Title: The Men in Love with a Babysitter

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: neither the characters nor the situation belong to me; they belong to Joss Whedon.

Distribution: Ask and you shall have them.

Author's note: So all right, Angel and Riley never did meet in LA, but what if they had done …



THE MEN IN LOVE WITH A BABYSITTER

Riley drained his glass and almost dropped it on the bar before putting his head down on the sticky surface.

"Oh, God," he moaned to himself. "What am I going to do?"

"Stop drinking would be a start," said a voice from next to him, and Riley looked up blearily. "Are you all right?"

Riley blinked a few times and nodded.

"I'm fine. Absolutely fine. No problems whatsoever. Except that the girl I love won't agree to a relationship because she's … busy every night and I'm … not … not her type, or something. I don't understand. What am I going to do?"

His neighbour pushed a glass of water towards him.

"Drink that and talk. Talking helps. I think."

Riley lifted his head off the bar with an effort and drank the water before looking more closely at his neighbour, a dark-haired man a little older than himself hunched over a small glass of whisky. The man smiled slightly.

"Better?"

"A bit."

"Just drink water. It helps. I should know, I used to get drunk every night when I was … younger. And talk." He paused. "By the way, do I know you from somewhere?"

"I don't think so." Riley sipped at a fresh glass of water. "Ugh."

"What does your girl do every night?"

"She s – sits. Babysits. She's a babysitter. It's her destiny. She's chosen … to babysit. And apparently I don't know her well enough, and can't understand what she's been through. But I do know."

"You're a babysitter too?" His neighbour turned his glass in his hands without drinking.

"Me? No! I have … younger siblings. At home. Before I came to university."

"Can't you find someone else?"

Riley cradled his forehead, shaking his head violently.

"No! She's the one. She's meant for me. She's perfect, she's so alive, so beautiful. I love her with all my soul. Have you ever loved anyone like that?"

There was a sad expression on the stranger's face, half-longing, half- regret, and he nodded.

"I have. I loved a girl with all my soul, and I hurt her and her friends. Then she forgave me and I hurt her again when I left her."

"Why did you leave?"

"I couldn't give her what she deserved."

"But I think I can give my girl that," Riley said. "She says there's so much unhappiness in her past life, unhappiness and betrayal and – things, and I know I would never hurt her."

"Are you sure?" his neighbour asked, finally picking up his glass and taking a small sip. "That's what I thought."

"I'm sure," Riley said, running a hand through his hair. "I would never do anything to hurt Buffy."

His neighbour fell silent, and Riley could see varied emotions flashing across his face.

"Buffy."

"That's her name."

"You're from Sunnydale."

"No, I'm from Iowa, but I work at the college in Sunnydale. Have you been there?"

His neighbour swallowed the rest of his drink in one gulp and held the glass very tightly in his hand before setting it back on the bar. Riley was astonished to see cracks in the glass.

"I saw you there."

"Where?"

"In Sunnydale. Talking to Buffy. A few weeks ago."

"Do you know Buffy?"

The stranger laughed, but it was not a happy laugh.

"I know Buffy, yes. I know her better than I know myself."

Riley frowned. "I don't understand."

"You wouldn't."

"Excuse me?"

"Do you know what she is? What her life is?"

Riley looked hard at his neighbour. "You know she's the Sl –"

"I know. How do you know?"

"I'm – I'm kind of in the same line of business, if you know what I mean?" Riley shrugged, and then clapped a hand over his mouth. "That's a secret! You mustn't tell anybody."

"You're a Watcher?"

"A what?"

"Obviously not. Demon hunter?"

"Yes. Basically."

The other man nodded.

"I see. You fell in love with her and she with you, each thinking the other was normal. She liked you because you were a typical American college boy, with no dark secrets and no hidden past; and you liked her because she was full of life and beautiful and funny and clever, and you thought she was extraordinary but you didn't know why. Then something happened and you found out the other's secret, and now you're trying to deal."

Riley's mouth dropped open.

"You're right."

"She thought that you would be the one to take her into the light," his neighbour continued, staring into space. "But you're not. In all the wrong ways you remind her of her last boyfriend."

"Did you know him too?"

"You're talking to him."

"Oh." Riley's drunken brain thought about this for a moment. "Oh. But she never said anything …"

"She wouldn't. I hurt her too badly. She's trying to forget."

"Forget you?"

"Me, and what is inside me. What I am, what I will always be. What prevents us from being together."

"Bit deep," said Riley. "What do you mean?"

"Everyone has their secrets," his neighbour said. "I think I'll keep mine, especially with you in your particular line of business."

"I still don't understand," Riley grumbled. His neighbour fished in his pocket and threw some change on the counter for the barman.

"Go and ask Willow Rosenberg about me. She knows the story. Some of it, anyway, and as much as Buffy knows." He stood up, and Riley realised suddenly his rival-in-Buffy's-affections was tall. "Goodnight. I never caught your name."

"Riley Finn."

"Goodnight, then, Mr Finn, and good luck with the demon hunting."

He began to walk out, but Riley called after him.

"Hey! If I have to ask Willow about you, how can I without your name?"

The stranger turned.

"Just tell her Angel sends his regards." He smiled briefly and disappeared out of the door. Riley rubbed his aching head and called for another drink.