Title: "Darkness Aim"
Author: Mala
Spoilers: "BtVS" season 4.
Rating/Classification: PG-13, B/R, angst, romance.
Disclaimer: Grrr. Aargh.
Summary: Riley is no Angel.

There is this hunger
This restlessness inside of me
And it knows that you're no stranger
You're my gravity
My hands will adore you through all darkness aim.
--Jewel Kilcher, "Absence of Fear."

He reached out. His knuckles grazed her cheek and she shuddered at the trail of fire the touch left behind.

"Angel," she gasped, leaning into his body.

He held her close and she could feel the imprint of his lips on her hair.

"Buffy...oh, Buffy," he sighed without air.

They stood together in the darkness and she knew it wouldn't last. He would walk away. That was the way their love worked. A touch. A kiss. A sigh. And then the remarkable agony as he left.

She knew that, in L.A., he laughed. He smiled. He could live without her. And she would have to do the same. She would laugh. She would smile. She would live.

"I love you," she told him as a sob worked its way up her throat.

"I love you," he replied, his eyes so dark and beautiful, his face so handsome.

*

The dream made her wake up with tears streaming down her face and the overwhelming urge to throw up. Her stomach lurched as she climbed out of bed and moved like a sleepwalker towards the bathroom. After a few dry retches over the toilet bowl, it was clear that nothing was going to come up. She got to her feet with mechanized motions, ran icy water at the sink and splashed her face.

The reflection that stared back at her in the mirror was older than the one in her dream. Not that young, idealistic, and tortured face anymore. She'd aged a lot in just a short time. Matured, even. She unbuttoned and rebuttoned her flannel pajama top so it was even. A robotic action. She could still feel Angel's phantom touch and it chilled her.

The bedroom felt cold when she returned, but she was in no hurry to get back under the covers. Instead, she sat down on top of them, folding her legs beneath her.

Riley slept on his stomach, arms curled around his pillow. His floppy, straight hair was sticking up and she had to resist the urge to smooth it back. The wine red comforter had slipped down around his waist and she traced the contours of his strong back and shoulders with her eyes. No tattoos or blemishes on the slightly tanned skin. His breaths were even and if she strained, she could hear the solid, reassuring, beat of his heart.

He made great pancakes. He didn't mind when she pinned him during sparring matches. He sang the Backstreet Boys in the shower. He talked to her--really talked. He was the kind of guy that helped little old ladies across the street, always put change in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas. He knew demons existed--and was just learning that all of them weren't evil. He punched assholes who disrespected women. Whenever he walked away... she knew he was coming back. And it didn't hurt. Instead, she laughed...and she smiled...and she lived.

She watched him well into the early hours of morning. Until the sunlight streamed in through the windows and made him raise his bleary eyes and grin at her in that dopey, endearing way that always managed to make her feel like the only woman on earth.

"Buffy?" he mumbled as he rolled over slowly and sat up. "Didn't you sleep?"

"No." She shrugged lightly, grinning as he ran both hand through his hair and smoothed it all back down again. "But you did."

"My snoring keep you up?" he teased.

"Yeah...you sound like a freight train."

"I do not!"

"Do, too!"

She grabbed a pillow and bopped him on the head with it...and as they wrestled for control of the cushion for several minutes, any trace of nausea that had lingered in her system disappeared. Finally, they lay in a heap of tangled arms and legs.

"Riley?"

"Mmhmm?" he wondered against the back of her arm.

"Thank you." She shifted between his legs.

"For what?" He'd taken to licking the inside of her elbow and the lazy strokes made her giggle and shiver at the same time. "For being you." For not being Angel.

"Anytime, Ma'am...anytime."

"Ma'am?!?!?"

The wrestling began anew...without the pillow...and outraged laughter turned into sighs and gasps. The bedsprings creaked in protests until they collapsed, once more, into sleep, wrapped in each other's arms. This time, Buffy didn't dream.

She didn't need to.

--The End--



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