Authors: Kassie and Lar

Rating: NC-17 overall

Pair: Xander/Riley

Summary: You have to work at friendship, sometimes harder than you know.

Spoilers: Specific S5 Riley arc spoilers.

Disclaimer: Much as I'd like to take them home and let them teach me about football, they aren't mine.

Improv #5: sepia, wish, memory, revenge

Author's notes: I don't know what it is about these two. I'm obsessed with them lately.


1: Filler

by Lar

Company is strangely easy to get addicted to.

So when Anya starts working more hours, and Buffy gets all wigged about Riley patrolling with her, the two guys just sort of fall into the habit of hanging out. Most nights Riley shows up, pizza in one hand, beer in the other, and they watch bad TV together.

The comfort level is way up there for Xander. He hasn't had a guy-friend to bond with since... since Jesse, and that memory hurts so he tucks it away until later. Right now he can concentrate on the long lost patter of man-speak while Riley asks if he's ready for another brew and then tosses it to him without waiting for an answer and segues right into the score of the game last night.

It's like discovering this big hole inside of you that you didn't know you needed to fill until the filling showed up and jumped right in. In this case, the filling was six feet and then some of corn fed Iowa Boy. Who knew he would fit into that Jesse-sized place in Xander's needful zone?

Little by little, one six pack and pepperoni double cheese at a time, Riley becomes a fixture. It's... nice. Normal. It's the one normal thing in the entire weird reality that Xander deals with every day, so he gets very attached to it. It lessens his panicky outlook on where he might be going in life, or more to the point, where he might not be going. How bad can life be when he has a job, a girlfriend, an apartment, and a buddy to drink beer and watch the game with?

Like anything Xander has ever felt comfortable with, it all goes to hell.

The first time Riley doesn't show, Xander's actually pretty cool about it. He takes the extra time and fills it up with domestic shit that he was avoiding. He cleans most of the weird things he can no longer reasonably identify out of the fridge, and sorts his laundry into 'wearable' and 'beg mom to wash' piles. He waits for Anya to come over and then forgets all about Riley for a while, as he sinks into an entirely different level of comfort.

He doesn't even mention it when Riley comes back the next night, and the next, and then Xander's happily back in the routine. So when Riley skips two nights in a row, Xander feels well within his rights to give him a call. See what's up. Make sure he's OK. Leaves a jokingly casual message on the answering machine and tries not to feel abandoned. Succeeds marginally well, but not well enough to get it past Anya.

She asks him right away if he and Riley have broken up, and he goes through the whole process of explaining how they don't have that kind of relationship. How friends don't 'break up.' And he realizes he's actually telling it to himself as much as he's telling it to her. So he distracts her with enthusiastic kissing that leads to enthusiasms of another kind, and the night melts away.

Two weeks later, Riley is MIA more often than not, and Xander gets the weirdest vibes from him when he does show. He's so tense, like he's been mainlining caffeine, his jaw is clenched whenever he isn't talking. Xander finds himself opening his mouth about a hundred times to say something, to ask what's been going on or what's happened to him lately. He stops himself every time because he can't make it come out in a way that doesn't remind him of Anya's 'break up' comment. That's a bridge he didn't want to even look at on a map, let alone cross. It fucks up the whole normal guy thing.

Xander so wants it to just be the normal guy thing; it's refusing to cooperate. He realizes this with complete clarity when his hand bumps Riley's during a beer exchange, and the touch causes them both to jump. When he glances up, Riley's eyes are sort of dazed and he looks like he got one more punch than he was able to take.

"OK, I don't care if I sound like a girl, I have to ask you. Riley, are we breaking up?" He's only half joking so he compensates with a big ol' patented Xander-doofus-grin. Completely ignores the way his heart rate is galloping along.

"I know we've been drinking a while tonight, but did I miss a crucial part of the evening?" The dazed look is still there but a little more of the old Riley comes back to Xander's immense relief. This is the guy he can talk to.

"Sorry, too much time with Anya. What I mean is, is everything OK?" Pause. Sip of beer for courage. "Is there anything you want to talk about? You know, man to man, guy to guy?"

"I'm fine, really. Just, you know, still compensating for the whole Government issue drug addiction thing, I guess." Riley won't meet his eyes, though, and he sits down on the couch so the TV is right in his line of sight.

That's kind of the final straw, Xander thinks, and he sets the beer down with a thud on the table. He turns halfway on the couch and leans forward, eyebrows scrunched together in concentration and more than a little irritation. "Look, Riley, I think we're past the point of being formal with each other. I know you only come over here because the rest of your reindeer won't let you play their games anymore. But I think we get along really well, and it's great to be able to watch a game and not have to explain why the man with the whistle keeps stopping everything."

Riley's half turned himself now, and he's looking at Xander warily out of the corner oh his eyes. He doesn't say anything, but his jaw is clenched again, and the muscle there is twitching from the pressure.

"So," Xander continues, "I really think it's kind of my job to tell you that you're full of shit." Wonders idly if it's possible to break a molar from gritting your teeth that hard.

That gets Riley's full attention; he's looking right at Xander now and for a minute there's something scary in the air, something black and angry and completely un-Riley. Then it's gone with an almost audible snap when he stands.

"I don't need this from you," he says, fists tight at his sides as he stomps past Xander's legs on his way to the door. He moves fast for such a big guy, so even though Xander is right up after him, he misses his shoulder when he makes a grab for it. Gets a handful of sweater instead, and the words 'Riley, I'm sorry' dry up to dust in his mouth.

Because he sees the marks. There's far too many of them on his neck and shoulder; raw, angry, red bites on top of faded sepia bruises. Xander stands there, fistful of shirt in his suddenly sweaty hand until Riley jerks his arm once hard and pulls away. He fixes Xander with a look that screams out confusion and pain in equal measure, and then slams out the door.

Xander waits just a few minutes too long, wondering when Riley got attacked, and why no one had said anything about it. He hesitates there another minute, letting the image of the marks...all of them...burn into his brain in technicolor. More than one mark. More than one bite. Not all of them in the same condition. And Xander really doesn't like where this path is leading, because it's too familiar in all kinds of ways. And it's very very not of the good.

Then he's out the door, no idea where he's headed, just knowing he's going to get some answers and make sure that there's no Riley sized hole inside of him in the near future.


Willie's bar is the last place a nice clean cut all American guy like Riley Finn would go. It's the first place Xander tries. The place is pretty empty, and it's dishearteningly easy to tell he's not there. Without Buffy there to provide the muscle, Willie himself is all kinds of discreet. Until Xander lets his wallet do the convincing for him.

"Yeah, yeah, Commando boy's been in here a few times. He has a drink or two, he don't make no trouble, so I don't ask no questions. I'm not looking to mess with any of the Slayer's people, OK? Just...go sit in the corner. Maybe he'll come in if he doesn't see you lurking right here at the front door." Amazing how helpful Willie can be when he's been introduced to a few dead presidents.

Xander takes a chair at the end of the bar in the shadows, halfway behind the shelving. Willie makes him buy a beer; Xander regards it with great disgust, allows it to grow warm and flat while he waits. He feels completely incompetent just sitting here, but there's no place else to go, at least there's a chance he'll show.

The door slams open with a bang that most of the patrons ignore. Xander's eyes widen when he sees Buffy, and he presses himself back against the wall. There's not a chance in hell he's going to tell her what he's doing here.

How's that little scenario gonna go: "Hey Buffster, I been hanging out with your boyfriend, Captain America. Did you know he's been the All You Can Suck Buffet for some big bad nasties lately"?

OK, that decides it. As he keeps one eye on Buffy - who's deeply involved in terrorizing Willie at the moment - he slips off the stool, and slides down the hallway towards the back room.

The door is unlocked and Xander slips inside, closing it silently behind him. It's dark in there, there's looming shapes that are probably boxes of liquor. But just in case, he takes out the stake that always sits in his back pocket, and holds it loosely in his right hand. He doesn't move, lets his eyes adjust to the gloom, and the blindness makes his hearing sharper. There's someone - or some thing - in here with him. He's suddenly desperately in love with his stake.

He can hear the whispery little sounds better now, and his eyes are getting used to the darkness. Back in the far corner is a big shape, huddled against the wall, moving a little, and Xander knows it's Riley even before he gets close enough to be sure. There's a vampire with him, a female, and she's got her face buried in his neck. Riley's eyes are closed, lost in the pain or the pleasure; Xander can't quite judge the expression on his face.

With a tiny noise of anger, Xander steps forward and thrusts the stake into the vamp, leaning hard into the blow so that it pierces cleanly. Riley's eyes flutter open, and he blinks owlishly at Xander, face devoid of emotion.

"What the hell are you doing?" Riley asks, his voice weak and breathless.

"No, see that's my line," Xander snaps back, running a hand through his dusty hair so that he doesn't clench it into a fist and smash Riley right in his face, which is what he wants to do so badly that it makes him shake.

"I've got it all under control." Riley waves a stake at him, and then adjusts his sweater, trying to cover the new marks. "I didn't need your help."

"Right. You were going to let her drink until she exploded, I guess. Oh, or maybe you were going to let her drain you, and then hope the weight of your dead body crushes her when it falls on her? Oh wait, I know. You're going to let her turn you and have your revenge by making her deal with your stupid ass for all eternity." Big breath now, swallowing down some of the fear and anger.

Riley's got his head down, hands on his knees, and Xander knows he's dizzy from the beer and the blood loss, but he's got no sympathy left right now. He reaches out and grabs his arm and hauls him up. Gets right in his pale face and really looks at him, looks into blue eyes that are hollow and shadowed and familiar somehow. Riley's as different from Jesse as a guy can get, but that fucking empty look in his eyes is the same one Jesse had right before he dusted, one he wishes and prays never to see again in anyone he knows or cares for.

That's all it takes, Xander pushes hard, slams Riley into the wall, enjoys the grunt of pain he gets in response. "What's so wrong in your life that you need to do this, huh?" He's yelling now, but he doesn't really care. "What is so fucked up that you're going around committing suicide a pint at a time?"

"You wouldn't understand." He's not even resisting, he's just letting Xander push him around. He's like a big overgrown rag doll now, and if his knees give out, they're both going to go down because Xander is right on top of him.

"I wouldn't understand? What wouldn't I understand? Tell me, Riley. Tell me what it's like to have no job. Tell me what it's like to love someone who doesn't return your feelings. Tell me what it's like to feel like you're worthless." Xander laughs now, low and harsh. "Yeah, you tell me all about it, because how would I ever know about any of that?"

He lets go then, steps back. "Do you think she'll love you more when you're dead?"

And that's just perfect, because now Riley starts to cry. Not big gulping embarrassing crying, like Willow when she's upset. This is the scary silent kind, the kind that says there's not even enough left inside for the hysterics.

Xander puts a tentative hand out, touches Riley's shoulder, feels the way the other man is shaking. "Riley..." His voice falters, and then he just grabs a hold and pulls Riley in, holds him with warmth, and friendship. Lets him rest the weight of his body and his loneliness on Xander's shoulders for a change. Wonders how long its been since Riley had anyone touch him with anything like real affection. Imagines it's been a long time since he was with Buffy, judging by the marks on his neck.

"You're not alone," Xander tells him quietly. "I might not be able to do that whole hand signal stealth guy patrol thing, but I'm pretty damn good at other stuff."

There's a small intake of breath at that, and some of the shaking in Riley's body begins to quiet. "I hate to break this to you, but the ability to eat three slices of pizza at one time isn't really considered a talent," he says, sounding almost normal, if a bit congested.

"Neither is that hand thing, but I was gonna let you slide."

They're still standing there, leaning on one another, and Xander thinks it should start to feel awkward. But it doesn't. It feels comfortable - no, comforting. It feels safe. He remembers the jolt he'd gotten earlier from the brush of their hands back in his apartment, and it's like some historic event from a hundred years ago. Something important to be marked and remembered.

Somewhere in the middle of the bonding process that Xander had been so sure was going to be a regular guy thing, it's become something else without either of them realizing how much they needed it. Xander thinks that maybe he's not the only one with person sized gaps in their life, and maybe Riley's just finding out he has one that Xander fills like it was custom made for him. When Riley draws back and looks at him, his face is so different from what Xander's gotten used to seeing lately that he almost doesn't realize what's caused the change. It's the clenched jaw that's missing, though, and the cast away eyes.

In an oddly intimate gesture, Xander reaches up and brushes his thumb across Riley's cheek, smearing the tracks of dried tears. Riley looks startled and then relieved. Drops his head down slowly to rest his forehead on Xander's.

"Let's go, soldier boy," Xander says. "Time to get out of here. I think you need to get some rest."

Xander steps away, checking to be sure Riley's not going to collapse as soon as he lets go, and then checks out the door. There's no sign of Buffy other than the big honkin' bruise on Willie's cheek, and that's about the first thing that's gone completely right tonight.

The two of them hustle out of there, and Xander helps Riley back to his own apartment. Gets out the first aid kit and cleans up the wound, resolutely ignores the other scars he sees on Riley's arms at the bend of his elbow. Finds him some juice and makes him drink it, even though Riley swears he's fine now.

The scars Riley bears are just the outside wounds. The fact that his fridge is stocked with enough orange juice to support the state of Florida's crop growers for about a year just tells Xander that he hasn't stumbled onto something that was done on the spur of the moment. Ever the boy scout, Riley is well prepared for what he's been doing, in an odd, freaky way that Xander finds kind of funny and more than a little familiar.

Xander's not innocent enough to believe that tonight has fixed everything. But he likes to think that it's a good start.



2: Fulfilment

by Kassie

Xander is a godsend. When I think things like that now, I have to stop and wonder if I mean that literally. Did god really send Xander to me as consolation for everything else that has gone wrong? If not God with a capitol then maybe my god with a little g. The one who is assigned to watch over my sorry ass. That god, who pulled the Sunnydale reject duty, stuck Xander and I together because he's lazy and that solved two problems. Xander has no male friends who aren't twice his age or somehow not human, and I have no one who I can claim as my own friend and not just one of Buffy's friends who tolerate me.

It started that way with Xander too. He was just trying to be "nice". Invite me over, hang out, order pizza, drink some beers. Talk about anything that would pass for normal and not involve demons or killing.

Sure, he felt sorry for me, but I knew it, so that takes some of the edge off the sympathy. I felt sorry for him in my own way too. He rarely gets credit for being a man. I didn't know the person who fell in love with a Praying Mantis or almost got turned into a fish, so we are more or less on equal footing. Man to man.

Along the way the beer drinking and sports viewing became steady, and I was looking forward to it at the end of so many days where Buffy didn't have time for me, or Dawn gave me "out of the mouths of babes" insights into my own love life.

Xander had become my friend, not Buffy's friend who I knew and tolerated my presence.

So, I confessed that she didn't love me.

So, I wanted to tell him my secret as soon as it became one.

But, sometimes it was too much, and I was too tired from the blood loss and the self-recriminations to see him. To have to face his pure pleasure at seeing me. Having people care for you is a burden. And even thinking that when I spent so much time begging my little g god for someone to give two shits makes me that much more of a worthless person.

But, then he called, and I realised maybe my new hobby was getting away from me, and I needed to try to be, well, there for Xander and let him be there for me if he wanted.

At Xander's, in my personal zone on his couch. ESPN and Bud-light, and the badness that I touch most nights is somewhere that isn't here.

"OK, I don't care if I sound like a girl, I have to ask you. Riley, are we breaking up?" His look is a little too earnest to be kidding, so, oh fuck. This is about not calling, not coming by, and I get the breaking up thing, but it's too much to deal with when we are supposed to be just hanging out and letting the serious things sort themselves out.

"I know we've been drinking a while tonight, but did I miss a crucial part of the evening?" Play it off with a joke, and Xander will let it slide back to down time.

"Sorry, too much time with Anya. What I mean is, is everything OK?" Pause. Sip of beer for courage. "Is there anything you want to talk about? You know, man to man, guy to guy?" Genuine desire to help me. And, really, isn't that what I want, for him to send down the rope and pull me up, or at the very least to fall down this hole with me and keep me company as I slowly die? Can't do it to him, though. If I hadn't found out about the friend he had to slay, maybe, but not after that.

"I'm fine, really. Just, you know, still compensating for the whole Government issue drug addiction thing, I guess." Don't meet his eyes, and look interested in the television, and he won't press it. Slamming his beer down, and this is not going to just go away.

"Look, Riley, I think we're past the point of being formal with each other. I know you only come over here because the rest of your reindeer won't let you play their games anymore. But I think we get along really well, and it's great to be able to watch a game and not have to explain why the man with the whistle keeps stopping everything."

My jaw is starting to ache from the stress of the situation, and I can see him out of the corner of my eye working himself into a state over what he must see as his intervention.

"So," Xander continues, "I really think it's kind of my job to tell you that you're full of shit."

And boom, I feel the anger hit me straight in the chest. The anger at the situation I have brought myself to honed finely into a need to exact revenge on Xander in lieu of myself. Let him stand in for me, and take all the pain and outrage out on a body that I can see from scalp to toes.

As soon as it gets a hold of me, I let it go. Not what I want, to piss him off more.

"I don't need this from you!" Make a break for the door, almost trip over his huge feet stuck out in front of me. Feels like my bladder is going to explode from the stress when I realise he has a hold of my sweater, and the look on his face is directly tied to the place where my skin is exposed to his eyes.


All the easy to reach psychoanalytic explanations for my behaviour are dead wrong -- spending so much time with Xander has developed my pun-sense.

Buffy never loved me. She has no time for me now that her mom is sick. I'm lashing out by hurting myself in retaliation. That might have fit when I was in tenth grade, and maybe even shades of it are still true, but not the whole thing.

I want to show her I'm more than just an overeducated farm boy down on his luck. Another miss, since I'm not secretly hoping for a confrontation with her.

Lives, even mine, are way more textured than that. Do we always know why we do something at the time it happens? Maybe the spiritually advanced can claim that knowledge with every decision, but the Dahli Lama or Giles I am not.

I'm still down here on the average mortal plane, moving by instinct and half-glimpsed desires. And the whys of motivation are just as complex as the whys of purpose. Why did I ever leave a bar with a vampire? Why did my life totally collapse in on itself all at once?

The first time, with the vamp-babe in Willie's, I chose to go with her the exact second the agreement left my lips. Spur of the moment stupidity, that's all it was. I intended to relieve my tension with her in a way that didn't pan out. The situation took on a different perspective when we got alone, and I rolled with it.

Bitter sting, unmistakably of teeth digging into my flesh, the pull of blood through the wounds that caused my entire body to burn with liquid fire to escape. But just the right level of alcohol had been consumed that night that I waited the two ticks it took to gather my body into one collective whole, and in that time, the next part began. The closing of the connection.

The flow doesn't just go one way. The vamps flow back into me. Their thoughts flow into me. I guess not just me, into the people they feed off, but I haven't asked around about it. Not something I could canvass about, even though I assume there is a large survey pool here in Sunnydale.

The pain fades and their lives start to parade through my mind, into my body. Pictures and sensory recall. Like a personal slide show with textile accompaniment. The images, smells, sounds, are different each time. And that's what I go back for, the stolen memories. They leave a little bit of themselves with me when they fall to dust. A little bit of them living on in me.

Once I knew, I couldn't shake it off. I tried my damnedest, and my liver could tell you the tale. Or Xander could tell you, because I would show up on his doorstep night after night to try to touch that thing I was building between us before this all started. The two scenarios warring in my mind as I sat on his couch and watched football, basket ball, whatever was on: why couldn't I just turn time back or why couldn't Xander just read my goddamn mind?

They have memories, feelings, desires, dreams, hopes, wishes. Everything the same as me. As Xander, Buffy, Willow, Giles, Tara.

And every night we kill them. They would kill me if I were one. Buffy told me Xander killed his best friend when he became one.

It's all a lie.

And I have to tell him, because what we have between us is more than a few laughs and a beer. It's real and it's warm, and it's almost all I have now besides the knowledge I never wanted.

These reflections are cut off immediately when the victim I choose for the night finds a clean spot on my neck and starts the movie of her life. Blue skies and sun burns. Gold, sepia, rust colored leaves glowing on an autumn afternoon. They always think about the sun when they drink.

Suddenly covered in dust, head spinning and thoughts are coming from some place too far for clarity. Xander is here. And talking. Talk back, or I don't, can't focus beyond Xander being there, screaming his lungs out and then hugging me. Might have gone a tad too long with that last chick.

Come back fully to myself sitting on the toilette seat of my bathroom, Xander making some joke about orange juice.

My secret isn't so much a secret anymore, but it's just Xander, and I wanted him to know anyway.

The question is, can I tell him the rest, or can I ask him to spend the night here with me so I don't have to be alone with myself?




By Kassie and Lar

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: X/R

Spoilers: S5 Riley arc

Disclaimer: Not ours, even if they have taken up residence in our heads.

Summary: Xander attempts an intervention. Of sorts.

Author's notes #1: Follows "Filler" by Lar and "Fulfillment" by Kassie

Author's notes #2: palimpsest - the writing left over under other writing. Like when you erase something with pencil and there is still the indentations on the paper from the old writing under the new writing.

Dedication: To Donna, who felt left out. Much love, sugar. Also to anyone who has always loved Riley, unlike us who found him much too late. (And Kassie still doesn't, just for the record.)


Riley asks me to stay that night, and you haven't lived until you've tried to explain something to Anya over the phone. Not if it's something that involves interruption of her orgasms anyway. It takes a lot of promises that I just don't even want to think about fulfilling to get her to calm down. I'm going have to start taking vitamins.

I sit in the world's ugliest recliner and doze off and on while Riley sleeps in the bed. It's a weird point of view; was this how Spike saw me all those nights he was tied up and forced to watch Xandervision as his only entertainment? If I yelled out in my sleep half as much as Riley did, it's no wonder Spike wanted to kill me. Well, aside from the whole killing-as-an-unlife-choice thing.

In the morning, we act like nothing weird and life altering happened. Until I'm leaving for work, wearing my jeans from last night and one of Riley's clean T-shirts. He stops me at the door and looks so fucking intense when he says thanks that I'm tempted to call out of work. Just say the hell with it, and sit around talking Riley's ear off all day. Swap loser stories, make him feel like he's not the only one who's ever had his life run over by a Mack truck.

But I don't do it. I shake his hand and say, "No problem, man. See you tonight." Statement, not question. His answer is a half smile, ghost of the regular grin. Not what I want but beggars can't be choosers and all that shit.

When I'm halfway to the street, he yells out to me.

"Hey, you want some juice?" I hear the old Riley in that smart ass remark. It's a good start to the day.


Sleep comes in as many variations as clouds, some so white they almost hurt your eyes to look, others too dark to tell one apart from another.

The sleep that takes me the first night someone other than myself or Buffy sleeps in my apartment is rough, brutal and claiming. Dreams hold me down, and I wake up just as tired as I was when I laid down. Wake up surprised, too. Surprised to see Xander flopped over in my recliner, limbs loose and rubbery, drooling steadily onto his shirt.

I knew I asked him to stay, but the conversation won't come when I try to call it up. He ambles around my apartment calm and ensconced like he's used to waking up there or other places not his own.

He comes out of my bathroom showered and smelling like the bergamot bathwash my mother gave me at Christmas last year ("Well, it seemed more manly than lavender, sweetie.").

Walk him to the door as reality starts to tug me back from the cotton-balled stasis I hung in since waking. He turns to leave, and I have to flesh out the hollow, acknowledge the kindness he showed me for no reason I can piece together aside from him being used to dealing with half-crazed, self-destructive people.

"Thanks." He leans his body into my space just enough for me to know he expects more. Wants me to start to fill in the gaps and the whys, but really, all I want is to go back to bed. Find that sleep that tosses you back to the world ready for the day instead of regretting another one.

Resignation plastered over with a lopsided grin, the face I've seen him flash over and over at his friend-pack, and I want to make that end, not be someone else who makes that face happen, but it's already there.

"No problem, man. See you tonight." Shakes my hand like a real-life grown up and tells me with the set of his eyes that it's a command performance.

Watch him turn and amble half to his car, and I just have to get in a crack while he's treating me like an invalid: "Hey, you want some juice?" Can't see it, but I know he laughs.

Back to bed again, and waking brings the world closer to focus if not fully. Know it's getting dark. Maybe a touch of the vamp in me. Well, not likely, but we all have our little otherworldly fantasies, especially the people I know now. I wonder what Xander's are. I would lay odds on them having to do with rubber suits and people being enthralled by him instead of the other way around.

About the time I step out of my hour-long shower, the phone starts ringing. I let it go 10 rings. It stops for thirty seconds and picks right back up.



"Yeah, Xander, is this a check up call? I'm not currently being fed off."

"Um, joking of this kind not yet amusing. Give it a year, or fifteen."

"Right. So, would joking about that shirt you had on yesterday be in the clear?"

"And here I was about to ask you if you wanted to choose the pizza toppings tonight. You can just forget it now, bub."

"I'll be there in thirty minutes, Xander, don't call out the Calvary."

"Check, men on horseback not necessary at this juncture."

"See you in a few."

"Over and out."


I wonder if this is going to continue until I move into the apartment next to his so he can put a glass up to the wall to make sure I'm not up to something new like milking cobras.


I'm gonna go on record right now and say that I'm not really ever going to nail down that whole suave routine. As soon as it gets dark and Riley isn't here, I panic. Call him and let it ring like 20 times. Hang up and call right back, not expecting an answer and wondering if I'll be lucky enough for him to go right back to Willie's so I can really hit him in the face when I catch him this time.

He sounds pissed when he answers, too. He's all 'yeah' at me instead of 'hello.' I turn on the patented Harris charm and in a minute he's abusing my wardrobe and promising to be here in half an hour. I resist the urge to make him actually say the words 'I promise.' Hang up and order the pizza. Get a beer out of the fridge and start early.

I don't want to be his baby sitter. I want him to come hang out because we're buds. I don't want him to come over just so that I won't sic Buffy on him. Not that I will. Not that I ever thought of that.

Of course he fucked that all up by letting me in on his little secrets. Now we're bonded by more than b-ball and brewskis. We're locked into this thing by blood, his blood, and that's more responsibility than I ever thought I'd take on with Riley Finn. The worst I ever thought was someday he'd try and recruit me. Or if he was having a really bad day, turn me over to his commando comrades and let them play target practice with me.

I never expected to be saving his ass. Literally and figuratively. This calls for another beer. I will not check my watch either. It hasn't been half an hour; I know this because I never took that long to drink a beer in my life, not even the first time when I thought it tasted like fizzy piss.

Hey, if I keep this up, I can be buzzed before he gets here. That'll make the whole interrogation process so much more fun for everyone, what with me asking things and then forgetting what I asked. How do you make a soldier give up information? Don't they get special training to learn how to avoid that whole 'we have ways of making you talk' thing? What the hell am I gonna do to get it out of him?

OK, checking my watch now, screw the thing I said earlier. It's been 20 minutes. He has ten more minutes before I... do something. Something besides stand here and drink another beer and be pathetic.

It just occurred to me that Riley can never have sex with Buffy again without remaining fully clothed from the waist up. Hey, there's a picture. Riley in his black ribbed turtleneck, telling Buffy it's some new sex jones he picked up. Either that or he's gonna have to be real convincing when it comes to getting blowjobs all the time. Buffy and blowjobs. Riley and blowjobs.

Have another beer, Xander.

Oh thank God, there's the door. I'm so scarily relieved to see him that I know my grin ranks up there as the most hideous facial expression ever. I give him major points that he only flinches a little bit when he sees me doing my Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' impression.

Why did he have to be wearing the black turtleneck?


I thought about making a break to Willie's on the way over, or maybe taking a long-cut through Greenlawn cemetery. But somehow I figured that might lead me to being bound with duct tape to Xander's couch and having to listen to him trying to explain the situation to Anya. Not that I'd imagine she would be surprised at the truth. I'm sure she's seen something like it before, which is why I keep my contact with her and Tara to a minimum. They both strike me as people who clue into fucked up things way too fast.

I'm sure tonight will be a full on third degree leading to the dissolving of my relationship with Xander. I want to tell him every sordid detail, bring him in on the entire hell trip I've been on. The thing about that is my need to shelter the people that I care about overrides most other desires I have. And there is a tingle to the toes, because I hadn't thought of Xander before as someone I would go out of my way to protect. Sure, I'd take a few body-shots for him, or go hand to hand with a demon in his place, but that's what I do.

How much of the truth I can give him without exposing the 'vamps have feelings' tidbit is hard for me to piece together. Fear makes you lose sight of the horizon sometimes, and I can see it starting to fade. If he bolts on me, and I'm stuck again with just myself and my shitty new lifestyle, how long will it be before I don't dust the latest vamp-babe? Might not be so many sunrises from tonight. How many people know when they've eaten their last sundae or felt their last sunburn?

He opens the door with an expression on his face pretty fucking close to "complete psychotic break". I know I can't be more than five minutes late. He's eyeing my outfit like I'm wearing my underwear on the outside of my clothes.

"Uh, Xand, you gonna let me in?" He drops his hand from the doorframe and the smile kicks down a notch.

"Oops, sorry about that. This insane moment brought to you by the non-medicated Xander Harris." He used to be on medication?

"Ooooookaaaaaay." Follow him to the couch and entrench myself for the duration. Pizza, beer, football and talk-lite. That's the agenda.

I can see the cogs clicking around in his head, but he keeps his questions to himself for now. Maybe he hopes if he doesn't press me, he'll get the unabridged version.

"So, you like the Steelers to win tonight?" And maybe this will be not so rough, because Xander has had some trauma of his own, and he knows you need to let the wounds heal over a little before you start picking at them. Pop open what will not be my last beer of the night.

He has a way about him that sets people at ease. I would say sets me at ease, but I know it's not just me. I've seen him with the girls, how no matter what kind of situation has arisen, be it of the Hellmouth variety or just "girl problems," he always has a joke or a back pat to doll out. It should've been him in my freshman psych class instead of Buffy and Willow. It might be his calling. Alexander Harris. Ph.D. Humanity Optional, Emotional Distress not.

But, I suppose no one will ever know, since he seems pretty mucked down with his paycheck to paycheck life-style, and I haven't heard of any scholarships for Slayer-sidekicks. Maybe I will stop by the finical aid office on Monday, see what I can dredge up.

I see five beers brings out the melancholy tones of everyone's life now, and not just my own. Looks like it's smoothed Xan out a bit too, he's slouched back against the cushions mumbling every once in a while about shitty calls and cheerleaders' "scandalous" outfits. He might be slightly crocked, or just spending too much time around Giles.


So far my brilliant plan of getting drunk off my ass seems to be working amazingly well. Soldier boy just strolls in, hands me two more six packs like they were his excuse for being late, and plops on the sofa. I almost shut the door in the delivery guy's face when he arrives right behind Riley, give him a five dollar tip because I'm all wigged out and not paying attention until he already has it in his hand.

All my worrying about what to do when Riley gets here seems to fall away. There's important stuff to be handled, like who's going to get up for the beer once we're both settled into the couch with the pizza between us, and who gets to eat all the extra cheese that's left in between the slices when we're done. It turns out to be Riley for both of them.

I swear I really was getting up to get the chips, I was not following him when he said he was going to use the bathroom. He looks at me like I have handcuffs hidden behind my back. Cuff him to what, the couch? Not likely. Full body tackle him into the bedroom and then click the cuffs into place on the headboard? Hey, there's a plan, except for the whole part where he's a huge Marine in fighting form and I'm me. Not to mention the shivery thing that happens when I picture Riley handcuffed to my bed.

Chips. Bowl. Now.

Back to the couch he comes, and we've gone through a lot of beer here in a short time. Not even counting the two and a half I had waiting for him to get here. I'm definitely buzzed and tripping over that fine line into fuzzy drunkland. The refs seem to be outstandingly stupid tonight and I can't help but point this out to Riley. The cheerleaders all look like hookers with $20,000 worth of tits bouncing around. That could be the beer talking, though. Everything looks ... scandalous, I think is the word I use. I sound like Giles. But the word feels cool coming out of my mouth, it's nice and slippery, all those 's' sounds.

Yeah, I'm fucked up.

Riley's looking at me from his side of the couch, and he's got an eyebrow thing happening that reminds me of Spike. Or possibly Spock. What, I can't have a vocabulary? Fine, let's hit him with some more impressive words.

"Are we going to do the let's pretend game, Ri? 'Cause if we are, let's pretend that you've been the human equivalent of a drive-through blood bank, and that I found out about it." Whoa, that all came out in English, and not too pissy sounding either.

"Nah, that's too implausible." He scoops up a handful of chips and starts chowing down with definite concentration on the shitty football game.

"Yeah, you're right. Never happen. Because that would mean you've got a death wish." OK, now that was just mean. Where did that come from? I peek over at him but he's still eating chips, all relaxed back in the couch. No jaw clench going on, beyond the chewing parts.

Beer is a wonderful thing. It makes it possible for me to acknowledge that I'm not getting anywhere with him tonight on this subject, and not have a violent reaction. In fact, I feel pretty mellow. Riley looks like he's all kinds of relaxed, too. I suppose there are worse things; no, scratch that. I know there are worse things than letting this drift into companionable ignorance right now.

He gives this loud groan all of a sudden and I almost jump out of my skin until I realize he's pointing at the TV and swearing at the ref. I'd like to remember some of those words tomorrow because they'd be really impressive to use the next time something gets FUBAR at work. I don't think I'm gonna remember much of anything though, judging by the way I feel all balloony right now.

That's a shame. Guys in the military can swear like it's an Olympic event. I must've mumbled something incoherent because he turns and asks me to say it again using consonants this time. There's all this crumbly salt on his bottom lip. Before I can explain anything about the swearing to him, I just have to take care of the whole salt problem. Lean forward and lick it right off.

He blinks at me, licks his own lip like he's checking to see if I did a good job, and says, "Ya know, there're more chips in the bowl if you really wanted a taste."


Xander might have been either hitting the beer before I even got here tonight or hitting something else besides beer altogether. He seems to have left his brain in low gear.

When I get up to use the facilities, he's pulled along in my gravitational force right behind me. He diverts at some stage towards the kitchen, but I can see him in my peripheral vision having to check himself. Duct taped to the couch might be how this night ends after all. Hopefully he'll be kind enough to remember the bed pan, since too many beers have been consumed to sleep all night without having to pee five times.

Back from the bathroom, and he's steadily knocking off the Ruffles, mumbling things I have no way of understanding. I kick my shoes off when I realize it's only the second quarter.

"Are we going to do the let's pretend game, Ri? 'Cause if we are, let's pretend that you've been the human equivalent of a drive-through blood bank, and that I found out about it." Full frontal attack, but I'm not feeling snarky tonight. This can be easily deflected.

"Nah, that's too implausible." I want to snort a little piece of laughter on that, because what is not implausible in my life now? But I just act, you know, cool.

"Yeah, you're right. Never happen. Because that would mean you've got a death wish." Not his usual style, too caustic, but what he must see as on the mark. No reason to get upset. He's worried, and he's worried this like a puppy with a shoe.

Let the images of Xander frolicking around with a leather wing-tip in his mouth fade to awareness of the game and the fucking travesty that is the officiating tonight.

Xander's babbling the secret martian speak again.

"What did you say?" I turn to focus on his face, and it's moving. Pushing forward towards me. It doesn't stop at that friend-zone limit; it zaps right in behind his tongue which rolls out to skim the salt-residue off my bottom lip.

The feeling that elicits is not what I would call friendly either. There is something new. Something new that isn't involving blood or wounds or people I love dying. I don't feel like crying or taking on a seven foot armored demon by myself, and I think that's an improvement, but it might just be that I've given up caring.

"Ya know, there're more chips in the bowl if you really wanted a taste."

Ease and laughter, chasing the pain into a corner to bite on its own arm for a while.

I realize I should be at least rattled by Xander's tongue touching some part of my body not on accident, but since things like catching Spike rifling through Buffy's underwear and watching Willow conjure fire sprites have become normal occurrences, this doesn't even make it on the bizarre radar screen. Besides, I know that salt and beer are a good combo.



Just sitting back and processing the whole using of Riley as a salt lick has got some interesting side effects. First of all, he didn't do the wiggins. Second of all, neither did I. Mostly I'm thinking that regular potato chip crumbs, while a nummy treat in and of themselves, have never gotten quite the same reaction from me before.

I've got the feel goods working on overtime right now, not a little bit of it from having mini hot flashes thinking of licking Riley's lip. OK, to be accurate, thinking of licking Riley's lip again - you know, scientific evidence to dispel the Fluke Syndrome. Yeah, because that worked out so well with Wills, right? Fluke kiss followed by more of the same. Illicit fumblings in crowded hallways, footsie under the desk, flush of sexiness enhanced by the thrill of getting caught.

This is so not the right train of thought. Conductor, there seems to be an error with my ticket. Just let me off at this station, if you don't mind. But no, the little thought conductor is hell-bent on taking me right to Rileyville, express train, no stops in Rational Town or Get A Grip City.

I've got the idea that somehow I should be doing something proactive about the whole night. I mean, we had bad shit happening, we still have massive potential for disaster, and I haven't gotten one word out of him. I wonder if Wills and Tara could give me some mind reading mojo, let me see right into his head so I don't have to dance around being Happy Xander, Helpful Xander and above all Non-Confrontational Xander. Because I'm now thinking that all I can manage tonight is Drunk and Horny Xander, and that's never a good persona.

Suddenly I want to see the marks again. I really want to pull the sweater away, look at the bites and count the scars. See how they feel, because I wonder in a way that twists in the pit of my stomach if they'll feel different from any other healed-over place might.

I realize I'm rubbing the back of my hand where a thin raised line marks my first battle wound ever. I got it in the Bronze the night I dusted Jesse. In all the terror and death and blood, I never noticed until I got home that somehow I'd got a nice long gash there. I guess it got dirty because it never healed right. The line is almost invisible but definitely there if you're looking for it. Will Riley's scars look like that someday? Are the first ones old enough to look like that now?


I don't think Xander's mind is much on the game anymore. But on the upside, I doubt if he's thinking about hounding me about my new hobby either. He's rubbed his thumb over his mouth enough times that I think I should offer him the carmex in my pocket.

Unlike Xander, I've spent the majority of my life around other men. Football team mates segueing to Marine squadron comrades. There've been other nights when the stolen moments in the dark were with hard flesh instead of soft. Other mouths tasting of malt and lust, but not for a long time. And I'm starting to wonder if Xander's proclivity towards female friends has something more to do with his ability to see any other body as a sex object than the unavailability of male companionship. It's easier on the psyche if the person you find yourself accidentally making out with one night when you're drunk and depressed is of the opposite sex. I learned that lesson with Forrest.

He's squirming around pretty frequently, and I'm not sure if it's out of embarrassment or an attempt to hide his crotch from me. My life is already so fucked up that I'm not sure if I want to chip away at the one rock I've found to cling to. At this bend in the road, things are going to be awkwardly averted gazes and extra personal space tomorrow no matter what.

It's been too long since someone with a pulse wanted me as more than muscle or errands. Let's see if it was a freak occurrence.

Spread my legs out a little more, bring me into his space. He's avoiding looking at me at all costs. Run my hand down to my knee and brush along the outside of his leg all the way down. Tensing. He's tensing up. Fuck it. He must not really be interested. Just experimenting with the licking. That's ok too, because he's the only friend I have left and hugs and handshakes are how friends touch.


OK, it's like he's reading my mind or something, which is possibly not of the good right now. He's stretching out, one big Marine-sized thigh way over here on my side of the couch. I can feel the body heat coming off of him - it must be like sleeping with a space heater when you get him under the covers - and thank you brain for that image.

His rubs his hand down his leg, brushing stray crumbs off before I can lick them I guess, and my skin is shivering where he touches my leg. Little tremors that are wired right into the knot in the bottom of my belly. I can feel my leg wanting to scoot right on over to his, but I force it to behave itself, muscles tightening in resistance.

Then he freezes, the knuckles on his hand white with pressure. I risk a quick look at his face to see if I'm really hallucinating all this thick tension that soaks the room and colors everything in my vision golden and syrupy. For all I know, he's way into the game and I'm the only one with touch sensitivity tonight.

My brain hastens to assure me I am not imagining things, that I have become so well attuned to sexuality thanks to recent, ceaseless tutoring that there is no way I can miss the most subtle nuance ever again. There's nothing subtle here. Sex is standing on the couch waving a huge red flag.

More accurately, sex is sitting there in a black turtleneck, touching my leg in an almost painfully polite way, blushing the tiniest bit at the hairline. Somehow, it's me on the other end of the want/need scale for a change. My heart gives a hollow little thump that sends a rush of adrenaline everywhere and about half of the blood in my body straight to my already mostly hard dick.

That pretty much makes my decision for me right there; that delirious feeling of wanting something you know is a shared desire. I lean up towards the table, set my beer down, and say his name even as I'm leaning in for another taste.

His eyes are half closed when he turns. This time it's a salt-free mouth that I lick with a little more grace than the last time. The texture is the same, soft-hardness that is startling in its un-girlishness. He makes a little noise, a sigh, and parts his mouth under mine. Now I know what Riley tastes like: tang of beer, sting of salt, something else slightly alien that might be just him, essence of Finn.


Those clichés about cracking air and static shock are the same as the others in my life: golden boy, cuckold, follower. A little too true.

My first reading of the situation was very wrong; he's definitely responding. The tension's not from wanting me to stop but from wanting me to make the first move. I can feel the rush of blood to my skin and know that my face is beet red from the alcohol flush and the lust coming to the surface.

Turning to look at him with my eyes only half-open so as to psychologically block what might still be rejection, I see there wasn't much need to worry. His mouth is open just enough for the tip of his tongue to peek out. My hand flashes out to clutch the back of his head and that tongue comes out further to lick my lips again. This time it also ducks inside and brings with it a guttural moan that forces my free hand to yank at a belt loop to get some more contact.

He's not a small guy, and it doesn't take him long to pin one of my legs under him while he presses me back so my head rests on the arm of the couch

This isn't some stranger, and it's easy to remember that he owns more than my phone number when his lips start to glide whisper soft over and across my latest bite. I can feel the echo right on the scar on the inside of my leg, and these pants have to come off, because he needs to put his mouth there instead.

This might not be his first time around this block either, because he's found a rhythm lightning fast. His cock to mine through both sets of jeans, and he's panting right into my mouth.


Tasting the scars on his neck, tongue slipping and bumping over them. Feeling him somehow contract at the touch. Echo his need right back to me, bouncing it off my own until it's bigger than the sum of its parts.

He's pressed down into the couch, pulling me on top of him, finger coyly hooked in a belt loop and then hand hot against the small of my back. It's so different feeling a hard body pushing back into my own hardness, all new friction making it easy to find a pace that leaves me breathless. Cock to cock, jeans definitely in the way, but muting the feeling enough to keep me from shooting all over us both right away.

Both his hands on my back now, slipping under my shirt //his shirt// and making me groan into his neck. They roam with slow purpose to my sides and he pants, "Off, take it off," even as he pulls it over my head. With a surge he leans up and no one needs to suggest to me that I return the favor.

Muscles tight under pale skin, broad bare chest flushed, nipples hard and I never could resist that. Put an arm on either side of his head and lower myself down, hear the hiss of his breath when I let my tongue flick over one, then the other.

Back to the scars again, all of them exposed and all needing to be touched and tasted.


The shirts come off, and I was ready to beg... but oh god, he knew. Tongue and mouth everywhere at once, nipples, then scars and back. A dozen new erogenous zones, how could that be a bad thing when Xander is playing over them like a pro and he's found a way to keep the friction going below the waist as well.

Not enough.

"Xand." Pulls his hips back as I wedge my fingers between us to pop pop pop pop the buttons on my fly, sigh with relief as the blood can flow less impeded. His body lifted away from mine, braced on his knees, head bowed so all I can see is the top of his head as he gets an eyeful to my half exposed cock, elastic worked about halfway down the shaft. I can feel the air where Xander's body heat was seconds ago.

He's slightly frozen, staring and thinking his own fluttering, make-out thoughts, so my fingers find his fly too. Pop and zip this time, his face rotating back to look me full in the eye with a grin that causes my stomach to suddenly become uncomfortably wet with my own eagerness.

Lets himself just sort of cascade back into my arms. I slide one hand down his spine to work over the dimples where it ends.

This might not be flower-petal lips and bronzed skin laid out before him; it isn't twin razors slitting open a vein and the exchange of life essence. It's something bright like moonlight or stars in a black vault. New and slightly tilted but wrong just doesn't ever apply.


Big all over, that's all I can think when he pops the buttons on his jeans and his cock sort of leaps out.

Then his hand is on my zipper and I've got room for my own throbbing dick to expand as much as it can, while I just grin at him in complete and mindless joy.

Pleasure of skin on skin as I lower myself down, wet and slippery between us. Heat rolling off of him and over me, one hand stroking my back again and the other cupping my head. Holding me still while his tongue moves in lazy circuits across my lips, over the roof of my mouth. His hips pump just as leisurely, waves of delicious tension building with no need to hurry, or think, or do anything but ride them.

I get one hand down between us, and he parts his thighs a little, hindered by the jumble of denim and the constraints of the couch.

"Xand," he groans out again, and there's the tug at the strings of tension in my belly, little tickle-thrill of a push towards the top.

He's guiding my hand now, past the heat and length of him where I was headed and down, over wiry curls of darker blonde and to the downy fuzz on a shockingly soft-skinned inner thigh. There. Right there, another bite mark. He gasps when my fingers find it, hips arching up off the couch.


When I grab at his hand, he jerks immediately for my cock, fingers pulled into a satin claw. Push down further so that the tips brush over the scar pulsing with each heart thump.

Sweet fire burning in a current to my primal need as he rubs his thumb in circles over it. Arch my back so far I can hear the snap and crackle of my spine when my hip bones grind into Xander's, our cocks pulsing against each other.

"Do you touch that place when you jack off?" Dirty whispers in my ear, and I see a jagged scar on his chest catch the light from the television. Thought is starting to collapse in on itself, but he knows too much about scarred flesh. Burrow down and latch my mouth on white on white silk laying hairless close to his right nipple. Screamed moan, and precome is leaking out of him in a gush. "Ri..." His fist in my hair forcing my mouth back to his. Frenzy and not-quite violence as I feel the edge coming closer.

Whimpers, mewls, and no way he could know how much sex noise turns me on, just him riding out his own need and feeding into my personal kink. Losing it never felt this sweet and perfectly dirty at once.

White sparks when my eyes drop closed, work my fingers up to take on that scar on his chest again, because his tongue is snaking a path to my newest one, and I know that'll be the end.

His tongue finds the mark, electric shock and in the moment. Might have screamed, might have passed out. Lost reason about the time I heard Xander bark out "Holy fuck" and the world was smeared hot and wet.


Too wild with watching him go right off the end whenever I touch the scars to think about stopping, to think about feeding the badness with manipulations. Too close to home, anyway, and when I whisper in his ear, I already know the answer is yes.

He squirms himself down, mouth settling right there on my chest, suction and licking on raised ruined white skin that by rights should do nothing at all. Instead it shoots a jolt of electricity to my fingertips, toes, root of my cock.

"Ri..." Grab his hair, pull him away from the scar and back up to lick his mouth, devour the taste of him, mark it, brand it in my senses. Riley-feel, Riley-taste, heat and salt; scarred and spiced and somehow clean anyway.

Pressure and friction and slick wetness. Heated frantic hands, moans and sighs, and it's right there. Tongue out to slide over pink and tender skin of his neck, taste the newness of the hurt.

Rubbing fingers on my scar and I'm screaming into the dark crook of his neck when I come, when he comes, who knows which happened first. Not unpleasant sticky warmth between his skin and mine. Blackness and breathlessness for those first free falling seconds. Until the phone starts ringing.

Peel myself reluctantly away, already pissed at whoever is calling and ruining the only truly peaceful three seconds in my life in the last 48 hours. Anya's voice comes through the receiver, piercing the clouds of post orgasmic fuzziness like a dagger. Seeing if we're both there. Asking if we're both friends again. Do my damnedest to keep the grin out of my voice when I assure her that we're friends again.

"I'm going to go home tonight and give you important male bonding time with Riley, so you can reestablish a good line of communication." She's been reading self help books. I need to cut her off before she OD's on them. I thank her sincerely, push the little guilt monster back into his cave for now.

Hang up and turn to tell Riley that he can use the shower first if he wants to, see that he's apparently a step ahead of me. Empty couch.

Walk to the hallway and stop dead in my tracks when I realize that the bathroom is empty and dark. Tell myself it's OK that he left, he was sparing me the ordeal of the awkwardness that Anya's mistimed call brought up, among the many other varied oddities there are sure to be now.

I can't quite convince myself that it's a good thing, though.


When he disengages to answer the phone, I know it's the only chance I'm going to get to make this clean. To get up, fumble under the couch for my shoes, cover all the important parts that'll get you arrested with material again, and slink out the door.

The voice I hear shriek through the receiver only quadruples my guilt as I click the door closed as quietly as possible. ('Member, Riley, Xander's girlfriend, one of which you sort of have as well.)

Stealth is my thing. Sneaking away from friends who are suddenly pretty much lovers is something I never planned for, but I managed it with no broken knickknacks, trodden potato chips and only moderate gut-wrenching guilt. I start to count the hours until dawn and my chances of finding a better feeding spot than Willie's. Someplace where Xander can't burst through the door and cart me off into the night when he sets the phone in cradle and realizes I left before he can pull that duct tape out of the drawer.


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