The day of the funeral was miserable. A hot, muggy, insufferable August day in Iowa, made worse by the dark suit Riley wore. It all still felt so unreal to Riley. Sam was gone. She was gone, and he still couldn’t believe it, was still waiting for her to walk back in the door. He’d always thought his family was safe here. He should have known better, but when he was in Iowa he always felt like all that supernatural stuff existed in a different world, one that couldn’t possibly encroach on this one. Demons and vampires usually preferred large population centers. Easier to hide murders as the work of human hands, and easier to hide themselves in places where people often dressed strangely and the stores were open all night long.
He hated the way everyone looked at him with pity in their eyes. The problem wasn’t that they felt sorry for him; the problem was that they felt sorry for him for the wrong reason. No one knew what he and Sam had done for the military. He’d never told his family and friends in Iowa about demons and monsters and vampires. They all thought that what happened to Sam was a tragic accident. They didn’t know she had been murdered.
He could feel their eyes on him now, but his own were focused on the coffin. It had been a closed casket funeral, for obvious reasons, and Riley knew she wasn’t really in there. He still had faith, even after all he had seen, and he believed that Sam was in a better place now. But his eyes were still riveted to the casket, as if allowing them to lower it into the ground would make it real. For Patrick, too, apparently, because as they lowered the casket into the ground he began to wail.
His parents led him to the car when the ceremony was over. His mother pried Patrick out of Riley’s arms and settled him in his car seat while his father herded Riley into the seat next to the baby. No one spoke as they drove back to the church, where the church ladies would be preparing a lunch. The only sound was Patrick’s sniffles as he cried himself to sleep.
The church’s air conditioning was on full blast, and it should have cooled Riley off, but he was so sweaty and uncomfortable that it actually made him cold. He couldn’t bring himself to eat, so he sat in a chair along the wall of the fellowship hall, holding Patrick. People kept coming up to him and offering their condolences, and Riley said all the right words but he didn’t really see any of them.
Then a completely unexpected face appeared before him. “Riley,” Willow said. “I’m so sorry.”
Riley had never seen her wearing black before. Her hair was longer and lighter than he remembered it being, less flaming red now and more strawberry-blonde. She looked older, too, although not in a bad way. She looked wiser, more mature, and there was a sadness in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. The relief that coursed through him at the sight of her surprised him. They hadn’t really been that close in Sunnydale; he had gotten along with all of Buffy’s friends, but he and Buffy had been their own little world while it was good, and then she’d shut him out of all of it when her mother got sick. But Willow was someone he could tell the truth to, and right now that felt like a lifeline.
He realized he’d been sitting there staring at her, and so he stood up, shifted Patrick to one arm and hugged Willow with the other. “Thank you for coming,” he said, awkwardly.
“Buffy wanted to come too, but she wasn’t sure it would be appropriate,” Willow said. “She wanted me to tell you how sorry she is. We could all see how much you loved Sam.”
“Thank you,” Riley said, feeling like a broken record. He was glad it was Willow here, and not Buffy. He didn’t think he could handle seeing Buffy right now. But he really did need someone to talk to, and he was probably going to need a little help, too. “How long can you stay? There’s something I need to talk to you about, but it can’t be here.”
“I’m staying at the Holiday Inn in Ames. Just for tonight, though.” She didn’t look surprised, and Riley wondered if she knew somehow that Sam’s death wasn’t an accident. Maybe it had popped up on some kind of demonic radar, and that’s how Willow had known. She certainly hadn’t been among the people his family would have notified.
“Well, if you can hang around until all of this is over…..” Riley trailed off, but Willow nodded.
“I’ll be here,” she said.
Riley met Willow at a coffee shop in Ames that evening. He’d intended to leave Patrick with his parents, but when the time came he just couldn’t bear to have him out of his sight. Willow told him how cute Patrick was and spent a few minutes making faces at him and talking in baby talk before turning back to Riley.
“I have the information you asked me for,” she said. For a moment Riley drew a blank. With everything that had happened since he last spoke to Willow, he had forgotten that he’d asked her to find his birth parents for him. It didn’t seem that important, now.
Willow seemed to notice something was wrong. “Riley?” she asked. “That was what you wanted to talk to me about, wasn’t it?”
“Actually,” Riley said, “I’d kind of forgotten about that. No, I wanted to talk to you about what happened to Sam.”
Now Willow looked puzzled. “The papers said it was a fire.”
“A fire set by a demon,” Riley said.
Willow stared at him as Riley recounted the events of the evening that Sam had died. Riley finished by saying, “I could really use some help. I’ve never even heard of anything like this before, so I don’t know how to even begin trying to find it.”
“Of course we’ll help,” Willow said immediately. “Not that that particular M.O. rings any bells with me, either, but that’s what the research part is for.” She paused, seemingly weighing her words. “Do you think that that John guy is involved somehow?”
Riley shrugged. “I don’t know. When I asked him how he knew it was coming for us, he said there were patterns. Signs. But he wouldn’t tell me what they were. Told me not to hunt for the demon, that I should concentrate on raising my son.”
Willow was silent for a moment before responding. “Maybe he was right.”
Riley stared at her. “I can’t just let a murderous demon roam free. I need to stop it, before it kills again.”
“Of course it needs to be stopped,” Willow said. “But you know that we can do that for you. You don’t have to be involved.”
“I want to be,” Riley said. Willow didn’t argue.
“I got the license plate number on his truck,” Riley continued. “I was hoping you could run it for me. He still seems like our best lead.” He said our
to placate Willow. He wasn’t stupid. He knew he needed help. That demon had killed Sam without giving her the opportunity to defend herself, and he hadn’t been able to do anything to it either. But he didn’t want to just hand this over to the Scoobies, and he didn’t want to become one of them in this hunt, either. He wanted to call the shots. Willow would probably let him, as long as he wasn’t acting all commando, but Buffy was not a follower.
It only took Willow a few minutes to track down the truck’s registered owner. But instead of giving the information to Riley, she said, “I think maybe we should talk about the original search I ran for you.”
“I don’t think that’s all that important right now,” Riley countered, wondering why on Earth Willow didn’t want to tell him who owned that truck.
“Humor me,” Willow said. “I think it is.”
“Why?” Riley asked.
“Because,” Willow said, “according to your original birth certificate, your birth parents’ names were Mary O’Reilly and John Winchester. And the name of the man who owns that truck? Is John Winchester.”