By Annie Sewell-Jennings
SUMMARY: Riley and Buffy are distanced. B/R, R/other and B/S undertones
DISTRIBUTION: My site, http://geocities.com/anniesjennings/index.html and wherever else it is wanted providing that permission is requested prior to archival.
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Riley Finn, Buffy Summers, and Spike are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. The random vampire is my creation, I suppose. The song is by Grant Lee Buffalo, and is called "Honey, Don't Think" from the "Mighty Joe Moon" LP.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This song inspired me to no end, and I found it both beautiful and fragile, haunting and hungry. I loved it and found it fitting for the Buffy/Riley relationship, even if I hate the relationship. Thanks to Alanna for making me listen to the song and thanks to Heather for always beta-reading whatever I write, and for encouraging me to write more. :-)
When she emerged from the hospital room, he was still standing there, clothed in a dark turtleneck, eyes tired and haunted and yearning for the woman that he had lost to something unfathomable. Mussed tendrils of honey-coated gold fell across his brow, and he looked at her with a hunger that made her tired instead of ravenous.
Everyone else had taken so much away from her, and Buffy didn't have anything left to spare for Riley Finn.
When he spoke, it seemed to be forced conversation falling from his lips, something archaic and foreign, as though he was speaking Russian rather than English. "Is she okay?" Riley asked, and Buffy thought of her mother. She thought of her lying in bed, small and wasted, seemingly consumed by the mint-colored sheets and looking younger than Buffy herself.
"She's fine," Buffy said, and she wished that she could feel guilty over lying to him. "She wants some time alone with Dawn to explain to her what's going on right now. She's entitled to that."
Strong arms crossed over a broad chest encased in black cotton, and Riley bowed his head, too large for her to hold, too demanding for her to comfort or care for. The very sight of him made her want to cry, made her want to fall asleep and stop worrying, simply because her defenses had been trampled upon and because the well inside of her had run dry.
The antiseptic walls of the hospital surrounded the both of them, sterile and smelling of disinfectant. No familiarities lay here for her; no comforts or warmth of home lit the way for her to feel comfortable or solaced. And here was her lover, shuffling his feet without words to make her feel better, without a hand to stroke her back or assure her that everything would be fine. All that he wanted was for her to touch him, for her to cling to him and make him feel strong, and Buffy couldn't afford to lose herself in front of anyone.
"I got you some coffee," Riley said, and Buffy forced a weak smile for his futile gesture. Hospital currency seemed to be made in the form of coffee. Doctors offered it to her when they told her that her mother had a brain tumor. Nurses brought it by when she rested in a hospital chair and watched the hands of the clock tick by towards visiting hour. And now her lover fetched her some after her mother was told that she could be dying. //Pass the tea and sympathy,// a delirious part of herself whispered, and Buffy just kept smiling instead of breaking.
"Thanks," she said softly, and he took her arm and led her into the waiting room, as though she didn't already know where it was. All the while, the urgent way that he cupped her upper arm, the fingers clenching around her slender, aching limb, felt less like an embrace and more like a vise squeezing the rest of her life out of her. He drained her like a vampire, and left her for dead.
The familiarity of the hospital chair, unrelenting in its plastic hardness, was destructive as she settled into it. Her back ached from resting in it for long hours, and her body rebelled against its relentless mold, wanting to lie down in a soft bed and be covered in stars and sheets. The warmth of the coffee bled through its Styrofoam contained as she cupped it in her hands, and the first sip was less comforting and more bitter.
Everything that the hospital served was bitter.
Awkwardly, Riley coughed and picked up his own cup, the turtleneck pushed up just below his elbows and revealing golden skin. She wrapped her arms around herself, cold and chilled by the constant assault of the hospital air conditioning, and breathed in the stale circulation of air, tasting remnants of disease and disinfectant from the acrid air.
"I heard that you took out the monster," Riley said, and Buffy wanted to laugh from the bittersweet victory. The creature that had been made by her new blonde foe was dead, but it had known. It had known about her "little sister", and had thusly placed Dawn's life in jeopardy. She had almost died, and Buffy had almost lost her entire family in one fell swoop.
But these were torments that were secret, hidden inside of her heart, and she could not reveal them to Riley.
Only to him.
The willow trees rustled as he spread her on the grass, blades of wet green blanketing the bare skin of her body and back, the smell of hothouse roses laid on a grave filling her nostrils with the scent of blooming perfume. Eyes closed with the languorous slowness of ultimate and sensitive sensuality, of carnal, deceptive arousal, and it was the bliss of betraying desire that propelled her into perfect tumult.
Cool, moist lips careened down the slope of her throat, a tongue caressing the fragile bones and cords of her neck, tasting the salt of the juncture of her neck and shoulder. She reclined in ecstasy on the grass, and cried out when blunt teeth scraped gently against the slope of her breast. The yearning for confession almost overcame her when his lightning-colored head bent to her breast, teeth breezing against the erect and swollen nipple, and her fingers threaded through his blinding hair, too artificial to be natural. He was better than nature though. The earth could not have created this being of preternatural power and carnality.
Hard, toned muscles flexed and rippled underneath the moonlight, skin covering them in a taut sheath of white-gold flesh, slightly glistening with the moisture of evening dew and perspiration. She never knew that creatures such as him could sweat, but he was bathed in a sheen of it. Liquid diamonds rippling across his strong, lean chest, and they tasted like the sea.
Moans and whimpers purred from his chest when she touched him; she never knew that she could cause someone else such pure rapture just from the brush of her fingers against his impossibly high cheekbones. And she never knew that her worst enemy, the man who had striven to kill her and all that she loved, could provide her with such release.
She never knew that she could love someone like him like this.
Hips swiveled and bodies began to fall into the rhythm that they knew, and his head trailed down between her breasts, tongue dipping into her navel and circling the indent while she stretched her body and felt her thighs ache for more. The tease was a part of him, the anticipation, and she moaned as moisture pooled between her thighs and she felt her clitoris throb, swollen and needy for his hands and mouth. Fingers parted her thighs, and she drew her legs up around his slender body, allowing him access to her.
And then his mouth descended on her, and she was finally happy. Passion exploded inside of her, and she stifled her cry in her mouth, bit on it to contain it, swallowed her scream and arched her back, drowning herself in silence to keep from drawing attention to herself. All around her was the smell of hothouse flora, of irises and gardenias, dancing across her nose while his tongue skimmed across the center of her arousal.
As the tempo increased, as his smooth, sleek cheeks brushed against the sensitive insides of her thighs and his blunt teeth brushed against her clit, she came in a fury of carnal arousal, and when she was done, she opened her heart to him in a manner that she could do with no one else.
Because he was Spike.
Hospital coffee tasted stale and acidic, and he had often suspected that it was prepared in such a fashion as to cause ulcers and create more need to visit hospitals. A scheme to rouse up business, as if this town in and of itself wasn't a manufacturer of illness and injury. Yet he still partook of the coffee that he had gotten, and watched as she drank nothing, tasted nothing, just staring in front of her as though this world wasn't good enough for her.
Spirals and curls of honey-coated blonde dripped down around her face in a clumsy sort of prettiness, mussed from catnapping in a Formica chair, and dark shadows so thick that they seemed etched in charcoal loomed underneath her clouded, troubled eyes. She was still beautiful, still seemed ethereal and otherworldly, magnificent even with her coppery skin and slender body. But she was distant. She was untouchable.
"I took care of the problem," Buffy murmured absently, and Riley looked down at his hands. She took care of everything. Took care of her mother. Took care of her sister. Took care of everyone in the world, but forgot about him.
Quietly, Riley nodded his head. "You look tired," he commented, and he reached to touch her, to brush an errant spiral of gold out of her eyes, and Buffy flinched, turning her cheek from him, startled like a fawn. And it hurt. It hurt to see her turn from him, to see her scramble to escape his touch with those eyes that looked like brittle glass. She wouldn't let him near her.
"I don't sleep anymore," Buffy said, and it was the best confession he would probably ever wrench from her otherwise silent throat. It was all that she could give him.
Torn, he looked down at the bitter cup of coffee, hot and searing through its Styrofoam cup, and he shook his head. "I don't know why you won't tell me what's wrong," he said. "I just want to help."
Coldly, she just looked off in the distance, and she had never heard him speak. She was gone, set loose from the tethers that tied her to him, awash in a sea of misery.
He couldn't help her, and so she had to protect him by pushing him away. He was plain and happy, simple Riley Finn, the farmer's son from Iowa who knew about milking cows and harvesting corn but knew nothing of the treacherous world that she lived in.
But he knew more than she thought.
Amidst the broken television sets, the discarded sofas and broken chairs that rested in the basement of Willy's Bar, where the floor reeked of vomit, spilled beer and the faint scent of death, he reclined on the tattered easy chair and let her kiss him. Felt her cold, dead mouth brush over his, felt her despicable hunger and let himself want her as well. Dead skin brushed over his like she was coated in scales, amphibious or reptilian, like a serpent in her leather and velvet. Coils of dark red hair flushed around her oval-shaped face, and she pushed her hard, cold breasts against his hard chest, an inhuman snarl coming from her otherwise silent chest. She had no pulse, and he envied her for not having a heart that beat.
It would be so much easier not having a heart that could be broken.
The kiss was stale, lifeless and dispassionate, like kissing a serpent. He was Adam in that moment, taking the apple from his blonde and distant Eve, biting into deception and tasting the bittersweet fruit of knowledge. Eden had been destroyed a long time ago, and now he was burning it down with a book of matches and a creature whose name he never bothered to learn. Names were unnecessary anyway in this situation.
Names were worthless in this dank and dirty basement of debauchery.
The kiss ended when his breath shortened; she had no breath to lose. And then she retracted, pulling her mouth away from his and looking down into his face with eyes that glowed like amber and a face that was decidedly inhuman. The façade of bumpy noses and ridged forehead. A face that he had known well as his enemy and now as his salvation. This was the key to unearthing his frozen princess. This, he was certain, was how to both escape from her and draw her near at the same time.
And so he let her fangs protrude from her mouth and allowed them to sink into the tender flesh of his neck, and when she began to drink, he sighed with the beginning of absolute pleasure mingled with divine and holy pain. Blood flowed down his neck as she spilled her drink as always, and he just closed his eyes, smelling her cheap perfume and the dried blood that coated the basement floor. This was his sleazy paradise, his ruined Eden, and yet it was the closest to her heaven that he would ever achieve.
The world grew fuzzy and he felt weak, felt endangered, knew that he was standing on the brink of death. And from that point on, there would be no turning back, no fleeing or pleading for his life. And yet this was the point where he began to feel that he could understand how she felt, what she was going through in her life. This was the closest that he could come to knowing the brink of death - by passing through the canal of ecstasy and allowing this one woman to feed from him.
Wood penetrated her skin and drove through true to her cold heart, and she collapsed into dust without uttering a word, covering his clothing with a thin layer of dust, and in that moment, he was finally happy. Because he knew her a little better now. Because a little piece of him had died.
And so Riley stood up and dropped the stake on the ground where the vampire had once stood.
They stood facing each other in the hospital corridor, coffee still in their hands, and they had no words to say to each other. Nothing came out. Conversation had died between them, had passed away in the night, and it had been clinging desperately to life in ICU beforehand as well.
Large feet shuffled, and Buffy watched as he scuffed his shoes on the floor uncomfortably, struggling for something to say to her. Desperately, she wished that she could say something to him, that she could spare him strength, that she could somehow satisfy him when she didn't know what he wanted in the first place. But instead, she tucked her hair behind her ear and looked grimly down at the coffee that she held in her hand.
"Thank you for coming," she finally said, her voice soft and hushed. "I appreciate it."
Riley knew that it was a lie, and Buffy hated the fact that she had to lie to him in the first place.
"You should get some sleep," he suggested mildly, his fingers skimming the surface of his coffee, letting the hot liquid burn him so that he would have something better to hurt him rather than the distance that she made. "You look like you need it."
Hollow, distant eyes lifted up to him and captured his own burned brown ones. "I don't think that you know what I need," she said vacantly, and he wanted to laugh at that. God, he knew what she needed more than she could ever understand. She needed that kiss of death, that embrace of danger and risk, and now so did he. Addiction to anguish was intoxicating, and now they held that both in common. They were finally connected by something.
"No, Buffy, I guess that I don't," Riley said, and the bite in his voice was like the whip of a cold wind across her face. He couldn't have hurt her more if he had slapped her, and strangely, she wished that he had done that rather than spoke. "But I guess you know that already."
The silence grew like it was pregnant, and Buffy awkwardly reached out to embrace him, and he held her back. It hurt to hug someone who wasn't slender and smelled of cigarettes and sex, to hold someone who didn't whisper into her ear everything that she needed to hear. All that she could do was hold this larger man who didn't know what suffering was, and he held her back, thinking that maybe if he died, she'd care.
And then he caught an unusual scent on her clothing, burrowed into her skin and tangled inside of her hair. It was the perfume of hothouse flora, of roses and lilacs that were bred inside the walls of a greenhouse, the kind that were spread across a funeral parlor or delivered to valentines and the sickly. Buried beneath that sickeningly sweet scent was the distinct odor of cigarettes and recent sex, and he wondered what she had done. Was sickeningly sure that he already knew.
Underneath his cologne, she could smell something as well. It was an aroma that she knew well - the smell of vampires after they were dusted. The smell of disintegrated history and dried blood clung to his clothing with a sense of desperation, as did the aroma of bad liquor and cheap perfume, and as he kissed the top of her head, she saw the horrifying puckered marks on his neck that were unmistakable.
Stricken, Buffy pulled away and looked at the innocent lover that she had taken and now didn't know what to do with. Looked at him and saw a thousand shadows clinging to his face, saw a twisted glint in otherwise warm puppy-dog eyes, and she was afraid. She feared that she had broken yet another man. Ruined another lover. "Riley, what's..." And her voice was caught in her throat like a fluttering butterfly, and he gave her a sad twist of a half- smile.
"Ssh," he whispered, pressing a finger to her mouth. It smelled like blood. "Let's not talk about it." He didn't want to know if it was true. Didn't want to know that she had spent her nights in a certain vampire's crypt crying in his arms while she shuddered to even let her own lover touch her.
Brokenly, she watched as he turned away from her and wrapped her arms around her middle, watching him turn towards the exit and walk away. She didn't want to believe it, but she knew in her heart what he had done. "Riley," she called, her voice distraught and afraid.
And all that he did was toss her a smile over his shoulder and speak words that chilled her to the bone. "Honey, don't think," he said, and her skin crawled as tears sprung to her eyes, watching him stuff his hands in his pockets and continue down the hallway, away from her.
Alone, surrounded by antiseptic walls and people that she didn't know anymore, Buffy closed her eyes and took his advice.
She didn't think at all.
Thanks for reading this sad little fic, and I hope that you enjoyed it :-)