Mending Fences

Summary: Buffy visits Riley in his room. Follow-up to "Scenes on a Basketball Court."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG, for themes.

Time Frame: A few days after "Who Are You?", and immediately following the events in "Scenes on a Basketball Court." The events in "Superstar", for the purposes of this story, should be treated like a dorm party: diverting, but irrelevant to the larger scheme of things.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Dedication: To Krissy, noted cult maven and frequent contributor of feedback. . .happy birthday, and also to prove to you that I can write fanfic that does not involve Xander getting smoochies.


MENDING FENCES


The briefing was mercifully short-none of the patrols had caught sight of Adam, and HST activity seemed to be low. From what Xander had told him about Faith, Riley wondered whether they were just lying low until they were sure she was gone for good. He shook his head and pondered the irony: both the demons and the good guys agreed that the rogue Slayer was bad news. He looked at the wall clock and pondered calling it a night when he heard a soft knock at the door. He opened it and saw Buffy, wearing a simple white top and skirt with a pink sweater. He smiled softly and commented, "I'm glad you came by. Come in."

Buffy complied, walking over to the foot of Riley's bed and sitting down with her hands folded in her lap. She looked at him and smiled, noting, "You seem better than when I saw you last. . .I'm glad."

Riley grinned and seemed to be pondering something for a moment before replying, "I had a long talk with a friend. . .it helped a lot. I notice you took the time to change before you came over here. . .skipped your patrol tonight?"

Buffy blinked, then glared at her boyfriend as he watched her with a smug look on his face. She cleared her throat theatrically, then responded, "I made a sweep. . .things were slow tonight. . .damn it, can't I sneak up on anyone any more?"

"Not with what you were wearing," replied Riley, shaking his head as he continued, "but I didn't spot you until I caught Xander looking over at the bleachers. . .he wasn't kidding about those skills he picked up, was he? Unless he knew you were there all along?"

Buffy shook her head and replied, "No. . .I was coming over to see you and spotted him and decided to spy on you guys. . .badly, apparently."

Riley shrugged and suggested, "Go back to dark colors, that should help." Buffy's face darkened, and Riley realized the problem, and it reminded him of his own difficulty. He met her eyes and whispered, "I guess I won't be able to carry that secret to my grave after all, will I?"

Buffy's eyes brightened with unshed tears, and she whispered back, "Guess not." She reached out for him and drew him down to sit next to her. She could see the hurt in his eyes, and she nudged him to get him to look at her as she continued, "Riley, as much as it sucks. . .it helps in a way."

Riley snorted bitterly and retorted, "Oh yeah, I tell a psychopath that I love her instead of you, and that helps you deal with the fact that I slept with her. . .that makes a lot of sense."

Buffy smiled at him and replied, "Riley. . .I told you a while back that there was a lot of stuff going on that you couldn't understand, and you told me that you wanted to. . .well, here's your chance." She paused, gathering her determination to continue, then continued, "Riley. . .one of the things Faith did to me was to try to turn my former boyfriend against me. . .to get him to help her torture me to death." She paused at seeing the revulsion and fury in his eyes and squeezed his hand reassuringly until he calmed down, and she continued, "We figured it out. . .and he was play-acting. . .but he had to be convincing. . .let's just say that I got a little jealous. He managed to reassure me enough that it blew over. . .but it hurt a lot." She squeezed his hand again, and she continued, "Riley. . .I guess that what was bothering me was the nagging feeling that somehow, on some level you knew it wasn't me, and that you liked what Faith was bringing to the party more. . .than what I did."

Riley was about to protest, only to see Buffy hold up her hand in a silent request to let her continue: he complied, and she did so. "Riley, I've known you for months now, and I think I know you pretty well. . .if what I was worrying about was true, you might have done a lot of things, but you wouldn't have told her you loved her. . .I'm sure of it." She gave him a self-deprecating grimace, and commented, "Xander was a bit blunt. . .but he's right. I have been known to act a little weird under stress, and Faith put up a good act. . .Riley, there was absolutely no way you could have known. . .you thought it was me. Any blame here goes right to Faith. . .for what she did to me, and what she did to you."

Riley nodded slowly, then replied, "I know that. . .at least on a rational level. . .but, damn it. . .it seems like I've been clueless about so much lately. Professor Walsh. . .the whole hidden agenda thing with Adam. . .and now this. I feel like I'm letting you down. . .and all of the other people around me. . .even Forrest, who's been a royal pain in the ass lately." He squeezed her hand and concluded, "I just want to do things right, Buffy. . .for you. . .for all of us."

Buffy smiled at him and replied, "I know the feeling, Riley. . .I've gone through stretches where all I seemed to do was alienate my friends and family and generally screw up. . .it hurts, and I haven't always dealt with it well. I keep wanting to shut everyone out, to deal with it myself and to hell with anyone else butting in. . .but it doesn't work, Riley. I've lived longer than most Slayers, and the major reason is that I've been blessed with a bunch of stubborn fools who have been my friends through all of it. . .I don't know what I'd do without them."

Riley looked at her in silence for a long moment, then asked, "What would you do without me, Buffy?"

Buffy chuckled, then replied, "I'd be very unhappy for a while. . .but eventually I'd move on, Riley. . .but I'm hoping that I don't have to." She met his eyes with an intensity that matched the glare she had once used to send a room full of vampires fleeing for their lives, but the emotion communicated was sincerity, not anger, as she whispered, "I love you, Riley."

Riley swallowed, hard, then managed to reply, "I love you too, Buffy."

Buffy smiled softly and leaned over, snuggling into his chest as she whispered, "I heard once that when someone says, 'I love you', they're asking a question. . .it's nice to ask a question knowing what the answer is."

Riley leaned over and kissed the top of her head as he replied, "Feel free to ask that question any time you want to. . .the answer will be the same."

They talked for long hours that night, the comfort of renewed trust and intimacy between them warming their spirits, and it was not until the first light of morning that they fell asleep in each other's arms. . .knowing that things were not quite as they had been. . .but that things would work out. . .trust had won out over malice, truth over deception. . .and, the Hellmouth and Adam notwithstanding, life would go on.







As always, comments are welcomed and desired