: Note: I hold no rights over any copyrighted material. All characters and creations belong to their original owners. The fandoms that I am using are: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Doctor Who.
Creative writing teachers always tell you to "show, not tell". But they never explain why. In truth, it's an effect, telling and not showing. And usually, when you tell, you mean the exact opposite of what you're saying.
If you're wondering where this fits in with the next story I'm going to post, the answer is that I have no idea. I wrote this story before I wrote the other one, and they don't mesh quite so well anymore. But I really like this story, so I'm posting it anyways. I'm pretty sure there's some overlap between this story and "Nothing", although I'm leaving it up to you readers to determine how much overlap there is, and when each of these events occurs in relation to the other story.
Oh, and in the spirit of this particular story, can I just say: I don't hate Riley Finn. I definitely, definitely, definitely don't hate Riley Finn. And I was certainly not shouting at that helicopter to "leave already, damn you!" during that episode where Riley left the show. Nope. Absolutely and completely not. Even remotely. Not at all.
Riley Finn didn't hate the Doctor. He definitely, definitely, definitely
didn't hate the Doctor.
Because the Doctor was a good guy and was helpful and liked saving the world — and the Doctor had saved Buffy's life a few times, which was good, and any really powerful good guy was definitely a plus in Riley's book. Yes, it was a plus. Absolutely and completely a good thing, having the Doctor around.
Hating the Doctor in spite of everything would be stupid; it would be petty and irrational and bordering on jealously insane. And it didn't matter if Buffy was obsessed with him or if Buffy would never fuss over Riley the way she did over the Doctor. It didn't matter that Buffy would never break into a government institution for Riley the way she did for the Doctor, or drop all her duties and run off to help him, the way she did for the Doctor. No. What mattered was one thing.
Riley really didn't
hate the Doctor.
"You don't have to go easy on me," Riley urged Buffy, while they were training on the gym mats where he lived. "I'm a tough guy."
Buffy gave him a reassuring smile, then ran at Riley, giving him three weak punches that were specifically designed to be easy to block. Riley blocked them all, then flipped her over onto her back on the mat. Which she just let him do.
"Wow, that came out of nowhere," she lied.
Riley reached a hand down to help her to her feet.
"I've seen you move faster than this trying to catch the bus," said Riley. "I'm not going to break if you give it your all."
Buffy pulled away. "Riley," she said, softly, "I'm the Slayer. If I don't hold back, I'll kill you."
"No, you won't," said Riley. "Trust me, you won't. I can take it. Just let me in. Give me everything you've got."
Riley could see the fear in Buffy's eyes, as she thought about the possibility.
"Please," he said.
"Ever heard the phrase, be careful what you wish for?" came a cheerful, English sounding voice from the other side of the room. "Because I'm fairly certain I've met the fellow who invented that phrase, and he wasn't. Careful, I mean. Worst toga-party ever."
And Riley knew who it was, even before he looked up. He looked. Sure enough. The familiar angular face, those green eyes, the floppy brown hair. Even the tweed jacket and bow tie was the same as always.
Without warning, Buffy flew at the Doctor.
It was like lightning — a sudden flash of Buffy and then she was somewhere else, in front of the Doctor, swinging punches and flying kicks. The Doctor dodged every blow expertly, carefully trying to maneuver the fight into a place where Buffy would be less able to attack. Buffy noticed, and swung him over her shoulder, onto the mat, where he rolled and sprung back to his feet.
"What was that about?" the Doctor demanded, indignantly.
"Just a demonstration," said Buffy, glancing over at Riley, pointedly, then back to the Doctor. "Now stop being all nice about it so I can do this properly."
And she dove at the Doctor again, their every move morphing into a waltz of strikes and blows and dodges and flips. They picked up swords and then proceeded to disarm one another, moving on to wooden poles and discarded books and pretty much anything else they could get their hands on. It was an exercise in quick thinking and quick action, neither one wanting to kill the other, but each clearly trying to outdo the other in terms of truly innovative technique.
The flash of metal, as Riley realized they'd both managed to get the swords back in their hands, and Buffy forced the Doctor into a corner of the room. With a cleverly timed fake-out, she tripped him over a well-placed backpack, so that he crashed to the ground. She held the sword-tip at his neck, and smiled.
"Possibly." The Doctor glanced over at the wall by Buffy's feet, revealing that the tip of his own sword was in a perfect position to be thrust into the outlet, connecting with Buffy's bare legs. He winked at Buffy.
"That's not fair," said Buffy, lowering her sword. "It'd fry you, too."
The Doctor got to his feet, and tapped the hilt of the sword. "Rubber," he said, a twinkle in his eyes.
Buffy rolled her eyes at him, a small grin on her face. Then she turned to Riley. "See?" she said. "That's me not holding back. That's what you're asking for." She walked up to him, a concerned look on her face. "I can't give you everything. I'm sorry. I have to hold back."
She couldn't give Riley
everything. She had to hold back with Riley
. Riley nodded. He flicked his eyes back over to the Doctor.
And reminded himself that he certainly didn't hate him.--000--
Riley was trying to impress Buffy, again. He had been trying to do this for some time, telling Buffy about all the different times he and the Initiative had managed to bag some really, really vicious monsters. Buffy was being her usual, supportive, good-for-you self, even though, from what Riley could gather, Buffy usually bagged more evil stuff than that on pretty much a nightly basis.
But this time, Riley thought he might have her beat.
"It looked like a mix between a bat, an elephant, and a walrus," said Riley. "Except with really big green eyes—"
"Oh, a Zoxishart Demon," said Buffy. "I know those." She stared at him, vaguely amused. "Don't tell me you actually expected to catch it alive?"
"I did catch it," said Riley.
Buffy's jaw dropped. "No!"
"Whole troop was completely cornered," Riley explained. "Guns didn't work. Electricity didn't work. Nothing we had with us would do a thing, and we were about to die. So I guess it was a good thing my training prepared me so well, because against all odds, I managed to take it down."
Buffy seemed genuinely impressed. In a way that Riley had never seen her look impressed with him before. "How?"
"Turns out, if you hit it in just the right way on the left side of its jaw, it'll go down like that," said Riley, snapping his fingers.
The impressed look slid off of Buffy's face, and melted into confusion. "Wait, what?"
"I just gave it a really good punch," said Riley. "And I mean a really good punch. Forrest said he could hear the ringing in his ears all the way back to the Initiative. But one punch, and the demon just hunched up and clutched its head, and it was docile as a kitten."
"Ringing," Buffy mused. "And then it fell to the ground and clutched its head…" Buffy put one hand up to her head, and felt… her right ear. Then, suddenly, for no apparent reason, she started laughing.
"What?" asked Riley.
"You were about to die just before that happened, right?" she asked. She laughed even harder. "Oh, that's so typical."
Riley frowned. He hadn't exactly expected that reaction.
"Sorry," said Buffy, trying to compose herself. "That's just really like him. You know, the whole saving your life and then leaving before you noticed he was doing it thing."
"The ringing," said Buffy. "It was sort of like a high-pitched buzzing noise, wasn't it? Kind of put your teeth on edge?"
Riley didn't say anything. Because he was afraid to admit that was exactly what it had been like.
"Trust the sonic screwdriver," said Buffy. She crossed her arms, and grinned at him. "Any more stories where you saved the day by throwing punches that rang with high pitched buzzing noises?"
Nope. Didn't hate the Doctor. Not at all.--000--
They were in bed together, Riley and Buffy. And they were just getting down to the good part, when the door flew open, and the lights switched on.
"Good thing I found you," said the Doctor, the green tip of his sonic screwdriver glowing against his hand. "Willow said you'd be here. Know the door was locked, but we haven't a moment to lose. There's an invasion force on its way and I've managed to…" He trailed off, as he noticed Riley and Buffy. "Ah. Yes. Right. Humans."
Buffy rolled off Riley, and wrapped the bed sheets around her. She glared at the Doctor. "Don't you ever knock?"
"We're busy," Riley told him. "Go away."
"Fine, then," said the Doctor. "Six billion lives at stake, and you're just going to stay here, doing… human things. Lovely to know your species has its priorities straight."
"Six billion?" asked Buffy. "You mean the whole world?"
"Just this one, at the moment," the Doctor said. "It will threaten another planet in about… seven minutes or so. Although, in about seven minutes, the human race will be tiny cinders of ash, so I suppose by then it will be a different six billion people." He analyzed the two of them, again, and then turned on his heel and headed out the door. "But, yes. Right. Carry on with whatever you two were up to. I've still got seven whole minutes to save the entire human race, without a Tardis or companion or coherent plan. I've had far narrower scrapes."
The door slammed shut behind him.
Riley reached out for Buffy, but Buffy wasn't there. She was already dressing, as fast as she could, so she could follow the Doctor.
"Buffy," Riley told her.
Buffy looked back at him, just before she darted out the door. "Sorry," she said. "I have to."
Yeah. Doctor was just fine. Definitely not anyone Riley had to hate.--000--
"You hate him, don't you?" Rory asked.
His eyes rested on the spot where Amy and the Doctor had just set out, intending to rescue Buffy from some evil demon creature that Riley had never heard of, and whose name he was pretty sure he couldn't pronounce.
"Of course not," said Riley, adjusting his guns.
Rory looked down at Riley's collection of firearms, and nodded.
"He ran off with Amy the night before our wedding," said Rory. "But she came back. In the end, she still chose me."
Riley knew that was supposed to be reassuring.
He almost never slept, the Doctor. But one time — just one time — Riley had seen him asleep. With Buffy. Not naked or anything — both fully clothed, both just… sleeping. But it was how they were sleeping that bothered Riley.
Buffy had her arms wrapped around the Doctor, hugging him close to her, as if she never wanted to let him go. Her head rested on his chest, just below his left heart, wispy blond hair spilling across his bow tie, and she had a contented grin on her face. As if sleeping that way had just made everything all wonderful, as if she hadn't a single care in the world. It was a relaxed, happy look that she never wore when she was around Riley. The Doctor shifted in his sleep, and Buffy pulled him back towards her, with those lovely, strong arms of hers.
It wasn't even remotely sexual. It was… deeper than that. Some powerful connection between them that Riley couldn't even fathom. Riley thought seeing that kind of connection was almost worse than if he'd actually caught them having sex.
The Doctor awakened. The first person he noticed was Riley.
He flicked his eyes down to Buffy. "Telepathic instinct," he whispered to Riley. "She can't help herself. If she were awake, it'd be you."
If Buffy were awake, she'd probably have told Riley not to hit the Doctor, either.
Too bad she was asleep.--000--
"Do you love him?" Riley asked Buffy, one day.
"Who?" asked Buffy. "Xander? No."
"Oz? Because after what he did to Willow, there's no way—"
Buffy frowned. "Oh, don't tell me you think I'm in love with Giles. Because he's… you know. Giles. And that would be gross."
Riley sighed, and crossed his arms.
Buffy seemed genuinely confused for a few seconds. Then it struck her. "Oh." Her eyes widened. "Oh."
"Do you love him?" Riley asked again.
Buffy gave a little laugh, as if she couldn't believe he was asking her that. She took his hand in hers. "Riley," she said, staring into his eyes, "I love you
And Riley couldn't help but notice that she hadn't said no.--000--
"Well, are you coming, or should I leave you to get eaten by the other evil one-eyed aliens?" Amy demanded.
Riley got to his feet, and tried to swallow his pride. But he was keenly aware that he'd just been rescued from certain death by a 21-year-old kiss-o-gram. Who wasn't even American.
"Where's the Doctor?" asked Riley, following Amy.
"He's supposed to be saving your girlfriend," said Amy. "But, knowing him, he's probably found the most evil thing in the universe by now, and has decided to defeat it, single-handedly, using a piece of string and three rubber bands. Which means that it's about time that I started rescuing him. All right?"
"You're saying that the Doctor volunteered to rescue Buffy?" Riley asked. He could just picture the Doctor sweeping Buffy up off her feet and running off with her.
"He volunteered to pull her out of a big tub of goo," said Amy. "That's not exactly candles and a romantic dinner."
"He couldn't have sent you to pull Buffy out of the goo, and defeated the evil one-eyed alien himself?" asked Riley.
Amy placed her hands on her hips, and swung around to glare at Riley. "All right, Mr. Jealous," she said. "Let's just pretend that that's what happened. The Doctor came in to save you, and sent me to save your girlfriend. You'd just keep complaining, wouldn't you? You'd say the Doctor wanted to one-up you, so he could prove to Buffy that he could do what you couldn't, right?"
"No," said Riley.
"Oh, grow up," said Amy. "I know you won't admit it to yourself, but it's completely obvious to everyone else."
"What is?" asked Riley.
Amy sighed. "You know what?" she asked. "Next time you two are in trouble, the Doctor and I will switch places, and you can see if it's any better."--000--
The next time, Amy saved Buffy, and the Doctor saved Riley. And Amy was right.
It wasn't any better.--000--
"He's not a god or anything," Willow told Riley, out of the blue one day.
Riley glanced back at Willow. "Huh?"
"The Doctor," said Willow. "He's not Good with a capital G or Bad with a capital B. I used to think that, too — like, he was just some super-entity out there, shining his favor on some and showing his wrath to others. But he isn't some uncaring all-powerful whatever detached from this reality. In the end, the Doctor's just a guy. An alien guy, but still, just a guy."
"I know," said Riley.
"And he's not evil, either," Willow said. "He just likes to blame himself for pretty much everything evil that's ever happened, because he's got massive guilt issues and needs a really good psychiatrist. But he's not evil himself, and he's definitely not going to hurt Buffy."
"I never said he was evil," said Riley. "And I know he won't harm Buffy."
Willow frowned. "Then why do you hate him?" she asked. "You're not… wait, you're not secretly trying to end the world or anything, right?"
"No," said Riley.
"Good," said Willow. "Because I probably wouldn't like you very much, either, if that was the case."
"Willow," said Riley, "I don't hate the Doctor."
"You don't?" asked Willow.
Willow studied Riley carefully. "Okay," she said. "But if it turns out you're secretly a Dalek or something, you're in big trouble, Mister."--000--
Riley kept waiting for the moment when Buffy would do something obvious. Like shout out the wrong name in bed, or feel for another heartbeat when they were cuddling afterwards. But she never did.
She never said she was in love with the Doctor. She never acted like she was in love with him when he was around. But when she was with Riley, Buffy just kept… holding back. Not giving Riley her all. Even when they slept together, it felt as if… there was something else on her mind. Something always on her mind. Like she had some great duty to something larger than herself, constantly taking her away from Riley.
Something… or someone
But that wasn't any reason to hate the Doctor, Riley knew. After all, the Doctor was good. The Doctor was an ally. A very powerful ally in a never-ending war against the forces of darkness. He was selfless, brave, heroic, supernatural (and he made Buffy's head feel "warm and fuzzy"). No, stop thinking like that. The Doctor saved Buffy's life. He saved Riley's life. He'd saved Riley's team a few times, even though he disapproved of the Initiative. He saved the entire human race on a regular basis, even though he wasn't human himself. It would be completely stupid to hate the Doctor, when the Doctor could so easily thwart enemies that Riley and the Initiative couldn't even touch.
And then, one night, Riley had gone up against a vampire. A vampire that wore a bow tie. Riley had knocked it out with a burst of electricity from his gun, watched it fall to the ground. Defenseless. Then Riley had kicked it. And punched it. And punched it again. And didn't stop. Blow after blow, Riley kept striking out, trying to beat this superhuman freak of nature into the ground where he belonged, trying to just get this non-human thing
out of his life and out of Buffy's life. Riley's knuckles struck cool skin, over and over again, and if he concentrated, he could almost imagine there was a double pulse — one which might fade away, fainter and fainter with every pound of fist on flesh — could almost imagine that mischievous twinkle about the eyes — those always thinking, intelligent green eyes — which might die out, as the eyes glossed over into death.
Forrest pulled Riley away.
And that was when Riley knew the truth. The one he'd been denying to himself all this time. The one he kept fighting against, even though everyone else could see it, everyone else kept trying to point it out to him. The one thing he had to come to terms with.
Buffy was in love with the Doctor.
(But Riley still definitely — definitely — definitely
didn't hate him.)