Title: Auld Acquaintance
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series, post-Not Fade Away. The comics are not considered.
Characters: Angel, Riley Finn
Rating: FR-13 (T)
Warning(s): Spoilers for the entirety of both series.
Distribution: Please ask first. Please do not screencap this story, save it to hard drives, exchange with others, or translate into other languages without written consent.
Feedback: Con-crit is always welcome; flames are ridiculed and put on display.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, lyrics, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Snippets of dialogue may be incorporated from the original canonical episode(s) and belong to their respective authors/creators. The original characters and plot are the property of the author(s). The author(s) is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended, nor should any be inferred. No profit is being made.
Summary: Old frenemies cross paths in a bar.
Riley sat hunched at the bar, slowly nursing a scotch neat, his eyes watering at the smoke drifting about in lazy gray wisps which were for some reason seductive. The music was shit and the people ugly, but it was relatively quiet and he was left alone.
Christmas had come and gone, and the dawning of a new year heralded more triumphs and losses to be had. It was strange how little changed in what many would consider his extraordinary life. It was all old hat to him; after the first hundred demons, few surprises lurked behind the curtain.
He raised a brow and frowned down at his drink, considering his options and recognizing they were few and far between. He could just ignore the unwelcome guest, but no how matter how good it would feel, it would be petty and his mother had raised him better. He turned his head to the left and donned his most earnest smile.
"Well, gee! Howdy, Angel. How are you?"
Angel blinked and sat down. "Uh, fine. Thanks."
He signaled to the bartender and then pointed at Riley's drink. Conversation lapsed while the beverage was prepared. Once delivered, Angel downed it and asked for another.
"So, what's new?"
Riley laughed. "Two hundred plus years walking the earth, and you're trying to regale me with small talk?" He shook his head. "What do you want?"
Angel shrugged. "I saw you in here. Thought I'd say hello."
"Well, wasn't that sweet. Thanks. Have a good one." He took another sip.
Angel remained seated, though he fidgeted somewhat. "It's hard to believe it's been almost five years since we last met."
"Yeah. I guess times flies when you really don't give a fuck."
After several moments of terse silence and realizing that, as far as Riley was concerned, their conversation had concluded, he sighed. "Did you hear Buffy got married?"
"I was Xander's best man." He held his breath and waited for it, wanting to savor the ensuing reaction.
Riley hid his glee. One could say many things about Angel, and Riley himself had certainly said quite a lot in his time, but he had to give the vampire credit for the ability to convey incredible depths of meaning in a single syllable.
"Was that all?"
Angel frowned and looked away. "I didn't know you and Xander were friends."
Riley shrugged. "You can't fight at someone's side for two years and not be friends. Unless you're you."
Angel grunted and fell silent.
Riley turned to face him. "Was that it? You came over here to tell me Buffy got married? Was I supposed to fall apart or something? Are you looking for someone to commiserate with?"
"I just wondered if you knew."
"Well, I do. I was there and it was great. Anything else?"
Angel hesitated. "Is she happy?"
"Blissful." Riley grinned. "Come on, you had to know the two of them would eventually wind up together. He's really the only man she's ever trusted." Oh, yeah. He was gonna twist that knife for all it was worth.
Angel set his jaw and stared down at the bar, his eyes hard and dark. "That doesn't bother you?"
Riley shrugged. "Why should it? She and I were done a long time ago." It was the stark truth, and he had no problem giving it words. "Since then, I've married and buried a wife."
Angel's brows lifted slightly. "I didn't know. I'm sorry."
Another shrug. "No reason for you to know, but thanks." He paused. "Heard about your trouble in Los Angeles, about the people you lost. I've been there. It sucks. I'm sorry."
"Thank you," Angel said quietly.
Riley debated about what to say next, wondering if it was a good idea and whether it would serve as an unwitting invitation to Angel to try and reinsert himself in Buffy's life.
Fuck it. Buffy could deal with her own problems. Besides, if he were Angel, he'd want to know, and no one had sworn him to secrecy.
"Xander's seen her, you know. Cordelia. He's seen her, talked with her."
Angel raised his head sharply. "What?"
"He's the new Seer." He turned away, not wanting to see the pain blazing in Angel's eyes.
Riley nodded, turned back to face him, and beamed. "But get this – he's not Buffy's Seer. He's Faith's."
Angel couldn't help it. He laughed. Long and loud and with giddy glee, and it was only then that he realized he missed doing so. It had been so long. Not since…her.
"I can't believe it." He cocked his head. "On second thought, I totally believe it. The Powers have a perverse sense of humor."
Riley nodded again. "Apparently. And don't think Buffy is taking it well. Faith, of course, is having a ball. She even tried to invite herself on their honeymoon just in case, and I quote: 'Big Scary Evil should strike'."
Angel snickered but soon fell silent. "Why Faith?" he asked finally, now shredding a paper napkin with his fingers.
Riley frowned. "I'm not sure I really understand all the specifics, which were told to me by Willow, who tends to provide more detail than necessary. A lot more. Encyclopedia Britannica had to publish a supplement because of her."
He shook his head. "But as best they can reckon, when Buffy died the second time, the reason another Slayer wasn't Called was because the Line then passed through Faith and only Faith; that is, until the Awakening. And don't think she wasted any time snatching that cool scythe thing."
He waved a hand. "New Slayer weapon. Or an old one, actually. Ask Spike."
"He and I don't talk much."
Riley held up his glass and saluted Angel. "I completely understand."
Angel tipped his own glass in reply. "You're really okay with Buffy and Xander?"
He couldn't get past the fact that not only were they married, but had maintained close relationships with Riley, who Angel had once dismissed as inconsequential and felt that had been proven once Riley and Buffy had broken up. Cordelia had always told him he had no intuition. Christ, he missed her. And Xander had spoken with her.
"Sure," Riley replied, oblivious to Angel's inner soliloquy. "I mean, I loved Buffy, and maybe a part of me always will, but I've moved on. That's what we do in the real world."
"I live in the real world."
Riley laughed. "No, you don't. And I'm not talking about your physiology. None of you really do: you, Spike, Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles. Your world is completely insular. If you'll notice, the secondary players all get cut one way or the other."
"What do you mean?" Angel demanded.
"What do I mean?" Riley repeated. "Well, you and Buffy aren't together, she and Spike aren't together, and none of you talk to each other. Oz and I left. Tara, Anya, and Cordelia died."
"Cordelia wasn't secondary," Angel spat.
"Sorry," he winced. "Didn't mean it that way. Really. But she wasn't yours in the beginning, she was theirs. She fought her way in, but eventually left. I tried and failed; same with Oz. Anya and Tara were taken, along with Joyce. In the end, it's always been just the four of them: Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles, and it always will be. Hell, Faith is stillfighting for a place, and Dawn will never be allowed to grow up."
Angel considered that for a moment before finally inclining his head in acknowledgment. He'd have to mull over it all later, when he could brood and unbend paper clips to his heart's content. Time for a change in subject.
"So," he began, before taking a sip of his drink, "what are you up to these days?"
Riley's head pulled back slightly, not comprehending why Angel would possibly care, but whatever. "More of the same. I'm heading the Initiative, after drastically overhauling it." His eyes narrowed. "We had lost sight of the mission. None of us could walk away, though. Didn't want to. It gets in your blood, this work. Once your eyes have been opened, you can never close them again."
"Though you sometimes wish you could."
Riley nodded once. "Sometimes. Ignorance really was bliss."
"Are you happy where you are?"
Riley answered with a shrug. "Neither happy nor unhappy. It's just what I do." He raised a brow. "Why are you asking?"
Angel didn't respond for several long moments. "My mission is ongoing," he said. "There's still a lot I have to do, and I need people who know the score."
"Thanks, but no thanks."
"I haven't made my offer yet."
"Doesn't matter. I could never work for you."
"You'd be working with me."
"Semantics." Riley sighed. "I don't like you and I don't respect you. I'd be a liability to you."
Angel blinked. "I appreciate your candor."
He did, in all honesty. It reminded him eerily of Cordelia, and also of Gunn.
"Look, one of the reasons Buffy and I broke up was because I couldn't deal with her strength, with her Calling. I've gotten over that – mostly – because I've found my own calling, and I feel no need to repeat my experience with her." He hesitated. "It's not that I'm averse to taking orders, but Buffy, Xander, and the others taught me to ask questions and to demand answers. I don't believe you would give them to me. I don't trust you."
He shrugged. "And I'm limited in what I can do; I've made peace with that. So as long as I feel I can continue to contribute something, that's what I'll do. And when I'm done, I'll walk off the stage or be carried from it. Either way, it'll be on my own terms."
"I respect that."
"Good." Riley gulped down the last of his drink before reaching in his pocket and slamming some bills on the counter, nodding at the bartender. "Well, it's been…something, but I've got to get going. It was actually nice talking with you. Hope you don't die again."
Angel smiled wryly. "Thanks. Good luck."
He watched as Riley made his way out of the bar, marveling at the strange exchange, and for some reason unwilling to let it go so easily.
What he had told Riley was the truth: the mission wasn't over, and he needed help.
The first refusal was unsurprising, but also wasn't enough to put him off from asking again. After all, Cordelia had taught him that 'no' was simply an opening for further negotiations.
He held up his empty glass toward the door.
"See you soon."