Part 1 – He Loves You
Title: Enough – Part 1 – He Loves You
Rating: PG-13 (for now)
Pairing: mentions of B/R and Xander/Anya with a possible future slash
Summary: Xander confronts Buffy about her feelings for Riley.
Spoilers: After The Replacement, season five
Warnings: AU, possible M/M in the future.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: A day or two after The Replacement. Goes AU after that.
“What are you doing, Buff?” Xander asked.
“I’m patrolling.” Buffy looked back over her shoulder at her friend, giving him a ‘duh’ look.
“Not that. With Riley, what are you doing?”
Buffy stopped and turned around, staring at Xander. “What do you mean?”
“Do you love him?” Xander asked.
“Of course I…” Buffy began.
“Really? Cause you treat him like you don’t.”
“Who the hell are you to tell me how I treat my boyfriend?” Buffy asked angrily.
Xander sighed. “I’m your friend and his. He thinks you don’t love him. But he’s still here fighting by your side.”
Buffy just stared.
“I’ve watched you lately. You push him aside, act like he’s not as important as the other stuff going on in your life. You act like he can’t help. Are you trying to push him away, make him leave?”
“No, I’m not doing that, any of it,” Buffy denied.
Xander took her shoulders in his hands and hunched down a little (okay a lot) to look her in the eyes.
“He’s still here Buffy; no matter how you’ve treated him, he’s still here. He gave up a lot to be with you, to fight by your side. Don’t make it all for nothing. I know you still hurt over Angel leaving and maybe even your dad pretty much abandoning you. But you’re punishing the wrong guy for that.”
“I’m not punishing him,” Buffy denied. “I have stuff going on, with my mom and Dawn and…”
“Maybe not consciously punishing him, but you make him feel like no matter who you’re comparing him too, he comes up short. I don’t know if you’re pushing him away before he leaves you or what, but if you don’t stop, he will leave. Not because he wants to, but because he thinks it’s what you want,” Xander explained.
“He loves you, Buff, he pretty much thinks the sun and moon rise in you. Some people would kill to be loved like that; I know I would,” Xander admitted.
Buffy looked into her friend’s eyes and saw the sadness and longing there.
“What about Anya?” Buffy asked.
Xander laughed at himself.
“She needed a lifeline in a world she didn’t understand, and she didn’t know how to just ask for it, so she seduced me and I mistook desperation for love. I didn’t get that at the beginning. When I finally figured it out… I love her; she likes me a whole lot. I’ll probably end up marrying her, but she doesn’t love me,” he said, his words unconsciously echoing Riley’s words from a few days ago.
“But…” Buffy tried to find an argument that proved Xander’s belief false, but couldn’t think of anything.
Xander smiled at her for trying. “The thing is, I know what it’s like to love you and have you push me away. Even after it became friendship-love, it still hurt to be told I wasn’t good enough to fight by your side, to be told I’m just the donut guy who can’t contribute. I know you didn’t intend for it to be cruel, but it was for me. And it is for him.”
“But you never walked away from me. You never left,” Buffy said, a little amazed at the realization that not every man would leave her.
Xander gave a slightly bitter chuckle. “I don’t have anywhere to go and I never had enough pride to leave and find a new place. Even if all I am is a donut boy, I have a place here. Riley isn’t me. No matter how much he loves you, if you keep pushing him away, he will leave. He has self-respect and other people who care about him and want him around. If he leaves, he won’t be running away from you to sit by himself and brood over you. He’ll be running towards a family and friends who love him and will support him and help him heal and, eventually, get over you.
“No one has ever loved me the way that he loves you, looked at me the way he looks at you, and you are well on your way to throwing it all away. I don’t know if you love him or not, I just know that you need to either fish or cut bait. Love him or let him go, but don’t go on the way you have been. I have a feeling that even if you don’t love him, if you broke up with him and asked him to stay and fight, he would. But if you make him feel like he’s nothing, like you don’t want him here, then he can’t stay.”
With those words, Xander turned and walked away, leaving Buffy to stare after him.
Buffy wondered if everything he said was true. She knew that no matter how harsh the words were, he wasn’t saying them to hurt her; he was saying them to try and help her.
Like always. He hadn’t always been truthful with her, but he had always done what he thought was best for her.
She wondered just when she had broken him.
Tonight she had looked into Xander’s eyes and had really seen him for the first time in a long time. Seen the old pain he tried to hide. She knew all the pain hadn’t come from her. Some of it predated her presence in Sunnydale; she remembered seeing traces of it when he had first looked at her and said, ‘can I have you.’
She knew she hadn’t done all the damage to his self-esteem and self-worth, but she had probably laid the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
But even broken, he still stayed by her side and fought. No matter what he said, a lesser man would have walked away. Hell, lesser men had walked away.
He was right in that Riley wasn’t a lesser man, and his leaving wouldn’t make him a bad guy; it didn’t mean he was like Angel or her father or even that loser Parker. They left for their own misguided reasons. If he left, it would be because she had made it impossible for him to stay.
So did she love Riley? Enough to let him in? Or enough to let him go?