When Riley took his men into town to hit the local bar for twenty-four hours leave that by luck happened to coincide with Christmas Eve, he figured he’s drink a bit of the local hooch, sit in on a couple of friendly card games, and mostly play babysitter to make sure they they enjoyed their “holiday,” but not too much. He didn’t expect to be looking over his glass and seeing a familiar face, with familiar messy, dark hair, unfamiliar stubble, and a definitely unfamiliar, and sort of rakish eye patch. That someone was in the wrong part of the world, from a place best left behind, and definitely not expecting company by the look of semi-aggressive, yet-detached set of his shoulders as he hunched over an expensive laptop in a dim, secluded corner of the tavern.
Whether it was some art of innate curiosity or holiday nostalgia, Riley decided to take his chances and join him. He picked up his beer and slid onto the bench opposite Xander. Riley took a slow, deliberate sip of his drink and waited. Xander didn't stop his typing or look up, but Riley recognized the almost imperceptible way that he braced himself for confrontation.
"I'm not looking for company. Thanks, anyway."
Perhaps it was only in Riley's mind where this was wrong. It was like being so drunk that you saw double, except that one image burned into your retina a moment or two behind the first, so that they never quite lined up.
"Not even for an old friend?" Riley said, nonchalantly.
Closed his one eye, opened it, and looked one way and then the other. Back and Forth. Left, Right, Left. Past. Present. Never.
Finally, Xander looked straight at him, an almost smile on his face, arrested by surprise. For Riley, it was one more reminder of who Xander used to be, who he had been. A different time, a different place. Another lifetime.
I never. They never. Never, never. Anywhere but here.
Xander raised his glass in a wry salute and nodded in recognition. He pressed a couple of buttons on the computer in front of him, but didn't close it. He settled back against the old vinyl of the booth and met Riley's gaze. "All the gin joints in all the world, huh?"
"Yeah, something like that, I suppose."
"It's been a long time, Riley."
"Yes." Riley looked down and picked at the edge of the label of his beer bottle with his thumbnail.
"So, is this where we make nice, play catch up, and share a drink for old time’s sake?"
"Xander, I…" Riley looked abashed. Guilt colored his face in a way that suited the Iowa farm boy he had been a lot more that the battle-weary soldier that he had become.
Xander waved it away. "So, how's the wife?"
"Sam's dead." Riley shrugged, an action at odds with his obvious sadness.
"Anya, too. Big Bad – biggest. Took Sunnydale with it."
"I heard about that."
"Will's doing her thing in South America. Got a new girl – not bad for a slayer. Tara's been gone for a while. G-man's doing his watcher thing again. Buffy's ..." Xander shrugged. "She's Buffy."
They were both silent for a while drinking to the mournful strains of 'I'll Be Home for Christmas.'
"What are your plans for the holidays?" Riley asked.
Xander snorted and raised his glass. "Mazel Tov. I figure I'll drink this bottle, then head back to my hotel room and order another from room service. Then, I plan to drink until I see 'visions of sugarplums.' Want to join me?"
Riley stared at Xander, and then nodded briefly.
Xander powered down his laptop and tossed a bit of the local currency onto the scarred tabletop. When they both stood, Xander tossed Riley a set of keys. "Depth perception's not really my talent even when I'm not comfortably numb."
Riley just nodded and went to settle his tab, and that of his men. They pretty much ignored the fact that their commander had gone MIA. "Don't ask, Don't Tell" took on a whole new meaning in a unit like theirs. There was no question of loyalty or brotherhood, or of taking what little solace you could find. So when he waved them off while paying his tab, Nance just raised his hand in acknowledgement and they continued playing their game.
"So, where are we headed?" Riley asked as they climbed into he beat up Range Rover.
"Your place or mine?" Xander asked flippantly.
"Can't exactly invite you back to my place," Riley said as he started the engine. "They kind of frown on that kind of thing."
"Ahh... and will there be a 'thing' for them to frown upon?"
Riley shrugged as he made the turn out of the parking lot and toward town. "Doesn't matter."
Xander nodded, understanding exactly what was being said, and what wasn't. He settled back into his seat in silence.
When they got to the edge of town, Xander gave Riley the name of his hotel, and Riley navigated the narrow streets effortlessly. When they arrived, he parked the car and killed the engine, then handed Xander the keys.
Xander pocketed them and led the way inside. He stopped at the front desk for his messages and his key, while Riley stood back watching, with his hands in his pockets.
Xander motioned for him to stay put, then detoured off to the bar next to the lobby. He came back carrying two bottles of whiskey, which he handed to Riley. "Come on up." He motioned and led the way to his room.
It was a small, dark room. The blinds were tightly drawn against the encroaching sunlight. Xander pushed past him, with a dim smile. "Make yourself at home." He dropped the case with his laptop on the desk and went into the bathroom.
Riley sat the bottles down on top of the dresser and turned to wait for Xander, waiting for a cue. A queen-sized bed dominated the space. A small chest of drawers, a nightstand, and a countertop that served as a desk rounded out the room. There was a small clothes rack and the door that Xander had disappeared through, that probably led to the en-suite bathroom on the opposite wall. It was pretty much a typical hotel room, though cleaner and a little nicer than he had expected for a place like this.
He avoided the bed, and tried not to be overly nosey about Xander's personal belongings, so he walked over and turned on the radio, for something to do. Soon, quiet Christmas carols played in the background, as they had in the bar.
Riley heard the toilet flush and the water run in the other room. He looked down at his own hands and decided that he should probably make use of the facilities too. He went to do just that when Xander came back, but he didn't miss the two plastic-wrapped cups Xander placed on the dresser, or the condoms and tube of lube that he placed on the nightstand. They both knew how this night would end. It had been inevitable since he had first spotted Xander in the bar. Neither seemed to mind in the least.
Riley came back into the room and saw Xander sitting on the edge of the bed. He had kicked off his shoes and removed his socks and outer shirt, leaving him dressed similarly to Riley in cargo pants and a t-shirt. Riley felt something pull tight inside of his chest. He walked over and stood in front of him, feeling each breath, as he struggled to pull it in.
Xander stared back as he broke the seal on the whiskey and unwrapped the cups. Then he poured them both a large drink.
Riley took his glass from him and took a large gulp. Then he turned and sat it behind him, on the dresser. As he turned back, Xander had stood and was already reaching for and unbuckling his belt. Riley’s breath caught a little in his throat, like a fresh shot of whiskey burning its way down, and he followed suit.
When Xander tugged his T-shirt over his head, revealing an angry red scar under his right pectoral muscle, near his liver, Riley felt something in him seize up at the thought of another one lost, leaving him powerless to and possibly ignorant of their fate. He couldn’t wait. He grabbed Xander’s waistband and tugged him harshly off-balance until he had no choice but to crash against Riley’s chest, over him, into him, belying the gentleness of his movements as he helped him finish removing his shirt, stopping Xander’s babble in a soft kiss, almost before it started.
The kiss quickly turned hungry, and Xander pulled against Riley’s shirt, as they both tugged it out of the way, stopping their kiss only long enough to sear skin against skin. Riley mouthed at Xander’s jaw line, nipping against the rough stubble of his skin, before pushing him over, onto the bed, and following him down.
He lipped and bit and riled Xander up with his mouth, as he worked a path down his body, smoothing over the trails he left with his hands and nails in a paradoxical soothing of the wild beast being conjured between them. He twisted and pinched at Xander’s tight nipples, worried into sharp, damp points by his tongue and lips and teeth. He ran his hands up the tight, hard planes of Xander’s sides, no signs of his lover’s sometimes ticklish nature evident beyond the fog of arousal, furrows of his nails trailing back down as Riley’s mouth finally found the prize of Xander’s erection through the soft cotton of his boxers.
Hurriedly, anxious with a need he wouldn’t put a name to, he tugged at the offending barriers between them, ridding them of the last of their clothes, their unneeded armor. He moved back up Xander’s body, toughing, tasting, insatiable, as he settled between his legs. Riley bent down, and licked a stripe up the thick shaft of Xander’s dick, the taste of his exploding in his mouth with a familiarity that he had thought forgotten, and he needed more. He nosed against Xander’s balls, drawing in the deep, rich scent of him, struggling like the addict he was for more. Fuck. Now. Please. More.
He grabbed at Xander’s strong thighs, gripping, pushing, manhandling them back and open, mouthing, sucking around the smooth, tightness of his balls, the crinkly, dark hairs tickling across his palate, and then back, deeper, to the place he needed to be buried. The flat of his tongue slid wetly, firmly across Xander’s asshole, and Riley felt his own ass and balls clench in pleasure. He pointed his tongue and jabbed at the tight opening, licking, tasting, probing the tight ring. They had never done this before; he had never done this, but he couldn’t stop, wouldn’t, and as Xander arched up, and fisted the slick floral bedcovering, he wouldn’t be trying to stop him either.
Xander began to open under him, one of Riley’s spit slicked fingers joining his tongue as he worked himself into his lover’s body, Xander rocking and babbling incoherently already. It couldn’t last, wouldn’t last, and Riley wanted to arch up and and push right into him, bare, barely slicked, dry, hard fast, breaching Xander’s body like an invading force that would leave its mark forever, but he couldn’t do that, couldn’t think beyond this moment, couldn’t hurt him, tear him open like he wanted.
He looked up at Xander’s bright, shiny eye, blown wide open with lust, and Xander must have known, maybe he felt the same, because he scrambled quickly for the condom and lube at the bedside urging him on with his rising babble and incoherent noises. Riley took the offerings tearing into the condom and stripping it on so quickly, it almost hurt, the barest squeeze of slick along his shaft and Xander was already urging him on, almost begging, pulling with his strong thighs, as Riley lined up and slammed into him.
A cry tore from Xander’s through, dry and ragged and filled with more than a little pain, but he didn’t let Riley stop, pushing, pulling, urging him on, and Riley gave in, beyond thinking, only feeling, needing, being alive and in this moment. Riley snapped his hips in a punishing pace, not knowing, not caring who it was that he felt needed to be punished, only knowing that he couldn’t keep this up forever, just enough, just long enough to…
Xander continued to cry out beneath him, and Riley’s vision, all of his senses tunneled in on him, leaving no other focus. A dozen M'Fashnik demons could burst through the door right now, and Riley could barely care, beyond the fact that they might interrupt this moment, stop this feeling. As if in slow motion, Xander reached down, between them, and tried to fist his own dick, and Riley growled, grabbed both of his hands, arched up, and slammed them onto the coverlet above Xander’s head, driving himself impossibly deep, and causing Xander to cry out and arch up against him.
Harder, faster, Riley panted and punished them both with his body as Xander begged for more, writhing beneath him. Wetness, painted his stomach where Xander frotted against him in time with his strokes, and then his balls tightened, and his ass clenched around Riley’s dick, causing Riley’s vision to white out, as he threw his head back and screamed Xander’s name in pleasure.
They held tight: his hands on Xander’s wrists, the spasms of the aftershocks of their orgasms around his cock, a cycle of electrified pleasure that seemed like it would never end.
And then, it did.
He felt like he had been jerked back into himself through his navel as he quickly released Xander’s wrists, trying to not see the finger-shaped shackle marks there. He grabbed the end of the condom and pulled out quickly, trying, and failing, not to wince at Xander’s hiss of discomfort. He scrambled off the bed toward the bathroom, mumbling something about getting cleaned up.
He flushed the condom down the toilet, and ran the water in the sink, obstentiously to wash his hands, but before he finished he found himself backing away, leaning against the door, with his hands pressed flat against the cheap wood. His head fell back against the door with a soft thunk, and he blinked. His breathing was harsh and a little too fast. He could feel the adrenal in his system. Fight or flight.
Fight or FLIGHT.
He was running away. As hard and as fast and as truthfully as he had fucked Xander through the mattress moments ago, in this moment, he was a fucking coward.
He washed and tried his hands, and went to face the music.
Xander was there, on the edge of the bed, a glass of whickey in his hands, the edge of the sheet from the bed tossed across his lap, barely conceding to modesty, and Xander’s one good eye was fixed on him, unblinking, eyebrow barely raised, as if he saw right through all of Riley’s shit, and was wondering if it was worth calling him on it.
Riley didn’t like the nakedness of it. He strode across the room, and grabbed his pants, pulling them on with jerky movements.
“So that’s it then? Going home now, soldier boy?”
“Home?” Riley turned to stare at him puzzled.
Xander lifted his chin in a nod of acknowledgement, but Riley just stood there, with his pants undone, a fresh pain shaping his features, and he looked completely lost.
Xander stood with a sigh, the sheet slipping away, and he walked over to Riley. He pressed the glass into the other man's hands and pulled him back toward the bed.
"Come back to bed, Major; you can worry about it in the morning."
Riley settled into bed beside him, reaching out and snatching one of Xander's bruised wrists, staring at it, helplessly. "Why?" he whispered brokenly.
Xander sighed and Riley looked up to meet his gaze. "Does it matter?"
"No," Riley answered and scrubbed his hand over his face. "No, I guess not."
"Riley…" Xander began.
Riley just nodded, and pressed his lips to Xander's forehead. "Merry Christmas," he whispered.
"Merry Christmas," Xander answered back, quietly, wondering if either of them still believed in miracles. Better yet, he wondered if either of them still deserved them.
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