Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy
A/N: Some dialogue taken from episode 6.08 Tabula Rasa~~~~~
“Who is that?” Riley asked, eyeing the tall brunet. He had seen the other man around from time to time, even had him drag Buffy off during a frat party, but had never actually met him until tonight.
Buffy craned her head to look, and grinned. “That's Xander. He's our friend. Oh, and Anya, his girlfriend.”
“They're making out like bunnies,” Willow chirped, nodding. “Uh, except we don't say that in front of Anya,” she added conscientiously. Before Riley could say anything about discrete conversation, she went on, “She's afraid of bunnies, you see.” She turned to Buffy, screwing up her nose. “How should we put it?”
“Put what?” the new woman, Anya, asked.
“You're, uh,” Willow tried, blushing.
“Our sex life?” Anya asked calmly. “Our sex life is adequate,” she nodded decisively. “Xander is well-proportioned, and gives me many orgasms. In fact,” she attempted to go on, but Xander covered her mouth, blushing.
“I'd rather you didn't discuss our sex life with our friends, let alone total strangers,” Xander explained, glancing at Riley.
“I don't see why not,” Anya complained. “You have a very good penis that gives me very good orgasms. Why shouldn't I be able to talk about that?”
“Because it's private,” Xander explained patiently, “and I am not comfortable with you talking like that.”
“When a person is uncomfortable in a relationship,” Riley added, “it can affect their libido.”
Xander cast the other man a grateful look, while Anya looked thoughtful. Buffy smirked at the fair-haired man, and seemed to bounce in her seat. “Riley's Dr Walsh's TA. He's really good with the psychology stuff.”
“So if I want more orgasms, I shouldn't discuss the size of Xander's penis?” Anya asked.
“Unless he initiates the conversation, then no,” Riley nodded, smiling.
“But it's a very good penis,” Anya argued, confused. “And I've seen many penises,” she added, nodding. “Hells, I've cursed many penises. Men aren't very good at being faithful,” she shook her head.
Xander winced as the rest of the group stared at her, stunned. Blushing, he looked at Riley. “Um, Anya's something of an, uh, aggrieved women's advocate. Sort of.”
Riley stared into the rich brown eyes for a long moment before nodding slowly. “Right.”~~~~~
Anya, it turned out, was an ex-Vengeance Demon. Who, for reasons unknown to anyone, had latched onto Xander, the reason for her being an ex
-Vengeance Demon. Who was also very vocal about their (highly) sexual relationship, and to whom Xander was at least attempting to be a good boyfriend. Much like Riley, himself, was attempting to be a good boyfriend to Buffy, the Slayer, an outright hero who he admired. Respected. Cared for. Loved?
Riley sighed. He was man enough to admit that he was stuck. Here he was, deep undercover (though apparently not deep enough, since these people seemed to have penetrated his oh-so-immaculate cover) at college, in a fraternity, et cetera, with a beautiful girlfriend, and all he could think about was her cute, loyal, taken
, male best friend. He'd say 'obviously heterosexual' except that he, himself, had a girlfriend and was, as it happened, not as straight as might be assumed. And that was apart from the looks. Every so often, he'd catch Xander's eye, and they'd share (or he thought they shared) a look
. A 'rather be kissing you' look. Yet here he was, dating a Slayer, while the object (man
) of his affections was dating an ex-Vengeance Demon. He was stuck. And it sucked.~~~~~
Riley stared out through the front window of the chopper, trying not to think. He had just pulled out of Sunnydale in possibly the worst manner possible. Or not. He could have been turned, that would have been worse. But, as it was, he had been found in a suckhouse, given Buffy an ultimatum, and, when she didn't turn up in time, had taken the easy way out by boarding the last chopper to Belize. Leaving a girlfriend who had the almost unbearable burdens of a sick mother, teenaged sister, and supernatural Calling. Because risking your life fighting monsters in the jungle was so much easier than facing the woman you couldn't love properly, who couldn't love you properly, while the man you truly wanted was with someone else. And he wasn't going to even start thinking about Xander's relationship with Anya.~~~~~
“What's going on with you two?” Xander asked from the doorway.
Riley glanced up from his packing, then shrugged. “I'm leaving.”
Xander shook his head. “Why? I thought you two were good. A little strange, right at the moment, but, you know, good.”
“We haven't been good for a while, Xan. I'm beginning to think we've never been good.”
“But...” Xander paced around the room, agitated. “No. You were good. You were so good for each other.”
Riley sighed, and returned to his packing. “Not so much. I think Buffy needed someone … nice. Stable. Not Angel.” He looked over to see Xander nodding at that statement, and went on. “And I was kind of using her, too. 'Cause the person I really wanted was taken. And then I got stupid. I'm sure Buffy can explain that part of it, if you ask.”
Xander stopped and stared at him. “There was someone else? I... I don't know what to say.”
“It's … complicated,” Riley explained. “The, uh, person I wanted, well...” he shrugged. “Okay. It's a guy. And he had … has a girlfriend, and I'm not about to mess that up.”
Xander ducked his head. “So... Is it anyone I know.”
“Xan,” Riley whispered. “Don't do this. Please.”
“Me?” he asked quietly. “Is it me, Riley?”
Riley dropped down onto the bed. “Yeah. After I met Buffy, I started seeing you around, and you were so …” he smiled wryly. “The first time we actually met, though, you were already involved with Anya, and, well...”
“Don't ask, don't tell?” Xander asked.
“Yeah. Of course, when I was finally free to, well, anyway, you were with Anya, and I had Buffy. And now I'm going back.”
Xander looked around the room. “For good?” he clarified.
“For good,” Riley nodded. “Just hunting, nothing else. Like Gray said, no one gives a damn what makes them tick. They just want to stop them.”
“And you'll have a place,” Xander nodded. “You'll fit.”
Riley nodded. “I'll fit.” He stood, and went to face the dark-haired man. “Xan, I didn't mean ...”
Xander smiled gently. “I know, Ri.” He reached up, and pulled the other man's head down so that their foreheads touched. “Wish I'd known. Except you weren't free. Army and all that. Buffy, of course.”
“Yeah,” Riley sighed. “And Anya.”
“And Anya,” Xander agreed. “You're going.”
“Have to,” Riley explained. It felt good to stand like this, so close to Xander, foreheads touching. It was … sweet. Pity it was about to end.
“When do you leave?” Xander asked.
“Tonight. Midnight. I gave Buffy an ultimatum, but I think I'm hoping she won't turn up. Don't really know that I can do that any more.”
Xander pulled back, drew Riley's head down further, and kissed him gently on the forehead. “May the gods keep you safe, and, if they will, bring you back to me.” With that, Xander left Riley without a backward glance. ~~~~~
So. Here he was. Back in Sunnydale. Ain't life grand. He'd watched the various members of the group file into the store, and now it was time for him to make his grand entrance. And an entrance it was. The bell rang as Riley opened the door, and everyone turned to look. Tired. They all looked so very tired. Buffy was looking gaunt, and Giles troubled. And Xander... Xander had gone still when he saw him. And, tired as he looked, he still looked so good.
“Riley,” Buffy greeted tightly. “You're here. Why?”
“They, um,” Riley cleared his throat. “My CO asked me to come talk to you. About a demon.”
“Whyever would they do that?” Xander asked with a slight smile. “It's not like we would know anything about demons. Or magic,” he added, waving a hand at the store.
Riley grinned, and walked further into the store, to where Xander was standing, and shook his hand. He wanted more, but knew that was all he could get away with.
Xander, though, seemed to know better, because he pulled Riley into a quick hug. “So how was Belize?”
“Nasty,” Riley grimaced. “Got a few new scars. And it was a couple of dozen countries ago. We move around a bit,” he explained.
“That's great,” Buffy nodded stiffly. “So ask your question, and get out of here. You made your decision. You don't belong here any more.”
Xander frowned, and opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by Spike's smoky entrance. To everyone's utter amazement, the usual punk look was gone, replaced by something dating, Riley decided, back to the seventies. A brown suit, bow tie, and … fuzzy deer-hunter cap?
“You need to give me asylum,” Spike demanded.
“I'll say,” Xander murmured, transfixed.
Spike began to explain his situation, moving to sit on the counter, but Riley zoned out. He knew he probably shouldn't, but he wanted to bask in being so close to Xander, almost close enough to feel the other man's body heat. Riley was so close that Xander could easily rest his hand in the hollow of Riley's spine, and not have to stretch at all. It felt … good.
Riley was jerked back to the present by Buffy storming past, heading to the door. Willow caught up to her, begging her to listen, apologising, but he was obviously missing something, because he had no idea what the red-haired witch might have to apologise for. And Buffy was saying that it was too much, and she couldn't take it (take what?) any more, and she was crying, and Riley wondered if he should have stayed. If he should have just toughed it out for her sake, because something had to have gone seriously wrong since he left. Then Xander stepped that little bit closer, and did actually put his hand on Riley's back, and he turned to see Xander looking at Buffy with such pain in his eyes, with so much regret.
Then darkness claimed him.~~~~~
He woke to the feeling of a hard surface beneath him, and a dead weight above. He turned, to find a dark-haired man lying on the floor with him. He smiled, and reached out to touch the other man's cheek, and watched as dark eyes opened, and full lips smile at him.
“Hey,” he greeted, smiling.
“Hey,” the dark-haired man replied, before closing the distance between them, and kissing him gently.
Eyes fluttered closed, and the kiss deepened. He tangled his hand in the brunet's hair, enjoying the kiss, but started back to a shriek. Both men sat up, then, and looked around.
“Who are you people?” a girl asked, and he thinks she must be in her mid-teens. A small blonde crouched beside her, but she was too nervous, and backed away, even as the blonde tried to comfort her. Then came possibly the most important question. “Who are you?”
The blonde couldn't answer her. And, now that he thought about it, neither could he. His lover (Why did he think that? He couldn't even think of the man's name.) stood and glanced around, frowning, before holding out a hand to help him up. Smiling slightly, he accepted the help, but murmured, once he was standing, “I can get to my feet by myself, you know.”
The brunet looked at him curiously, then smiled and nodded. “I know. So, uh, who are you?”
He chewed on his lip briefly, which caught the other man's gaze, then shrugged. “I was kind of hoping you knew.”
The other man gave a tiny huff of laughter. “Don't even know my own name right at the moment.”
“It's not just you,” an older man (British, according to his accent) said from behind the store counter. “Does anyone remember anything?”
No one seemed to know who they were, which was oddly comforting, so the older man suggested a mass alcoholic blackout. He doubted it. He wasn't feeling drunk or hungover, and her certainly hoped the girl wasn't getting into anything like that at her age. The others agreed, and then the blonde moved on to calming everyone down. Then they began to take in their surroundings. He had to agree with the redhead: weird jars of weird stuff. They were in a magic shop. More important, though, was the man he was standing with.
“So,” he began quietly, gaining the dark-haired man's attention. “We kissed.”
The dark-haired man smiled at him. “Yeah. We did.” He reached up to stroke the side of his face. “I can't think of your name, let alone my own, but this feels right.”
He leaned into the caress. “Yeah. Think we're together?”
“The kiss certainly was promising,” the brunet agreed.
Whatever he was about to say next was cut off by a yelp from the redhead. “Carded! Drivers licences,” she explained, pulling out her purse.
He rolled his eyes. Why hadn't he thought of that? He checked his drivers licence, and noted it was from California. “Riley Finn,” he announced softly before looking over at the other man's licence. Also Californian, he saw.
“Alexander Harris,” the brunet smiled.
“Alex,” Riley murmured. “Suits you.”
“Why, thank you, Mr Finn,” Alex smirked.
“Riley,” he declared. “I think we should be on first name basis by now, don't you?”
“Oh, I don't know, Mr Finn,” Alex teased. “I think we have some more getting-to-know-you to do first.”
“You do, do you?” Riley returned, noting they were now so close there were almost kissing anyway. He was about to indulge in some of Alex's recommended getting-to-know-you activities when they were (again) interrupted by someone clearing their throat. What was with these people?
“As I was saying,” the blonde scowled. “We have no idea what's wrong with us. I think a hospital's our best bet.”
That actually made sense, Riley decided. Pity.
As they walked to the door, he noted that everyone seemed to have grouped off. The blonde seemed to be with the girl, the redhead was walking with the taller blonde, while the white-haired man seemed to be the son of the older man, who was somehow with the remaining woman? The age difference seemed extreme, but who was he to argue? He was all but grabbing and making off with (or making out with) Alex, so a May-December heterosexual relationship was no less acceptable than what he was thinking of.
The blonde, Joan, opened the door to reveal … monsters? Alex pushed him back and down (Okay, Riley decided, no need to wonder who's the top in this relationship) even as everyone else hit the ground, and Joan slammed the door shut.
“Did you guys see that?” Joan demanded.
“Vampires!” the younger Brit, Randy, declared.
“Maybe it's Halloween,” the other blonde, Tara, suggested.
The girl, Dawn, shook her head. “It doesn't feel like Halloween.”
Riley was about to offer that, since they were in a magic shop, they shouldn't be so hasty about that, when Alex shook his head. “Even if it is, those guys are definitely not kids, and those are definitely not costumes. Randy's right: Looks like we have vampires.”
Vampires. What the hell? And, suddenly, non-mainstream relationships were the least of their worries. Especially since said vampires were calling out for an eighties heavy metal band.
“They're definitely not knocking for candy,” Alex added.
Willow, the redhead, piped up. “Okay, doors. We need to check to see if there's other doors, a-and make sure they're locked, and put large objects in front of them.”
“Come on,” Alex said as he stood. Riley stood also, and followed him out the back. They locked the rear entrance, then checked the basement to find a trapdoor that seemed to lead to the sewers. They had just explained that when all hell broke lose as the vampires crashed through the windows and doors, anyway. There was a terrifying scuffle, where the vampires seemed to target Randy, demanding kittens for some obscure reason. Joan then proved the movies were right by plunging a wooden spike into a vampire, causing it to turn to dust. The remaining vampires retreated from the shop, and the humans regrouped, and made some plans.
Joan declared herself a superhero, and decided that, since Randy was the one they wanted, she and Randy would stay behind to cover the others' escape. Anya, however, refused to leave her shop, and Rupert, her partner, opted to stay with her, which left Riley and Alex to make their way with the remaining women through the sewers, hopefully, to the hospital.~~~~~
Unfortunately, they hadn't gone far when they found a vampire, and running suddenly seemed the order of the day. Tara managed to find them a hidey-hole, and they stayed there as long as they could, while Willow and Dawn quietly chatted. Riley smiled when he heard Willow mention that things seemed oddly familiar. When he thought about it, it really did seem, if not normal, then less strange than it had any right to be. When he heard her declare herself to be 'kind of gay', he looked over to Alex, and thought of telling her to join the club. But then they were running again.~~~~~
The damn vampire kept damn well finding them. No matter how many turns they took, there it was. And Alex was doing the big hero thing of distracting it from the girls, while Riley kept watch for any more, and occasionally getting a hit in when the vampire got a little too close to winning.
The Dawn found a piece of wood, and tossed it to Alex, who slammed it into the vampire it what almost looked like a conditioned reflex, and the vampire dissolved into dust, and floated to the ground. Alex turned back to Riley, grinned, and started walking towards him. Riley went to meet him, not sure if he should be angry that he endangered his life so readily, or just glad that it was over. Then suddenly Alex looked down at his feet, and wobbled.
Riley groaned, and put his hand to his head. What the hell had just happened? He looked at Xander, who was looking at Willow. Then he looked down at his feet again, and Riley looked to see a broken crystal. The sort you use for a spell. They all turned to Willow again, who looked shocked, and Tara, who was furious. Riley closed his eyes, and wondered what the fallout was going to be.~~~~~
Anya was moving out. Apparently she hadn't taken Xander's previous attempts to end the relationship to heart, but seeing him and Xander together while under the spell had been enough to convince her that she and Xander really weren't going anywhere.
Tara was moving out, too. Willow's memory spell had been the last straw, and Riley really couldn't blame her. That had to be a manipulation of the worst sort, let alone the fact that Tara had expressly forbidden the spell.
Buffy had been dead. They had dragged her out of Heaven, and now she wasn't coping. Oddly enough. And to top it off, she now knew that Riley wanted Xander, not her. Which had to be enough to make her second guess their entire relationship. And that was a pain he had never wanted to inflict on her. Too late.
Giles was leaving. For good, it seemed. He was determined, he said, for Buffy to learn to stand on her own two feet, but Riley couldn't see how abandoning her now was ever going to help. She was traumatised, for God's sake. She could barely put one foot in front of another, she had a sister to raise, and a supernatural Calling to fulfil. She needed more help, not less. Words were going to have to be had, but not just now.
Because Riley was leaving. Again. He couldn't stay. Literally. He had a job to return to, now that he had the information he had come for. But he would be back, and he was coming back for Xander. For all of them, but mostly for Xander. One thing he had made sure of when he had signed up again was the ability to leave the job on very short notice. He was going back with the information, and was going to finish this last mission, then he was returning to Sunnydale. To Xander.
He smiled. He would be coming home to Xander.