Summary: Buffy awakens and finds herself in an unfamiliar place, with unexpected company.

Disclaimer: These characters are all the property of their owners/creators (not me).

Rating: R, for sexual themes and situations.

Time Frame: A few weeks after "The Body." (spoiler warning!)

Archiving: Please do. . .but e-mail me at eilandesq@aol.com to let me know. . .I like to know where my stuff ends up. . .and I might want to see what else you have got.

Dedication: To Krissy, on the occasion of her birthday.


ALCHEMY


Buffy stirred, coming out of a deep, dreamless sleep into a semi-waking state. As always, her better than human senses started sending information to her about her current condition and surroundings. Usually, this was of the nature of "still in bed, wearing nightie, covers still pulled up", and so on. This time was different. Buffy realized that she was fully clothed, in what felt like one of her usual Slaying outfits; she was lying on what felt (and smelled) like a freshly mowed lawn, and the sensations she was feeling indicated that a light breeze was blowing, and the sun was shining on her with no apparent blockage. She cautiously opened one eye, and then the other, only to find that her initial impression was correct.

She was resting on what appeared to be a lawn of perfectly ordinary grass, under a clear blue sky. She stood and looked around: she could see that the grass seemed to form an approximately one hundred and fifty foot square, in the center of which was a small grouping of trees, which seemed to provide the only shade in the area. A picnic table with a large basket sitting on it was visible under the trees.

Buffy frowned, then continued to study her new surroundings. The grass was surrounded by what appeared to be a roughly oval stretch of sand about fifty feet wide on all sides, receding into blue water that went off into the horizon from every direction that Buffy could see. She started walking along the perimeter of the grassy area, and her suspicions were confirmed: there was no other land in sight. She was about to curse loudly over her predicament when she heard a low masculine groan. She turned back toward the grass and saw a figure on the ground, stirring slightly and groaning again. She cautiously approached the figure, and was startled when the man sat up, blinked and looked at her with shock in his eyes. She blinked in response, then managed to ask, "Riley?"

Riley stared at her for a moment, then frowned and stood up as he replied, "Yeah. . .unless I'm seriously delusional-" He took a moment to examine his surroundings, then continued, "-which seems like a serious possibility right now. Buffy, what are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same question," Buffy responded, noting with relief that a sunbeam was striking Riley on a patch of bare skin with no apparent effect. She frowned and commented, "I fell asleep, then woke up here. . .I take it that this isn't your super-secret base off the coast of some banana republic somewhere?"

Riley shook his head, then replied absently, "Our base is inland, in a more jungle type environment, and I did not just tell you that. . .damn, old habits die hard." He laughed involuntarily, then commented, "Guess I'm a lousy boyfriend and lousy at keeping our nation's most important secrets."

Buffy felt a pang of guilt, then looked at him and replied, "Riley. . .I tried to reach you before you left. . .I couldn't reach the copter in time."

Riley looked at her, then asked, "What were you going to say?"

Buffy looked down, then whispered, "I'm not sure. . .but I didn't want you to leave like that. We had a year together, and I didn't want it to end like that, and I was worried about you. . .I was afraid you had a death wish."

Riley shook his head, then replied, "Nope. . .just a new sense of purpose. We do good work, and no games with evil government scientists. . .a definite plus." He winced, then added, "It's still tricky, though. . .we ran into a pack of Fyarl demons some sorcerer had summoned up, and they banged a lot of us up pretty good before we got them. Graham and I both wound up with broken arms, and I got a few broken ribs as a bonus. . .I was in the infirmary when I went to sleep. . .and in a lot more pain than I am now." He flexed the muscles in both visibly unbroken arms, then checked his ribs before commenting, "Something strange is going on here."

Buffy laughed, then commented, "And the Sunnydale town song is heard again. . ." She frowned, then commented, "I've been wondering if this is one of my prophetic dreams, but it feels different, more real. . .and besides, by now something would have leapt out to try to kill me, or Willow would have shown up with a monkey, or something REALLY weird." She smiled at Riley and asked, "I don't suppose you have some cryptic advice to pass on to me, do you?"

"Other than, when you run into ten Fyarl demons, call in an air strike? No." Riley shook his head in irritation, then began looking around himself again, commenting, "I think we have to assume that this is real, and deal with it accordingly. . .check out our surroundings, find out what resources we have, then try to figure out a way to get back to where we should be."

"OK. . .trees, surrounded by grass, surrounded by sand, surrounded by ocean to the horizon. A table in the center of the trees with a basket with unknown contents sitting on top. Also, we're pretty near the equator, unless a substantial amount of time has gone by." Riley frowned at the last comment, then looked up and noted the sun was nearly directly overhead: the equinox had just been a few days before. Buffy smiled at his comprehension, then elaborated, "The climate also feels tropical, though it isn't as humid as it might be. . .which makes me wonder where the lawn and trees came from. Do you think we're sitting in the middle of someone's golf course?"

Riley smiled at Buffy's dark humor, then replied, "I think that would be one hell of a water hazard to deal with," as he gestured to the horizon, then frowned again as he continued, "Whether this place was set up as a prison for us or for some other purposes, it's clearly artificial. . .someone would have to maintain it regularly to keep it intact. Unless they've decided they don't care any more, they'll have to come back again, and that might give us a chance to escape." He looked toward the trees, then concluded, "All right then. . .let's check out our supplies."

Buffy followed Riley as he started toward the table, and was pleased to see that he was moving with more ease and confidence than her last memories of him. Without further words, they reached the table and Riley opened the basket and began to inventory the contents while Buffy searched the area around the trees, amused at how quickly they had fallen into the routines from better times.


* * * * *


The basket had proved to be a bonanza: two coolers containing cold sandwiches and fresh fruit, a large container of distilled water, and various other foodstuffs that Riley estimated could sustain them for at least five days. Also, Buffy had discovered a bag containing a large inflatable mattress and some basic toiletries: whoever had brought them here apparently did not intend for them to be too uncomfortable, at least in the short run. After comparing notes, Buffy looked at Riley and asked, "So we're apparently OK in the short run. . .but should we trust this stuff? Any of these things could be poisoned, or rigged to blow up, or it could trigger a spell that leaves us sitting naked in the infield of Dodger Stadium during the seventh inning stretch." Riley blinked, and Buffy continued, "OK, the last one is pretty unlikely, but I've learned to be a bit paranoid about these things."

"Buffy, I'm operating under the assumption that if they wanted us dead, we'd be dead already. . .so I'm not worried about explosives or poison." Riley's reply was direct, and Buffy nodded in agreement as Riley continued, "They could be trying to get one of us-probably you, since if they wanted information about my organization they'd probably have grabbed my C.O. instead-to give up some information, and in that case the food might be full of truth serum or something like that. . .or the food could just be drugged to keep us docile." Buffy nodded again, and Riley concluded, "I'll sample the food and water, then, and we'll wait to see what happens. . .this isn't me being Teutonic, Buffy. . .from what you've said, you're just as vulnerable to drugs as any person your size is, and it makes sense to have the person who has more body weight and is less equipped to defend himself without weapons to be the guinea pig here."

Buffy scowled at him, then nodded. Riley pulled out one of the sandwiches, then poured himself some water, and proceeded to consume both with some enthusiasm. When he was finished, he sighed and commented, "Well. . .I guess we have to wait now." Buffy, who had taken the time to inflate the air mattress, nodded and sat across from him as he asked, "So. . .how is it going in Sunnydale? Is everyone all right?"

Buffy blinked, then gasped. . .for the first time in weeks, she hadn't been thinking about it, and Riley's eyes narrowed in open concern as Buffy paled, then replied quietly, "My mother died three weeks ago, Riley."

"Oh God, Buffy. . ." Riley's response was instinctive, and he moved over next to her and held her as she cried, as she had not cried even when Giles held her as they waited for the coroner. For long minutes, the only sound was of Buffy crying and the soft creak the bench made as Riley rocked her.

Eventually, Buffy stopped crying and looked up, commenting, "I'm sorry. . .I had just managed to stop thinking about it. . .then I had to think about it again. . .I didn't mean to dump that on you."

Riley tensed, then looked away as he whispered, "Buffy. . .I was always willing to be the one you came to for this kind of thing. . .you just didn't want me to be."

Buffy drew back, then sighed as she looked over at Riley and asked quietly, "What happened with us, Riley. . .how did we let things get so bad?"

Riley looked back at her, then replied, "The Reader's Digest version? Buffy, you cared about me. . .you still do. When push came to shove, I have no doubt that you would do or risk anything to save me or one of your friends, even your life if it came to that. . .but you weren't in love with me. . .and that was that."

Buffy scowled, and she retorted, "Damn it, Riley. . .I don't know why you say that. . .I gave you everything I could while we were together. . .what more did you want from me?"

Riley sighed, then replied, "Buffy. . .do you remember when we were in that cave and you were begging me to come and accept treatment? You pulled out all of the stops. . .you reassured me, you pleaded with me, and you ended up forcing me to come back with you. . .you did everything but use three little words that would have meant everything to me at that moment."

Buffy blinked, then shuddered for a moment as she discerned his meaning. She looked down for a moment, then back up again as she whispered, "Riley. . .did it ever occur to you that I might be a bit gun shy about those particular words? I said them to Angel, and look how that turned out." She looked into his eyes, then continued, "Riley. . .I don't know, you may be right, but it wasn't anything that I was aware of. . .as far as I knew, I was in love with you. . .and, my issues with some of the things you did aside, I'm sorry I didn't communicate that with you better."

Riley was silent for a moment, taking in her words, then replied quietly, "I suppose it's just how things work out sometimes." He stood, then walked a short distance away from the table before commenting, "Love is strange. . .sometimes we meet someone, and everything seems right: personality, interests, attractiveness. . .and nothing happens. Or, maybe even worse, there's all of that, and even passion. . .but not love. Love is like alchemy, Buffy. . .everyone is looking for that magic ingredient that turns lead into gold, but no one ever finds it except by chance, and they can't pass on the secret to anyone else."

Buffy's eyes widened, then she nodded and replied, "I know what you mean. . .sometimes I wonder if my life would have been easier if I had fallen for Xander after Angel lost his soul, or when he came back from his road trip after high school. . .or if I had joined the club and decided that Giles was a hottie. If love is alchemy, I think I might have flunked the midterm, and that hunk of lead on the final exam is looking pretty threatening. . ." She slumped, then snarled, "Damn it. . .I can't get caught up in this. . .I have to get out of here, get back to Sunnydale. . .I have things to do, bitchy Goddesses to kill." She looked at Riley, then commented, "You don't seem to be ready to keel over. . .guess the food and water are OK."

Riley nodded, then responded, "Guess so." He gave her a sympathetic look, then asked quietly, "Buffy. . .aside from getting us off of this pile of sand, is there anything I can do for you?"

Buffy blinked, then stood up and walked over to him, staring up into his eyes as she whispered, "Yes. . .there is." She reached up and pulled him down into a tender kiss. Riley submitted for a moment, then pulled away and stared at her as she looked up at him hungrily. Buffy stared up at him and whispered, "Riley. . .I need to forget all of this for a while. . .and whatever has happened between us, there's no one else I'd rather be with here at this moment. We'll figure this out and get the hell out of here, but until then. . .please?"

Riley felt his willpower slipping away, but he had one last card to play: "Buffy. . .someone put us here. . .they could be watching us right now."

Buffy's eyes blazed angrily, and she snarled, "Let them watch." With that, she pulled his head down again, and this time Riley did not resist.

They kissed for long moments, their hands wandering over each other's bodies, until Riley stepped back and stood quietly, watching Buffy. She interpreted his unspoken desire and smiled seductively at him as she slowly removed her top, and then her shorts, leaving her wearing a lacy black bra and panties. Riley inhaled sharply, then nodded once at her to continue. Buffy grinned wickedly as she reached behind her back and deftly unhooked her bra, sending it drifting to the ground and exposing her breasts to view. Riley smiled as he noted her nipples were already erect with her barely restrained passion. Buffy chuckled at his reaction, then ordered quietly, "All right, Soldier Boy. . .your turn."

Riley nodded, then pulled off his T-shirt, exposing his chest, along with a few recent scars that caused Buffy to wince as she admired his physique: he had clearly kept in peak condition over the past few months. He followed by slipping off his shoes, socks, and sweatpants, leaving him standing in front of Buffy wearing nothing but his briefs. Buffy watched him intently, then waited quietly until Riley gave an embarrassed cough, then called out, "OK, one, two, three." With charming simultaneity, Buffy and Riley slipped their remaining undergarments off and just stared at each other for a long moment. Riley took two steps forward, then looked down at Buffy and whispered, "I've missed this."

Buffy smiled and replied, "Me too." They kissed again, then sank down onto the air mattress, their hands and mouths wandering all over their bodies with the comfortable joy of exploring a fondly remembered holiday spot. Buffy giggled as Riley idly snuck a finger into the mass of dark curls at the juncture of her thighs and twirled them around his finger, then gasped as the questing finger found a rather more sensitive area. Riley gasped in reply as Buffy leaned forward and caught one of his nipples between her teeth, then backed off and kissed him on the collarbone on the way to nuzzling him under the chin.

Refusing to be distracted, Riley continued his calculated attack on the most sensitive areas of Buffy's body, reveling in the feel of her silky skin as he marveled at the strength he knew was present in the muscles that rippled underneath that skin. At length, Buffy moaned loudly, then shuddered as she climaxed. Riley watched as she took several deep breaths, opened her eyes, then growled deep in her throat as she flipped him on his back and climbed atop him, whispering "Now, Riley. . .now."

Riley was not inclined to disagree, and a moment later was reaching up to caress her breasts and shoulders as she rocked over him, causing intense sensations to echo through his entire body from his groin as she did so. He loved watching her during these times they had together. . .all of that power, all of that volcanic personality that was Buffy Summers contained in this tiny golden goddess. . .and at this moment, all for him. He leaned upward slightly, and Buffy divined his intent, leaning forward to kiss him ferociously as his hands continued their quest for her most sensitive places.

After what seemed like an eternity, Buffy and Riley began gasping more loudly, and their motions became more frantic. Buffy pulled away from Riley and straightened as she stopped her rocking abruptly and screeched in orgasm, and Riley's own moan several seconds later made it clear that he had also climaxed. They broke apart and fell separately to the air mattress, gasping.

Buffy recovered first, then looked over at Riley, who was still catching his breath, then leaned over and kissed him tenderly on the forehead as she whispered, "Thank you."

Riley smiled, then leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips before replying, "I think that should be my line, but you're welcome." He looked over at Buffy, then laughed softly and commented, "We may have failed alchemy, but I think we still get an 'A' in chemistry."

Buffy laughed in response, and the look they shared served as punctuation to what they had together, whatever the future might hold. Frowning, she sat up, then reached for her clothes as she commented, "All right, now that we've probably given our abductor his jollies, we can get back to finding our way out of-"


* * * * *

Buffy's eyes snapped open: she was lying in bed, still in her nightie, with the covers still pulled up. Obeying an impulse she didn't understand, she got out of bed and looked at her surroundings. . .nothing had changed, except that her pulse was racing and she felt flushed. Also, the air of constant depression that had been hanging over her like a thundercloud had faded somewhat, leaving her still somewhat sad but far better equipped to deal with the stresses of the day. She had the strong feeling that something had just happened, but her efforts to remember what it could be were futile. She frowned, then shrugged and went off to shower and dress. Minor mysteries aside, she had to get breakfast ready, or the wrath of Dawn would come down on her head. Laughing softly, she got into the shower.


* * * * *


Riley's eyes snapped open, and the low ache he felt coming from his right arm and ribs told him that the painkillers had worn off. He was about to summon the nurse when he realized that-annoying pain aside-he was in a better mood than he had been in for some time. Frowning, he tried to identify the source of his good mood, but was unsuccessful, though the memories of his last hours in Sunnydale seemed rather less oppressive than they had been when he had gone to sleep. Shrugging inwardly, he dismissed the thought and pressed the button to summon the nurse. . .some painkillers would be nice about now.


* * * * *


Watching from a place outside of normal space and time, the dark-haired man chuckled at the confusion of the Slayer and her former boyfriend, then shook his head. Abruptly, the sound of someone clearing their throat came from behind him, and he sighed and turned around.

The man who was standing there, aside from the odd golden tone to his skin, could have been any low level bureaucrat from any of a thousand different agencies on Earth: he was balding, visibly overweight, and definitely irritated. He sighed and chastised the dark-haired man, "You know. . .we have rules for a reason."

The dark-haired man chuckled, then replied, "Ah, but they can be so inconvenient at times." He laughed at the celestial bureaucrat's angry bristle, then continued, "However, I haven't broken any rules."

"I beg your pardon?" The bureaucrat sounded shocked, and looked as if someone had kicked his puppy.

The dark-haired man grinned, then explained, "It seems that there was a karmic debt remaining from when the First Evil manipulated Buffy and Angel a while back. . .I used that debt to create the dream environment where Buffy and Riley. . .interacted."

"You just took that upon yourself?" The bureaucrat's voice was scornful, and he continued, "The higher-ups might have had plans for that opportunity. . .and you used it to stage an event that looked like an outtake from a Showtime late night movie?"

"Hey! I put a lot of work putting that environment together, to throw them off their guard and not suspect that it was a dream. . .and I certainly got results." The dark-haired man chuckled, then continued, "However, I did run it by my immediate superior. . .and she ran it by the big bosses. . .who gave it the go-ahead." He handed a sheet of paper that had a golden seal at the bottom. The bureaucrat read it and shook his head in irritation, then muttered, "Your superior. . .that woman always has been soft hearted." He turned away, then stalked off, calling over his shoulder, "You'll come to a bad end, Francis."

Doyle chuckled, then replied to his retreating nemesis, "Been there, done that." He turned back to look back at Buffy and Riley one more time, then smiled and shifted his attention to Angel, who had problems of his own.


As always, comments are welcome and desired.