Never Climate, Only Weather
Title: After The Rain: Never Climate, Only Weather
Rating: Maybe NC17 (I'm playing it safe with this)
Characters: Riley Finn, Lindsey McDonald
Warnings: Slash (not graphic though), angst and grief, mention of character death
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in either Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel. I am borrowing them for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended
Author's Notes: Thanks to Neichan for the beta.
Also, I thought I already posted this, but only realised recentley that I didn't, so sorry if anyone's been waiting for it.
Both of their sleep patterns were, well, askew; for months, Riley had slept whenever he ran out of alcohol if he managed to last that long, while Lindsey had just taken a seven hour drive overnight and only managed a few hours sleep after that.
Lindsey would have slept more; he knew he would be able to return to sleep, but he became aware of movement in the room and felt Riley’s gaze upon him.
“You’re awake.” Riley’s voice broke the silence. Lindsey couldn’t help but grin.
“No I’m not,” he replied, before turning to face Riley.
“Liar,” returned Riley as Lindsey sat up. He looked into the larger man’s eyes; this was easy. Familiar. Lindsey felt it and knew that Riley did too, but he could see that it brought Riley pain, stirring guilt and jogging memories of Sam.
“We have to talk,” said Riley.
- - - - -
Lindsey had barely heard the words over the noise in the bar; music, chatter and all too frequent shattering of glass. He leaned closer to Riley and asked for clarification.
“We have to talk,” repeated Riley and Lindsey nodded, pointing to the door behind him with his thumb.
“You wanna go some place quieter?” Riley squinted his eyes as he listened to Lindsey’s words and then nodded. The pair stood; Lindsey clutched his ribs as he slid off the bar stool. One of the jerks from the other bar had landed a knee to his side and was only feeling the effects now. Still, he shrugged it off as he did not want one of those assholes to cut short their night.
As they stepped outside, the noise immediately subsided. The warmth of the bar also vanished, leaving a refreshing cool to the air. They started walking, not really knowing where; both were relaxed in the now peaceful evening. They walked for some time, before Lindsey spoke.
“So. You wanna say something?” It seemed as good a place to Riley as any as there was no one around.
“Yeah,” he replied after a pause. He knew what he wanted to say. He’d been practicing it in his head, over and over since the fight earlier. He even tried it out loud when Lindsey had gone to the bathroom, but now he could not form the words. He imagined he was blushing, which made him more nervous. Lindsey could see that Riley’s mind was working overtime; he was gesturing with his hands and mouthing words, but no sound came out, save for a few stuttering sounds. This amused Lindsey as he was so use to people speaking confidently and being completely sure of themselves. He could not help but laugh.
“I’m glad you find me so funny.” Riley stopped walking and looked at Lindsey, a little hurt actually.
“Man, just speak. Say it. Whatever it is,” Lindsey replied. He had his suspicions, or rather hopes. Riley seemed to consider Lindsey’s words, before nodding.
“Okay,” he began. “I, Um. I…” he faltered. Lindsey, still with a grin on his face, shook his head. “I like you, okay.” Riley blurted this out and there was more than a little frustration in his voice. Lindsey wondered if it was because of his mocking or Riley’s own lack of articulation.
“I like you too,” Lindsey replied with forced calm before continuing to walk. He felt anything but calm though. Riley’s words made him want to scream or sing and dance, but he instinctively played it cool, figuring that was some residual lawyer not wanting to reveal his full hand, or in this case heart. With his back to Riley as he continued to walk, nothing however could keep the smile from his face.
Riley just stood there. In his head, he’d been a lot more eloquent and it irritated him that he sounded more like Willow, babbling and fumbling. It also irritated him that he was just standing there, allowing Lindsey to walk ahead, so he started to jog after him.
“You mean that?” Riley asked as he caught up to Lindsey and placed his hand on his shoulder. A pang of fear struck him at the pit of stomach as at that moment, he wondered if Lindsey had been talking about friendship. He waited for Lindsey to speak or react; it seemed like an eternity, until he turned to face Riley, moving slightly closer to him. Closer, Riley wondered, than was appropriate for friends? Riley took a deep and calming breath at this as he felt the warmth of Lindsey’s own breath on his face in the cool night air. Without warning, Lindsey’s lips were on his own.
- - - - -
The seriousness of Riley’s voice unnerved Lindsey a little; with those four words, he already did not like where their conversation was going. The last time he had heard that tone in Riley’s voice hand ended with him leaving.
“Did I leave the toilet seat up again?” Lindsey jested, trying to make light of the situation, but Riley’s expression did not alter. “Okay. Let me get dressed,” Lindsey added before Riley could comment on the inappropriately timed joke. Lindsey reached for the drawer besides the bed and pulled out a grey t-shirt. He pulled it over his head as he swung his legs out of the bed. He next put on the jeans that lay crumpled on the floor where he had stepped out of them, hours before.
It was a tactic of sorts; almost instinctive actually. His deliberate dressing was his way of exerting some control over a situation he had none. He knew that there was going to be a confrontation of sorts, maybe not a hostile one, but they weren’t going to be discussing the weather. Beyond that, he did not know what Riley would say, so he was at least going to dictate when Riley would say it; when he was ready and not a second before.
It occurred to him as he laced up his boots that this stalling was the sort of tool he utilised as a lawyer, to unnerve his opposition or calm his clients. Riley had once referred to them as lawyer tricks and they were something that he swore long ago that he would not use on Riley. He had been determined that he would be ‘normal’ with Riley; as honest and open as Riley was with him. There was no need to manipulate him and Riley did not deserve it. He did not want to be that
person with him.
“Okay,” he said calmly. “What did you want to discuss?” He had something he wanted to say to Riley too, if truth were known; he just hadn’t planned on discussing it so soon. The fact was, he did not know if he was ready to give up all that he had worked for in Los Angeles. To make matters worse, he did not relish the prospect of leaving Riley either. He’d only had three moments of absolute certainty in his entire life, when there was no doubt in his mind of what he should do or what he wanted. The first had been when he left Wolfram and Hart; he'd found it difficult to adjust when Angel had cut off his hand, so the fact that Wolfram and Hart replaced just before he left opened several doors for him that he thought would have been closed for the rest of his life.
The second came soon after, when he and Riley met. At the time he did not see his life going in any other direction. The third, several days earlier, following that call.
“I’m really glad you came. Really,” began Riley pausing to consider his next words. “For you to drop everything. I want you to know that it’s appreciated. Probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me. If you hadn’t, I don’t know what I’d have done.” Lindsey smiled and took hold of Riley’s forearm, squeezing it gently.
“You’d have done the same,” he said.
“I also want you to know that you mean a lot to me. I’ve been lucky enough to love Sam…” Riley faltered at the mention of her name, but Lindsey could see the determination in Riley’s eyes to continue. “And for her to love me.” He paused again and breathed to compose himself. “But to have you too. Well, I just want you to know.”
“I know.” Lindsey nodded.
“Good. Because whatever happens, I need you to know that it has nothing to do with my feelings for you, okay?” Lindsey realized after a brief silence that Riley expected an answer
“Sure, yeah,” he said hastily.
“I mean it Lindsey. You have to understand…” Lindsey interrupted Riley by placing his hands on the other man’s shoulders. He looked him squarely in his eyes.
“I mean it too Riley. That’s not even an issue.” He gently squeezed Riley’s shoulders as he spoke, and was pleased to see the slight evidence of a smile briefly forming.
- - - - -
They arrived back at Lindsey’s home; a room he rented in the house of a family in the rural outskirts of the town. He could have afforded something bigger and more modern, but that wasn’t the point. He’d looked at newer flats for sale and rent, in the town centre, but they all reminded him of LA; clean lines and smooth surfaces. The room he rented was as far removed from the life he was leaving behind as he could find.
He also found himself liking the family vibe; every weekend, he was invited to sit down and share a meal with them. He’d also had an invitation to watch some sports game on the TV, as well as an offer from their teenage son to go to the movies. He’d missed out on what he thought of as normal family stuff growing up, so this was not only a change from the last few years, but something completely new to him. Without imposing, he interacted with the family, talked about life’s trivial things that didn’t involve magic, monsters or the end of the world.
The house was currently empty; the whole family was visiting the eldest daughter who was in her second year of University, studying Social Something-or-other, so they could, smiled Lindsey, make as much noise as they wanted without disturbing anyone.
They were both happy; giddy would be a more accurate term but neither of them cared to admit that fact as they entered Lindsey’s room. Nice, thought Riley, finding a little amusement at the feminine décor that surrounded them; lilac walls, floral soft furnishings in pastel colours and white painted wood. It reminded him of home, strangely, distracting him from their purpose.
“Hey Riley,” called Lindsey, seeing his mind was elsewhere. “I’m not gonna have to go at this solo again am I?” Riley had heard Lindsey speak but not what he said, but the sight of Lindsey’s tanned and muscular torso brought his attention back to the moment.
“Sorry,” he said, smiling as he walked towards Lindsey, removing his sweater as he moved. He placed his hand on the back of Lindsey’s head, tilting it backwards as he leaned in to kiss him. With his other hand, Riley gently eased Lindsey on to the bed behind him, careful not to break their kiss. Riley saw Lindsey’s jaw clench as he rested his body on top of him, suddenly remembering the blow to his ribs that Lindsey had sustained in the brawl earlier that night.
He was about to stand, not wanting to cause Lindsey more discomfort, but his hands found the back of Riley’s head and held him in place. Riley savoured the warmth of his chest touching Lindsey’s in contrast to the breeze from the open window. Riley eased up and reached for the buttons of Lindsey’s jeans.
- - - - -
“I’m not ready,” stated Riley after a pause. “I’m not ready to settle down with someone, so soon after Sam.” Lindsey was unprepared for how suddenly Riley had come out with this, thinking that he normally builds up to the meat of the conversation. “As much as part of me is screaming for me to hold you, there’s a part of me that hates that I want that, like Sam meant so little...” Riley faltered and looked on the ground. Lindsey did not know what to say, of if he should say anything at all. Clearly Riley was finding the conversation difficult, so he decided to remain silent, to give him time to continue at his own pace.
“I want you in my life. I want you to stay with me, yet I’m not ready to be with you like you deserve.” Riley was still not looking at Lindsey, which, he guessed made it easier for him. After a pause, Lindsey finally spoke, causing Riley to look up.
“I understand. I want you in my life too. I love you man, for Christ’s sake. “
“But-face” Riley spoke, thinking out loud, realising instantly that the words were not his. Despite the seriousness of their conversation, he had to smile at how ridiculous his comment sounded. He started to chuckle.
“Excuse me?” asked Lindsey, clearly unsure about the sudden change of tone.
“You are going to say ‘But’,” he said through a smile. Lindsey quickly returned the smile .
“But; part of me is not sure if I’m ready to give up everything. Not just yet. When I arrived, I thought I was. I’m not so sure now.” Riley was taken aback by this. It wasn’t a ‘but’ that he had expected to hear. Lindsey, too was a little startled as he had not intended to speak quite so frankly. Apparently though, he was on a roll.
“I have a life back in Los Angeles. I’m not saying it’s a good life, ‘cause, well, it isn’t, but I am invested in it.”
“Oh.” This wasn’t how Riley saw the conversation going. Should know by now not to rehearse these things, he thought. Again, a silence but this time, it was decidedly awkward, something that was a rarity in their relationship. Hearing Lindsey’s words, Riley was disappointed. He had always knew that Lindsey had a past; at first it was that mystery in part that Riley was attracted to. Even when he found out the details of that past and some of the choices that Lindsey had made, Riley couldn’t help but admire the man as he willingly turned his back on that life. He chose to become a good person. Standing at a crossroads, he took the hard road; the road less travelled. The one that led to redemption.
Now though? Lindsey was choosing to give up all that he had accomplished, all that he had become since leaving Wolfram and Hart. He was wanting to go back to that evil life again and Riley was less than thrilled at that prospect. He could understand that after they parted, Lindsey had gone back to the life he knew. If Lindsey had felt half as bad as Riley (and there was no reason to believe otherwise) then Lindsey would have found solace in familiar surroundings. Riley had found comfort in the surroundings of the military after all.
But now, it was different. It was one thing to eventually find himself in LA, as he did following their split, but to choose to go in favour of something better, a life he knew Lindsey wanted. Riley began to question if he wanted to be with a Lindsey so eager to resume his evil ways. Yet despite such concerns, the thought of Lindsey leaving actually frightened him. Lindsey made him want to be sober and clean and awake; to face his grief and work through it. He feared that with Lindsey gone, he might sink back into his despair.
- - - - -
“Well I didn’t hate that,” stated Lindsey through deep breaths as he lay in Riley’s strong embrace. Riley had to agree, but words momentarily failed him, so he just remained still, holding Lindsey tightly. Seemed like the right thing to do.
- - - - -
“Do you want to leave?” Riley asked, although part of him did not want to hear the answer.
“No. I… I don’t know,” he replied. He ran his hand over his forehead, holding his fringe off his face.
“You know,” said Riley with obvious annoyance in his voice despite his best efforts to hide it. Lindsey looked at him, thinking that Riley was wrong. He did not know. He wished he did. He wished it was as obvious to him as when they first met.
“Tell me what to do and I’ll do it,” stated Lindsey. Riley glared at him.
“That’s not fair,” he said. “I’m not going down that road. It leads to…” Riley stopped. They were having an argument, something they’d only done once before and Riley hated it. He also hated the realisation that they were arguing in circles. Riley was angry at Lindsey for expressing some desire to resume his life and not choosing to stay and yet he had told him that he was not ready for that, despite wanting him so badly. They both had some serious thinking to do.
- - - - -
“I’ve got something I want to say,” stated Riley as he entered the room. Lindsey put down the book he was reading, curious as to what was on Riley’s mind. He’d noticed the man was, not distracted, but distant maybe. Lindsey hadn’t wanted to push the matter, figuring Riley would come to him when he was ready, which was now apparently, so Lindsey gave him his undivided attention.
“I can’t stay here,” he stated flatly.
“Wh…” Lindsey began but Riley continued.
“It’s been months since I left the military,” his voice was low and his words came out slow and deliberate. “When I did, I began to ignore the world around me. I pushed the demons and vampires to the back of my mind, in part, because I had something or rather, someone better to focus on.” Lindsey smiled at this, but his smile did not last long. “I can not do that any more.”
“What do you mean?” Lindsey asked in a voice loaded with concern.
“I can’t pretend that people are not being killed by demons any more. I can not know what goes on in the world and sit idly by while it does, doing nothing to stop it. I can’t know that people are dead now because I stopped fighting.” His voice was barely above a whisper when he finished. Lindsey could see that Riley was sincere; he was clearly bothered by this thought, and he was filled with sympathy for the larger man.
“So what shall we do?” Lindsey asked. At a push, he could see himself as a champion of sorts. He could see him and Riley battling vampires side by side. He’d done it before, fought on the side of good, and would do it again for Riley. Granted, he preferred the growing old together vision he’d been working on but would accommodate Riley’s unwavering sense of morality and civic duty into it, because he loved him. He was, however, a little unprepared for what Riley said next.
“I need to return to the military.”
“You’re leaving?” Lindsey asked in horror, hoping that somehow, he had misunderstood Riley. He knew though, that he had not.
“Can do more good there. I have to do good. I can’t just…”
“Yeah. I get it,” snapped Lindsey, but instantly regretted speaking so sharply. “Do you have to? I mean we could both…” This time, it was Riley who butted in.
“With the resources at the military’s disposal, I can help people on a scale I could not reach on my own.” Lindsey had wanted to speak at this point, to make known that fact that Riley would not have been on his own, but he didn’t get the opportunity. “I might be able to make up for the time I wast…” Riley stopped and looked at Lindsey in horror. Lindsey looked both hurt and angry.
“What?” Anger won out as Lindsey continued, “You might be able to make up for the time you wasted
with me. Is that what I am? A waste of time?” Lindsey turned away from Riley, not wanting him to see the tears forming.
Riley cursed himself for not choosing his words more carefully and hated the fact that a slip of his tongue was causing Lindsey pain. Yet throughout the conversation, he kept repeating the words ‘with great power must come great responsibility’. Clearly he’d spent too much time with Xander, yet despite tat fact, he did feel responsible, like it was his duty to fight. He didn’t have great power, not any more. Only a regular amount of power. What he did have though was great knowledge and experience of the demon world and the military world. He was a soldier, so he needed to be a soldier, fighting the war he was trained to fight. It was a worthwhile fight, despite the sacrifices it demanded from him.
“You’re not a waste of time,” Riley said. “I love you so much, but I have to do this.” Lindsey turned to face him. “As much as I want a normal life with you, and I do, I can not just accept the world the way it is. I’ve got to try to change it.” Riley just stared at Lindsey with watery, pleading eyes and at that point his anger vanished; he realised that Riley would resent him over time if he did not allow him to do this; if he tried to stop him. Lindsey’s vision of a happy life would still be a vision even if they remained together. Lindsey had fallen in love with Riley because of his purity of heart; it seemed unreasonable to be angry at him for wanting to act on it. As much as it pained him to do so, he had to let Riley go.
- - - - -
“Where do we go from here?” Lindsey asked with a hard edge to his voice that he disliked.
“Time,” answered Riley. “I think we both need time. Time for me to sort my head out and time for you to sow your evil oats.” Riley couldn’t help but think hat he’d deliberately tried to aggravate the situation with that last comment but Lindsey did not bite. Instead he just nodded.
A line of guilt ran through Lindsey, but he could not determine its origin. Riley’s departure had been hard on him, but now this mutually agreed upon and temporary split left him wracked. He began to question if returning to his life in Los Angeles was the right thing to do, if it was making him feel so bad. Then again, Riley, understandably, was not ready for a relationship just yet. Maybe once Lindsey was done in Los Angeles, he would be. And there was Eve to consider. Or was there? He asked himself if she really mattered. He’d hardly given her a thought until now so clearly she was not high on his list of priorities. He’d return to her and explain at the very least; that much she deserved because she had been helpful to him and he still needed her to complete his plan. Besides, some of his stuff was at her apartment.
“Time?” Lindsey repeated Riley’s word. “Is that what you want? “It wasn’t questioning or accusatory but reassuring and Riley nodded feebly.
“I think so. I’m in danger of being really pissed at you and I don’t want that.” Lindsey sat next to him and draped his arm over his shoulder.
“I don’t want that either,” he returned, before kissing Riley on the cheek. He then leaned in and rested his head on Riley. “I love you, you know?” Lindsey added, the dryness at the back of his throat making his words sound a little coarse.
“I know. I love you too,” replied Riley.
Both men remained still and silent for some time. It was a strange situation to be in, thought Lindsey. He could not deal with matters of the heart that well. Death, the grim stuff he had a handle on; it was black and white. Love, that wasn’t even shades of grey; it was colourful and patterned and despite his feeling that it ought to be simple, his limited experience had shown him that it never was. It hadn’t been with Darla. He didn’t even want to consider Angel, for fear of reaching the conclusion that there was love in there somewhere too; that relationship was complicated enough without it. He did not know what was going to happen with Eve.
And Riley? Part of him thought their decision and the whole situation seemed illogical. That was the problem; where his heart was concerned, it always seemed to come down to part of him
. The one exception, of course was Riley. He loved him. That was a whole of him situation, but even then, part of him
reared its ugly head.
Riley, despite their conflict, felt okay. Sure, he’d felt better. He still had to deal with the loss of his wife, and was somewhere between disappointed with and angry at Lindsey, but he understood, a little bit, at least. He did accept the situation though, as he did not want to be angry at Lindsey. He was angry enough at himself for a whole other bunch of reasons, so he decided not to let it bother him. It was that simple because there was so much more to Lindsey that he still loved.
He was certain that they would find each other again; he would get that happily ever after he hoped for. Not far off either. It wouldn’t be years before they reunited this time, and he was certain that the military would not call to him as it did so before; it had ended every serious relationship he had been in, and would not let that happen again. He’d sacrificed enough to the demons and vampires of the world as well. He was done with that. He’d lost more than on man can be expected to loose.
When Lindsey finished his business in Los Angeles, he was certain that they could, would be together.