Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Un-Still Life, With River
By Twinkledru J.
For A Secret Slasha Dropout

The dirt in the jungle was nearly black, was dirt soft and rich and filled with life, or the potential for life. That's what Riley says, anyway, and, well, even after the years away, the farm is still inside of Riley. Farm boy knows his soils.

The dirt here is soft, too, and dark, and rich. But it's not the same, not by a long shot. Graham isn't certain exactly what is different -- maybe Riley could tell him, if Graham cared enough to ask -- but there's something.

He doesn't really care, though. But it's something to take his mind of the goddamn cold as they stand down by the river. It's maybe a mile from the farm, where the rest of the Finn clan is gathered, and Riley says they'll probably walk down here again after dinner. He wanted to show Graham around, was his excuse, although Graham knows that he wants to get away from the crowded, warm, bright farmhouse.

"You okay?" Graham asks. He does not look at Riley, but stares off across the river, his arms crossed. There are little clouds that float up from him with every breath. He is not used to this. There was one mission in Nepal, a yeti capture, but that was a few days, and besides, he had lots of protective gear.

"Yeah," Riley answers, and does not say more. Graham was worried -- that was the main reason he came back to the farm with Riley. Being in familiar surroundings might mean falling back into familiar habits, and although there are a number of reasons why that cannot be an option for Riley, there are two really big ones. Firstly, the unit is strapped for men, and they can't afford for one of their best to be in anything but top form because of detoxing.

And secondly, Riley is Graham's friend, and he won't let Riley go through that again.

He doesn't entirely think that it's the truth, that Riley's all right, and he knows that he's thinking about what might have happened, about who he might have come hear with. But Graham doesn't argue, just looks at Riley briefly, and then back out over the river.

The sunset is hidden behind trees, and it's getting colder with every moment, or so it seems to Graham. "Christ," he mutters. When Riley looks at him, bemused, he adds, "It's fucking cold."

Riley laughs at that, which, even if it is at him, makes Graham feel a little better. It reassures him, it is familiar. "It's only October, soldier," he says. "If you can't handle October in Iowa -- "

"No one warned me it was gonna be chilly," Graham interrupts, not protesting too fiercely.

Riley grins. "I told you to bring a jacket. Should've listened."

Graham shakes his head. At least it's pretty, he thinks. Small consolation, really, but nonetheless.

The most important thing he knows is that right now, Riley is not really happy. And he doesn't even think that Riley knows that -- Riley thinks that he is happy here, or at least, he knows that he should be. But it's been too long, and they've seen too much, and, because Riley is ever the dutiful soldier, there's still a lot left for them to do.

Graham also thinks that one day, he will be happy here again. After he's spent a few years eating on the run, dining on cold rations and chasing demons through the most god-forsaken holes in the world, Riley will, one day, come back to the farm and be happy there.

But he isn't, not right now, and Graham knows that in a few days, when they leave again, bound for the next god-forsaken hole, then Riley will be happy.

Riley puts an arm around Graham after a moment or so, about his shoulders. Graham says nothing, does not argue or protest or tease. There's no one else around, and even if there were, Graham doesn't think it would be a big deal. Riley's family are kind, and they love their son unconditionally, and Graham knows that there's nothing that can shake that.

Graham just smiles, and puts his hand on top of Riley's. There are still a few brilliant red-gold sparkles on the water, remnants of the quickly-fading sun, but the sky is mostly a dark, endless blue.

It is not long before the sun is gone completely. "We should head back," Riley says, a little after sunset, his arm still around Graham's shoulders. He is still on duty, in his mind, still going on alert as soon as the sun is down. Graham can't blame him, he does the same thing, and he's not embittered by the realization.

"Yeah," Graham agrees. "We should."

It's silent for another few moments, and finally, Riley says, as though he were remembering something, "We'll miss dinner."

That's the truth. But it's an awkward addition, and it's not the reason they both feel a little less relaxed now that it's dark.

"Yeah," is all Graham says, though. Because, well, it's not the whole truth, but it's a truth. And that's enough.

They share a quick kiss before they turn and begin the walk back. Riley's lips are patient against Graham's. For these few moments, at least, he is calm, and that is something that helps Graham, that cheers him, that keeps him warm during the long, "goddamn fucking cold" walk back.