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Riley Ficlet

Title: Going with Vampires
Author: itsnotmymind
Rating: PGish
Pairing(s)/Character(s): Buffy/Riley, Riley/vampires
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters
Summary: I have been rewatching Buffy season five, which inspired a bit of Riley fic



"I don't go with vampires," he says, and then there she is, night after night, with a look in her eyes that is nothing like the look in the eyes of the woman his heart belongs to. He wonders what she would do if she was in his place, Buffy, if a male vampire was placing the charms on her. He knows what she would say, I never would. But she let Dracula bite her. There's something she's hiding from him, some kind of darkness. He would destroy himself to keep up with her, but that can never be. She's a Slayer. He's ordinary.

Sandy gets annoyed, but doesn't give up. She comes back and flirts with him, with an interest, with an intensity, that he never sees in Buffy. He should appreciate what he has, the most incredible woman in his arms and in his bed. If she doesn't love him, if there's a passion she had for Angel that she doesn't share with him, does that matter so much? Shouldn't it be enough that she is his?
He looks at Sandy, and wonders what it would feel like to let her bite him. He should be appalled at the thought--it is, after all, everything he is opposed to. Everything he was trained to be against. But maybe a little of Buffy is wearing off on him. If he just let her bite him, once, would he be different? Would he understand the darker side of Buffy? The part that drew her to Angel, to Dracula?

He goes with her one night, and then he kills her. Buffy is fretting somewhere, her mother in the hospital. He knows, now, that he is a terrible boyfriend. He is letting her down when she needs him. But if he can come back from this, come back different, perhaps he can be the kind of boyfriend she truly desires. Someone who understands the dark she fears in herself.

That's what he tells himself. And he feels different, after letting Sandy bite him. He feels a kind of thrill he never allowed himself to feel before. He wants more--not for Buffy, but for himself. The next time a vampire bites him, he won't kill her. If she's dead, after all, she won't be able to bite him again. The thill of the bite becomes not an experiment, but a hobby.

He's not Riley, the military man anymore, who would have been appalled at the though of letting a vampire bite him. Nor is he Riley, the mission's boyfriend, unable to keep up with the woman he loves, but loving her nonetheless. He's someone else.

He just isn't sure if it's someone he wants to be.

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Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
kikimay
Nov. 14th, 2012 02:12 pm (UTC)
Very, very good. I'm interested in Riley's characterization in S5, even if my Buffy-fangirl side would love to slap him in the face. Nice fic.
itsnotmymind
Nov. 14th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I want to slap Riley in the face for most of S5, too--but I think he's more interesting than fandom usually gives him credit for.
local_max
Nov. 14th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
I think this is a really good capture into what Riley is going through at this time.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I don't think Riley means to blame Buffy for his infidelity/self-harm/spiral in Into the Woods -- on some level, he certainly *does* blame her, somewhat, but I think he knows consciously that it's his fault, and doesn't know how to articulate the complex swirl of feelings. I think a lot of the reason Riley does what he does, and you hint at this here, is is specifically because he knows he *can't* burden Buffy, because his problems seriously aren't enough to want to saddle her with. And as you point out here:

"But if he can come back from this, come back different, perhaps he can be the kind of boyfriend she truly desires. Someone who understands the dark she fears in herself."

I think he does think he can help her; he wants to understand her so he can help her, sort of, though that is too simple too.
itsnotmymind
Nov. 14th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
I think you're right that Riley didn't MEAN to blame Buffy, although he sort of does, anyway. Riley was just very screwed up that season. I have sympathy for him, but I also want to punch him in the face.
local_max
Nov. 15th, 2012 12:00 am (UTC)
Agreed that he sort of does anyway and was totally screwed up. I think that sympathy & a punch in the face is a pretty good way to sum up what Riley's kind of earned in s5 :)
itsnotmymind
Nov. 15th, 2012 01:19 pm (UTC)
There's some so very ordinary about Riley's assholeness in S5 that makes it extra frustrating. He's not a murderous vampire, he's not even abusive or anything, he's just kind of a jerk.
local_max
Nov. 16th, 2012 07:31 pm (UTC)
Nods. I think that the worst thing he does objectively is not hurting Buffy, but treating the vampires the way he does (staking Sandy, in particular), though I kind of...get it (the degree to which vampires are persons is a blurry issue). In fact, the parallels between Riley/(Sandy/other vamps) and s6!Buffy/Spike are interesting -- Buffy feels more for Spike than Riley does for Riley, but she does use and abuse Spike. (Another missed opportunity for a parallel in As You Were -- I forget whether Spike mentioned something in that ep about the vamps, I feel on some level like he did, but I might just be misremembering.)

He is, of course, a jerk to Buffy -- and she is also the human, soul-having person whom he hurts the most.
itsnotmymind
Nov. 16th, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
Another missed opportunity for a parallel in As You Were -- I forget whether Spike mentioned something in that ep about the vamps, I feel on some level like he did, but I might just be misremembering.

I can't remember either, but YES to missed opportunity with As You Were. That episode had so much potential it didn't live up to.

Another thing that Buffy/Riley break-up reminds me of is the Spike/Dru break-up as portrayed in "Fool for Love"--where we have Dru cheating because she claims Spike is all about Buffy, while a bewildered Spike doesn't understand what's wrong.
local_max
Nov. 16th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
Oooh, yes about the Dru/Spike breakup. Actually SpringSummers (soulfulspike.com/indexholder then click on Spikecentricity, their website is not so much with the easy navigability) even did a line-by-line compare/contrast --



DRUSILLA: “Why can’t you kill her?” (RILEY: “I wanted to even the score after you let Dracula bite you.”)

SPIKE: “You’re the one who keeps bringing her up! I haven’t said a word about the bloody Slayer since we left California. She’s on the other side of the planet, Dru!” (BUFFY: “I did not let Dracula bite me!”)

DRUSILLA: “But you’re lying! I can still see her floating all around you, laughing. Why? Why won’t you push her away?” (RILEY: “I wanted to know why Dracula and Angel have so much power over you.”)

SPIKE: “But I did, pet. I did it for you. You keep punishing me. Carrying on with creatures like this.” (BUFFY: “Fine! Tell me about your whores! Tell me what on earth they were giving you that I can’t.”)

DRUSILLA: “I have to find my pleasures, Spike. You taste like ashes.” (RILEY: “They made me feel something, Buffy. Something I didn’t even know I was missing . . . they needed me.”)

SPIKE: “So this is my fault now?” (BUFFY: “So this is my fault? Hey, gee, Buffy’s so mysterious, I think I’ll go out and almost die. I think I’ll go and let some other-“)
itsnotmymind
Nov. 16th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
I did not know that anyone else had noticed that! Just goes to show that you can't have any new ideas in a fandom this old and this popular. The line-by-line comparison is neat. Thanks for copying that.
red_satin_doll
Nov. 27th, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for bringing that comparison from SpringSummers here! I haven't watched FFL in a long time, and didn't notice the parallels at the time - and I love finding parallels throughout the series.
red_satin_doll
Nov. 27th, 2012 08:20 pm (UTC)
he's not even abusive or anything, he's just kind of a jerk.

I definitely have sympathy for Riley's plight on an intellectual if not emotional level (probably didn't help that MB wasn't a better performer, or was told to be that flat?) But I have said and I still think that was he pulls on Buffy can be classified as abusive. In essence he is cheating on her (that's certainly how she sees it); and whether we interpret the vamphouse as a whorehouse or a drughouse (it's obviously become some kind of addiction he can no longer control), but in either case I think it's emotionally abusive, even if he doesn't intend that. (how many "abusers" intend to become that way? How many people are in an abusive spiral and are ashamed and angry at themselves but don't know how to stop?)

Gabrielleabelle wrote in her Buffy's Bad Sex Life meta that the relationship with Riley was the only one Buffy had in which sex was a positive aspect of it; and in S4 I liked him for that reason, that their relationship seemed to have a healing effect on Buffy; the look on her face where she wakes up in TIIT and doesn't expect him to be still there in the morning is telling and poignant. So to go to whores - metaphorically or not - and Buffy to have to see that, guts her - it's as though one of the most positive aspects of their relationship has been thoroughly soiled by his actions.

Therefore I disagree somewhat with gab's conclusion - there's still a sexual subtext there that has a very negative effect on Buffy. (And leads to one of her darkest hours and least honorable acts in the series, when she nods to the vampwhore to run as if to let her go, and then stakes her from behind.)

So, to me any way, Riley's actions are emotionally abusive. Again, not his intent, but not really the point IMO.

Of course the fact that he comes back in AYW (yeah we all agree what a missed opportunity that was) and seems to have gone back to his old life and old persona (and his cornball soup for the soul pop psychology) strikes me as a regression. Given the fact that he gets to fly away all shiny with his wife (a reversal of ITW) after Buffy has apologized (WTF?) for their break-up, I'm not sure if the writers intend for me to read that as being played straight - they like Riley and want us to like him as well - or as another moment of subversion in terms of Buffy's relationships.
itsnotmymind
Nov. 28th, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
I don't usually see cheating as abusive, but I guess it is a fine line. Although it occurs to me that the fact that Riley kills Sandy makes him abusive to the vampires. I wonder if the other vampires who fed from him knew about that.
red_satin_doll
Nov. 30th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
I wonder if the other vampires who fed from him knew about that.

Huh, I never thought of that. My suspicion is that the writers didn't either.

Re: the abuse, agree to disagree. I don't know about your family background but what I learned growing up was that "abusive" behavior doesn't always take the forms in that we see in the books and movies, that it's a wide spectrum of behaviors. In fact, I'm not really sure how else to see cheating, because it's dishonest, dishonorable, incredibly insulting to your partner, etc. I'm not sure how else to see it. It's more than just a verbal lie, it's a verbal and physical one, that strikes at another person (the person cheated on) in a very intimate and vunerable way.

And on the show it's cumulative, to me - there's the action itself, and then there's the fact that he leaves the Scoobies at risk on patrols throughout the season by not showing up, he leaves Buffy at risk (can you get diseases from vamps? Ok this isn't real life, but metaphors aside, suppose he did get vamped, would he then turn around and try to kill Buffy? )

And mcjulie makes a great point on her ITW meta:

During this scene Riley also makes an excessively creepy statement that the vampire hookers thing started "to even the score after you let Dracula bite you." Not only is this a stupid, childish, weasel thing to say, but, given that Dracula used metaphysical hypnosis so she wasn't exactly a consenting victim, and given the way vampire feeding is used as a sexual metaphor on Buffy, he is telling her something uncomfortably close to "you know that time you let yourself get raped? That really made me jealous. So I started going to prostitutes."
http://mcjulie.livejournal.com/42869.html
red_satin_doll
Nov. 27th, 2012 08:23 pm (UTC)
I think that sympathy & a punch in the face is a pretty good way to sum up what Riley's kind of earned in s5 :)

I can roll with that, if Buffy gets to deliver said smack-down. Or Willow - where is that shovel when it's needed, Miss Rosenberg?
slaymesoftly
Nov. 15th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
Very nice look at Riley's possible/probably motives and his indecision.
itsnotmymind
Nov. 16th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
red_satin_doll
Nov. 27th, 2012 08:26 pm (UTC)
I generally don't read Riley fic (I've seen a couple of good ones, but it's not something I seek out) but this is really very well done. You parse out his motivations and make him more interesting and complex in some ways than MB was able to convey onscreen. Which is unfortunate because I'd actually have more sympathy for him if that were so. (People have HUGE amounts of sympathy for Spike, who does far more awful things and for 100 years, I think because JM is so good at the role.
itsnotmymind
Nov. 28th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you :). I think I've acquired a bit of a soft spot for Riley. I think he is more interesting than fandom usually acknowledges. But yes, MB did not do a very good job of conveying that on screen.
red_satin_doll
Nov. 30th, 2012 02:08 am (UTC)
It's funny because I've seen several distinct camps when it comes to Riley: the general "he was boring" mainstream fandom, which doesn't seem to take his actions in S5 all that seriously, or if they do it's just to blame Buffy for everything; the more "feminist" crowd that can't stand his actions in S5 to the point that it's hard to remember that he was likable at times in S4 (but could still be a jerk - Doomed, for instance); and pretty much everyone downplays the hurt his breakup causes Buffy because they're emphasizing what Angel did to her - or denying that the sex scenes between MB and SMG were actually pretty damn hot . I've trying to take a middle of the road approach when I've written about him on my lj and be fair to him; there are aspects I will never ever like, and i also think the damage that break-up did to Buffy is VERY underestimated.

Actually - I kind of thought that they were going to put Riley and Willow together - they had more chemistry, I thought. I could have easily shipped the two of them!
red_satin_doll
Nov. 30th, 2012 02:13 am (UTC)
I forgot to rec my other favorite Riley fic from Rahirah: Riley watching Buffy and Sam spar while Spike taunts him. "The Psychological Advantage" Have you read it? (this is a ficlet in her "barbverse" so obviously B/S are a couple.) She gets at Riley's discomfort with Spike, his own issues with the strong women in his life quite nicely.
http://rahirah.livejournal.com/560733.html?view=14446685#t14446685
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