It had never been hot like this back home. Yeah, it got pretty warm in Iowa in the summers, but this wasn't the clean, straightforward heat of the sun turning the corn gold in the fields or letting him work up an honest sweat playing high school football. This was a slow, sticky, relentless heat that made him feel like he might just dissolve into helplessness underneath it. It was too hot to walk around, too hot to work, too hot to think rationally about anything. And that was good; it made it much easier to justify sneaking away from Graham and the other guys to the tumble-down house in the worst part of town. It was cooler there, and the vamps inside were practically cold. Riley could lie back and let them tap the vital warmth from him until he was too...weak and kitteny to care about anything. Not the heat, not his tanking career, not the rotting faces of Forrest and Maggie Walsh, not even Buffy. It was almost as good as being strong again.
A faint sigh fluttered through the air of the large, dark room, and Riley frowned. If only he could afford to have it done privately. He didn't really like the other men who came there. They all seemed so...furtive and miserable. God, did he have that messed-up look in his eyes? No, he couldn't. He wasn't some civilian cheating on his wife. He was Special Agent Finn. Good at being stoic. Good at hiding things. Always had been. Always would be. Another sigh, and he opened his eyes and focused with some difficulty on the only other man there at the moment. He was lying on a nearby green couch, one of the many pieces of decaying furniture that littered the room. Huh. This one seemed a little different. He was older, thin, and dark-haired, handsome in a worn-down kind of way. He had laid himself out with boneless grace, looking totally at peace. The slight tug downwards at the corners of his mouth was the only obvious sign of what the vampire crouching nearby was doing to him. Riley tilted his head. He looked familiar. Someone from...before. Rayne. Ethan Rayne. Magician. Bad guy. He gasped, and might have sat up, but at the last minute it was too much of an effort, so he settled for scowling at him.
The other man's eyes had opened at the sound, and he smiled languidly at Riley. "See something interesting?"
"You...you're supposed to be in detention," Riley blurted.
"Oh." A slight crease appeared in the other's forehead as he reflected, then finally recognized him. "Riley...Finn, is it? Of the late, not-particularly-lamented Initiative? Well, Riley, the nice men in the white coats rehabilitated me, just as you said they would, and now I'm a productive member of society again."
Ethan raised his eyebrows mockingly. "No. Not really. Don't tell anyone, but I escaped."
"I should...I should run you in."
"Yes, I rather suppose you should. But then you'd have to explain where you found me, and even if you're not with the Initiative anymore, I doubt your unit commander is that broad-minded about fraternizing with demons, is he?"
"No," he mumbled. The colonel's reaction wouldn't exactly compare to Buffy's, but it would be bad, all right.
"Well, then, I won't tell on you if you won't tell on me."
"Fine. Whatever." Riley turned his attention back to the steady, pulsing draw in his arm. The vamp was going too fast. "Slow down," he said to her.
"If you lie down, it helps. The blood doesn't come as easily if the limb is above the heart," Rayne advised, in a mild, friendly way. Riley ignored him. After a minute, Rayne persisted, "So, what brings a bright-eyed, square-jawed young fascist like you to a den of iniquity like this? Pardon my nosiness, but it's the most delicious irony I've seen in weeks and I simply must know."
"None of your business."
"Oh. I see." A short silence. "...She left you, did she?"
"Who said anything about Buffy leaving me?" Riley demanded, moving his head to glare at him dizzily.
"My dear boy, if you really do prefer sitting here and letting some vampire suck the life out of you to letting Buffy...do something else, I congratulate you on your perversity. But somehow I don't think you're quite at that level. Not yet, anyway."
"You mustn't blame yourself, you know. You are quite attractive, in a homespun sort of way. And I'm sure you gave it your manly best. It's not your fault if our little Buffy has...special needs. She's a special girl."
"What are you doing here, anyway?" Riley grumbled. "Mr. Giles didn't find him getting turned into a demon as big of a turn-on as you did?"
He'd only meant it as an insult to shut him up--or perhaps start a fight, which, even in his current condition, he could win easier than an argument--but Rayne actually blinked and sighed. "As a matter of fact, no, he didn't. He's gotten so conservative."
Oh. Hearing his tone, it was suddenly less impossible than it had been only a few seconds previously for Riley to imagine a disheveled Mr. Giles leaning back in Rayne's arms as he--. "He's not that conservative," he said without thinking. "I saw him going at it with three vamp chicks at once."
"Oh, did you really?" Rayne's eyes gleamed with fascination. "Lucky you. Do tell me all the juicy details."
"Why should I?"
"Well, for one thing, I can think of all sorts of things I'd be willing to do for you in exchange," he said, drawing a finger of his free hand along his mouth.
"No, thanks," he said, flushing as much as he could with the blood loss. The vamp at his arm seemed to be feeding with twice as much enthusiasm as before. "I'm--"
"Straight? Come now. You can't be that innocent. Do you really think letting a vampire suck on you is something straight men do?"
"No," he said, wanting to put a stop to this before it went any further. His head was whirling too much, and he was getting too caught up. Or, you could say, certain parts of him were. Autonomic response, the psych textbook phrase came to mind, and he held onto it. "I think it's something frustrated and lonely men do."
Again, Ethan didn't take the bait; he just nodded, though something crueler had come into his eyes. "True. But there are other things frustrated and lonely men can do. Why draw the line there? I won't even insist on Rupert's story in return, if you've scruples."
"Why draw the line there?" Riley said, faintly disbelieving. "I don't know, because you're evil?"
"Did you hear that, ladies?" Ethan asked the vamps, who didn't really seem to care. "Mr. Finn is not being very gallant tonight. He says you're not evil."
"They're different. You, you chose to be like this."
"And you chose to cast in your lot with a brutal pack of military butchers, but I'm not holding it against you."
Riley let his head fall back against the chair, closing his eyes. "Is there any way to get you to shut up?"
"Now that you mention it, there is one foolproof technique..."
"I told you, I'm straight."
"And I'm good enough that it doesn't matter. Don't tell me it's too sordid for you to imagine me sucking your cock."
The thing was, Riley was too groggy to pretend that it was. Not in this place, this heat. Not more than letting this emaciated girl in her dirty clothes dig her fangs into him. Somehow it was becoming all too easy to imagine that fine-lipped, wide mouth moving against his skin, so much more softly, so much more sweetly than the vampire could do it. Like Buffy, but maybe...maybe actually there when it was happening. He hadn't had any since he'd left Sunnydale, and...
He made a noise that wasn't really a whimper.
"I think we're done with you here, my dears," he heard Ethan saying to the vamps. The girl at his arm got up, and for a minute, he pulsed uselessly against the air. Then Ethan's mouth was there, lapping delicately, before traveling up his arm with broad, slow sweeps of his tongue. Riley shivered. Warmer than the vamp's, much warmer, but that didn't mean safer or righter. Dampness on his humming skin, dampness in the air; he was letting all his strength seep out of him into the Belize night, and Ethan's tongue was infinitely more sapping than anything a vampire could bring to bear. "You taste so good..." Ethan whispered to him, and the undertone of want in that cool voice surprised him, made his hand clench in Ethan's hair.
Ethan kept on, kissing his way up his shoulder. Slow, supple kisses. Poison mounting in his veins, like the injections Maggie had given him. He hadn't been supposed to want them afterwards, after they'd found out how bad they were for him. "Say that again."
"You...taste...so...good...Riley...Finn," and every word was interpersed with a melt of the other's mouth against his neck. Ethan slid over his thigh, deliberately rubbing against him as he did. Hard, Riley thought. Another man, hard for him, and kneeling between his legs, and that strange new thought gave him as wonderful and sick a rush as he'd ever gotten there. Ethan reached up to unbutton his shirt and grinned with pleasure at what he saw when it fell open. Riley looked down at him and shuddered weakly; his dark eyes were so intent, so eager to devour. Another fairy-tale monster, and his shape, so human, so normal, without even fangs to disfigure the mouth, made Ethan the most terrible and exciting one of all. What was he after?
He didn't think he had asked the question out loud until Ethan's smile widened and he dragged his teeth along his lip. And perhaps he hadn't. "What did the others take?" He put his hand lightly on Riley's chest, and something coiled into him, stroking and caressing its way into his spirit and making him give up the knowledge he clutched to himself. "Voice...mind...blood...oh, and the heart. Without question, the heart. Goodness. Riley Finn is a mere hollow shell of his former self." He insinuated himself back up, nibbling along the pectoral muscles, up the neck, to right below the ear. "Quite like me, actually."
The thought should have repelled him, but it just made him pull him closer instead. "Then tell me...how you stand it..."
"Like this." Ethan was moving downwards again. "Wandering the earth. Inciting mischief. Coddling some very entertaining addictions. Seducing innocent young men lucky enough to have lived near the rose." He unzipped Riley's pants, and looked down hungrily. He licked his lips, then glanced back up. "But none of it helps a bit in the end, you know."
"Oh, I swear by Janus himself." And he brought his head down.
Afterwards, while Ethan's head was still on his lap, Riley mumbled, "What did you want from me?"
"What?" Ethan casually tried to pull away.
Riley clutched his hair, only just strong enough to keep him. "If I'm just a hollow shell."
The other was quiet for a few seconds, then said, "Your will."
"Yes, your will. It's stronger than you think it is, Riley. You left Sunnydale of your own choice, and you've stayed away since." Ethan tried again, and this time was able to extract himself from Riley's grip. "I was weakening, but now you've given me a little more time."
He wanted to ask something more, but his vision went black.
Riley opened his eyes some time later, sick and numb. The room was empty. Slowly, he brought his arm up to look at his watch. It was almost evening curfew. He had to get back, he thought, but for some minutes made no effort to do so. He finally stood up, ignoring the way the world lurched around him as he did, and reached for his jacket. There was a strange lump in the pocket, and he pulled out a bag with a note attached. It was filled with a brown powder. Safer than the brothel, and sweeter, the note promised.
Riley shrugged and shoved it back into his pocket. Later he'd try it. Right now, he was so cold he needed nothing, nothing at all.