Starting from Nowhere

Author: st_salieri

Spoilers: S5 episode The Replacement

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Xander/Riley

Disclaimer: all belongs to Joss

Summary: Xander and Riley hang out.


By the time the sun set, the basement had been completely emptied.

Open boxes lay scattered across the new apartment, somehow making the place seem even bigger than it had when it was empty. Xander had started to make a vague attempt to unpack, but he hadn't made it any further than his CD collection. It seemed almost sacrilegious somehow, to hang his posters and commemorative plates, to put his clothes away, to stack his mismatched dishes in the cupboard. He was New Xander now, all grown up, with his big boy apartment and promotion and Actual Real Girlfriend to enjoy. He was, he realized, afraid of jinxing it all, afraid that if he dared to hang up the remnants of his old life the place would disappear in a big poof and he'd wake up in the basement again.

He wouldn't put it past the universe to do that to him. After all, he was the Hellmouth's buttmonkey. And so the sun set through the open windows, and the boxes remained packed.


Xander looked over as the front door swung open and shut again. "Hey, Riley," he answered. "That was quick."

Riley held aloft the six-pack of beer he'd carried in with him. "There wasn't a line. Fridge?"

"Fridge," Xander agreed. "And... ooh, you got the good stuff."

"Well, nothing's too good for your official housewarming," Riley said with an easy grin. He liberated two of the bottles and brought one over to Xander, collapsing next to him on the couch. "Wow, the place looks... exactly the same as when I left."

Xander shrugged. "You know, I think I'm going for the deconstructed look. It's a thing."

"Yeah," Riley snorted, taking a sip. "See how long that lasts once Anya starts nesting." He laughed at Xander's exaggerated shudder. "Hey, don't knock it. You could actually wind up with some half-decent furniture."

Xander gasped. "Are you mocking the Love Couch?" He bounced on it, making the springs squeak, and coughed on the cloud of dust that came flying out of the seams of the cushions. "Okay," he admitted sheepishly. "Maybe some new furniture wouldn't be completely horrible. Hey, at the very least I could steal Anya's stuff. It's gotta be better than this."

"Speaking of..." Riley glanced around the apartment. "What happened to the girls?"

"Took off," Xander answered, waving his beer bottle vaguely at the door. "Anya's arm was bugging her, so Buffy walked her back. I think she had a school thing with Willow later tonight. She said she'd call you later."

"Cool," Riley grunted, settling back against the couch and taking a long sip. The sat in companionable silence for a while, watching the sky change from pink to grey and the first stars appear. Xander squirmed on the lumpy couch, a spring digging into his ass, and thought about Anya's more comfortable furniture. And from Anya's furniture, his mind naturally drifted to Anya herself and the look she'd given him when she'd left with Buffy, the one that still turned his face red and his insides to jello. And it was really only natural for his thoughts to then go from Anya and Buffy to Anya-and-Buffy, and he closed that one down quickly because shut up, brain!, and he couldn't think about that particular image with Riley sitting right next to him. By the time he forced his brain back onto a less disturbing track, it was too late. Thoughts of Buffy had circled right back around to the conversation he'd had with Riley that afternoon, the one he hadn't been able to stop thinking about for more than twenty minutes at a time. He desperately wanted to ask Riley about it, but it wasn't exactly the kind of thing you brought up with another guy. How do you even go about asking a personal question like that?

"Why do you think Buffy doesn't love you?"

Apparently you just ask it straight out, like a complete moron.

Xander cringed a bit and looked sideways at Riley, who stiffened slightly and dropped his head. God, I'm such an ass. "Hey man, forget about it," Xander started, but Riley just shrugged.

"No, that's okay," he said, his voice slightly strained. "You know what? Forget I even said it. I was just..." He gave up and took a long swallow of his beer before leaning his head back against the couch again. Xander watched the way his eyes tracked across the ceiling and swallowed helplessly.

"She loves you," he said confidently. Riley's mouth twitched, but he didn't say anything. "Did she say something to you?"

"Who, Buffy?" Riley shrugged again. "No, nothing like that."

He fell silent again, and Xander frowned. He was completely at sea on this one, and he knew he should probably just shut up, but he couldn't. His worldview had undergone a seismic shift, and he needed to find a way to make sense of things. There were certain constants in his universe that he was used to dealing with -- Willow loved Oz. Now Willow loves girls. Buffy loved Angel. Now Buffy loves Riley. How could Riley not know this? And how could he even begin to talk about this with a guy who saw the world so different from himself? He tried again.

"Buffy loves you," he insisted. "You guys are great together. I see the way she looks at you." Riley still wasn't looking at him. "She's happy," he said quietly. "I haven't seen her this happy since..."

"Angel?" Riley asked with a slight edge.

"No," Xander said firmly, and the tone of his voice made Riley look at him for the first time. "Because she wasn't happy with Angel. Sure, they had the big soap opera event, if that's the kind of thing you're into, but... I never saw Buffy laugh with him the way she does with you." He paused and squinted at Riley. "Is that what's bugging you? The Angel thing? Because you've gotta know that's long over."

"No, that's not it," Riley admitted. "I just... know. I don't know how I know, but I do. It has nothing to do with what she says, or the way she looks at me. I can just tell." He gave the same wistful smile he'd had in back in Xander's basement, and Xander felt his stomach tighten.

"So the Initiative gave you psychic powers too?" he said, trying for a laugh and relaxing slightly when Riley gave a faint grin. "Look," he said seriously. "I've known Buffy for a long time. I know how she feels about you."

"You know her better than me?" Riley asked quietly. It wasn't an accusation. He didn't sound angry or defensive, merely curious, as if he honestly wanted to know the answer. Xander stared at him, unsure what to say, and Riley gave a crooked grin.

"So, have you hooked up the TV yet?" he asked.

Xander let out a breath, simultaneously relieved to be given an out and reluctant to let Riley off the hook so easily. "Not yet," he admitted. "I was going to get Willow to do it for me tomorrow. There's this slight tendency for things to explode in my presence. I think Spike messed with my CD player once while I was out, and the next time I tried to use it I almost set my bed on fire. Ever since then I've been a little wary of my electronics." He knew he was babbling, but he felt the intense need to get things back onto their normal footing. It felt too weird, all this relationship talk. How did girls do so much of it without their brains melting?

"Hang onto this," Riley said, handing Xander his beer. "Let me take a look at it." He crawled over to the TV set and starting fiddling with various connections. It was all very manly, and Xander had the sudden urge to break out his hammer and put some nails into the wall just so he could participate in the ultimate male bonding ritual. Ultimately he was just too lazy, so he lay back and let Riley work. After a few minutes, Riley let out a satisfied grunt.

"I think that's it," he said, making his way back to the couch and dusting his hands off on his pants. "Give it a try."

Xander dug the remote out from between the cushions where he'd stashed it and thumbed the button. The screen hummed to life, and he grinned. "Oh, sweet," he said in satisfaction. "Looks like someone forgot to cancel their cable when they moved out." He started a quick circuit through the channels, the flick-flick-flick of the screen a familiar comfort. He paused a couple of times before moving on, and was about to give up in disgust when his thumb froze over the button.

He heard the sounds before he could clearly make out the images: a long, drawn-out feminine moan, followed by a giggle. Then the camera pulled back, and what had been an unidentified mass of flesh became two extremely naked blonde women.

"Guh." Oh God. Was there drool? How lame. He'd bet anything that Riley was too cool to drool at porn.

"I'll say," Riley said appreciatively. "Looks like someone sprung for the premium channels too." In unison they both tilted their heads to the side to follow the way the camera moved. There wasn't anything particularly original about the film, just one girl going down on another, but Xander wasn't about to complain. "So," Riley said after a minute. "The taller one: implants?"

"Totally," Xander agreed, surreptitiously wiping the corner of his mouth. Was it just him, or had the room gotten warmer all of a sudden? Shit, was he turned on? He was not turned on, not by watching porn with another guy in the room. Anyone would think that he never got any play, which was so not the case. After all, he was New Xander, with Real Live Girlfriend. He wasn't the same kid who popped a boner every time he caught a glimpse of girlflesh. Trying to be casual, he edged one of the sofa pillows toward him and dropped it onto his lap.

It was then that he glanced over and saw that Riley seemed to have a similar problem. And that he wasn't bothering trying to cover it up with a pillow.

Xander froze for a long minute, unable to look away, before hurriedly averting his eyes. Okay. This is cool. Just two guys watching a little porn. Nothing wrong about that. The same thing happened with Jesse in eighth grade, remember? Except that he and Jesse had been kids at the time, giggling over their first stolen porn flick and too giddy to be self-conscious about their erections. This was different. This was adult. This was Riley, for Christ's sake, Riley who had the Slayer as a girlfriend. Xander fixed his eyes on the TV, barely aware of what was happening on screen, and tried with all his might not to concentrate on the man sitting next to him. He didn't realize until then that the pillow had dropped away from his lap. Shit! He cast another quick glance at Riley, and his heart almost stopped.

Riley was massaging his own thigh slowly, seemingly unaware that he was doing it. His strong fingers kneaded and rubbed sensuously, brushing close to but never actually touching his groin. Xander swallowed around a sudden dry mouth, and Riley looked over at him for the first time.

"Does this bother you?"

He was so casual about it, as if this kind of thing was completely normal. And maybe it was in the Initiative, or in Iowa, but not in Xander Harris's living room. Nevertheless Xander shrugged and nodded as if it was no big deal.

"No problem," he croaked, turning back to the television. A man had joined the two women on screen, and Xander snorted before he could help it. Oh, please. Look at him. I could totally be a porn star. I wonder if Anya's still interested in getting that camcorder? Come to think of it, one of the women kind of looked like Anya from behind, if you closed your eyes and squinted. He wondered whether Riley was seeing Buffy when he looked at TV. He wondered why he was wondering what Riley was thinking about. And hey, since Riley had been the one to start... Xander gave himself a quick rub through his pants, just to take the edge off a bit.

It didn't seem to be helping.

The room was perfectly quiet apart from the sounds coming from the TV, nothing at all like the time Anya had brought over that one tape last year. Spike had found it and insisted on watching it while Xander was getting ready for work one day, and the guy hadn't been able to shut up. Yap yap yap, on and on, all about what was happening on screen and what he thought about it and what he wanted to do to the girl in question. It had taken the threat of lending his VCR to Willow indefinitely to get Spike to finally shut up, and Xander had been very careful not to leave him any ammunition in the future. That had been a profoundly uncomfortable experience, and he knew that Spike was only doing it to get a rise out of him. Now, this? This was... comfortable. Companionable, even. Just two guys sharing a beer and a little quality time with their favorite tools. Oh god, did he just use the word "tool"?

Xander had graduated to full-out rubbing now without even being aware of it, his breathing deepening, and he suddenly didn't care what Riley thought anymore. If the guy wasn't going to be self-conscious about it, why should Xander? And so when Riley loosened his own belt and eased down his zipper, Xander found himself doing the same. He was completely hard by now, and it was good to get a little relief. He fisted himself, rubbing his thumb over the head of his cock and stifling a moan. He couldn't think about what he was doing, couldn't think about who he was doing it with, because if he stopped and thought he'd scare himself into an aneurysm. This was normal, right? A little mutual masturbation didn't hurt anyone. As long as he didn't actually look at what Riley was doing, he'd be fine.

And so he didn't look, just listened -- listened to the fake moans coming from the TV, listened to Riley's harsh breathing, listened to the sound of the blood roaring in his ears. His hand was moving faster now in a harsh jerking motion, and he tried to slow himself down a bit. There was no way in hell he was going to lose it early in front of Mr. Initiative.

Somehow the two of them had slouched closer to each other on the couch, and Riley's elbow was brushing Xander's side as he jerked himself off. Xander moved a little closer to him -- just to avoid the elbow -- and ended up with his bare thigh rubbing up against Riley's. A distant part of his brain couldn't help but notice how strange it felt, the broad expanse of hair-covered skin so unlike Anya's, and he finally looked down because he had to see what it looked like. And yeah, it looked like two guys sitting next to each other, their pants pushed down around their knees and their legs slightly spread. But there was also the contrast -- the slightly different color of Riley's skin, the way the muscles of his leg bunched and contracted -- that kept Xander from looking away. He had to feel, just once...

Riley inhaled sharply as Xander's fingers brushed the outside of thigh, pressing and rubbing to feel the muscle, and Xander couldn't stop touching. He couldn't stop his fingers from moving up and down Riley's skin, edging closer to the inside of the leg. It was Riley's whispered, "Yes," that finally made Xander freeze. But before he could move his hand away, Riley's hand had come down and was touching his leg. And this wasn't supposed to happen, but it felt too good to stop.

They had let go of their own cocks at this point, focusing instead on the massaging the other's leg. The porn on the TV was just background noise at this point, almost forgotten in the light of the strange tactile experience of someone else's skin. By the time Riley's fingers moved to the inside of Xander's thigh, Xander's own fingers were brushing the heavy balls between Riley's legs. The two of them were leaning against each other drunkenly as if the force of gravity had suddenly doubled. Xander could feel Riley's moist breath on his cheek, and he shuddered at the warmth. His own tongue came out, just to touch, just to do what his fingers were doing, and he tasted the salt of the sweat on Riley's neck. He felt positively drunk, his chest tight and his legs shaking, and with a groan of surrender he grabbed onto Riley's cock.

He couldn't tell for sure whether Riley was bigger than him or not. His cock was so warm and smooth, and it was such a strange feeling to be noticing what the skin felt like. When he was touching himself, he never really stopped to think about what his fingers were feeling, not when all of his sensation was focused elsewhere. It was almost like he needed that separation of touching someone else in order to appreciate what an erect penis actually felt like in his hand. It was nothing at all like touching himself -- different angle, different skin, different feel -- and yet he knew exactly what to do. He tightened his fingers around Riley's erection, squirming as Riley did the same to him. And oh God, now he could feel the fingers, Riley's fingers, bigger and thicker than his own, and yet incredibly gentle in their strength.

Neither of them were even pretending to watch the screen anymore. Xander stared down at his own erection, at the large hand that gripped him so firmly, then turned his gaze to stare at the unbelievable sight of his own fingers wrapped around someone else's cock. Riley was wheezing like the engine of Giles's car, his thighs tight and trembling, and Xander's hand was damp from a combination of Riley's moisture and his own sweat. He swayed and leaned more heavily against the other man, tilting his head to breathe in the scent of Riley's soap-clean neck. Riley groaned and brought his other hand up to curl around the back of Xander's neck, pulling him more heavily against him. They were gasping into each other's ears, eyes squeezed shut and half curled on top of each other. Xander's hand was starting to cramp but he didn't care, not while he felt so good. His hips were churning now as he squirmed under the exquisite pleasure that Riley was giving him, oh God too much, and he let out a croaking sob as he started to let go.

Riley gave a gasp of his own, as if he'd been waiting for this moment, and Xander felt warm stickiness coat his fingers. He rubbed and jerked and finally held and stroked, petting the now-soft cock gently. Together they rested, their hands still grasping each other, and Xander waiting for his breathing to even out and his brain to catch up to the rest of him. He felt numb -- not just great-orgasm numb, but holy-fuck-what-did-I-just-do numb. He'd touched another guy. He'd jerked off another guy, his friend... and he'd liked it. And what did this mean? Was he gay now? He didn't feel gay. What would Anya say if she... oh fuck, Anya.

If Riley's thoughts were also in turmoil, he didn't show it. He let go of Xander with a final squeeze and gently loosened Xander's fingers from around his own cock. Snagging a towel from a nearby box, he wiped himself down and tossed the towel to Xander, tucking himself inside his own jeans and zipping up. The porn continued to play in the background, the moans and groans tinny and distant to Xander's ears. He didn't really feel he could look up just yet, and so he busied himself with cleaning up. He almost jumped out of his skin when he heard the sound of a phone ring.

Riley dug into his pocket and extracted his cell, flicking it open and answering with a cheerful hello. Xander was almost positive that Riley's voice was shaking slightly, and he didn't know what to do with the perverse feeling of gladness that gave him. "Sure," Riley was saying when Xander managed to concentrate on the actual words coming from his mouth. "I'll meet you there at ten." His mouth quirked in a smile that had more than a hint of sadness in it. "Love you too, babe," he said softly, and then he hung up and stared at his feet.

"Was that Buffy?" Xander asked. He was amazed at how normal his voice seemed, although he didn't know what he'd been expecting it to sound like. Riley nodded.

"Yeah. I was going to meet her for patrol in a little while." He scratched his head, looking a little sheepish. "Xander, I..."

"I love Anya," Xander blurted out. It was the only thing he could think of to say, because at that moment it was the only thing in his life he was sure of. His brain was incapable of coming up with clever lies at this point. Rather than offended, Riley looked relieved.

"And I love Buffy," he said, and Xander nodded.

"I know you do."

Xander wasn't sure that the blush would ever leave his cheeks at this point, but he took comfort in the fact that Riley looked as flustered as he felt. Reaching down, he grabbed Riley's now-warm bottle of beer -- mostly empty at this point -- and handed it to him. Xander clinked his own bottle against Riley's and held it aloft.

"To my new place."

Riley gave a wide grin and nodded. "To your new place. And to christening it." Xander covered his face and moaned, but Riley merely laughed. "Seriously," he said quietly. "Are you okay?"

Xander shrugged. "I think so," he said, "but that could just be the porn and the beer talking." He rolled his eyes and laughed, but Riley knelt down in front of him and regarded him seriously.

"Is this the first time you've ever...?" He didn't even wait for Xander's nod. He didn't have to. "It happens," he said simply. "It doesn't mean that you... well, it means whatever you want it to mean. It's nothing to freak out about, okay?"

"Yeah," Xander whispered.


And then Riley leaned in and gave him a kiss right on the mouth. It was a soft kiss, no tongue, nothing romantic, and Xander knew exactly what it meant.

He was saying goodbye.

After the front door closed behind Riley, Xander regarded his apartment wearily. It looked the same -- the same boxes that needed unpacking, the same crappy furniture that looked out of place in the big bright space -- but the man who lived there was different. Xander didn't know how, or what that meant exactly, and his brain refused to settle on one thought long enough to make sense of it. He thought of calling Anya up and asking her to come over, but he decided against it. Whatever this evening meant or didn't mean, he needed to figure it out on his own. And so he pulled a blanket over himself and fell asleep to the cheap sounds of artificial sex on the television, his cheek pressed to the place where Riley had been sitting.


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