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“She doesn’t love me.”

Xander briefly stared at Riley with incredulity before schooling his features into a blank mask. He snorted. “So she doesn’t love you. So what?”

Riley’s brow furrowed. “W-What?”

Xander shrugged. “You think she doesn’t love you, but she’s still with you." He raised a brow and paused. "Did you ever come out and ask her if she loves you, or did you just decide her feelings for her before marching down your trail of tears? I’d tell you to pull your head out of your ass, but I don’t want to get killed by the sonic boom."

He sneered. "Look at you. You haven’t eaten or slept, your clothes are filthy, and if your five o’clock shadow wasn’t a dead giveaway to the fact you haven’t bathed, there’s the pungent aroma of Iowan corn left to fester in the noonday sun wafting from your sweater." He shook his head. "You’re pathetic.”

Riley stiffened. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. You never do." He closed his eyes and sighed. "Why  am I even wasting my time? You don’t understand. She loves you.”

Xander shrugged again. “Yeah, she does, but she doesn’t need me, and isn’t that what this is really about? She doesn’t need you to be Captain America because she’s already Superman, and you just can’t handle it, can you?"

He chuckled darkly. "Well, that’s your problem, not hers. Grow up and deal with it." His hands curled into fists. "You think I don’t understand? I get it just fine. I pined after her for three years like a kicked puppy, even while I was dating the most gorgeous woman alive."

His lips twisted bitterly. "Then Cordy left me, as she should've, and left town. I hooked up with Anya, and it took another year for me to get Buffy out of my system completely. But you know what? I did, and I’m stronger for it. I’ve got a good job, a place of my own, and a woman who loves me."

Xander absently scratched the back of his neck. "Buffy could love you. Maybe she does. I don’t know. But you don’t either, and rather than finding out, you’re content to whine and wallow around like an asshole. Nice bite marks, by the way.”

Riley stumbled back as he involuntarily drew up his hand to cover his neck.

Xander chuckled. “Sporting turtlenecks on the Hellmouth isn’t very coverty, Soldier Boy, not to mention the fact that this is Southern California." His eyes restlessly scanned Riley's tall frame. "Where are the others? We both know you have them. Thigh? Forearm?”

He reached out to grab Riley, but the man flinched and drew flush with the alley wall.

“Don’t touch me!” he exclaimed, voice panicky.

Xander drew closer, head cocked in a quizzical manner. “Why, Riley? Are you that ashamed?" he asked, tone innocent. His eyes then darkened. "You should be. You could have come to me. I’ve tried to be your friend, but you’re just not interested. Me and Will? We’re not even blips on your radar. You just see us another obstacle in your quest for the golden girl. I know what it’s like when everything you know is gone, only to find out you never knew anything at all. I know what it’s like to watch friends die, to have to kill them yourself to save others. I know what it is to be lonely in a crowded room, to be screaming only to realize no one’s listening.”

The older man hesitantly held out a hand, but drew back when Xander looked at him in disgust.

“But vampires, Riley? Are you so desperate for her to notice you that you’d give up the goods to the enemy?”

“She doesn’t know,” Riley quietly whispered.

Another snort. “I guess not. A little lonely in the love department, huh? There’s no way you two have been sleeping together, because if she had seen those scars, she’d probably have killed you herself. Is that all it’s about? You two aren’t fucking. so therefore she doesn’t love you?”

“It hasn’t been the same. Not since Faith. Not since Angel came here.”

Xander’s glare dimmed slightly as he nodded in understanding. “Yeah, well, I get that. I can still feel Faith’s hands around my neck, and you’re talking to the founding member of the I Hate Deadboy Club.” He shrugged. “It’s a thing. Still, that’s no excuse for running around the Hellmouth and opening a vein for every hungry vamp who passes your way. You can’t expect Buff to love you if you have so little respect for yourself.”

Riley stood tall and laughed. “Look who’s talking. You should take a long look in the mirror before you hand out advice to anyone, Xander."

Xander blinked, but appeared otherwise unperturbed, which only further stoked Riley's anger.

"Oh, I know all about you," Riley seethed. "It took a demon almost killing you before you worked up the nerve to ask for a raise and move out of the basement. And how many jobs did you try and fail to hold down before that? You barely got out of high school and didn’t even try for college, preferring instead to mope around and complain about how everyone had left you behind."

But Xander just nodded, indicating Riley's rant was nothing more than a recitation of facts already known to everyone.

Riley resolved then and there to do whatever it took to knock Xander from his high horse.

"And your love life? Well, I think we both know that you top the charts in pathetic. How many demons tried to mate with you before you got an actual human girlfriend? And we all know how well that worked out, don’t we? How you fucked up with Cordelia because you couldn’t keep your paws off Willow. You destroyed two relationships, isn’t that right?"

Xander flushed lightly, his eyes filled with pain, and Riley wanted to put even more there.

He gave Xander a nasty grin. "Cordelia’s gone, Oz is gone. You and Willow are still here, but not together." He tilted his head. "How long do you think it will last with Anya before she gets just as bored with you, before she realizes the only room you have in your heart is for the two women you’ll never have? Is that fair to her? Or - hey! - are you just using her for the sex? Is she really that good? I mean, maybe I should I head over to her apartment and show her what she’s been missing.”

Riley was surprised when Xander just laughed. He was even further surprised by the sudden attack.

He ducked the blow aimed at his jaw but, in the process, completely missed the sucker punch Xander delivered to his gut. Riley laughed like a maniac through his wheezing and didn’t protest when Xander grabbed his shoulders and threw him deeper into the alley.

“A little off your game, Captain Cardboard?” Xander called out. “Did your vampire whores imbibe too much O-neg?”

Riley laughed harder. “You’re right, Xander,” he trilled, as he hauled himself to his feet, “I am pathetic. The only thing more pathetic is that it took someone as ridiculous as the Zeppo to make me realize it.”

Xander released an angry bellow and charged the larger man. Riley waited until the last possible moment to shift his stance, but Xander allowed for the correction and barreled into him.

“I’ve been watching Buffy a long time,” the boy growled, “and while I might never be a Slayer, I’m more than a match for you.”

Riley screamed with frustrated impotence and wedged his knee between them, flinging Xander from him with his foot and causing the boy to land painfully on his back. “You think so?” he sneered.

Xander grimaced and turned over onto his side before kicking out his foot right into Riley’s kneecap. He scissored his legs, rolled back on his shoulders, and vaulted to his feet. “I really do. Now, are we done, or are we just going to beat the hell out of each other? I’m up for either option.”

Riley set his jaw and returned the glare. Finally, Xander held out his hand. Riley grasped it and was hauled to his feet. They eyed each other warily for what seemed minutes.

“Look,” Xander said, sighing lightly, as though he had just exerted no real effort, “whatever happens between you and Buffy, I think you’re good for each other. You’re a good man, Riley. It...it hurts me to see you like this.”

“I don’t need your pity,” Riley mumbled. The truth of the matter, however, was that he was touched. This bothered him.

“I wasn’t giving you any,” Xander snapped. “Jesus, what the hell is your problem? Did Walsh’s drugs rob you of all your senses? You know what? Screw you! Stay with Buffy or leave her. Make it work or run away. I don’t care. I’ve tried to be nice, I’ve tried to be understanding, but these things just don’t work with you.

"Maybe it would be better if you left, because this guy you’re turning into? He’s a complete asshole, and he’s unworthy of my best friend." He rolled his shoulders and closed his eyes. "I get that you’re suffering. I get that you’re in pain. I know what it’s like to love Buffy and for her never to see you."

He lowered his head and his voice. "I hid you in my house. I gave you my clothes. I brought you food and water when you were hiding out at the school. When are you going to realize that you have friends? That you’re not alone?" His eyes opened, blazing with fury. "No, you’d rather go to vampires. Well, fuck you! Go to them, then. I’m out of here.”

He whirled and began stomping away, and through his haze, Riley realized his last hope was abandoning him.

“Wait. Xander, wait!”

He was ignored, however, so he gave chase and caught up with the other man in the middle of the alley.

“Xander, please!”

He reached out and grabbed the boy by the elbow, stunned when Xander pivoted and rammed a shoulder into his chest. Taken aback, Riley released his grasp and Xander seized the opportunity, snatching the soldier’s wrist in his hand, bending it at a crushing angle, and using the momentum to pin Riley’s arm behind his back while simultaneously putting him in a choke hold.

Riley grunted as he was driven face-first into a wall of brick, his cheek scraping open.

“Are we done yet?” Xander growled into his ear.

Riley tried but failed to dislodge his opponent, rather alarmed that Xander was so much stronger than he had anticipated.

It didn’t make any sense. Riley was trained; Xander wasn’t. Riley worked out regularly, while the only exercise in which Xander indulged was ripping open a box of Twinkies and Olympic sex with his girlfriend.

“Please don’t make me hurt you,” the boy said somberly.

Riley was infuriated. Who the hell was this punk kid to threaten him? He didn’t need Xander’s warnings or his pity or anything else.

“Maybe I want to be hurt,” he whispered. “Maybe I want to feel anything other than empty.” It was then that he felt something poking against the back of his thigh. He smiled, teeth gleaming, and then chortled. “You’re hard,” he smugly drawled. “Do I make you hard, Xander?”

Appalled with both himself and Riley, Xander immediately released the choke hold, but kept Riley’s arm pinned firmly behind his back, not trusting the blond not to take advantage.

“Fuck you, Riley,” he seethed, hot breath caressing the shell of the other man’s ear.

A pregnant silence followed.

“Would you like to?” Riley asked.

Before Xander could posit a reply or a startled exclamation, before the question even truly registered, Riley reached behind him, grabbed Xander’s free hand, and placed it on his own crotch. “Feel me," he groaned. "I’m hard, too. Fighting makes me horny. Just like Faith. Another girl we have in common.”

Xander grunted, released Riley’s arm, and pushed him further into the wall. “You’re disgusting,” he hissed. “What the hell has happened to you?”

Riley whirled around, eyes narrowed and flinty. He regarded Xander with cool nonchalance before slowly pulling his sweater over his head. He watched as Xander watched him, the boy’s face betraying no emotion.

Xander cocked his head as he took in the broad expanse of sun-kissed skin gleaming under the sulphur streetlights, setting Riley’s blond hair ablaze and haloing his face.

“Do you like my body, Xan?” Riley queried, silently cursing himself for the desperation tingeing his voice. “Do I excite you? I could make you feel so good, if you'd just let me? Please?”

Xander's eyebrows knitted in confusion, and Riley could see the vacillation was born not from revulsion but from contemplation.

“I’m not gay, either,” he rushed to explain. “That’s not what this is. You know that.”

Xander took a step forward and reached out, planting one hand against Riley’s sweaty chest.

Riley's skin tingled in unwelcome surprise as he felt the calloused fingers pressing into his skin, massaging him gently.

When Riley made no move to counter him - showed no reaction at all, in fact - Xander frowned and used a ragged thumbnail to graze a hard, tender nipple.

Riley's eyes fluttered as he hissed in pleasure. Xander’s eyes widened as his pants began to constrict.

“Again,” Riley moaned. “Harder.”

Xander viciously twisted the nipple and Riley threw his head back, gasping.

Xander drew one step closer and said nothing as Riley’s hands reached up and ripped his shirt open.

“Take it off,” Riley whispered. “I want to see you.”

Xander wordlessly complied and shrugged out of the shirt, his eyes never leaving those of...whatever the hell Riley had become.

“Nice,” Riley purred, voice low with desire as he leered. “Remember when we wrestled in Buffy’s dorm room, Xander? When we were moving her back home? You liked that, didn’t you?”

Xander nodded dumbly as perspiration broke out all over his body.

“I did, too,” Riley murmured. “I liked touching you." He tucked a finger into Xander's waistband. "Do you want to touch me, Xander? You can. You can do anything you want to me."

Xander's hands slid down the hard planes of the Riley's chest, gently tracing the abdominal muscles, before hovering just above Riley’s waist. Just as quickly, Xander brought his hand up and grabbed Riley’s shoulder, digging his nails into the surprisingly silky skin. Slowly, his grip relaxed somewhat until he was kneading the muscle, imparting just as much tension as he was relieving.

“You’re hurting me,” Riley noted. “Good.”

Xander quirked a brow and placed his other hand on the other shoulder, working his fingers toward Riley’s throat.

“Are you thinking of Faith?” Riley asked, grinning like a lunatic.

Rage clouded Xander’s eyes as he brought his hands together around Riley’s neck. He laced his fingers and deftly stroked the other man’s Adam’s apple with his thumbs, making it clear he knew exactly how much pressure was required to crush it. Slowly, he inched forward until their noses were almost touching.

Riley stared at the pouty, glistening lips, slightly chapped, recalling Xander’s penchant for gnawing on them. He felt the spurting hot breaths tickling his face and fought the desire - the need - to kiss him.

But that was too intimate. It would make this something other than what he intended.

Xander, however, had other ideas, as his hands once again made their way to Riley’s shoulders and he pushed the larger man back against the wall before assaulting his mouth.

Riley shuddered and moaned as felt Xander’s impossibly soft and sweet tongue lick at his lips, and he parted them to allow entrance, his knees going weak as his mouth was plundered. The kiss was startlingly violent, and Riley found himself wondering who else had Xander kissed like this? Never Willow. Anya, possibly. Cordelia definitely.

If Xander had ever kissed Buffy in this manner, they would probably now be married.

Hands still on Riley’s shoulders, Xander supported their weight, driving Riley’s back against the brutal mortar of the wall behind him.

Riley whimpered as he hesitantly placed his palms on Xander’s chest, unsure as to whether he was trying to push the younger man away from him or if it was a simple tease. Slowly, his hands traveled down Xander’s long, lean torso, and Riley nestled his fingers once more in the boy’s waistband.

Xander broke the kiss and snarled, angrily slapping the hands away.

Riley's eyes widened with the sudden realization that he had perhaps bitten off more than he could chew. He pressed himself more deeply into the wall behind him, though it promised no refuge, and found himself trapped. He hadn’t given a second thought to provoking Xander, and he now realized he had miscalculated; he had underestimated the man almost as badly as Buffy routinely did.

Still, he wasn’t going to give in so easily. In this moment, he wanted Xander, certainly, and he believed the boy wanted him as well, but Riley was going to make him work for it. He was going to make Xander take what he wanted.

Slowly, Riley turned around, pressing a cheek to wall as he fumbled with his cargo pants. He untied the knot which held them around his waist, and hissed as they slowly slid down his legs, the cool night air causing his hot, moist flesh to erupt in gooseflesh.

“Do it,” he rasped.

He heard Xander unzip himself. He bit his lip, drawing blood, in anticipation as the rustle of denim falling to the ground roared in his ears. He felt one strong hand wrap around a hip as Xander stepped forward, felt the boy’s thick, large cock nestled in the cleft of his ass.

Riley shuddered again and considered begging but knowing that, if he indulged, Xander would simply walk away. Xander needed to be pushed, cajoled.

He frowned as Xander’s free hand began massaging a buttock, almost as if in preparation, and he wondered if the boy had done this before. He didn’t equate Xander Harris with rough, back alley sex.

Such a thought was just disturbing.

He also didn’t want Xander to make it gentle. He didn’t want or deserve tenderness, and he wasn’t above using manipulation to get what he desired.

“Just fucking do it!” Riley finally bellowed. “I know it'll hurt. I don’t care. Christ, for once in your life, be a man. Or do the only orders you take come from Buffy?”

Xander curled his lip and in one long, sure thrust, he rammed into Riley, wincing slightly as the virgin channel at first refused him entrance. He forced himself to relax and allowed a moment to revel in the promise of the fiery tightness.

Riley screamed in agony and Xander was filled with a savage glee as he felt muscle and tissue tear and give way. When he was buried as far as he could go, Xander sprung to the balls of his feet, purposefully changing his angle.

“Is this what you wanted?” he purred into Riley’s ear. “What do you want me to say, Ri? That you make me so goddamn hard all I want to do is fuck your tight ass until you come all over yourself? Do you want to bleed for me, Riley? You've bled for everyone else.”

Riley released a strangled sob and Xander bit down on his earlobe.

“Are you going to move,” Riley demanded between gasps, “or are you just going to stand there and continue to be useless?” Even as he spoke, however, he was pressing back in search of deeper contact.

Xander laughed and began rolling his hips, teasing the passage and refusing the friction for which he knew Riley was so desperate.

Riley grimaced in pain and frustration. “Did you ever think about doing this with Angel?”

His comment inspired the desired reaction as Xander howled, gripped Riley’s hips, and established a brutally slow and frustrating rhythm.

Riley laughed through his tears as he felt bruises beginning to blossom beneath Xander’s fingers. “Yes,” he hissed, “this is what I wanted.”

Xander grunted as he released one hand and reached around to grab Riley’s cock.

“No!"

“Oh, yes,” Xander smiled. “I’m going to make you like this, Riley. I’m going to make sure you enjoy in it.”

“Please,” Riley whimpered.

“That’s right,” Xander said, lips twisted into an obscene grin. “Beg me.”

“Oh, god," Riley gasped, foregoing his abandoned dignity altogether. "Please! Please, Xander, fuck me!”

“Good boy.”

“You unbelievable bastard,” Riley moaned, tears of mirth and humiliation stinging his eyes.

Xander continued to pump into him, searching for that sweet spot he instinctively knew was just aching to be discovered. As soon as Riley released a keening wail, Xander smirked in triumph and focused intently, ensuring that every long stroke struck that small bundle of nerves, jerking Riley’s cock in time with his every move.

“You’re better than Angel,” he whispered.

“W-What?”

Xander grunted and shortened his thrusts. “Oh, I never fucked him. Thought about it; think he wanted to do this to me, too. Never did, though. Didn’t care about him enough.”

“Don’t,” Riley growled. “Don’t make this matter.”

Xander pressed a soft kiss to the back of Riley's neck. “Too late,” he whispered.

In response, Riley clamped down on the cock invading him, causing Xander to moan deeply in his throat. Riley clawed at the wall, flecks of brick and mortar showering down upon his hair. He ground his teeth and pushed back more desperately against the boy.

So close, he was so close, and he wanted to delay it, wanted to make it last, because he knew this was his only chance to feel something, though he knew it was a lost cause.

“Harder,” he hissed. “Fuck me harder! Almost there.”

Xander began snapping his hips as though they were fashioned from rubber bands, pounding mercilessly into the tender, bruised flesh, his body thrumming and vibrating with the exertion. All he heard was white noise, barely discerning the sound of his own panting beneath the roar.

Riley felt his breath slow and then halt as he dimly registered the slap of flesh on flesh, the burning ache shooting like lightening up his spine, the firing of nerves throughout his body like supernovas. He felt his balls begin to draw up, felt Xander’s cock twitch deeply inside of him, felt Xander’s grip on his cock tighten at the base and covered the other man’s hand with his own. Their hands moved together, frantically pumping Riley’s cock.

Riley felt Xander rear up behind him and, as he felt the first burst of come, Xander roared and sunk his teeth into Riley's shoulder. Immediately, Riley’s orgasm was ripped from his body, and he felt it slick their joined hands even as Xander continued to flood in, and then out of, him.

When they had finished, Xander collapsed on top of him, and the first thing Riley thought was that it was a comfortable weight.

“That’s going to scar,” he told the younger man, indicating the bite mark on his shoulder.

He detected the indifference in Xander’s voice even before the boy spoke. “What’s one more?”

Riley stiffened and Xander pulled out of him, both feeling the acute sense of loss but refusing to comment on it.

Riley braced himself against the wall, trying to catch his breath and get his bearings, but heard soft noises behind him. He turned around, wincing, and saw that Xander had pulled up his pants and wriggled back into his ruined shirt. There was so much he wanted to say, but he had no words and sensed none would be welcomed.

“Don’t,” Xander whispered. “Don’t say anything. Don’t even look at me. Whatever this was is over now. We won’t speak of it again. Whatever happens between you and Buffy has nothing to do with this. If you stay or if you go, you'll always be my friend, Riley. Whether or not you want to be.”

His piece said, Xander turned on his heel and loped swiftly from the alley and out into the town.

Riley slowly eased his pants back up and released a soft whine when he bent over to pick up his sweater from the filthy pavement. He tugged it on, ignoring the pain, and leaned back against the wall.

“Did you stay for the whole show, Seventeen?” he asked.

“I did at that,” Spike replied, emerging into the alley, smirking and applauding. “Quite a performance. Have to admit I didn’t think you had it in you. Course, you just had something in you that was far more than you bargained for, yeah?”

“So is this where you threaten me by promising to tell Buffy?” Riley asked evenly.

Spike shrugged. “No. This is where I take my leave and follow the boy home. Covered in blood and come, he’s even more of a demon magnet than usual. You see, Finn, the boy was wrong about only one thing: the Slayer does need him, much more than she ever needed Angelus, you, or even the Watcher. If he died, she wouldn’t be able to go on. So I’m gonna make sure he returns to the demon bird in one piece.”

“And Buffy?”

“That’s up to you, isn’t it? I could tell her, but she wouldn’t believe me. You could tell her, though she probably wouldn’t believe you, either." He paused, cocking a brow. "But she might ask him. Does he really deserve to be put in that position?”

Riley didn’t remark on being taught a moral lesson from a soulless creature.

“As much as I don’t like that brat,” Spike continued, “he means what he says. He did for me what he did for you." He burst out laughing at the stunned look of horror on Riley's face. "Oh, not the fucking!" He licked his lips and grinned. "Although, after watching him in action, I can’t say I would have been averse to it. Apparently the demon chit wasn’t exaggerating when she called him a Viking in the sack, was she?"

Spike turned very serious quite suddenly, and Riley was taken aback.

"He kept me, he fed me, and he clothed me in his ridiculous outfits," Spike whispered, "even though I was forced upon him. He could have killed me at any time. There’s no way I could have stopped him." He forced an unnecessary exhalation. "And do you know why he didn’t? He made a promise to a friend.”

He then silently withdrew.

Riley sank to the ground and, blinking the tears away, he began laughing.

He didn’t think he’d ever stop.