Ch. 42 – The Odd Man Out
This episode involves “A New Man”
The next morning, Buffy dropped by the motel and caught Dean just as he was packing up. He glanced behind him after tossing his bag in the trunk and saw her walking over. He shut the trunk as she flashed a smile and leaned against the bumper.
“How are you feeling today?” she asked. “How’s your back?”
“It’s been better,” he answered. “Someday it’ll stop aching.”
She nodded. “Well thanks…..for saving the world….even though that was the craziest stunt you ever pulled. You DOVE into the Hellmouth.”
She gave him a scolding frown.
Dean shrugged casually. “You do what you gotta do to save lives. And you’ve pulled a couple of crazy stunts in your life too Miss Let’s Burn Down the School Gym….”
She opened her mouth and gasped. “Am I ever going to live that down?”
Dean grinned and shook his head, “Not if I can help it.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You seem to be in a better mood,” he assessed.
She gave a small smile. “Yeah, I guess I let the quake get the best of me…I was just wiggin’ about….everything. I
really wasn’t myself.”
They exchanged warm smiles before Buffy gave him a hug goodbye.
“So, I’ll see you in two weeks or so?”
She watched the heavy reluctance fall over his face.
“What? You are coming back, right?”
“Yeah….it just might be a little longer. Dad and I are going to start heading east again.”
Her eyes flared with disappointment. “Oh, so a couple of months then?”
“Yeah, at least, I’ll let you know.”
“You better,” she said.
After walking back to campus, Buffy stopped by Riley’s room. She knocked on the door and heard him grant access. She opened the door and poked her head in to see Riley shooting Nerf basketballs across the room. She strolled in as he missed another basket.
“Hi,” she said. “I thought you were going to come by so we could talk….I waited and waited so I thought I’d find you.”
Riley stood up from the edge of the bed and nodded anxiously.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” he said. “It’s just….well I totally blew it. My top secret cover. You found out but that was by circumstance. I can handle that. But the other night – with all of your friends – I just – completely choked. It was awful. I’m usually well rehearsed in my cover stories but – neighborhood watch and wearing a costume for more impact? That was pretty pathetic….I totally just shot myself in the foot.”
Buffy gave a sympathetic smile. “You’re not the only one.”
Riley’s self-pitying frown faded when he saw the apologetic look on her face. She sat down on the end of the bed.
“I’ve been pretty shaken by that earthquake and it just….it really just crushed my ability to think rationally….to think positive…..so…..the things I said…..”
She drew a deep breath.
“Can we – start over?”
She gave a humbled smile and extended a hand out.
“Hi, I’m Buffy, the Slayer, and you are?”
One week later:
Caperton, West Virginia
John Winchester cracked an amused smile as he watched his eldest son gleefully enjoying a stack of pancakes. Dean took a slow sip of coffee and drew a contented smile before settling back against his seat. He felt the weight of a stare and met his dad’s eyes.
John chuckled for a minute. “Good breakfast son?”
“Actually, these pancakes taste like rubber but I don’t care,” Dean replied. “I’m just grateful I’m alive to eat another meal.”
“I’m glad you’re not taking life for granted.”
“Yeah, there’s nothing like another apocalypse to make you appreciate your life.”
With that, Dean stuffed the last bit of rubbery pancake in his mouth.
“How is Buffy doing?”
“She seemed to bounce back after the dust settled,” Dean answered. “But I guess that’s not too surprising since
she usually does.”
John noticed the familiar spark in his son’s eyes whenever they talked about Buffy.
“So you two are still getting along?”
“Yeah, when she’s not bugging the crap out of me,” he quipped.
John flashed an amused smile. “Well, I’m very pleased you two managed to stay in contact over the years. Who would have thought that little girl in pigtails would have such a profound effect on your life.”
Dean was about to jokingly protest when he heard his cell phone humming in his pocket. He glanced at the caller ID screen but the number wasn’t listed.
“Hello?....Willow? Hey…I didn’t recognize the number….you’re calling from where? Oh….well, what’s up…..Uh, I’m not really one to make plans that far in advance. Is something special going on?”
John noticed his son’s face had thickened with guilt.
Dean sunk down in his seat.
“I am such an ass, I completely forgot her birthday was coming up. You have something planned? A surprise party? Seriously?.......yeah, yeah I’ll be there, I wouldn’t miss it….thanks for reminding me…bye.”
Dean stuffed his phone in his pocket.
“Buffy’s birthday?” John asked.
Dean flushed red. “You remembered, didn’t you?”
“Actually, it slipped my mind as well.”
Dean blew out a breath. “Oh, well I don’t feel so bad now.”
The waitress stopped by to refill their coffee cups. John studied the deep reflection on his son’s face as he sipped his coffee.
“Dean, I think it’s time we officially initiate Buffy into the family.”
Dean paused in the middle of sipping from his coffee cup. He face knitted with apprehension.
“Uh…..what do you mean by ‘initiate’ dad?”
John chuckled briefly before explaining. “It’s been awhile since you’ve had some thorough physical training. How about for Buffy’s birthday, we put her through the Gauntlet?”
Dean drew out a huge sigh of relief. “Ohhhhhh, for a second there I thought you were going to ask me to….”
John chuckled, seeing his son’s face flush with dread.
“So, do you think she’d be up for it?”
“The Gauntlet? I don’t know. I think she’d rather spend her birthday shopping like crazy not crawling through the mud and scaling eight foot walls….”
“What’s the matter Dean? Are you afraid she’ll break your course record?’
Dean scoffed, “What?! Hell no. No way she’d ever come close.”
“Okay then, consider that a challenge,” John replied. “I’ll see about securing a location.”
“You’re coming out with me?”
John gave a paternal smile. “You and Buffy competing in the Gauntlet is a day I would never miss.”
When the check came, John quickly paid and slipped out of the booth.
“Better rest up son, you’re going to need it,” John teased.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Are you doubting me dad? You think I can’t beat her?”
John ambled toward the door as Dean scrambled out of the booth.
One week later:
Buffy and Riley walked hand in hand and stole looks at each other as they made their way to her dorm room. Buffy leaned in the doorway and gazed up at Riley with a dreamy smile.
“You want to come in?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“Are you expecting Willow any time soon?”
Buffy shook her head.
“Willow said she’d be out all night,” she said.
Buffy reached behind her and pushed the door open. Riley moved inside as he slipped his arms around her waist. Buffy kicked the door closed as she guided Riley toward her bed. Riley cradled her body and set her gently down on the bed. Riley leaned in and kissed her for a few minutes. Buffy let out a contented sigh as she started to pull up his shirt. The intimate moment was disturbed by the abrupt swinging of the door. Willow bounded in, breathless. Buffy masked her disapproving frown.
“Or not,” she muttered.
Willow waved her arms in the air and exaggerated a fearful expression. Buffy sat up, growing alarmed by Willow’s frantic state.
“Trouble?” she asked.
“The rec room….it came through the window and…”
Buffy and Riley were about to ask a question when Willow continued.
“It was roaring and spitting fire!”
Buffy and Riley exchanged looks of worry before quickly collecting themselves. They armed up and bolted out of the room.
Moments later, Buffy, Riley and Willow inched down a hallway leading to the rec room.
“I should call this in,” Riley advised.
Buffy shook her head,
“We don’t have time,” she said.
She reached into her weapons bag and handed Riley a crossbow. When they reached the rec room, Buffy eyed two sets of doors, one at the far end of the hall, the other a few feet away from her. She nodded toward the door at the far end. Riley nodded with understanding and headed toward the door. Buffy crept over to the closest door and glanced at Willow who was right beside her.
“Let’s make this quick,” she said quietly. “I had other things in mind for tonight than killing something.”
Buffy geared up for fighting mode before she tore through the door, gripping a small axe. She ran inside and found the room completely dark. A half second later, the lights abruptly switched on. Dean, Giles, Xander and Anya along with a handful of dorm mates appeared from behind couches and other hiding areas.
In unison, everyone yelled “Happy Birthday!”
Buffy blinked in complete surprise. She quickly slipped the axe back in her bag and pried an awkward smile on her face. A minute later, the door on the far end flew open and Riley charged in. He stopped in his tracks when his eyes shifted around the room. He discreetly hid the crossbow behind a chair near the door.
“No need to kill something tonight,” Willow chimed.
Buffy replied through gritted teeth, “It’s still early.”
A short time later, the party started as music filled a set of speakers and guests milled around chatting and eating. Giles, Anya and Xander hung out in a corner of the room. Anya eventually lured Xander away leaving Giles by himself. He watched all the young, unfamiliar faces in the room as he tried to enjoy the atmosphere. He glanced at Buffy who was wandering around the room politely greeting guests. All the young folks who passed by him gave him odd looks. Giles shifted in his stance and tried to relax even though he was feeling quite out of place.
Buffy darted from one guest to the other, feigning an appreciative smile. She was hoping to make the rounds quickly and then sneak back to her room with Riley. When she snaked through a pair of people she didn’t know at all, she was caught off guard by the sight of someone very familiar.
She rolled her eyes when she saw Dean chatting with an attractive girl in the corner of the room. She wandered over and heard the tail end of the conversation. Dean flashed a charming smile to the girl.
“Wow, that’s amazing,” he said.
His eyes drifted to Buffy who was looking on with curious eyes. The girl recognized Buffy as the guest of honor and gave a polite smile.
“Kara,” she said.
Buffy reciprocated the polite smile.
“Happy birthday,” Kara replied.
“Thanks,” Buffy replied.
Kara set her eyes back on Dean and threw him a flirtatious smile.
“Well, it was nice hiding with you,” she cooed.
Dean chuckled briefly before smiling back at her. “Yeah, it was.”
“You got my number?”
Dean flashed a white napkin with a phone number.
“I do,” he replied.
Kara gave him another smile before wandering away. Buffy suddenly found herself distracted from her goal of departing early. She gave Dean a cross look.
“You’re hitting on girls at my birthday party,” she replied.
“It’s my birthday party,” she repeated more firmly. “This night is supposed to be about me. You’ve been here all this time and you didn’t even make yourself known. You didn’t even say hello.”
Dean eyed Riley chatting with some buddies.
“Well, I saw that you were – busy.”
Buffy twisted around to follow his line of sight before looking back at him.
“I didn’t think you’d be here,” she said.
“That’s why they call it a surprise party, you never know who is going to show up.”
Willow skipped over.
“It’s time for cake! Come on Buffy!”
Willow took her hand and guided her to a ping pong table where a large sheet cake sat. After the group of guests gathered around, some sang the birthday song while others simply looked on. Willow eagerly started slicing up the cake while guests dispersed and went back to mingling.
Buffy eyed Willow chatting with Giles. She lured Riley away from his friends and led him over to Giles. She gave Giles a warm hug and introduced him to Riley. Giles and Riley made polite conversation as Willow was pulled away to manage the party schedule.
Willow returned shortly to draw Buffy over to a couch for gift opening. Riley sat next to her as she opened gifts from people she hardly knew.
“Oh, a scented candle,” she said. “Thanks!”
She opened a gift bag and pulled out – a scented candle.
“Oh, yay, a scented candle!”
The next gift bag contained yet another candle. Buffy feigned excitement as she thanked the gift giver. Riley began to lament over something when he noticed Dean behind the crowd watching Buffy from afar. Riley ambled over to Dean and gave him a nod of acknowledge.
“Say Dean, I was wondering if I could get some ideas from you.”
Riley gave a humbled smile.
“I had no idea it was Buffy’s birthday and so – I didn’t get her anything but I want to except, I have no idea what she would like. I don’t want to just run out and get her a scented candle – although she seems to like those, right? No, I’d like to get something more personal…and since you two have known each other awhile….maybe you could suggest something that she’d get really excited over?”
Dean was a little off put by the question but swallowed the urge to comment. He threw Riley a polite smile.
“She’s a hard one to figure out, huh?”
After a minute, Riley’s confused expression shaded into an awkward smile. He laughed a little.
“Yeah,” Riley conceded.
“Well, I really don’t think it matters what you get her. She tends to walk in the clouds if you know what I mean.”
“Oh, yeah…..I think…”
Before Riley could press him further, Dean had walked away.
Buffy had moved on to opening gifts from Giles, Anya and Xander. Most of the party guests had left without saying goodbye. There were just a handful of people in the rec room by the time the party had wound down. Buffy smiled dreamily at Riley as he caught her eyes. He smiled back at her before going back to his conversation with a friend.
A short time later, Giles, Anya and Xander said their goodbyes to Buffy and departed. When all the guests left, Willow began dutifully cleaning up the room as Riley offered to help. Buffy shifted her eyes around the room and noticed Dean had disappeared. She shook her head, figuring he had taken off with his newest conquest. When he appeared in the doorway a short time later, she blinked in surprise. He wandered over to her and sat on the couch arm. He revealed a small intricately wrapped present and handed it to her.
“That’s not exactly something you can open in front of everyone,” he replied. “I wanted to wait until I got you alone.”
She regarded the impressive wrapping job with awe.
“Willow,” he confessed. “Apparently, she didn’t approve of my plain paper bag.”
“Oh. I should have figured.”
She giggled for a second before grasping the ends of a violet lace ribbon. She tore off the wrap and opened a wood box. Inside was a small cylindrical handle of some sort. She removed it from the case and studied it curiously. There were two small buttons in the center of the object.
“Uh, you got me a….light saber?”
Dean shook his head in amusement. He snatched the object from her and pressed a button. A wooden stake shot out from the right side of the cylinder. Buffy widened her eyes in amazement. Dean pressed the second button.
Another stake shot out from the left side.
“Holy cow!” she cried gleefully.
Buffy gasped and stole the weapon out of his hand. She grasped the center handle and admired the double sided stake.
“Wow!” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like this!”
Dean gave a proud smile. “It’s one of a kind, custom made.”
Buffy spun it around like a baton before stabbing the air with each side of the stake.
“I take it you like that,” he said.
Buffy gasped as her mind flooded with all the possibilities of attack.
“Uh yeah, that’s putting it lightly.”
“Well good, because it cost me a fortune.”
Buffy flashed a guilt ridden expression. “Oh….you didn’t have to spend so much on me…I…”
Dean drew a hand and waved it dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. Dad and I wanted to get you something special since we weren’t around for your birthday last year.”
“Thank you,” she said sincerely.
“Don’t thank me yet,” he said. “There’s a second part to your birthday present.”
Her eyes sparked with excitement.
“Oh? More gifts?”
“Not exactly,” he replied. “Dad wanted me to extend an invitation to partake in the Winchester birthday tradition….”
Buffy drew a look of confusion before her mind dove into her knowledge of the Winchester family history.
“You mean the….”
“The Gauntlet,” he confirmed.
Buffy gasped. “No way!”
“Yeah, I figured you’d want to spend your birthday shopping or something.”
Buffy shook her head as her eyes sparked with excitement.
“No I meant, yeah, totally, count me in!”
“Are you sure? Don’t think you’re going to get any special treatment because you’re a chick.”
Buffy stared him down.
“Are you kidding me? I so can’t wait to kick your ass - again!” she cried boastfully.
“Oh is that so?”
“That’s a fact,” she taunted. “I always kick your ass.”
“We’ll see about that. I’m the long standing record holder. I can run the Gauntlet blindfolded,” he said boastfully.
Dean straightened and pivoted toward the door.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, four am, bright and early," he barked.
Buffy cocked her head confidently.
“Looking forward to it!....Wait……four in the morning?”
“Can’t we push it back a few hours?”
Dean paused at the door and spun around.
“I told you, no special treatment.”
She whimpered again as he strolled out the door. Riley returned from taking the trash out and joined Buffy on the couch.
“What a night, huh?” he said with a smile.
Buffy reciprocated his smile.
“Yeah, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for but yeah.”
“Well, you know what they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?”
“True but that wasn’t exactly our first try….”
Riley gave a bashful smile. “Oh, yes….I guess we have seen each other a lot lately.”
“And we keep getting rudely interrupted by demons….and unexpected roommates.”
Buffy started piling her gifts in a shopping bag.
“I was thinking tomorrow for your birthday, I could take you to breakfast before classes.”
Riley saw the pained look on her face.
“You don’t like breakfast?”
“No, I love breakfast, it’s just…I sort of already have plans….with Dean and his dad….they have this birthday tradition– it’s a competition. And since it’s been awhile since I’ve beat him, I was really looking forward to it and…..but no, I can cancel on him…it’s no big deal.”
Riley saw the disappointment on her face.
“No, it’s okay. Go, have fun.”
“Are you sure?”
“So, what kind of competition is it?”
She grinned, “Oh, they call it The Gauntlet, it’s basically an obstacle course, you know, rope swinging over a mud pool, a wall climb, target practice and sparring matches.”
Riley brightened, “That actually sounds pretty fun.”
“Oh, you could come too if you want ….I can ask Dean, I’m sure it would be okay.”
“No, that’s okay. It sounds like you have quite a morning planned.”
She smiled, “Yeah, they get you up before the sun rises, throw you on a muddy course and make you run arduous exercises for hours but later we get to eat a huge breakfast!”
Riley enjoyed the pure joy on her face. “I wasn’t aware of how far back your friendship with Dean went.”
“Yeah, usually when people say, “we go way back” it usually means just a couple of years or so. No wonder you two get along so well.”
Buffy shrugged. “When he’s not driving me nuts.”
Buffy began to play with her double sided stake again. Her face washed with adolescent glee.
“Wow,” Riley replied. “That’s some weapon you got there.”
Buffy gave a silly smile. “Yeah, Dean got it for me. He totally gets me.”
Riley nodded as he masked his jealousy.
Willow finished cleaning everything up and walked with Buffy and Riley back to the room. Willow went inside and left the two alone.
Buffy sighed. “I guess we’ll have to plan for another night?”
Riley pulled her into his arms. “There’s no rush, we have all the time in the world.”
Early the next morning, while the entire dormitory slept peacefully, Dean snuck into Buffy and Willow’s room. He silently padded over to Buffy’s bed and threw a thick blanket over her. She stirred only slightly. Dean rolled her up in the blanket, scooped her up and threw her over his shoulder. He charged out of the room, careful not to disturb Willow. Buffy kicked her feet out instinctively as she whipped her weary eyes around and saw the ground moving quickly behind her. She hitched her head up and shook away the blanket hooded over her.
She let out a soft whimper when she realized what was happening.
“I really hoped you would have skipped this part!” she groaned.
“No special treatment,” Dean repeated firmly.
He tossed her in the backseat of the car. Her whimpers were drowned out by the sounds of the blasting radio.
After almost two hours of grueling drills and timed exercises, Buffy and Dean emerged from the old military base, exhausted and caked in mud. John had taken the time to hose down the dirt grounds, so the course was extra slippery. Buffy moped for a few minutes about the clumps of mud in her hair until Dean called her names. She pouted for a second before declaring herself the winner of the dreaded Gauntlet. She skipped victoriously to the car with a smug smile.
“Dad hasn’t announced the times yet,” Dean groaned. “So wipe that smug smile off your face.”
Dean followed behind his dad as they drove to a twenty-four diner. They settled into a booth and ordered breakfast. After the waitress brought several plates of food, John looked on with pride as his eldest son and their oldest family friend ate in silence.
“You’d make a fine soldier Buffy,” John replied. “You beat Dean’s long standing course record by two and a half minutes.”
Dean was flabbergasted. He dropped his fork and nearly choked on his food.
Buffy smirked at him before she stuffed a forkful of waffles in her mouth. Dean sulked for a long minute before he made a plea.
“You know dad, she’s not really a Winchester so I don’t think her time should count.”
Buffy gasped, “It so too should count! John can decide if it counts, it counts right?”
She regarded John who gave an amused smile. “I think it’s a good time to work towards Dean.”
“Are you serious?”
Buffy snickered for a minute before she smiled smugly again. “Oh just face it Dean…”
She leaned toward him and sniffed his muddy neck a few times.
She threw her head back and burst out laughing. Dean glared at her childish mocking until his eyes snapped to his dad, who had suddenly joined in on the laughfest.
“You too dad?”
Dean shook his head as Buffy and John settled down. The mood shifted when the waitress delivered two ice cream sundaes with a birthday candle in each scoop. Though the three were painfully aware of Sam’s absence, no one mentioned the youngest Winchester.
“Happy Birthday Buffy,” John exalted. “I’m very proud of you. You’ve grown up right before my eyes into such a strong and independent young woman. Here’s to a long, fulfilling life.”
He raised his coffee mug.
“Yeah, here’s hoping for an apocalypse free year,” Dean added.
“Here’s to….old friends, new adventures,” Buffy said with great sentiment.
Buffy and Dean exchanged heartfelt smiles before blowing out their birthday candles.
The following morning, Dean met up with Buffy and Willow at the Rocket Café on campus. Willow looked on in wonder as the two ribbed each other for five minutes over the previous day’s competition. After a time, they settled down to eat breakfast. Buffy gleefully picked at her plate.
“Me like pancakes! Oh so stackable and fluffy, just like waffles – no waffles are better because they have those little crooks and crannies that you can drench stuff in it…”
Willow snickered at Buffy’s silly smile while Dean merely rolled his eyes at her goofy behavior.
“Oh, I like new boyfriend Buffy, she’s so much fun!”
Buffy paused and blushed red.
“So, you guys had fun on the Giblet?”
Buffy giggled. “The Gauntlet….and yeah, it was so much fun kicking Dean’s ass, over and over and over….”
She got in his face and flashed a wide smirk.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, shut up,” he groaned.
“Sore loser,” she teased.
She glanced at Willow.
“You must have had a late night. I didn’t hear you come in at all. What were you up to?”
Willow bit her lip and drummed up a cover story, complete with fork animation.
“That’s….interesting,” Dean replied.
“I really felt some sort of presence in the air….like a dark-majiks energy….must have caused my spell to go wrong.”
Dean thought back to the last time Willow had performed a spell. He gave a disgruntled frown.
“Yeah, I’m sure that was it,” he muttered.
His words fell on oblivious ears as Willow and Buffy had their own conversation. He got up to refill his coffee cup.
“You really need to spend some time with Giles,” Willow suggested. “He’s still stewing in hurt from the fact that you kept the whole thing about Riley from him. I think he’s really feeling neglected and put aside with you know, the Initiative taking care of a lot of the demon action around here.”
Buffy winced with guilt. “I didn’t mean to hold on out him but there was just so much going on I couldn’t process it all…..and Riley asked me to keep his identity in confidence but then…”
“We all know,” Willow finished.
After a long minute, Buffy let go of her guilt. “I’ll fix things with Giles. I owe him that. I’ll spend the day with him…..tomorrow….today I want to spend my time with Riley.”
“Right, because that’s what you do on the days that end in ‘y’.”
Buffy gave a bashful smile. “I guess we have been seeing each other a lot. It’s just…I pushed him away before because of the whole impending apocalypse thing but now….we’ve gotten back on track and I think things are really going well….I hope they are…”
Willow glanced at the clock above the cashier station.
“Oh, I’ve got to run over to the library before my first class.”
Buffy started to get up.
“No, stay, I’ll catch you later.”
Willow waved at Dean as he sat back down. Buffy drifted off in thought for several minutes. Dean eyed her spaced out look.
“Earth to Summers,” he chimed.
Buffy dipped further in her thoughts and didn’t respond. Dean slowly waved a hand in front of her face.
Buffy suddenly blinked out of her daze.
“Did you have nice a trip, Spacegirl?”
Buffy shook the fog of thoughts in her mind. She gave an apologetic smile.
After a long pause, she shifted in her seat.
“You’re cool with the fact that I can kick your ass, right Dean?”
She watched as his laidback expression formed into a scowl.
“Oh are we starting in on this again?”
She shook her head.
“No, no I meant…..”
She let out a long breath.
“Last night, Riley and I had a sparring match and he really didn’t want me to hold back. So I didn’t.”
Dean blinked with disbelief. “So you…killed him?”
“No, no of course not,” she said. “He was just really enthusiastic about fighting me so I fibbed about not holding back. But of course I had to so I….held back.”
Buffy squirmed in her seat, still feeling bad.
“I - threw him across the room.”
“Oh you mean you officially initiated him into the fold?”
He chuckled for a minute.
“I don’t think he really saw the humor in it,” she said. “I think he was a bit….embarrassed by how I could
overpower him without too much effort.”
“Well, he’ll get over it,” he replied casually.
“You think so?” she asked with genuine wonder.
He noticed the trepidation in her eyes and sat back.
“He has to if he wants to be with the Slayer.”
She crooked her eyebrows in offense.
“How about me - the girl?”
He glanced at her. “That’s what I meant, you, the girl, the Slayer, the student, the daughter, the friend….all those roles make up who you are and Captain America just needs to own up to the fact that he can’t have one without the other….he can’t change you and he can’t equal you. So he just needs to either deal or don’t deal.”
There wasn’t an ounce of sarcasm in his tone. She glanced at him in awe.
“Wow Dean, I didn’t know how insightful you can be sometimes.”
“Oh, I’m just a dumb blonde with a hot temper huh?”
She giggled for a minute before pushing her chair out from the table. Dean walked her out of the café.
“You hanging in town for awhile?”
“Dad’s heading out but I can stay a day or two if you want,” he answered.
“Yeah, cool, we’ll hang,” she said.
Later in the afternoon, Dean shuttled himself over to Giles’ apartment complex after receiving a frenzied phone call from Buffy. She informed him that Xander was attacked by a demon in his house and that everyone was headed over to Giles’ place to brainstorm.
When he pulled up to the curb, he spotted the gang hitting the entrance to the courtyard. He hopped out and heard a flurry of conversation.
“I’m sure Giles will know,” Willow assured.
The group moved into further into the courtyard and took pause at the splintered door of Giles’ apartment. Buffy tensed and bolted through the broken door. The rest of the group shared collective looks of worry and quickly filed in after her. Buffy called out to Giles several times without an answer. Xander and Dean split off from the girls and searched the upper level. Buffy took notice of several broken items scattered across the floor as the boys regrouped downstairs. Xander shook his head when Buffy eyed him. Willow widened her eyes in fear.
“Oh! Something horrible happened to Giles!” she cried.
“Hold on, let’s stay calm,” Dean replied. “Xander gets jumped by a demon and now Giles is missing. I didn’t see
any blood so it’s possible he’s not injured.”
“No, he was simply eaten,” Anya said flatly.
All eyes steered toward her as she clutched one of Giles’ shirts. It was ripped in half and torn to shreds. Panic gripped the room. Several minutes later, books were gathered off the shelves and the group buckled down in the living room and began to furiously research. Xander wandered around the living room peeking over everyone’s shoulder as they pointed out demons. He shook his head and continued to move around the room.
“What are we going to do when we identify the demon? I mean, where will we find it?” Willow asked. “What if it took Giles to a different dimension?”
Seeing that Willow was working herself up into a fearful frenzy, Buffy drew a hand over hers and gave a reassuring smile.
“We’ll do what we always do – “
“Make it up as we go along,” Dean finished.
Buffy snapped her eyes on him. “Figure things out.”
She glanced back at the next page in her book and bounced in her seat.
“Oh! Xander! Tufty ears…”
The conversation stopped when they heard a loud rattling sound. Dean tensed when he saw the broken door shaking. Buffy stiffened with alarm as well.
“What was that noise?” Willow asked
Dean swiftly retrieved his pistol.
“Something is trying to get in,” he said.
Buffy snatched a stake and quickly padded to one side of the door. Dean covered the other side of the door as they readied their weapons. After a brief second, the door swung open and the two moved in on the intruder. Buffy raised her stake in the air, ready to strike while Dean leveled his pistol on the intruder.
Riley blinked in surprise when he saw a pistol and a stake trained on him. Buffy showed equal surprise.
Dean let out a breath and clicked the safety back on the pistol. Buffy put her stake away as Riley moved into the room.
“How did you….why are you here?’ Buffy asked.
“We heard several 911 calls come in from this neighborhood.”
Xander blinked with shock. “You can listen to 911 calls?”
“It’s one of the protocols,” Riley answered. “We tap in and monitor the dispatch. Validate the ones that cause the flags to go up. What’s everyone doing here?”
Buffy struggled to contain her worry as she answered. “This is where Giles lives. We came to see him but he
seems to be missing. Have you heard anything about what may have happened?”
Riley shook his head. “Nothing solid, a few of the neighbors report they heard noises, smashing sounds.”
Willow sunk with apprehension. “Oh Giles….”
“We’ll find him Will,” Buffy replied confidently. “I promise.”
Riley eyed the stacks of old books throughout the living room.
“What’s all this?”
“Research, vital clues,” Buffy imparted.
“A whole bunch of nothing,” Anya stated dryly.
“Let me help,” Riley offered. “I’ll do whatever I can. The Initiative will too.”
Buffy nodded with an appreciative smile before her eyes took notice of a significant absence in the room.
“I wish I knew what to do,” she lamented. “I keep saying to myself, Giles will know…”
Dean nodded with a respectful smile. “Yeah, Giles is the man.”
“I bet he’d know where to find himself,” Xander quipped.
Willow smiled. “Yes, he’d calm us down then brew a pot of tea with a side of those yummy biscuits.”
“Um, he seemed like a very nice man,” Riley replied.
Riley’s comment went unheard as the gang gathered in the living room to continue their research. Riley wandered over to the foot of the living room.
“Can I help look something up?” Riley asked eagerly.
Buffy looked up from the couch and set her eyes on Riley.
“We’ve got it covered,” Buffy answered with an appreciative smile. “Just hang if you want, do what you do.”
“Okay,” he replied.
Buffy flashed Xander another etching. Xander moved past Riley to study the etching. The group interacted with one another without much regard for Riley. After a few minutes, Riley hung back in a corner and conducted his own business.
A short time later, Dean paused on an etching that seemed to fit Xander’s description of the demon.
“Hey Xander,” he called. “Is this the dude that jumped you?”
Xander got up from Giles’ desk and crossed over to Dean who was sitting on the couch. He spied a look at the
etching. His face flooded with recognition.
“Yeah, that’s it! That’s the demon!”
Buffy, Willow and Anya gathered around Dean to get a look at the demon.
“It’s called a…Fyarl demon,” he said. “Dude is strong and….mucousy…”
Willow leaned over his shoulder and quickly skimmed the text.
“Hmm, says here they’re like henchmen, pure muscle for hire,” she added.
“Mucousy?” Xander repeated.
Willow gave him a look of warning. “Don’t ask.”
Riley heard his phone ring and wandered over to a private spot. Buffy hovered over Dean as her eyes filled with hope.
“Does it say anything about how to kill it?” Buffy asked.
Dean reread the text.
“Anything silver should do it,” Dean replied. “No problem. This dude is toast.”
Riley approached the gang.
“I just got word about the demon we’re looking for,” Riley announced. “It tried to attack Professor Walsh.
Apparently a witness saw it get out of an old Citreon.”
Willow gasped in shock. “What? That’s Giles’ car! The demon took his car!”
“A demon stole his car?” Xander asked incredulously.
“Why the hell would a demon DRIVE a car?” Dean asked with equal astonishment.
“Because it needs to get somewhere – fast.”
Everyone looked at Buffy, hearing the sudden change in her tone. She stood tall and began delegating tasks. Xander, Anya and Willow were to stay behind while Buffy checked out the magic shop with Dean. Willow busied herself by trying to clean up.
Buffy eyed Dean who was already at the door. Riley was fascinated by how accustomed her friends were to following her instructions.
Buffy paused at Giles’ desk and looked over the items. She settled on a silver letter opener. Dean already had the car running when Buffy reached the curb.
Buffy paused just as she clicked on the handle of the passenger door. She swung around to see Riley. She met up with him at the courtyard gates.
“Oh, Riley, sorry,” she said. “Um….you can ride with us over to the magic shop.”
“I drove over, parked a block away, why don’t I meet you guys over there?”
She nodded and smiled.
Outside the magic shop, Dean quickly extracted his lock pick kit and started to work the notches inside. Buffy grew impatient and pushed him out of the way. She pitched her foot out and kicked the door open.
Dean shot her an annoyed look as she charged into the shop.
“I just needed two more seconds!”
He followed her inside just as Riley hit the curb. Riley glanced at the door before moving inside.
“That might not have been the best way to handle getting in here,” Riley remarked with a slight scolding tone.
Buffy picked up on his disapproving tone and frowned. “Well, I don’t have the time or the patience to do things by the book right now.”
She hopped over the cashier counter as Dean jiggled a bunch of drawers and found them all locked. Buffy nudged Dean out of the way as she snatched the handle of one of the drawers and ripped it off its hinges.
“I just meant, I have a master key that opens any shop door on this block.”
“Oh, whoops, next door I need to open, you’re my guy, I promise,” she said.
She snatched a box of credit card slips and another box containing receipt copies. Dean leaned against the counter and fished out a stack of credit card slips while Buffy rummaged through the receipts. Riley watched in awe as the two worked together without much need for communication.
“What are you guys looking for?”
Buffy perused her stack of receipt copies before looking up at Riley. “Anything that sets off an alarm.”
Riley pulled out a handful of receipts and attempted to help out. Dean shifted quickly through his stack before he paused on a particular slip. Buffy noticed the inquisitive look on his face.
“Why the hell does this name sound familiar?”
Buffy snatched the slip out of his hand and frowned. She glanced at Dean.
“One word – Halloween.”
Dean blinked as he tapped into his vault of memories. After a short second, he showed equal dismay.
“Oh,” he said. “That cocky wand waving sonofabitch has the nerve to show up in this town after what he did? If he sent this demon after Giles, then I’m really looking forward to kicking the crap out of that bastard.”
Riley displayed his confusion. “Who are you talking about?”
Dean was already at the doorway, fueled by a dose of adrenaline.
“Let’s shower Mr. Rayne with a wall of pain,” he said.
Buffy saw the spark of fire in his eyes before she turned her attention over to Riley. Riley glanced at the credit card slip in her hand.
“Repeat offender in the bad guy business,” Buffy explained. “He must have something to do with the demon that took Giles. We just need to figure out where he’s hiding out.”
As Buffy crossed through the door, Riley began talking into his fancy cell phone.
“I need you to check all the hotel registrations in the area…..”
Riley finished up his request and paused when he noticed Buffy observing him.
“I should have a lock on his location in a few minutes,” he said.
Buffy charged over to the passenger side as a voice over Riley’s cell phone. She heard the name of the motel as she opened the door. Riley gently clapped a hand on her shoulder and pulled her away from the car.
“Buffy, I’m afraid I can’t let you go after the demon.”
Buffy shot him a deep glare.
“I’m sorry but I have my orders. This is official Initiative business now.”
Her eyes flooded with fury.
“Then the Initiative is gonna have to stop me,” she growled. “This demon took Giles, it might have hurt him or worse….nothing is getting in my way from making it pay. Nothing.”
Buffy charged back to the car and climbed inside. Dean eyed her curiously.
“Bluebird Motel,” she said. “We need to get there - fast.”
Buffy glanced in the rear view mirror to see Riley walking over to his car.
The Impala screeched to a halt outside the Bluebird Motel. Buffy peeled out of the car and scanned the bank of rooms. She saw the shadow of an enormous figure in one of the windows. She clenched her fists and took off running.
Buffy flew through the door to see the Fyarl in the motel room. Dean arrived to catch Ethan Rayne trying to escape.
“Where do you think you’re going asshole?”
Dean blocked the doorway. Ethan threw a punch but Dean swiftly dodged out the way. He drew a wicked smile.
“I was hoping you would do that.”
His smile faded as his eyes filled with fury. He charged at Ethan as Buffy sparred with the Fyarl demon. Fighting broke out in the room, Buffy and the demon occupying one corner, Dean and Ethan occupying the other side. Ethan threw a couple of punches which Dean easily blocked and countered. Dean rammed Ethan into a wall, knocking him unconscious. Ethan crumbled to the floor as Dean gauged the fight between Buffy and the demon. She threw a powerful kick into the demon’s belly, sending it crashing to the floor. She raised the letter opener in the air and bit back the emotions hanging in her throat.
“This is for my friend Giles!” she growled.
She slammed the letter opener into the demon’s chest and waited for its death to satisfy her thirst for vengeance.
Buffy blinked in confusion when the demon didn’t howl in pain.
Dean hopped over Ethan’s body as Buffy yanked out the letter opener.
“Uh….I don’t think this is real silver,” she said.
Dean crouched over the demon and raised his silver knife. Buffy glanced at the demon when something struck her. She gasped in recognition just before Dean swung his blade down to deliver the fatal blow. She pushed Dean away.
“No, that’s Giles!” she cried.
Dean stared at the demon in shock. “What?! That thing is Giles?! It can’t be!”
Dean blinked when the demon nodded in acknowledgement.
Buffy tended to Giles as Dean tried to absorb the reality. He eyed the letter opener on the floor.
“Well, praise to the cheap Englishman who didn’t spring for real silver.”
Riley ran in to see the aftermath of the fight.
A short time later, Riley followed through on his orders as he hung outside the motel room delegating instructions through a walkie-talkie. Back inside, Buffy and Dean kept a watchful eye on Ethan as he sat on the floor, nursing his bruised face. Giles repeatedly examined his face in the mirror and gave a sigh of relief. Ethan muttered under his breath as Buffy checked on Giles. Buffy gave an apologetic smile as she fell into conversation with her former Watcher.
Ethan rolled his eyes. “How much longer is this pity party going on for? I must be running along now.”
Dean gripped the back of Ethan’s collar.
“And exactly why the hell would we just let you go?”
Buffy crossed over to Ethan and glared down at him. Ethan smiled obnoxiously at Buffy.
“I’m human, the Slayer can’t very well kill me, what else can you really do but let me go?”
Dean yanked hard on Ethan’s collar, choking him a little.
“I can kick the shit out of you some more,” he growled. “I sure as hell wasn’t finished with that.”
Riley appeared in the doorway, ushering in two uniformed US ARMY MPs. Buffy, Dean and Giles watched as Ethan was arrested and hauled away. Giles thought of something and shined a delightful smile.
“I think I’ll follow, see if they rough him up as he gets into a vehicle.”
“I wouldn’t mind seeing that too,” Dean added, strolling out the door after Giles.
Riley glanced at Buffy. “I guess you didn’t really need my help after all. You seemed to have everything under control.”
“Well, you saved us time by finding Ethan,” she said.
“Still,” he said. “Earlier, you were so take charge, delegating and stuff. And your friends, they seem to rally together and come through for you.”
“Yeah, they do,” she said.
Giles beamed a boastful smile at Ethan as he was whisked away in a military vehicle. He examined his human hands for the hundredth time as Dean wandered over to him. Giles shifted his eyes to the motel room and observed Buffy as she chatted with Riley.
“She seems quite taken with him,” Giles noted.
Dean glanced at the motel room door and rolled his eyes. Giles caught his dismissive action.
“You don’t like this new man?”
“Not sure yet,” Dean answered. “I don’t know enough about the team he plays for to write up a good review about him.”
Dean glanced at the military personnel dispersing from the parking lot.
“So you believe they have a hidden agenda?”
Dean shrugged, “I believe there is a lot about the Initiative we don’t know.”
Giles nodded in agreement. “Yes, it would be wise if Buffy proceeded with caution in this new relationship of hers.”
“Well, if you wouldn’t mind bringing it up,” Dean replied. “If I do, she’ll just accuse me of being jealous or something.”
Giles nodded as Dean noticed that Riley had walked Buffy to his car.
“Well, guess Barbie and GI Joe are heading back to the Dream House.”
Giles glanced back to see Buffy climbing into Riley’s car.
“Need a ride home?”
Giles gave an appreciative nod.
“Yes, thank you.”
After Giles climbed into the passenger seat, a thought simmered in his mind. He drew a smile.
“So, everyone missed me?”
“Yeah,” Dean answered. “Don’t ever turn into a mucous spitting demon again. “
TO BE CONTINUED. FEEDBACK PLEASE. NEXT UP – BUFFY GETS A RUDE AWAKENING ABOUT THE INITIATIVE AND POSSIBLY RILEY…WILL THE FRIENDS SHE’S NEGLECTED LATELY STAND BY HER? THE BUFFY/DEAN LOVEFEST IS ALMOST HERE. STAY TUNED!