DISCLAIMER: Joss and FOX own all, I am but a poor student. Don't sue; I need my money for therapy. ;-)
RATING: R, for m/m sex, drugs and less than heroic behaviour.
SUMMARY: What do you do when you discover your lover has been cheating on you?
PAIRING: Riley/Graham, Riley/Buffy, implied Buffy/Spike and Buffy/Faith perhaps more than friendship thoughts. ;-)
SPOILERS: Set during the Season 4/5 hiatus. No Dawn here yet, and the Buffy/Riley relationship was supposed to have been steady as a rock. Hmmmm.
ARCHIVE: If you like. Let me know where, though.
FEEDBACK: Um, go ahead.
DEDICATION: To Erykah. 'Cause the story wasn't working in the fandom I'd originally written it for until she asked me write a "Buffy" story... and then it clicked. Well, sorta... thinks Hmmm. Should I try it for B5 instead, sugar? grin
"O," she said. "O."
Not, "oh," or "ah," or even, "God!" But - "O." Dulled, surprised.
"It's not what it looks like," he said, and they both knew he was lying. "It's not what it looks like; don't walk away."
And she didn't. She sat there, her eyes dulling with every passing moment, her mouth still formed in that small indulgence of exclamation, while he talked and talked and talked.
"O," she said, after each explanation, still staring at the bed.
Because, on the bed, Graham was still stretched out, sleeping. Looked like he was sleeping. His eyes were closed. His mouth, too, was smiling sweetly around an, "o."
And he carried on explaining it all away, telling her about the alcohol involved, about the drugs they'd taken. About them arguing, but trying to work it out for the sake of the Initiative. How Graham had tried to talk him back. How Graham had said they needed a leader. How angry he'd been. How anger turned to lust, how lust turned back to anger. How he still loved her, but needed to work this out, for the sake of 'his' team. For her sake.
And, again, "o," a small sound of surprise at his explanation for the stained sheets and the bottles of alcohol laying around. E's and whizz and smack and a few other things she didn't recognise, all on the far table. "O," because she hadn't known that he'd take some to cope with it, "o," because she should have expected it. Because he'd been so hopelessly dependent on the drugs before, and so had all the rest, and had she seriously thought that she could have weaned him off them so easily? How could she have thought to know what he did when he was alone... he could have been spending his nights as a transvestite hustler, and she'd have been none the wiser.
It had happened so fast, he said. One minute they were fighting, flinging insults at each other, trying to get through all their rage and frustration. The next minute, there was alcohol involved. Then a couple of tabs. They didn't last long - teir changed metabolism didn't like them much. A hit, just to see if that would help. It did. They were more honest with each other.
It was lust, he said, and she nodded in understanding. Just lust. Nothing to it. Surely she knew what guys were like - what it had been like, living that close together? It didn't mean anything. It never had. And she nodded, and knew herself for a fool for believing him devoted to her. Surely, if it didn't mean anything, he could do without?
But he couldn't do without, it was obvious - even now, when she had a ring on her finger - not married, not by a long shot, but wasn't it a step in that direction? - even now, it 'didn't mean anything' to him. But it meant a lot to her. Surely she knew what guys were like... But surely he would know that she couldn't be certain of anything anymore. Not him. She'd just been proven right that she didn't know him, hadn't she?
And still he talked as he dressed, pulling on a pair of slacks - nothing else - as he would probably need to shower. After all, the sheets could be washed later, but he couldn't walk out of the room smelling of sex and Graham, could he?
He hadn't cheated on her, he told her with vehemence. His voice was still steady, quiet, trying to make sure that Graham didn't wake up. He probably didn't want a scene - maybe hoped that he could have his shower and leave before he had to 'talk' anymore. Well, he seemed to be coping with it very well so far.
Graham opened one eye on the bed and winked, waiting. She kept herself perfectly still, not acknowledging that he was awake. She should have, she knew. Grabbed Riley and dragged him outside and made a scene... but she didn't. Because he deserved to have to deal with Graham's reaction to all the things he was saying.
Graham didn't matter. It had been a way of getting back on the team, as it were. Did they seal all their 'man' deals with sex, she inquired, and he flushed. Graham didn't mean anything. It had just... happened. And if Graham didn't mean anything, then he hadn't cheated on her. Surely she knew that. And she nodded, and wondered why they'd bothered to fight and talk and fuck if they didn't care about each other at all. She had fought Spike, and she had fought Angel, and she had fought - God help her - Faith, and she wasn't entirely sure that she could have fought any of those three again. If Graham didn't matter to him, why ... And then she looked back at where Graham was still splayed out, bruises fresh and wet on his flanks and thighs, one eye still open discreetly, smiling at her merrily with the air of those who know they've won, and she didn't wonder anymore.
Graham meant less than nothing to him, he said again, it was just a way of him showing no grudges were being borne against the team, and, once more, she nodded. She even smiled a little. "O," she said, then cleared her throat. "Oh." Better. Better.
It was just... just another fuck. Another frantic coupling, borne of anger and frustration and spurred on by alcohol and hit after hit. They must have spent a fortune on this evening, used up at least a week's supply. The high must have been... incredible. So he probably didn't realise what he was doing, he said, unaware that he had actually said 'probably'. She heard him, and was puzzled. Didn't he know what he meant or not? Didn't he remember?
She looked back at where Graham was still splayed out, and thought that perhaps he didn't.
Did she understand? This meant nothing. Graham meant nothing. Not anymore. She meant the world to him, and even the Initiative... even they mattered to him. Graham, as a lover, was nothing. Less than that.
And she nodded, and said all the right words, and bit back another "o," then stood from where she had been sitting on the egde of the chair. "I'm sorry," she said, looking back at the bed and at the bedside table. "I don't know if I can cope with this. With any of this." She looked at the almost-smiling Graham again and shuddered. Bad girl, bad girl, bad girl.
He didn't follow her meaning. "I... I understand." His eyes were bloodshot. "I know that I can't expect you to."
The implication was clear - but if you loved me, you'd accept it anyway.
She nodded and backed away slowly. She wasn't sure if she could accept it or not, but she knew that she wouldn't have the luxury of second thoughts. I walk out of this door, and it's over. It's over. He was still watching her, a helpless shrug almost but not quite formed. After all this, and he still hadn't apologised. Could she forgive this? Could she?
Graham licked his lips deliberately, baiting her.
Oh, but she knew she'd do the wrong thing if she turned away and walked out, and knew that there was nothing else she could do. So, "o!" And, again, "o, Riley. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." And she turned her back and left him in that dingy little room, and didn't look back. She could feel Graham's smile widen, golden eyes twinkling, as she closed the door softly.
She wondered when she'd grown so cold, so jaded. Able to choose her battles according to those she cared about, and those she didn't. She'd go home, she thought, and perhaps fight with Giles. Spike. Someone she was on safe ground with. Not this... this moral uncertainty.
Bad girl. Bad girl.
A small, angry part of her smiled, and she wondered what Riley would do when he discovered, finally, that Graham wasn't breathing. Hadn't been breathing for some time.
Bad girl. Bad girl.