a Marine for God's sake.  Marines didn't get... crushes.  But, that's what this was.  Graham had a crush on Xander Harris.  Yep, ridiculous just about covered it.

Not that there was anything wrong with Xander.  He was even attractive if you went for that type, with his soft, curling hair, wide eyes, pouty mouth, broad shoulders...

Graham rapidly shook his head before he could start contemplating Xander's lower attributes.  He knew from experience how that kind of thinking affected his own lower attributes, and he was also well aware of just how flimsy his hospital garb was.  It was one thing to inadvertently make the night nurses blush, it was quite another to be all obvious in front of the very person who was making him... all obvious.

The Marine forced himself to think non sexy thoughts.  Buffy.  Buffy in seventies clothes.  Buffy in seventies clothes wielding a big hammer.  Ah.  Graham smiled, secure in the thought that that visual image should keep certain parts behaving throughout the upcoming visit.

Ignoring the voice of self respect cloying at him, he let his eyes drift back to the clock.  For the past couple days Xander had arrived promptly at six twenty.  It was now six nineteen.  Graham smoothed down his gown again.

*****
7:13 pm

As the elevator doors opened, Xander began his silent mantra.

'Iwon'tcheckouthispackageIwon'tcheckouthispackageIwon'tcheckouthispackage...'

He sighed miserably.  During these visits, it was getting harder and harder to keep his eyes from straying to places they really shouldn't go, especially when Graham stretched his arms above his head and the hem to his gown rode up on his thighs...

Xander stopped just shy of room 408 and took a few deep breaths.  He knew that he should just stop the visitations all together before he did something stupid that would, as soon as Graham was mobile again, result in his ass being seriously kicked.  You just didn't develop a crush on a Marine, or if you did, you sure as hell didn't let him know about it.

After a few more steadying breaths, and more then a few of the most undesirable thoughts he could muster -

Dawn discussing boy bands.  Buffy and Riley having sex.  Giles in a tutu. Riley in a tutu...  Okay, those last two were just plain weird.  Disturbing, but not in a good way.  Perfect.

- he continued down the hallway.  The door to Graham's room was already open, so he refrained from knocking and simply walked in, an easy smile on his face, already expecting the same to be on Graham's.  "Hey."

"You're late."

Xander stopped short at the curt greeting.  He glanced up at the clock who's second hand clicked past the twelve, which in turn sent the minute hand into perfect alignment with the quarter past mark.  Xander sighed and dug into one of his pockets.  He held out his crucifix for Graham's inspection.  "Look, no smoke, or bursting into flames, or going all fangy.  I'm still human, if that's what you're worrying about."

Graham felt a blush steal over his cheeks.  Out of all the possible explanations for Xander's tardiness, the thought that he could have been in actual danger from Sunnydale's varied nightlife hadn't even entered his mind.  "Uh... yeah." He cleared his throat.  "So, did something come up, or... something?"

"Kind of.  I had to put in some time at the Magic Shop for a little while, engage in some good old fashioned research."  Xander took up position in his regular chair.

Graham frowned.  "What's wrong?"

"Well, Giles found this prophecy that said the world's supposed to end this Thursday, so we were all, you know, 'let's find a way to stop it'.  Then Anya told him the translation was wrong and it's actually *next* Thursday, so we figure we'll take care of it later."

"Uh."  Graham paused, trying to think of the best way to approach this subject.  "Don't you think... wouldn't it be better to take care of it now?"

Xander rolled his eyes.  "I just said we had a week."

"Right."  Graham folded his arms.  "And, hey, it's just an apocalypse."

"Exactly."  Xander leaned back.  "Why, I remember one time Senior year when there was this big prophecy thing, and there were even portents, and dead rednecks, and...... I want you."

Graham nodded once, and reached out a hand.  "Come here."

Xander eagerly complied, and perched on the edge of the bed, taking care to not jostle the injured leg.  He draped himself over Graham's upper body, putting one hand on either side of the Marine's head, and leaned in.  Graham's arms wrapped around the younger body, holding him close, willing him closer.  Xander seemed to know, instinctively, what was being asked of him, and he slowly smiled.  The lids over his darkening brown eyes dropped as he moved in, closing the distance between their faces, their mouths.  They kissed, Xander pressing hard against Graham, Graham happily absorbing the contact, then pushing back.  Blood rushed under the skin as lips were parted, zealous tongues twining together, stroking, searching-

Suddenly Xander pulled back, easing himself off the bed.  Graham following as far as he could, but that soft, teasing smile was back on the younger man's face, and he gently pushed the Marine back onto the pillow.  Graham watched those dark, dark eyes drift down his chest and abdomen to finally settle on his crotch.  The flimsy material of the hospital gown did nothing to hide Graham's reaction to Xander's touches.

Xander's fingers lightly brushed against Graham's right thigh.  He grinned at the resulting shudder and repeated the action, this time letting his hand travel further along the lightly haired, muscled flesh, slowly pushing Graham's gown up.  Finally, after one more teasing glance, Xander gave up kidding around, and simply lifted the material out of the way, bunching it onto Graham's stomach.

Xander licked his lips, and bent his head.  Graham drew in a quick breath as he watched that perfect mouth descend over his cock.  The entirety of his being became focused on the tip of his erection and the lovely wet heat that surrounded-

"Graham?"

-it.  He could feel that amazing tongue undulating against the bottom of his shaft even as he was taken deep into Xander's mouth.  Filling-

"Graham?"

-That beautiful mouth.  Coming in that beautiful mouth.  Coming in Xa-

"*Graham*?!"

With a quick shake of his head the Marine crashed back to reality.  He blinked owlishly at Xander's concerned face, which hovered quite close to his own.  "Huh?"

"Are you okay?"

"Okay?"  He repeated dumbly.

"Yeah, as in... okay?"

"Um,"  Graham shook his head again, letting the vestiges of his impromptu fantasy sink back into his unusually overactive imagination.  Discretely as possible, he folded his hands in front of his lap.  "I'm, I'm fine. Just fine."

"Are you sure?  I was talking about all the different times the world almost ended, and your face kind of went all blank."  Xander seriously regarded the Marine.  "Maybe I should get a doctor."

"No!"  Graham's sudden pallor wasn't doing anything to help his 'just fine' case.  "I don't need a doctor, really.  I just zoned for a minute, that's all. "

"Oh.  Zoning.  Apocalypse talk not exciting enough for you, huh?"  Xander smiled wryly.  "That's okay, I know I'm not the most stimulating guy in the world."

Graham's face went from deathly white to beet red.  "No.  No, you're not that at all."

Xander sat back down, still eying the Marine warily.  "Uh huh.  And just what kind of medication are they giving you again?"

"Whatever it is it's obviously not enough."  Graham mumbled.

"What was that?"

"Nothing. So, demons,"  Buffy.  "Hellbeasts,"  Buffy in seventies clothes.  "And zombies,"  Buffy, in seventies clothes, wielding a big hammer.  "Continue."

Xander raised an eyebrow but went on with his story, never dreaming that Graham's rapt attention was focused not on his words, but his mouth... and, alternately, the very sobering image of a small blonde with a big hammer.

**********

Chapter 3

**********

Xander watched, transfixed, as a few errant water droplets slowly made their way down the bare, well muscled back in front of him.  With a swipe of the sponge he caught them at the top of Graham's buttocks, before they could moisten the sheet underneath.  Xander's hand traveled back up the Marine's spine, but his gaze lingered on the beginning swell of what he was sure was the epitome of perfectly shaped asses.

He licked his lips and managed to somehow get his mind to return to the task at hand.  After wetting the sponge again, he moved on to wash broad shoulders.  Xander's hand slowly progressed across Graham's collarbone, taking special care with the tender skin around his throat.  He leaned in to reach Graham's other side, and immediately knew that action was a mistake.  He was so close.  Too close.  He could feel hot breath against his cheek, and then, a pair of equally heated lips.

Xander jumped back, unsure what that not unwelcome contact meant.  Azure eyes stared up at him unabashedly, immediately clearing up any confusion.  Graham wanted him, wanted him badly.

Deciding not to question this strange turn of events, Xander let the sponge fall from his fingers and then moved his hand to the back of Graham's neck.  He leaned back in, and they kissed.  Xander's free hand dropped down and slowly trailed across the Marine's chest, rubbing against an already hardened nipple.  Graham moaned into Xander's mouth.

Somehow Xander managed to tear himself away from those intoxicating lips.  The kiss had put fire into his veins, but now he wanted to see what he had been so careful to ignore.  Xander watched his own hand abandon the peaked nub and drift down Graham's torso, feeling the groves of his abdomen.  His fingers ghosted over tangled curls, and boldly encircled the older man's erection. Graham let out a soft gasp as Xander lightly pumped a few times, and groaned in disappointment when that warm hand left him.

Xander smiled at the frustrated sound,  but he had other things to explore,  and for that he wanted a better position.  Unfortunately, the cast wasn't going to make things easy...

'Fuck. How the hell...  Okay.  Lose the cast.'

Xander climbed onto the bed and stationed himself between Graham's open thighs, helping to ease the Marine's unencumbered legs onto his shoulders.  He resumed his exploration, all the while watching Graham's face for signs of displeasure, or distress, though, those seemed to be the furthest thing from the Marine's mind as his balls were cupped in a warm hand.

After a moment, Xander's fingers continued their quest and moved lower.  The touches were still soft, teasing, even after they found the indentation marking Graham's entrance.  Xander was hard and aching, but thought there was no need to rush things when this alone was making the Marine's face flush, his breath quicken.  They had time.  They had all the time in the world.

He grinned as he gazed down into the passion filled face beneath him.  Graham opened his mouth to speak...

"Xander...  What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

"GAAAH!"  Xander's head shot up, which, considering it was situated under a rather heavy piece of wood, wasn't a good thing.  "OW! Dammit, Anya!"  He carefully eased out from under the new equipment shelf he was building and glared at the ex-demon standing over him.

"You hadn't moved for the past ten minutes.  I've been timing it."  She stated, unmoved by the way he was gingerly rubbing his injured head.  "We"re not paying you to sleep, you know."

Xander carefully picked himself up off the floor.  "You're not paying me at all.  This is what's called a *favor*, remember?  I'm sure that at least once during the time we dated we discussed the premise of a favor."

"Oh, I know what a favor is.  In fact, I consider our whole relationship to have been me doing you a *huge* favor."  Anya smirked.

"That is the kind of talk that leaves shelves half finished."  Xander announced and left the room.

Anya followed him out onto the main floor of the Magic Shop.  She yelled in the general direction of the proprietor.  "Giles, Xander's slacking off!"

"Xander, stop slacking off."

Xander glared at his ex-girlfriend.  "Giles, Anya's being mean to me."

"Anya, stop being mean to Xander."

Buffy looked up from the perusal of her nails and smiled fondly at the Brit.  "It's nice to know that after five years you've finally gotten the hand of parenting."

"What, who, what?"  Giles finally pulled his nose out of his latest copy of  'Warlock Monthly' and looked around at his charges.  "I'm not sure what just happened, but I'm positive it contained quite a bit of sarcasm directed at me."  He blinked at Xander.  "Done with the shelves, are we?"

Xander shook his head.  "Just-"

"Slacking off!"

"Taking a *break*."  He stuck his tongue out at Anya, who responded in kind.

"Oh, good. Then you can help with research."  Giles nodded towards the considerably sized stacks of books covering the round table.

"Oh yeah, the apocalypse thing.  Don't we still have four or five days for that?"

Buffy looked up from her nails again.  "Four days. It's on Thursday. But, Thursday's also season finale night for 'Must See T.V.', and I'm not going to miss ER because some old demonic cult isn't considerate enough to schedule its rituals around prime time."  She jabbed at the air with her nail file.

"Then how come you aren't doing research?"  Xander asked.

"Um... I'm getting ready for the fight.  You can't do hand to hand combat with scraggly nails, Xander."

"Okay, then how come Giles isn't doing any research?"

"I will!  It's just, I, well..."  He held up his magazine.  "It just came.  And, besides, I'm the one who's delegating, and I have delegated you to research.  Go on."  Giles made a shooing motion before he went back to reading.

Anya looked up from her place at the cash register and arched an eyebrow which completed a look that practically screamed 'I dare you'.

Xander rolled his eyes and settled down at the table.  He picked a random book and opened it.  "What are we looking for again?"

Buffy wrinkled her nose.  "Something about ass kissy fish."

"Ashk'kesiphess!"  Giles' glared irritably at his Slayer, and spelled the name.  "Look for anything referring to the tribe of Ashk'kesiphess."

Xander nodded and started to peruse his tome.  Okay, looking for... Ashkesf... Ashkesp... Asskissyfish. Asskissyfish. Asskissyfish.

He chewed on his bottom lip and peered down at the page, trying, really, to be a good little Slayerette and find a way to prevent the extinction of humanity.

Asskissyfish. Asskissyfish...

But, despite his good intentions, his treacherous, lecherous mind inevitably wandered.

Asskissyfish. Asskissyfish. Ass... Ass... I bet Graham has a great ass.

Xander closed his eyes and resisted the urge to beat his head against the table. It was getting ridiculous.  The fantasies and thoughts seemed to be appearing at the drop of a hat, like the one under the shelf, and it wasn't good.  Well, *it* was good, but it shouldn't have happened.  And, it along with the others definitely shouldn't have been happening at the alarming alacrity they were.

The more he thought about Graham in that particular way, the more Xander knew he was likely to make some kind of verbal mistake around him.  It was one thing to slip up in front of Buffy or Willow.  He knew the girls simply filed such moments into their mental 'Xander's such a doof' file, and thought no more about them.  Even Oz had been impassive when Xander had once asked "You lick me, right? Uh, Like! LIKE me!"

But somehow he had a feeling Graham would not so easily forgive and forget something like that.  And Xander knew it was going happen sooner or later.  The wires between his mouth and his brain had been running much too smoothly lately, it was way past time for a major meltdown.

He needed to figure out a way to handle this problem *without* Graham finding out about his proclivities towards him.  Besides the chance of getting his ass kicked, Xander didn't want to lose whatever kind of friendship the two of them might be able to have.  He hadn't been kidding when he had mentioned liking the fact there were more guys around.

So, he was faced with a dilemma, however, unlike the elusive Asskissyfishes, the answer to this problem was fairly simple.  He would just have to stop the visits.  It had proved too hard, er, difficult, night after night, to watch Graham lie there in that bed.  To see those quick, bright blue eyes, that huge, rarely witnessed grin, that one long, bare expanse of leg...

Yes, Xander resolutely told himself, the visits were going to have to end.  Tonight, if possible.  But Graham was expecting someone, it wouldn't be right to leave him hanging.  Xander needed to find a replacement.

He began to silently go over the available list of people.  Willow?  No, he liked Graham too much to have him subjugated to that particular brand of torture again.  So, ditto that no for Anya.  Giles was a *possibility*.  A definite long shot for compatibility, but desperate times...

Tara and Graham.  Now, that would be an interesting conversation to see.  Of course, there was always Buffy... er, no, that probably wouldn't be such a good idea.  But, what about...  Aha!

Xander lifted his eyes, looked across the table, and had to pinch himself to keep from grinning.  Riley.  Perfect.

The Farmboy's face was serious, his mouth fixed in a firm line, his eyes intently scanning his assigned demonic reading material.  For all intents and purposes he looked the very part of a studious, knowledgeable, component young scholar, except... he wasn't.  In his high school career Xander had simulated reading enough to be able to spot a faker a mile away.  Riley's eyes might have been focused on the page, but his mind was off shucking corn or something.

With his mouth curving up into a slightly devilish grin, Xander leaned across the table and spoke, his voice just shy of a whisper.  "You know, the whole pretending to research thing would be a lot more convincing if you were holding the book right side up."

Riley started, and casting a guilty glance in Giles direction, began to flip his book around, but stopped, actually looked at the pages, and frowned.  "Hey, it is right side...  That wasn't funny."

"It was from this angle."  Xander decided to plunge right in.  "Why haven't you visited Graham in the hospital?"

Riley's eyebrows rose.  "What?"

"I was just wondering,"  Xander shrugged.  "I mean, he is your friend and everything."

"I have visited him, but, it's been about a week."  He admitted.

"Why""

"Well, the last time I went he threw his plastic water pitcher at me."  Riley flushed.  "I guess he still hasn't quite gotten over..."  His eyes darted towards Buffy, and his voice lowered.  "What happened, And since Buffy's my girlfriend..."

"Oh."  Xander thought quickly, and under the table he crossed the fingers on his right hand.  "You know, his medication's been upped since then.  He's much more mellow now."

"Really""

"Oh yeah.  And, I bet he'd love to see you."

Riley's eyes lit up.  He really did want to get back into his friend's good graces.  "Did he say that?"

"Ooh."  Xander crossed the fingers on his other hand.  "Not in so many words, but he definitely implied it."

"Huh."  Riley smiled.  "Well, when are you planning on going again?  Maybe I'll just tag along-"

"Actually, I was thinking about taking tonight off."  He tried not to look too hopeful.

"Oh.  I'll just swing by there anyway."  Riley smiled.  "Since you're taking some R&R time."

Xander resisted the urge to jump up and down in glee. Instead he issued a noncommittal,  "Cool"  He shut his unread book, got up from the table, and stretched.  "Finishing the shelves now."  He headed back to the work out room, ignoring a muttered remark from Anya, but well aware of the person following him.

When he got to the shelf Xander turned expectantly.

Buffy looked up at him.  "So, you're not doing Graham-duty tonight?"

"Nope."  Xander let out a breath.  "I'm free."

"Want to Bronze it?"

"Yeah, okay.  Haven't done that in a while."

"Not since you went all Xander Nightingale on us."  Buffy paused for a moment.  Her next words came out in a rush.  "He is okay, right?"

"Who, Graham?"

Buffy's eyes lowered.  "Yeah."

"Well, he's not great, but relatively speaking, he's doing good."

"Good."

"You haven't talked to him at all since-"

"Oh, God, no!"  Buffy shook her head.  "No. And, you know, he probably wouldn't want...  But, as long as he's getting better...  So, anyway, The Bronze.  Want to meet there, say sevenish?"

Xander knew he ought to say something nice and comforting, but no enlightenments came to mind. So, instead he simply said,  "Sure."  The Bronze.  Yeah, that might be exactly what he needed.  A distraction.  A big, loud, sweaty, gyrating people filled distraction.  There wouldn't be any time to think about a certain Marine, and that was good, because Xander was determined to keep Graham Miller out of his head, and for the moment at least, out of his life as well.

**********

Chapter 4
**********

Graham was staring into his jello.  Usually the Marine tried to avoid any food that contained a color not found in nature, but for some reason he was drawn to this wiggly pile of bright, fluorescent blue cubes.  He wasn't quite far enough gone to eat it, however.  No, he was content to simply stare... and remember.

It was two days ago.  Xander had been a little early, arriving right when dinner was being served.  He had waited until the nurse had set down the tray and left the room before he swooped in and snagged Graham's jello bowl.  The Marine, not really minding the loss of his hospital approved dessert, wryly asked if his new friend wanted a spoon.

Xander had declined, saying he didn't want to take the only one Graham had.  The Marine was about to insist when Xander put his mouth to the dish and sucked in a jiggly red cube.  Sucked.  It.  Right.  In.

So, Graham's eyes may have been focused on this latest round of jello, but in his mind all he could see were Xander's slightly full, pink lips forming a perfect 'o', and then...  Ohhhh.

The Marine grinned and at that moment decided he liked jello after all.

He still had a rather loopy smile on his face when, a few moments later, Riley walked through the door.

"Wow.  I guess they really did up your medication dose."

Graham snapped back to reality.  "Riley"  What the hell are you doing here?"

His former CO fidgeted a bit, then a familiar, sheepish expression settled onto his features.  "I just wanted to... see how you were."  Hazel eyes blinked virtuously at the man in the bed, before a shadow of wariness passed over them.  "You're not gonna throw anything at me again, are you?"

After a moments careful consideration, Graham shook his head.  "No. I'm not going to throw anything at you."

"Oh, good."  Riley visibly relaxed and moved toward a chair.  "Mind if I sit?"

Graham shrugged.  Riley sat. The two men stared at each other.

Finally, the still mobile one couldn't take it anymore.  "Dammit!"  Riley got out of his seat and began to pace.  "I hate this."

"Well, I'm not too fond of the situation either."  Graham commented.

"No, I don't mean this."  Riley waved his hand around, indicating the hospital room.  "I mean, us. No, I mean..."  He sank back down into the chair again.

Despite himself, Graham was feeling a bit concerned for his friend.  "You mean what?"

"You're not gonna actually make me say it, are you?"

"Well, considering I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about...  It might help."

"It"s just, I have these... feelings..."

Graham was fairly certain his eyebrows were going to disappear into his hairline any second now.  "Feelings?"  He twitched a little and once again thought about just trying to hop his way out.

"Oh, God.  This was so stupid.  I shouldn't have said-"

"No."  Graham took a deep breath and settled his features back into their normal stolid status.  "There's no Dr. Phil to hold our hands, but if you think you need to say-"

Riley's brow creased.  "Who""

"Dr. Phil.  He's the guy on Oprah."  Graham's eyes flicked to the television mounted on the opposite wall.  "It comes on after Passions."

Riley blinked once.  Then, he blinked again.  "Suddenly, *I* don't feel so stupid."

"Glad I could help with that.  Now, you were saying something about feelings you had?"

"Right.  I haven't spoken to you in over a week."  He fiddled with the hem of his shirt.  "It just feels like you're... it feels like you're slipping away again."

"Riley, look at me.  Unless someone takes away my pillows there's no way in hell I can *slip* anywhere."

The blonde man didn't respond to that, and Graham sighed.  If he had known his friend had thoughts along those lines he would never have thrown the water pitcher at him.  "I'm not going anywhere, Riley.  As long as there's a Scooby Gang and a Slayer I'll be here.  Permanent liaison, remember?  And,"  Graham unconsciously softened his voice.  "We're still friends, Ri.  We're always gonna be friends."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Really.  The only reason I tried to bean you was because you started making more excuses for Buffy's behavior."

Riley blushed.  "I was just trying to smooth things over.  Hoping to keep everything under control."

"But, she's not under control."

"She's not that bad, Graham."

"You do remember you're saying that to the man she put in the hospital."

Riley gave his friend a half smile.  "Can you at least think about trying to forgive her?"

"I'll *think* about it.  No promises."  Graham's answering grin belied his words.  "Wait.  She's not like, standing outside the door, waiting to come in and be absolved, is she?"

Riley rolled his eyes.  "I think she's afraid to set foot on the floor.  She's heard the stories, and those plastic pitcher things hurt.  No, she, Willow, and Xander are hitting the Bronze tonight."

"Xander?  He's not coming here?"  Graham's reaction was immediate, and he silently cursed both it, and the forlorn sound in his voice.

Riley either ignored the odd note, or misinterpreted it.  "You gonna begrudge him some time off?  He's been sitting with you for almost two weeks now.  Is it so wrong if he wants to spend a night not staring at your ugly mug."

Graham felt his heart plummet, and hoped his inner tumult didn't show on his face.  He really didn't need to worry about that.  "Did he, did he actually say that?"

"Well, those weren't his *exact* words.  But, personally, after all the hours he's logged in, I don't blame him."  Riley's teasing grin faded as he finally picked up on the fact that Graham seemed a bit... out of it.  "Hey, you okay?"

"What?  Oh, yeah, I'm fine."

Despite the assurance, Riley was still a bit concerned.  "Are you sure?"

"Positive."  Graham said, lying through his teeth.

*****

Using his bendy straw, Xander viciously attacked the ice cubes in his soda.  It wasn't that he particularly disliked frozen water, it was just he needed something to occupy himself.  To keep his thoughts from straying to...  Die, ice cube!  Die!

Being so enthralled with what was going on inside his plastic cup, Xander had no idea Willow was giving him one of her patented concerned looks.  If he had known, he could have lifted his head, flashed his widest smile, made an off color, offhanded comment, and put her mind at ease.  Good ole Xander.  But he didn't know, and he didn't stop his un-Xander-like actions, and Willow's concern grew and grew until it was finally too much for even her to ignore.

"Xander,"  Her little face wore one of her sturdiest frowns.  "What's wrong?"

He started a bit at the sound of her voice.  Large brown eyes blinked at the sight of her serious green ones.  "Wrong?"  He repeated.  "Nothing's wrong."

Willow's brow furrowed.  She studied him for a moment, her intense speculation making Xander squirm uncomfortably.  "Something's wrong."

"What could be wrong?"  Xander rolled his eyes and let out a nervous little laugh.

"I don't know, but something is."  She said firmly.

Xander's anxiousness gave way to irritation.  Where was the obtuse and self-involved Willow he had come to know and love?  "*Nothing* is wrong."  Certainly nothing he could talk to anyone about, at any rate.

The redheaded witch leaned back in her seat, her expression placid, but her eyes shrewd.  "Buffy, Xander says there's nothing wrong."

Buffy tore her eyes away from the perusal of the crowd long enough to give the male Slayerette a good once over from head to toe, lingering on Xander's face.  "Something's wrong."  She announced before returning her gaze to the throng.

"See,"  Willow smiled triumphantly.  "Even *Buffy* can tell there's something wrong."

The Slayer jerked her head around and peered at her friends, a sixth sense telling her she had just been insulted, but not providing any specifics as to the nature of the affront.  "Huh?"

Xander conceded the fight for supremacy to the ice cubes, and set his drink on the table so he could have both hands free to rub over his eyes.  "Okay, fine, there is something bothering me, but I really don't want to get into it now...  And, don't even think about using your hurt look to get it out of me."

"I'm not going to use my hurt look."  Willow said, using her hurt look.

Xander sighed.  "Not gonna work, Wil."

"Well, why not?"  She pouted.  "Is it so horrible that you can't tell your best friends?  Or, um, is it?"

"No, not horrible.  It's just... it's kind of a guy thing, you know.  And, while you may date a girl, you're still not technically-"

"Okay, Xander."  Her voice was stern, but the accompanying scowl was playful.  "A guy thing, huh?"

Xander nodded.

"I bet Riley wouldn't mind lending an ear."

"Er, no.  That's... No."

"Oh."  Willow's face brightened.  "What about Graham?"

"What *what* about Graham?  What?"

"Well, you two have been spending so much time together lately, I figure you're pretty good friends by now, right?  There, a guy for a guy problem."  Her beaming face dimmed as she took in Xander's reaction.  As they occasionally do, one plus one came together to hit the nail on it's proverbial head.  "Xan, Graham isn't the guy part of the guy problem, is he?"

Xander blinked, then quickly shook his head.  "Of course not! Where, where'd you get *that* kind of an idea?"  He chuckled nervously.

"Huh.  Well, if everything's okay between the two of you, why aren't you at the hospital tonight?  I mean, you've been going there every evening for the past, what, two weeks?"

"And I decided to take a break."  Xander thought he sounded convincing.  Evidently Willow didn't.

She crossed her arms over her chest.  "What happened?  Did he, ooh, did he say something mean to you?!"

"No, Wils.  He-"

"'Cause if he did, I might have to have some words with him.  Maybe words that end with... with... 'ye shall burrow through the dirt like the worm thou are!"

"Willow!"  Xander didm't like the gleam that had formed in the witch's eyes.  "I'm not at the hospital because I wanted a break for the night.  Graham has never been mean to me.  And, you are not even going to *think* about turning him into *anything*!  Got it?"

Willow pouted at bit, but Xander stared at her until she relented.  Then, deciding everyone needed a good distraction, Buffy suggested they get out on the dance floor and shake their asses before she had to go on patrol and kick some demonic ones.

*****

Graham couldn't remember ever feeling quite so bad.  It wasn't that he had harbored any real hope of anything coming to fruition from his feelings for Xander, but still...  To know that the guy he was crushing on just pawned him off in order to go out dancing, well, it was pretty much a low blow.

Graham knew he wasn't being fair.  It's not like Xander had any obligation to sit with him, and he hadn't had an evening away from the hospital for days.  Was it so bad for the guy to want to spend some time with his friends?

Yes.  Yes, it was.

Graham sighed, and sulked, and glowered.  He was sinking into an all new, all different kind of pit of despair.  The Marine even contemplated pouting.  It's not like anyone would see him committing such an act.  At almost midnight the fourth floor of Sunnydale General was quiet, and aside from the sleeping patients and occasional night nurse, deserted.

Believing that he was safe to surreptitiously wallow for a little bit, Graham sighed again, this time putting some oomph into it.  The loud, pitiful, wretched exhale of breath was almost enough to overshadow the soft click of the door to the hallway being opened.  Almost.

Graham tensed, immediately schooling his features back into their normal mask. He blinked at the figure standing in the doorway.  With the bright light from the hallway pouring in from behind, Graham could make out nothing more than the silhouette of a man.

For a split second false hope spit out the name 'Xander', but that thought was mercilessly scoffed at when the figure spoke.

"Having trouble sleeping?"

No, not Xander.  Just another nurse.

"Uh, no, not really."  Graham said, not wanting to end up with another needled stuck in his arm, or more pills to swallow.  "It"s still a little early for me, that's all.  I don't need anything."

The nurse stepped further into the room.  "Well, you may not need anything right now, but in a few seconds you're gonna need... a transfusion!"

In retrospect, Graham realized that he had spent way, way, *way* too much time with various Scoobies, one rather sarcastic one in particular, because upon seeing the grinning gameface, the first words out of his mouth were,  "God. That was lame."

The vampire stopped short and stared at him.  "What?"

"No, I mean, I've heard some pretty good one liners in my time, but that was... that, that was bad."

"Hey!  I'll have you know I spent four days coming up with that line, *pal*."

"And, see, *that's* just sad."  A small, death wish having part of Graham was actually enjoying the baiting.  However, the much larger part was directing the hand that slipped unobtrusively under his pillow searching for the stake he kept there.  When, on his third visit, Xander had presented Graham with the sharp, pointy piece of wood, the Marine had swallowed any incredulous comments and graciously accepted.  He had originally thought to get rid of it later, but then changed his mind. It was all about being prepared.  Yeah. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was something *Xander* had *given* to him.  No.

"W-wh... b-b-but..."  The vampire was literally sputtering.  Food wasn't supposed to talk back.  Food was supposed to be automatically cowed by his intrinsic evilness.  This piece of food would have to learn a lesson.

The creature lunged towards the bed, just as Graham pulled out the stake, ready to plunge it into an unbeating heart.  Fortunately, Xander"s present didn't get a chance to be defiled by icky vampire juices because before the monster could even touch Graham it was pulled away and thrown across the room.

The Marine watched, as, with a well placed kick, a stake of her own, and a bouncing, blonde pony tail, Buffy added another mark to her kill list.

After brushing some undead dust off her jeans, the Slayer straightened and sheepishly turned toward the man in the bed.  "Um, hey."

"Hey."  Graham frowned.  "Um..."

Buffy saved him from asking the obvious.  "You're probably wondering what I'm doing here, right?"

"Among other things."

"I patrol the hospital every week or so.  Stop some nasties from preying on the weak and helpless."  She looked alarmed.  "Uh, not that I think *you"re* weak, or helpless. In fact, you seem very strong and incredibly component.  I mean-"

Graham held up a hand.  "Buffy."

"Right.  Sorry.  Anyway, I was just in the neighborhood, and..."

"You were tracking the vamp."

"Uh, no."

"Then, how did you know to come here?"  Riley had told him a few stories about how Slayers have heightened senses when it came to finding vamps, but he had no idea they were that good."

Buffy blushed and ducked her head, mumbling something.

"What?"

"I said,"  her cheeks got even redder.  "I was... just checking."

"Checking?"

"Checking up."

"Checking up?"

"On you."  She finished quietly.

Graham leaned back, more than a bit floored by that revelation.  "You were checking up on me?  *You* were checking up on me?"

"Well, I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay.  I mean, I know Xander said you were, but..."  She sighed.  "I guess I feel kind of responsible for you even being here-"

The Marine pursed his lips.

"Okay, I'm completely responsible for you being here, and... I'm sorry."

Her big, moist eyes, and the slight quiver to her bottom lip were not lost on Graham, who, in spite of himself, felt a tiny, teeny, minuscule seed of forgiveness start in his heart.  "Well..."

Buffy occasionally knew when not to push things.  She was prepared to be content with anything that didn't end with her being cursed at.  "Okay, I'm just going to go, finish the sweep."  She paused as an earlier conversation popped into her mind.  It probably wouldn't hurt to address that now, so she could tell Willow it had been done and there was no need for spell books to become involved.  "Listen, about Xander..."

Graham's ears perked up.

"The next time you want him to leave you alone, just let me, or Willow tell him for you, okay?"

It took a moment before Graham could form a response to that, and even then he couldn't seem to manage more than a,  "Huh?"

Buffy wrung her hands together.  "It's just... Xander's like a puppy.  You know, like how he's so loyal, and always right there, and eager to please.  But, believe me, I understand that sometimes it can get to be too much, and he gets under foot, and all you want to do is put a choke chain around his neck and lock him in a closet."

Graham was in a silent state of shock, trying, and failing to make any sense out of the conversation.

"Anyway, he's also... sensitive about certain things, and Willow and I are used to dealing with him, but, well, saying something that might just roll off someone like Riley's back could be really hurtful to a guy like Xander."

Finally, the Marine was able to say something.  "I don't-"

Buffy cut him off.  "All I'm saying is, be careful what you say to him.  I know you didn't *mean* to hurt Xander, but-"

"Whoa!"  Graham held up hand, getting a better picture now of what the conversation was about, and not liking it one bit.  "First of all, I *like* Xander"s company, and I've never said anything that could be construed as otherwise."

Buffy blinked at the harsh tone, but before she could respond, Graham continued.

"I don't know how... Xander couldn't have thought... Did he say..."

"Not exactly."

"Yeah, he never says anything *exactly*, does he?"  Graham asked bitterly.

"What?"

"Nothing.  Look, Buffy, thanks for the save.  Really, I appreciate it.  But, I'd like to get some rest now, so, if you don't mind..."

"Oh, sure."  The blonde, unsure as to what just happened, meekly nodded and headed toward the door.  But, before she left she spared one last glance at the Marine, who's expression, a mixture of irritation and hurt, only served to confuse her more.

*****

Buffy sighed. It should have been a happy sigh.  Considering where Riley's mouth was, it should have been a *very* happy sigh.  But, it wasn't. It was grave, and thoughtful, and all in all, in Riley's mind, quite a damper on the night's activities.

He sat up and scowled at his girlfriend.  "Honey?"

"Hmmm?  Oh, why'd you stop?"

"Because I wasn't sure if you were noticing I was down there."

Buffy looked suitably embarrassed.  "Sorry.  I've just got something on my mind."

"Ah. The one thing every boyfriends longs to hear."  The ex-soldier said wryly.  "Want to share?"

Buffy sighed again.  "It's Graham."

"What?!"  Blood rushed to Riley's cheeks.  "You were thinking about *Graham* while I was-"

"No!"  The Slayer whapped him on the arm.  "Not like that!  I just... I stopped by the hospital on patrol, and he said some things."

Riley smiled softly.  "Buffy, you know, he's still probably not ready to forgive what-"

She rolled her eyes.  "No, not those kinds of things."

"Then, what kinds of things did he say?"  He frowned.

"Stuff.  Different stuff.  There was something about...  Well. I'm not sure if I should be saying anything."

Riley knew Graham.  Riley trusted Graham.  But, Riley really didn't like where this seemed to be going.  "Buffy, you know I love you.  There is no one else in this world who means as much to me as you.  No one.  You can say anything to me."

Buffy's large, liquid eyes gazed up into his strong face.  She hesitated a moment before speaking.  "Riley...  Do you think Grahams gay?"

**********

Chapter5
**********

"So... um... let me see if I've got this straight,"  Willow gave her friend a brief, nervous smile from across their mega tall grande iced mochas.  "You think that the reason Xander doesn't want to go back to the hospital to visit Graham is because... Graham made a pass at him?"

"Yep."  Buffy said.

"Oh.  Okay.  And, why?"

The blonde scrunched her nose.  "Um... he's not exactly my type, but, geez, Wil.  You of all people shouldn't question why someone might find Xander attractive."

Willow rolled her eyes.   "No. I mean, why did you come to that particular conclusion?"

"Oh.  Well, it was just... there was something about the way Graham said his name.  And the way he said he would *never* hurt Xander."  Buffy paused, a slightly dopey smile forming on her face.  "He was so cute.  It's got to be love."

"Really?"  Willow squeaked.

"Really."  Buffy nodded solemnly.  "Xander must've freaked."

"It would explain why he was a Mr. Gloomy Pants last night."  Willow let out an unhappy little sigh.  "It's such a shame.  I think he was really liking the time he spent with Graham, you know, as a guy friend."

"Xander has other guy friends."

"I mean guy friends his own age bracket.  Giles doesn't count."

"There's Riley."

Willow shook her head.  "He's Xander's friend primarily because he's your boyfriend.  Doesn't count either."  She frowned.  "Graham...  Graham could be Xander's friend, just to be a friend.  You know, because he likes Xander for Xander."

"Except Graham doesn't want to be *just* a friend."  Buffy pointed out.

"Poor Xan probably never saw it coming.  One second he was sitting, talking about some testosterone laden thing, and the next, bam!  He finds himself the object of unwanted affections."

Buffy absentmindedly twirled a long golden strand of hair around her finger.  "I wonder if Graham?s a demon."

Willow scowled.

"Well, there *is* a precedent, you know?"

Not even bothering to respond to that, the witch continued.  "Anyway, now that we know what's wrong we can figure out a way to fix it."

"Fix it?"

"Sure!  Like I said before, I think Xander really likes having Graham as a friend, and we need to make sure that all that isn't ruined by something as silly a as a little crush."

"Xan has seemed kind of... happier lately."

"See!"

"Okay, I'm sold.  But... how exactly are we supposed to *fix* things?"

Willow thought for a moment.  "We need to open up a line of communication, and since Graham is still stuck, that means we've got to get Xander to go back to the hospital."

"I'm thinking that's easier said than done."

"Maybe.  Or, maybe someone just needs to explain to him that he needs to get over it.  I mean, he and I even had the 'fluke', but we're still friends."

"You have to admit that was a little different, Wil.  You're a girl, and Graham is most definitely not.  And, we are talking about *Xander* here.  Mr. 'I'm a devout heterosexual' Harris.  Freaked is probably much too light a word for how he feels about the situation."

"Well, that's just too bad."  Willow's features slowly slid into 'resolve mode'.  "Because Xander *is* going to go back to the hospital, and he *is* going to make things right with Graham even if *I* have to magically force him to do it!  Uh... I was just kidding about that last part... maybe."

*****

Riley's game was more than a little off that afternoon.  For some reason he just couldn't seem to get it together.

After the fifth missed shot in a row, and another round of nasty looks from his teammates, Riley politely excused himself from the supposedly friendly game.  He had meant to go back home, take a shower, maybe clear his head.  But instead he found himself sitting down on a bench beside the court.  The bench.  He ran his hand over the wooden slats and remembered the day the previous fall when Graham had reappeared, right in that very spot.

Of course, any joy Riley had in seeing his friend again was overshadowed by the fallout from the problems with his health.  But Graham had rolled with the punches, literally, and they had both come out of the situation, and the one after that, and the one after that...

Graham was a friend.  A good friend.  A best friend.

Riley trusted him with his life, but... did he really know him?  Had Graham been hiding something all that time?  Pretending to be someone, something he wasn't, just so...  Just so what, he wouldn't get kicked out of doing something he loved?

But that still didn't explain why he couldn't have told Riley himself.  A private confidence between two friends.  Unless he didn't think Riley would understand, or, even worse, that he wouldn't approve.

The blond vigorously shook his head, drawing strange looks from passing joggers.

No.  Graham knew him better than that.  Knew he wouldn't pass judgment over something as trivial as who someone was attracted to.

Right?

Well, if he didn't, he sure as hell was going to find out!

*****

"Wil?"  Xander blinked at the sight of his witchy friend standing just outside the perimeter of the construction yard.  Feeling an inexplicable sense of trepidation, he tightened his hold on his lunch sack and slowly walked over to her.

"Hey, Xan!"  She said brightly, as she gave a little wave.

Xander stopped abruptly, then, forced himself to continue.  It was only Willow.  A suspiciously perky Willow, but still...  "Uh... Hey."

"I thought you and I could maybe have lunch together."

"Oh.  Okay."

"Or, since I didn't bring any food with me, you could have lunch and I could-"

"Enviously watch me chew?"

"No, and, ew. I thought I could... maybe... talk to you a little."  Willow put a firm hand on his elbow and began to guide him towards a little nearby park.

Xander raised an eyebrow at being manhandled.  "Talk to me about what?  Oh, is it about that apocalypse thing?  Is that still on?"

"Oh, yeah.  That.  Uh, far as I know, but, no.  I want to talk to you about Graham."  Willow was jerked to a stop as the much larger Xander suddenly refused to budge.

"Look, I told you last night, everything is fine."  His voice was hard as he shook her off.

Willow refused to give up.  "Everything is not fine."

"Can't you just drop it?"

"Can't you just stop being such a big baby?"

"I am not being a baby!"

"Yes, you are."  Willow put her hands on her hips.  "You're being silly and immature, and if you keep acting like this you're going to lose a really good potential friend."

"You don't understand."

"Xander...  I know."

"Good, so you know you don't under-"

"No, I mean, I know the real reason you don't want to go back.  You.  Graham.  I get it."

Xander blinked.  "But, how..."

"That's not important.  What is important is that you get over it and get your butt back to that hospital."

"Wait, you know, and you still think I should go back there?"

"Yep, and I'm not done yet.  I think the only way you're going to really get over all this is if you talk to Graham about it."

"Okay, I thought I was lost before, but this is reaching a whole new kind of 'huh' territory."  Xander shook his head.  "You want me to talk to him about my... my..."

"Feelings on the matter?  Yes, I do.  I'm sure if you lay it all out and explain your take on the situation he?ll understand."

"In what alternate universe?"

"He's not a monster, Xan...  well, we haven't given him the 'Let's see if Spike can hurt him or not' test, but I'm almost positive that he really isn't one.  Besides which, hello, broken leg.  Graham couldn't jump on you if he tried."

"Yeah, but what happens after the cast is off, and he has full use of all his limbs?"  He asked doubtfully.

"Nothing will happen because the two of you are going to clear this up long before then.  And," Willow put on her most innocent face.  "If worse comes to worse, you can always threaten to sic Buffy on him."

Xander couldn't help but smile.  "And you?"

"Oh, I'll have my ickiest spells at the ready."  She grinned.  "Seriously, though, you like him, right?"

"Kind of a duh question there, Wil."

"Then do you really want to flush an entire friendship away over some stupid little crush?"

Xander thought for a moment, letting her words sink in.  "No. No, I don't."  He took a deep breath.  "You're right.  I can't just ignore this."

"Oh, Xander."

"I'm gonna go march right into that hospital-"

"I am so proud of you."

"And tell Graham that I have feelings for him."

"You go Bo..."

"Like you said, I'll lay it all out, then, we'll clear the air, he'll reject me, and we can go on with our lives.  It won?t be easy, but..."  Xander smiled at his friend and gave her a tight hug.  "Thanks, Wil.  What would I do without you?"

"Uh..."

*****

"Well, what did you say?"  Buffy anxiously tapped her foot.

"Nothing. I mean, what could I say?"  Willow shrugged.  "Oh, Xan, I wasn't talking about you having a crush on Graham, I was talking about Graham having a crush on you?"

"That could've worked."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Excuse me for being a little..."

"Shocked?"

"Surprised.  And, hey, you know, I did accomplish my objective.  Xander is going back to the hospital."  Willow sounded pleased with herself... for a moment.  "Even if it's not exactly...  You don' t think I maybe shouldn't have said anything, do you?"

Buffy ignored the question, and posed one of her own.  "So, Xander likes Graham?"

"Yep."

"And, Graham likes Xander?"

"Yep."

"And neither one of them were willing to admit it to the other?"

"Yep."

"What a couple of morons."

"Big yep."

*****

Graham was in a huff.  A full, all out, huff.  Not so as anyone would notice, but still, internally, he was very, very huffy.

He supposed he should have known.  Whenever he got within twenty feet of a Scooby something like this would happen.  Those people didn't just defy logic, they warped it beyond recognition.

That was all right, though.  Graham was fairly certain he knew the solution.  He couldn't get away from his new position as Scooby Gang/U.S. government liaison, not since he had practically gotten down on his knees and begged... well, okay, maybe not physically, but Graham was certain that's what he had conveyed with his tone of voice... or lack there of.

Anyway, he couldn?t just up and leave his new post, but he didn't have to spend extra time with Buffy and her merry band of lunatics either.  Normal people.  During his hours off he would surround himself with normal people.

Nice, normal people with their nice, normal hobbies, and their nice, normal friends.  People who didn't swing troll hammers around willy nilly and break other people's legs.

And, he would have normal thoughts.  He would think about car payments and grocery lists, and he wouldn't think about soft, warm brown eyes... or long, thick eyelashes... or the way Xander's hair kind of flopped over onto his forehead in this really adorable little way...

Damn.

No, that was okay.  Graham knew that setbacks were to be expected.  And he had the awful suspicion that he was going to be having a lot of setbacks... especially if the person he was so not going to think about *ever* insisted on popping his head through the doorway.

"Hey."  Xander smiled nervously.

Graham waited a beat, then responded.  "Hello."

The younger man eased his body into the room.  "Um, h-how are you doing?"

"Fine.  Thank you."

"Right.  So, I, uh, guess you were probably wondering where I was yesterday."

"Not really."

 "Oh."  Xander's eyes dropped to the floor.

For a moment, Graham almost relented.  He almost told Xander that, yes, he had wondered, and worried, and terribly missed their usual meeting.  Then, the moment passed. Graham's mouth stayed shut, and his steady blue eyes continued to calmly regard the forlorn Slayerette.

Xander ignored the nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach and pushed forward, needing to get this over with.  Because, of course, the sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could go home, crawl into bed, and hide under the covers with a six pack of Hershey bars.  "Well, I'm going to tell you anyway 'cause that was the opening statement of the little speech I had prepared, and you just can't skip over the opening statement because everything else just sort of hinges on that and if you don't have one it's much too easy to have everything slip into chaos.  Random, babbling chaos... kind of like now.  Do you mind if I sit down?"

Graham, mildly amazed that Xander didn't even appear to be the least bit winded from that (and ruthlessly telling his imagination to 'shut up', 'SHUT UP', concerning other activities in which a good set of lungs and endurance were pluses), said,  "No. Go ahead."

"Cool."  Xander sat.  "Maybe I should stand."  He stood up.   "Do you think I should stand?"

"Uh. Up to you."

"Right. Okay."  He sat back down again.  "Here we go.  The reason I didn't come by yesterday is because I didn't think I could stand to look at you anymore."  Xander paled.  "Oh that sounded so much more explanatory and less rude in my head.  I mean, I didn't want to look at you anymore, but not in a bad way.  I mean, it's not like I think you're ugly or anything, in fact I think you're a very... It's just, I couldn't, with you lying there, and... Whoo boy.  Even with the opening this isn't going so great."

"Xander."  Graham had folded his arms across his chest and his annoyance at not being able to understand one iota of the conversation thus far tinged his voice.  "Whatever you want to say, just say it."

The younger man nodded once.  "Graham, I... Do you know how much longer you're going to be in traction?"

"About a week."

"Oh good.  That's not the best of a head start, but hey...  I'm attracted to you."

When there was no immediate yelling or cursing or objects being hurled at his head Xander felt safe enough to continue.  "That's why I didn't want to come back here.  I thought that if I stopped seeing you every day I might stop wanting to... uh... well, that part's not really important.  What is important is that someone helped me to realize that it was wrong to just try and ignore this.  I like you, Graham.  I mean, beyond the whole finding you attractive kind of like. I like you as a, you know, friend.  And, I thought that if we got this whole thing out of the way now, we could maybe stay friends... maybe... hopefully."  But that hope slowly dissipated as big, brown eyes stared at the as ever unresponsive form in the bed.

"Okay."  Xander's gaze dropped back to the floor.  "I'm just gonna go.  Let you absorb.  And, maybe I'll see you... around, or something."  He rose, and unconscious of the drag in his steps, began to walk towards the door.

Something inside Graham, a tiny part that had not been struck senseless with the implication of the one and only clearly stated line in Xander's little monologue, seized control of his vocal cords and demanded,  "Say that again?"

Xander turned back towards the bed, wondering if Graham actually wanted a word for word recitation, or if a recap (Willow's an idiot, but I'm a bigger idiot because I actually listened to her, and I don't supposed *that* could be the only thing you could retain from this conversation?) would suffice.  "Say what again?"

"The part about you..."  Graham swallowed.  "You said you..."  He looked up, hoping that Xander would take pity on him, and not make any more words attempt to exit his mouth, not while his brain was still trying, rather vainly, to wrap around what had happened.

Xander was immediately entranced by the pair of pleading blue eyes that turned up at him. Whatever he had been expecting, certainly wasn't what he was seeing.  Something began propelling him back towards the bed, back towards Graham, who looked almost relieved that Xander was coming closer and not bolting out the door.

When Xander got within arm's length Graham immediately held out one of his hands, palm side up, hoping that this gesture could compensate for the words that still refused to come out.  He was indescribably gratified as Xander reached out also.  Warm, strong fingers curled around his own, and squeezed.

"So.  I'm just gonna go out on a limb here and..."  Xander licked his lips, and feeling the steady pressure around his hand, leaned in over the bed.

Graham, pleased that in this case actions had spoken louder than words... well, any words that he might have come up with at any rate, tilted his head, closed his eyes, and waited for that first, sweet push of lips against lips.

Of course, if kissing Xanders was that easy everybody would be doing it.

"Graham.  We've got to tal-"  Riley had started speaking a split second before he even entered the room, convinced that his nerve wouldn't be able to stand making eye contact first.  So his voice was already booming, strong and sure by the time he saw what was happening inside.  His cheeks flamed, and his mouth open and closed guppy-like.

Xander had already completed his initial reaction to such an interruption, namely yelping and horizontally jumping four feet away from the prone best friend of the large, combat trained, having-full-use-of-all-his-apendages, former Marine.  Hoping to take advantage of lingering shock, Xander decided that a hasty retreat was in his best interests. "Okay,wellI'mjustgoingtoleaveyoutwoalone. Lotsofcatchinguptodoandallthat.Bye."  He darted past a still gaping Riley and was out the door.

Disbelievingly, Graham watched Xander disappear. He shook himself from his anticipatory haze, and barked,  "Riley!  If you do not want grievous bodily harm to come to you, you will get him back here, NOW!"

The blonde jumped at the force behind Graham's words.  "Right!  Right!  Okay."  He hurried towards the door.  "By the way, just want you to know, I love and accept you for who you are."

"Gee, thanks.  GO!"

*****

Xander had just sullenly pushed the down button beside the elevators when he noticed Riley rushing towards him.  He jabbed at the lighted green arrow a few more times.

The former Marine reached him just as a little ding signaled the opening of the automatic doors.  A strong hand closed over Xander's shoulder, preventing him from scooting inside.

"Whew.  Good thing I caught you."  Riley grinned.

"Look, I-"

"And, since you're already here, there's no reason for me to stay, right?"

"Uh.  There's what?"

Riley used his free hand to keep the elevator doors from closing.  He then let go of Xander, and maneuvered himself inside the car.  "You know, that whole two's company, three's a crowd thing."

Xander stared at him.  "Oh.  That.  Right."

"Oh, and one more thing,"  Riley finally let the insistent doors start to close.  "If you hurt him, I'm borrowing Willow's shovel."

*****

Graham glared with open hatred at the brightly decorated plaster surrounding his leg.  He should have been the one to chase after Xander.   If Riley didn't bring him back...

At the soft sound of a throat clearing, Graham's head turned towards the door.  The thunderous expression on his face was instantly transformed into one of eager hopefulness.  "Xander.  Riley caught you."

"Yeah."  The younger man shuffled back into the room.  "It wasn't exactly the confrontation I was expecting.  Though, he may have been a bit out of it.  He mentioned something about gardening with Willow."  Xander shrugged and flashed a lopsided grin that had Graham's insides melting.

"Come here."  He growled out.

Xander actually gulped, not because he thought the unusually rough note in Graham's voice was caused by anger.  No, it was the sudden desire emanating from every pore of the Marine's body that had the brown eyed man's knees gong weak.  So, it was on lust shaken legs that he once again approached the bed.

"Wait!"  Graham's voice was like a shot.  "First, close the door, and put the chair up against it, then come here."

Xander didn't think he had ever moved so fast in his life.  He was back beside the bed within moments, the huge gin on his face mirroring the one on Graham's.  Needing no more words, no more instructions, he began to lean in, slowly, deliberately taking his time, loving the way those normally sky hued eyes were darkening to a tempest swirled ocean blue.

Graham, for his part, was also entranced by a beautiful pair of eyes, though, these were colored a deep, rich, burnt caramel.  Little lights danced inside Xander's irises, even as his rapidly dilating pupils threatened to overtake them completely.  Then, long lashed lids fluttered down, breaking the spell.  Graham's own eyes closed and he leaned forward slightly to finally sever the distance between them.

Mouth met mouth for the first time in a slow, sweet, tender kiss, belying the desperate urgency both men were feeling.  But, they continued their agonizingly sedate pace. It was as if they knew this was the beginning of something great, and that it deserved to be savored accordingly.

Hands reacher up and gently stroked down jaw lines, and cupped cheeks, and tangled possessively into thick, dark hair.  Soft sounds of utter contentment worked their way past the occupied lips.  When breath was needed it was gathered quickly so participants could once again delve back into their thoroughly enjoyable, and long awaited, task.

Finally, Xander had to pull away, afraid that if they didn't stop then and there, not even Buffy would be able to pry them apart.  Sometime during the exchange he had eased a hip onto the bed, and now he sat there, staring wide eyed and panting at the equally affected Marine.

"That was..."

Graham nodded.  "Let's do it some more."

Xander blinked, then started snickering.

Slightly affronted at the nature of the reaction to his proposal, Graham asked,  "What?"

"It's nothing."  Xander cracked up a little more.  "But, I have to say, I never would have suspected Mr. Stoic Reservedness was such a horndog."

Graham smirked.  "?You have no idea."

Xander sobered slightly, a small smile still playing around those delightful lips.  "But, I will, right?"

"Count on it."

**********

Chapter 6

**********

"Please?"

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Please?"

"*Xander*!"

"Yes?"

"No."  Graham almost laughed at the look of consternation on his new boyfrie... uh, Xander's face.

"Well, why not?!  And, don't give me that because anybody could walk in at any time thing."

"But anybody *could* walk in at any time."

"Buffy did offer to stand guard, remember?"

"We're not having that discussion again."  Graham tapped his fingers against his cast.  "I still can't believe you talked to Buffy about this!"

"It's not like I went to her specifically.  She just happened to be in the room when I told Willow."

Graham buried his face in his hands.  "Oh God."

"Like you haven't talked to Riley about-"

"Our sex life?!"

"No, our lack of a sex life."  Of its own accord, Xander's lower lip began to slowly push out.  "It's been five whole days since we first kissed, and that's all we've done!"

"There something wrong with that?"  Graham arched an eyebrow.

Xander rolled his eyes.  "Please.  You know damn well there are only a few things in this life I find more enjoyable than kissing you."

"One of them's double fudge ice cream, isn't it?"

"Uh... Anyway, think of... the convenience!  You're not wearing pants so we don't even have to deal with zippers or buttons or anything."

"No."

"What happened to the horndog I was beginning to know and lo..."

"Know and... what?"

"Uh."

"Yes?"

"Like.  Like."  Xander smiled.  "Like a lot."

Graham returned the smile, but the slight slip did nothing to change his opinion on the matter at hand.  It's not that he didn?t want to be intimate with his new... far from it.  But the fact remained that, "I'm in the hospital."

"With a broken leg.  Everything else works okay...  It does still work okay, right?"

"Yes."  Graham ground out.  "That's not what I meant.   Look, I have as many kinks as the next guy, but exhibitionism isn't-"

"Really?"  Xander's eyes had lit up.  "What are they?"

"What are what?"

"Your kinks?"

"That's not the-"

"Wait.  Let me guess."  Xander made a show of thoughtfully rubbing his chin.  He leaned forward in his chair and brown eyes mischievously regarded the instantly wary Marine.  "I know!  A little light S&M, right?  You like to get spanked, Graham?"

The Marine felt his cheeks flame, not from the subject matter, but from the look on Xander's face, the way he had said the words.  "Uh, I've... I've never... That's not-"

"That's not one of them?  Too bad, 'cause I was just picturing you stretched out over my lap, my hand tingling from making your bare ass turn all pink and warm...  Oh well.  Moving on."  With a smirk, Xander ignored the slight whimper that came from the older man's lips and pushed ahead.  "What about toys?"

Graham couldn't even stammer out a response to that one.

"It was such a shame.  In the breakup I got custody of all the lubes, but Anya walked away with most of the battery operated stuff."  Xander peered at Graham, worry creasing his face.  "You okay? You looked like you choked a little."

"'M fine."  Graham croaked.

"Are you sure?  You want some water?"

"No.  No, that's all right."

"Okay. So, what else is there?  Let me think.  What about..."  Xander gleefully watched Graham's dazed expression.  "Bondage?"

"What?"

"Bondage."  Xander cocked his head to the side.  "Would you like me to tie you up, Graham?  Or, maybe, you'd like to tie me up instead."

"Urk."

Urk?  Oh, bingo.  Jackpot.  And, what a happy coincidence.  Graham had certainly seemed interested and turned on, albeit in a flustered way, by the previous options, but it didn't take much to figure out that this was his favorite one.  Either that or the glazed eyes, shallow breaths and rapid pulse meant he was having heart problems.  But Xander was banking on the more pleasing explanation.  The younger man grinned and moved in for a kiss.

While Graham's mind was sorting through various knots and how hard it would be to get out of them, his lips were on autopilot, immensely enjoying their favorite activity from the past week... month... year... ever.   He was so occupied by happy thoughts and happy sensations that he didn't quite register the equally happy Xander hand that was steadily making it's way under the hem of the drab hospital gown.  Of course, Graham definitely noticed when calloused fingers gently brushed against his already half hard penis. He let out a little moan of surprise which was immediately swallowed by Xander's mouth.  But the, "No," that bubbled up immediately after couldn't be contained.

Xander pulled back and incredulously looked at the flushed Marine.  "No?  Still no?"

"Yes.  I mean, no.  I mean, yes, still no."  Graham took a deep, steadying breath.

Xander dejectedly plopped back into his chair.  "Fine.  Whatever."

"Look, Xan, in less than twenty four hours I'm going to be released and then-"

"I'm gonna take you to my place, get you situated on the bed, and ravage you until we're both too exhausted to do anything more than pant contentedly."

Graham blinked a few times.

"What?  Oh, was ravage too romance novel-y?"

"A little bit, but you can use it anyway."

Xander grinned as he rose up from his chair.  "Ravage..."

"Tomorrow!  You can use it tomorrow!"

"Where's your sense of adventure?!"

"It got knocked out of me by a troll hammer."

Xander sighed.  "I guess I don't have any other choice, do I?  I'll just have to wait... unless..."

"Unless?"  Graham?s eyes narrowed.

"Well, it's not like you can move much anyway, what with the cast and all.  So, if I were to, say," Xander reached into one of the deeper pockets of his baggy jeans, "tie your wrists to the bed," he pulled out a pair of silk scarves, "there really wouldn't be any way to stop me from doing whatever I wanted to you, would there?"

Blue eyes stared intently into brown.  Beyond the slightly lecherous glint, there was something else. Something bigger that warmed Graham to his very soul.  They could wait.  It wouldn't be very long before Graham was given a, not exactly clean, but a not bad bill of health.  His cast would be taken off, a brace would be put on, and the Marine would finally be able to leave this blue Jell-o serving circle of hell.  They could wait.  But, Xander didn't want to, and truth be told, neither did he.

Propriety be damned.

Besides, Xander had gotten one thing incredibly right.  Just the thought of having those scarves wrapped tight...

The younger man was a bit surprised when, without any more of a fuss, Graham offered one of his arms.  Xander
had been fully prepared to go home that night disappointed.  And, really, it wouldn't have been *that* bad, because he hadn't been joking about his plans for the Marine once he was discharged. Graham hadn't gotten around to finding an apartment of his own yet, and everyone had agreed that the motel room the government was renting for him wasn't suitable for the remainder of his convalescence.

Of course, only Giles was surprised by the announcement that Graham would be staying with Xander for the time being.  The others had expected as much and the original male Scooby got toothy grins from the estrogen contingent, and a full smile with an accompanying blush from the boyfriend's best friend division.

So, it's not like there was any real urgency.  For the next three weeks Graham would belong solely to Xander and they both intended to make the most out of that situation.  But while that should have helped alleviate the immediate *want* he felt every time he looked at the Marine, it didn't, and Xander was still left with an almost overwhelming urge...  One that he was finally about to finally satisfy. But first, he just had to be certain...

Graham watched as Xander's bravado faltered, revealing the sweet young man beneath.  The kind, intrinsically good person that would never really take advantage of anyone, at least, not without checking first.  "Are you sure?"  Xander asked softly.

Graham smiled and brushed his hand against Xander's cheek.  "Yes."  He saw the emotions swirl in those dark brown eyes until finally lust once again settled on top.  Xander wound a thin, but strong piece of material around Graham's right wrist and expertly secured it to the side of the hospital bed.  "Done this before, have you?"

Xander smirked as he moved to the other side.  "It's really interesting to think that the same knots you use to tie down an unreasonable werewolf can also be used on an unreasonable boyfriend."

"I'm not unreason- boyfriend?"

"Well... yeah."  Xander finished a knot, confusion on his face.  "I just thought..."  His eyes widened. "Or, maybe I didn't think at all.  You don't want to be labeled, I understand that.  We can have a no labels relationship, or, no, not a relationship because that's a label too, isn't it?  Um..."

"Xan, hush."  Graham, without thinking, tried to reach out to the younger man and felt a jolt straight to his core with the realization that he actually couldn't move.  He was completely still for a few seconds, then, hoarsely, he said,  "Xander, I don't mind you calling me your boyfriend.  In fact, I kind of like it.  Now, if you wouldn't mind getting back over here and..."  He trailed off, and tugged meaningfully at his bonds.

Xander blinked down at the figure on the bed, his own self doubts falling by the wayside as he took note of the blatant desire practically pouring off the older man.  Without another word he placed his hands on either side of Graham's head and leaned in for a kiss.  Slow, lingering, utterly intoxicating.  He pulled back before he could lose himself and forget his currant goal.  His eyes traveled down that well built torso finally coming to rest on Graham's crotch.  Xander just had to grin at the obvious tenting of the material there.

Without delay, he moved the gown up Graham's body, exposing an amazingly defined stomach, narrow hips, and a hard, jutting cock, practically begging for Xander's attentions.

Graham's breath had already quickened, and his skin hadn't even been touched yet.  He knew, that after almost a month in traction, his body wasn't in its best shape, yet Xander was still looking at him... almost reverently, like the Marine's body was the most incredible thing he had ever seen. Graham realized that he loved that look.

He watched as Xander's hands burned a path across his stomach, down his hips, and over the upper portion of his unencased leg.  The touches were thorough, yet gentle, almost timid, in a way, with dark, serious eyes asking permission before feeling out a previously unexplored area.  Graham's response was to move his right leg, opening himself up as much as he could in his present state.  He was justly rewarded by those dexterous fingers trailing down the inside of his thighs, brushing tantalizing against the ultra sensitive skin there.

With one hand, Xander continued playfully stroking between Graham's legs, while he used his other, resting on that flat stomach, to steady himself as he leaned over.  He licked his lips, opened his mouth, and without hesitation, took in the head of Graham's erection.

The Marine couldn't help the sounds that escaped from his mouth as Xander steadily sucked him.  If this turned out to be just another fantasy he was going to be so pissed.  But it was real.  All of it.  The mouth on his cock,  the silk at his wrists.  The amazing man he had somehow found himself with.  And, all of it because of...

In the instant that he came, when his mind and body spasmed with utter delight, Graham decided that he dearly loved tiny blonde slayers and their great big troll hammers.

*****

Xander stepped into the hallway and grinned one last time at the softly snoring Marine before he gently pulled the door shut.

"Did you two have fun?"  A deceptively innocent voice asked.

If it was possible, Xander's grin widened.  "Oh yeah.  Think Buffy's gonna want her scarves back?"

"Hmm...  I'm thinking, no."

"Right.  Any problems out here?"

Willow shook her head.  "Nah.  The cloaking spell worked fine.  Nobody even looked twice in your direction.  Well, except..."

"Except?"

"There was some confusion as to where all those moans were coming from."

Xander grimaced.  "I was afraid of that.  But, how was I supposed to know Graham would be so... vocal."  He thought for a moment.  "I'd better start working on soundproofing my bedroom."

"I've got a nifty little incantation you can use that holds up pretty well."

"Willow?!"

She winked at him.  "It's always the quiet ones."

"Yeah, I'm starting to figure that out.  Anything else I should know about these 'quiet ones'?"  Xander sent a long, lingering look towards Graham's door.  "No.  Wait.  Don't tell me.  I think I'll have more fun finding out for myself."

**********

the end






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