The bar was just as depressing in appearance as it was when he was working, which didn’t explain why Xander was there. Oh, wait, no, the girl sitting at the bar peering down at her drink morosely was reason enough for him to be there. Buffy had been there nearly every night he worked, slowly making her way through the different brands of alcohol. Xander wanted to feel pity or sympathy for her, but he couldn’t.
He hadn’t felt much of anything since he had ended things with Riley.
He had promised to hang out with her, though, so they could drown in their sorrows. He never thought it would be Buffy and him that would be bonding over how horrible men were, but he figured there was a first time for everything. At least it was a sign that Buffy had gotten over her occasionally awkward reactions on the topic of him being gay.
“Hey, Buf,” he greeted, shuffling over to the barstool next to her. Buffy waved to him and sighed. Yeah, this was going to be a wonderful night.
He looked up as his boss wandered over and forced himself to give the man a smile. He kind of felt sorry for the guy. Putting up with so many college students had to be a pain.
“I could get into a lot of trouble serving you two,” Jack stated. His words held no value, since he was already refilling Buffy’s glass of Black Frost beer. “What do you want, Harris?”
“I’ll just take what she’s having,” Xander replied, slouching down onto the bar. He sent Jack a nod and accepted his drink, trying to not gag at the taste as he gulped half of the glass down. Really, beer did not taste good and whoever claimed otherwise needed their taste buds reexamined. He turned toward Buffy. “So, what’s on the agenda tonight?”
“I plan to get very, very drunk,” Buffy stated with a nod. “And curse boys. They are very, very evil. They’re probably demon related, now that I think about it.”
“Watch it; this is Sunnydale,” he said, “that might actually be true.”
“So,” Buffy said with fake cheer, slapping the counter top, “Tell me about that asshole that dumped you.”
Xander couldn’t even bring himself to even sigh at that. He didn’t really have the will power to do much of anything, let alone complain. “There’s nothing to tell, Buffy. And for your information, I dumped him.”
“Then why are you depressed?” Buffy countered, frowning. Her tone turned bitter, “It’s not like it was just a one night stand that didn’t mean anything—“
“Parker was an idiot,” he offered. He really, really didn’t want to hear all of this right then. In fact, he kind of wanted to walk away. Instead, he guzzled down the rest of his beer and slid the glass toward Jack, who rolled his eyes and refilled it.
“Why’d you dump him?”
Did he actually have to go into this? Xander blinked over at Buffy and allowed his thoughts to drift toward the topic of Riley. Yeah, it was a bad move on his part. Thinking of Riley made him feel and at that moment, he didn’t want to feel a single emotion. Not even happiness. Frowning, Xander took another gulp of his beer. “He wanted to hide. I’m tired of being someone’s dirty little secret. I had that with Cordelia. I don’t want a repeat.”
There was a moment of silence as they drank and then Buffy let out a small whine. “Don’t you hate how we are so easily cast aside?”
“Yeah,” he said softly, “more than anything.”
Shit. With the way this conversation was going, he was going to need a lot more beer.
He tried to count the number of beers that he had had. Was it six? No…maybe it was ten. Xander blinked and nudged his empty glass before sending an imploring look in what’s his face’s direction. What was his name? The guy was Xander’s boss, wasn’t he?
“Jack!” Xander yelled.
The bar owner walked over, raising an eyebrow. “What do you want, Harris?”
“Name. Jack.” He paused and stared at his very empty glass. It shouldn’t have been empty. Why was it empty? “More?”
“You do have a way to get home, right?” Jack asked, refilling his mug. The man glanced over Xander’s shoulder and winced. “Oh, and you might want to watch out for your girl.”
Xander tried to turn in his seat to see what Jack had been talking about, but it was funny. His body just wasn’t moving. Ah, well, Buffy was the Slayer. She could protect herself. He, on the other hand, couldn’t protect himself. Which kind of sucked, mostly when the thing that got injured was his heart and, yeah, that fucking sucked…
What was he thinking about again?
Xander looked down at his empty glass. Wasn’t it just full? He could have sworn it had been full a second ago. He swallowed and smacked his lips. Maybe he had drunk it all.
“Jack! More!” he called, looking up to see his boss practically glaring at him. That wasn’t very nice. “Mean Jack. Want more.”
“I’m cutting you off, Harris,” Jack informed him, walking away.
This was turning into a horrible evening. Wasn’t Buffy supposed to be entertaining him? Where the hell was she, anyway? Xander frowned and tried to turn around too scope out the rest of the bar, but for some reason his muscles really weren’t working. He felt a moment of panic, before it fell away to simple annoyance. Damn it all to hell. First he loses Riley and now his muscles don’t work!
Xander mumbled a curse under his breath and pressed his palms against the edge of the bar. Using all of his strength, he pushed against the bar in hopes it would help him move. A yelp escaped him as instead of simply aiding in his attempt to turn around, the push caused him to topple backwards and send the barstool skidding across the sticky floor. He closed his eyes and awaited the inevitable pain of landing head first on the hard floor.
Any minute now…
Okay, when had he learned to fly?
He opened his eyes and looked up at the face of an angel. He blinked and the face turned into Riley. That was when he noticed the arms wrapped securely around his waist, keeping him from falling.
“No!” Xander protested, pushing Riley away. He growled up at the other man and fought to regain his balance. “You don’t get to touch.”
“Xander, what—“ Riley started, finally releasing him.
God, he’d missed Riley’s voice. And his hands. In fact, Xander missed him so much he was really debating the intelligence behind breaking up with the man. That is until the short, muscular guy whose name Xander couldn’t remember appeared at Riley’s side.
“Isn’t that…” the guy trailed off, face blank as Riley shot him a look. Xander’s vision was too blurry for him to translate the expression, though, but he figured it had to be a scary look to shut up a guy as strong looking as Riley’s friend was.
“Go away,” Xander ordered, glaring.
“Xander, I think you’re drunk,” Riley said. Really, Sherlock? Xander didn’t have the muscle control to roll his eyes, otherwise he would have. Riley sighed. “Do you have a ride home?”
“Yes,” he snapped. “…No.”
“Maybe—“ Riley began.
“Mean Riley,” Xander growled, baring his teeth. Just seeing Riley was making him feel all out of sorts and he hated it. He hated Riley. He hated drinking. He hated everything. Mostly, he hated the fact that his arm felt like lead, which kept him from slapping the other man. And he needed more beer. “Need more beer.”
“I think you’ve had enough,” Riley said.
“No,” he replied, because that was just stupid. “Beer good.”
“Boy!” Buffy bellowed, suddenly appearing out of nowhere to throw her arms around Xander. She buried her face against his armpit and breathed in deeply. She hummed. “Boy smell good.”
Xander sniffed the air and looked down at the tiny female. He watched, feeling somewhat detached, as she slipped a hand under his shirt. He looked up at Riley’s sound of disbelief.
“Boy warm,” Buffy purred.
“No,” he said, gently pushing her away. “Girl smell bad. Beer good.”
Buffy pouted. Feeling almost guilty, he somehow managed to turn her in the direction of Riley’s friend. Immediately, Buffy perked up. “Pretty boy.”
“Umm…” the guy said when Buffy started to touch him.
“Jesus, Graham, just…make sure she gets home safe or something,” Riley said, rubbing at his eyes.
“Right,” Graham said, taking hold of Buffy’s hands and therefore preventing her from sticking them down his pants. “It’s Buffy, right? Let’s get you home.”
“Home…” Buffy frowned, before breaking into a bright grin. “Bed!”
“What the hell have you two been drinking?” Riley hissed, watching Buffy drag Graham toward the door. Xander blinked up at him, trying to comprehend the question. “Xander, can you understand me? What have you been drinking?”
“Beer,” he stated, and then tried to turn toward the bar. “Beer good. More.”
“No, beer bad,” Riley insisted, grabbing his shoulders.
“Beer good,” he insisted. Idiot. Beer was amazing. Riley was the bad one. “Boy mean. Beer good.”
“Xander,” Riley said slowly, shaking him slightly to get his attention, “I’m taking you home now.”
“Yes, I am.”
“No. Riley bad,” he growled low in his throat. Somehow, he managed to take a step forward, shoving himself into Riley’s personal space. He growled again, threateningly, before Riley’s scent hit his nose. “Riley…smell good.”
Riley stiffened as he leaned forward, pressing his nose against Riley’s neck and inhaling. Riley cleared his throat. “Xander, let me take you home, please.”
Xander had a feeling that he was missing time, because one moment he was in the bar smelling Riley and the next he was being gently guided down the stairs into his basement lair. How had Riley known where he lived? Was Riley stalking him now? Wasn’t that just typical.
“Not nice,” he mumbled, nearly slipping out of Riley’s hold. If it hadn’t been for the man’s quick reflexes, Xander would have tumbled down the last three steps.
“What isn’t nice?” Riley asked in a hush voice as he tugged Xander toward the bed.
Xander ignored him and watched as Riley fought to get him onto the bed. Xander fell back, feeling his body bounce on the mattress. Hands pulled his shoes and socks off before they used strength beyond Xander’s currently ability to comprehend in order to pull him into a comfortable position on the bed. He looked up at Riley’s face, watching as the other man sat down at the edge of the bed in order to stare at him.
He stared back. Then he got annoyed with all of the staring and glared.
“I guess I should go,” Riley finally said, looking away.
All of the lethargy and inability to move rushed out of Xander at those words. He couldn’t really say why, not when he brain was thinking in the most simplistic terms, but all of a sudden he could move. He knew and understood one thing at that very moment: Riley was not leaving.
He pushed himself up and grabbed Riley’s arms. With a growl, he yanked the man forward, rolling until he had Riley pinned underneath him. The hard body stretched out below him threatened to break his newfound concentration, but he managed to focus on grabbing hold of Riley’s wrists and pressing them down above Riley’s head. Breathing in deeply, Xander took in Riley’s scent, letting out a sound of desire in response.
“Xander—“ Riley started.
He shook his head, silently telling Riley to shut up and was somewhat amazed when Riley stopped talking. He dropped his head, resting his forehead against Riley’s shoulder. He took a moment to enjoy the smell of Riley, allowing that scent to pull forward needs and wants. He submerged himself into it, ignoring any form of sanity that tried to pipe up and tell him to let Riley go.
He didn’t want to let Riley go. He wanted to touch and smell and taste. He wanted to own Riley.
“Mine,” he breathed out before licking a path up the side of Riley’s neck. Beneath him, Riley’s hard body trembled and his head tilted to give Xander better access. Xander hummed his approval and instinctively rolled his hips.
“Fuck, Xander,” Riley gasped.
He groaned and, keeping his nose pressed against the smooth skin of Riley’s neck, ground his hips down against Riley’s own. He felt Riley strain against the hold he had on the man’s wrists and growled low in his throat, satisfied when Riley stopped struggling in response. Xander kissed behind Riley’s ear and lapped at the curve of his cheek with a quick swipe of his tongue, hips thrusting down harder at the taste that exploded on his tongue.
His nails dug into the tender flesh that lined Riley’s wrists, holding them in such a tight grip that it would have been impossible for Riley to get away without using brute force. Not that Xander would have let him escape. Riley was his. That was the only thing that made sense in his head. Every touch and physical reaction did nothing but support the idea that Riley belonged to him.
Everything swam around and even the earth seemed to move, leaving Riley as the only steady thing for him to hold onto. He knew it was the alcohol in his system, though he had never had this kind of reaction to beer before. Usually it took a nice mixture of drinks to push his brain down to the level of a caveman. He blinked and his eyes locked on Riley’s, which were dilated from the pleasure of Xander’s thrusting hips.
Xander nudged Riley’s chin with his nose, letting out a pleased rumble when Riley easily tilted his head back. He pressed his lips underneath Riley’s jaw, dragging them downward and letting his tongue dart out to taste the skin that covered his Adam’s apple. A sound escaped him, full of longing and need. He had missed this and had spent every night since their break up trying to pretend he didn’t crave Riley’s warm body against his own. He rolled his hips again, mouth pressed to Riley’s skin in order to feel vibration caused by the other man’s moan.
He transferred the hold of Riley’s wrists to one hand, letting the other fall down to cup Riley’s cheek, thumb firmly placed under his chin to hold his head in place. He growled and used his knees to nudge Riley’s legs apart so he could settle between Riley’s thighs and have more room to move. Riley sucked in a sharp breath, back arching when Xander thrust down roughly against him.
“Xander!” Riley cried out when he bit down on the soft skin of his neck, just below his Adam’s apple. He could feel Riley tense, before the man groaned and relaxed underneath him, physically showing his submission.
He ran his free hand down Riley’s side and to his thigh. Taking hold of it in a tight grip, he lifted Riley’s leg, encouraging Riley to wrap it around his hip. Riley made a sound in the back of his throat, blinking wide, blue eyes up at him. Xander kissed him, trying for gentle, and his tongue darted out to taste his lower lip.
“Mine,” he repeated against Riley’s lips.
“Yes,” Riley whispered.
The lust died down and while a part of Xander wanted nothing more than to strip Riley bare, the majority of his brain suddenly felt tired and once again unable to move. He didn’t want this moment to end; he didn’t want to let Riley go. He squeezed Riley’s wrists once, ensuring they were still in his grasp, and buried his face in Riley’s neck. Breathing deeply, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the solid warmth underneath him.
Mornings were evil. Beer was evil. And Xander officially hated life.
With a sound of pure misery, Xander rolled onto his back and threw an arm over his eyes to hide the blinding light of the lamp. Why had he gone to bed with the lamp on? That was just plain stupid. Though…now that he thought about it, he didn’t remember going to bed at all. Most of the night before was a hazy blank, accented by bursts of emotion.
He jumped when gentle hands landed on his arm, pulling it away from his face. Without thinking, he accepted the two aspirin that was placed in his palm and the cup of water. Thankfully, he had swallowed before he thought to see who his gracious benefactor was. His cup of water flew out of his hand and landed on the bed as he sat up, staring at the man sitting on the edge of his bed.
“What--?” he started, before giving in to the utter agony racing through his head. God, beer was a spawn of Satan. Xander swallowed and closed his eyes, blocking out the light. “Riley?”
“I was wondering if you were going to wake up today,” Riley said in a soft voice, clearly being mindful of Xander’s hangover. “It’s nearly two in the afternoon.”
Xander just groaned.
Riley chuckled. “I take it you don’t remember much of last night?”
“I remember a lot of beer,” he admitted, shaking his head, “but not much else.” He glanced up at the other man and winced. “Why are you here? I didn’t do anything…uh…”
“Embarrassing?” Riley filled in. Riley reached up and rubbed briefly at his neck. “No, you didn’t. I ran into you at the bar and helped you home.”
He frowned. “Then why are you still here?”
“I…fell asleep,” Riley replied, tugging at a thread on the bed’s comforter. Xander watched his motions with narrowed eyes, knowing he was missing something. After a moment, Riley sighed. “Okay, so you got a little…hands-on and I ended up falling asleep next to you.”
“I thought I didn’t do anything embarrassing!” Xander exclaimed, before cringing as his near-yell caused his headache to spike. He let out a growl of frustration. “And, hey! I was drunk, mister, so why did you take advantage?”
“I didn’t!” Riley protested. “You were very—“ He cursed under his breath and turned on the bed until he was fully facing Xander. “Nothing happened, okay? You were acting really weird and kind of pinned me to the bed at one point—“
“How is that nothing?” he interrupted.
“We barely even kissed, Xander, and you passed out on top of me. Can I recommend never drinking whatever it was that you drank last night, though?” Riley said. “You were acting like a caveman for a period of time.”
Xander felt a rush of blood hit his skin and he rubbed his cheek, as though that would remove the blush. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay, I could have just called you a cab,” Riley told him.
He felt something in his chest clench at that and wished he could go back to not feeling anything, to not being able to actively move or interact with the world around him. Not having any will power was a lot better than feeling the ache of wanting more, especially when the object of his desire was sitting just a foot away. He drew in a slow breath, trying to regain control of himself. Instead of letting the moment go and getting Riley out of his home, Xander found himself asking, “Why didn’t you?”
There was a moment of silence and then Riley sighed. “I wanted an excuse to be near you.”
Xander grit his teeth. “You can’t say shit like that to me, Riley.”
“Why not? It is how I feel,” Riley replied. “You’re the one that stopped us from being together. My feelings never changed.”
“Sure, because your feelings had to have been so strong if it meant keeping me a little dirty secret,” he snapped.
Riley stood and walked away from the bed, hands clenched into fists. He turned and stared at Xander, the muscle in his jaw twitching. For a moment, Xander could see the strength in him, the strength that Riley had shown when they had first met in that dark alleyway in Oxnard. Xander knew that he could easily be afraid of Riley at that moment, but he knew the man would never hurt him. That didn’t negate the fact that Riley was clearly mad, though.
“I’m sor—“ he started.
“No, just…” Riley sighed and walked back over so he could drop down onto the bed next to Xander. “I’m going to tell you something that you can’t tell anyone else, okay?”
“What is it?” he asked warily. For once, his Hellmouth hesitancy was kicking in. Maybe he would be safer if Riley didn’t tell him anything, especially considering the look that was on Riley’s face.
“The reason I can’t tell everyone about you is because I could get into serious trouble if it was known that I was gay,” Riley said.
“What, like, with your fraternity or something?”
“No, like with the Army,” Riley replied. Before Xander could respond, Riley held up a hand. “I’m in the Army, Xander.”
“I thought you were a university student,” he said, confused.
“I am. I’m both. The Army is paying for my schooling,” Riley explained. “I’m not technically out in the field, but I still have to follow regulations. I’d lose everything if they knew about my relationship with you. I hate keeping you a secret, Xander, but I can’t just quit. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, actually, I think I do,” he replied. He shook his head and sighed. “Why didn’t you tell me? I thought you were ashamed of the idea of dating me, a guy and a townie.”
“I’ve never liked a guy enough to try to be in a relationship with him since I joined up. I’ve gotten used to the silence,” Riley admitted. “I didn’t know what to say or how to explain it. I guess I should have just been honest.”
“It would have saved us both a lot of heartbreak,” Xander told him. He glanced up through his bangs, catching Riley’s eye. “I don’t like hiding, but…seeing how you have a really good reason to hide…I think I could be talked into giving it a try. I’ve been known to keep a secret or two in my lifetime.”
Riley smiled, though there was a sad tinge to it that Xander immediately wanted to remove. “Are you sure? It’s asking a lot. I’m not certain I should even be asking you to play a double life like that.”
Xander thought back to all of the hidden Scooby meetings and trying to cover the multiple patrols he’d done with Buffy to his parents. Really, pretending to be Riley’s townie friend instead of his lover wouldn’t be too difficult in comparison. He didn’t have to see Riley’s friends every day.
He reached out and grabbed the back of Riley’s neck. He yanked the other man toward him and brushed their lips together, before kissing him firmly. Riley kissed him back, reaching up to cup his face. Neither parted their lips, keeping the kiss almost chaste and saving both of them from what was no doubt a horrible case of after drinking morning breath on Xander’s part.
He pulled back and met Riley’s blue gaze. “You have to promise not to be ashamed of being seen with me around town by your friends. If you act nervous or shady they’re going to know something’s up, got it? And I want you to meet my friends. We won’t have to hide in front of them. Those are my terms, soldier.”
“Yes, sir,” Riley said with a grin.
And then, of course, Xander’s hangover decided to make its presence known again. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go vomit.”