Ch. 43 - Why Can’t We Be Friends?
A/N: Okay, here is a big update with a big reward – Buffy/Dean smoochies!
Partial “I in Team” and “Goodbye Iowa”.
Songs belong to artist noted.
Dean drew curious eyes at Xander who was attempting to charm a well built young girl at the coffee bar. The young girl shook her head firmly before strolling away. Xander looked crestfallen. Dean gave an amused smile and went back to playing pool. It was his third game in the past hour and he was growing a little weary of hanging out at the Bronze. Despite leaving several voicemails about his impending visit to town, he never got confirmation that his messages were received. He had been surprised when Willow had ended up returning his call. She enthusiastically invited him to a night out with Buffy and her closest friends.
He glanced at Willow seated at a table with Anya. She was anxiously watching the front door, hoping her best friend would make an appearance. Dean checked his watch and noticed Xander was staring at a bunch of jocks in the corner of the club.
Dean sunk the last ball on the pool table and let out a sigh. He debated whether to just skip out of town instead of waiting around for an indefinite amount of time. He wandered over to Willow’s table whether Xander had returned, looking disappointed. He reached the table in the midst of a discussion between Willow and Xander.
“But Buffy’s not here yet so you can’t go,” Willow lamented.
Willow noticed Dean and regarded him.
“She said she was going to show up tonight, right Dean?”
Dean took a pull off his beer.
“You tell me, I haven’t talked to her in about two weeks,” he answered. “She hasn’t really been that stellar in returning my phone calls lately.”
“I guess we’re all old news now that she’s got Riley and his backup team of commandos,” Xander replied flatly. “She probably forgot about us.”
Willow bit her lip, still hopeful. “No, she wouldn’t have forgotten about us. She was totally excited about spending time with us. She’ll be here.”
“She’s over an hour late,” Xander groaned. “I say we go home.”
Dean glanced at his watch. “Yeah, I think I’m going to hit the road. There’s no point in hanging around if the royal highness isn’t going to grace us with her presence…I’ll see you all later…”
Willow desperately looked back at the front door. Her face shaded with joy when she saw Buffy spilling out of a crowd gathered by the door.
“Wait! There she is! She’s here. I told you she was coming…..”
Willow’s smile faded.
“Oh…she brought Riley….and…friends….”
Buffy flocked over to the table, beaming a smile. Riley was by her side as Forrest, Graham and a couple of other guys surrounded her. Anya shifted in her seat uncomfortably as the group approached.
“Hi everyone!” she cooed. “So so sorry about the tardiness.”
“Tardiness? Gee, I didn’t realize you were tardy,” Xander replied sardonically.
“I hope we’re not barging in on your gathering,” Riley said.
Willow stamped back her disapproval. “Oh, no worries.”
Riley went around and introduced his crew. He graciously offered to get drinks from the bar but everyone except Buffy declined. Anya slipped off her chair and tugged Xander off to the dance floor. Riley and his friends wandered off. Buffy regarded Dean with surprise.
“Hey, I didn’t know you were coming to town,” she said.
“If you checked your messages, you would have,” he answered flatly.
“I check my messages,” she stated lightly.
“Oh, then you don’t bother to return them anymore, is that it?”
Buffy was feeling too elated to let his sour mood bother her. She glanced at Riley before turning back to Willow and Dean.
“Riley and his friends threw a party in my honor, it was really last minute so I couldn’t really just give them the brush off…”
“God forbid you did that to your new friends,” Dean grumbled.
Buffy studied Dean for a second before hearing Willow.
“How nice that they did that,” Willow said. “And I don’t mean to complain…it’s just….well, this night was supposed to be about the Scooby Gang, the original crew…”
Willow regarded Dean for a brief moment.
“And honorary inductees….if I thought we could just invite anyone, I would have….”
Buffy snapped out of her euphoria when she saw Willow’s hurt expression. She sunk with guilt.
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” she said. “Sorry. Who were you going to bring?”
Willow flushed red. “What? Um…..I was being hypothetical…..um…..why did Riley and his friends throw you a party?”
Buffy faded back into the clouds. “Oh! Well….I did it! I got into the Initiative! Professor Walsh gave me the big welcome and the big tour – let me stress the word BIG. You’d never believe just how big it is!”
Dean let out a long sigh as she continued to joyfully rant.
“…..not to mention the whole perk of going to work with the boyfriend….and the fact that I’ll have an entire team of heavily armed soldiers to back me up! I’m like totally invincible now!”
“Woah, slow down there a second,” Dean interjected. “What the hell did I tell you awhile back about keeping your head out of the clouds?”
Buffy drew frown riddled with agitation. “What is your deal Dean? Why are you breathing down my neck? This is a good thing, so stop being jealous and just be happy for me!”
Willow shriveled in her seat as she felt the tension between them boiling over. Dean clenched his jaw in irritation as he glared at Buffy with deep resentment.
“Oh give me a break,” he groaned. “You know damn well this isn’t about jealousy. I specifically asked you to keep a clear head about this Initiative business and here you are going on and on about them like they’re the Second Coming. What do you really know about them and their true agenda?”
“I know plenty....”
“What about 314?” Willow asked, grateful Dean had brought up the subject. “Ethan mentioned it to Giles.”
Buffy frowned with skepticism. “Yeah, like he’s a reliable source of information.”
“Regardless of his credentials,” Dean replied. “It’s still a lot more info than you’ve gotten so far.”
Buffy nearly knocked a chair over as she barreled toward Dean.
“You know, I’m really getting tired of you sticking your nose in my business! Why don’t you…”
Before she could finish her insult, her eyes were drawn to the pager peeking out from her purse. She snatched it up as other pagers beeped around the club.
“You have a pager now?” Willow asked.
Riley and his band of commandos headed for the door. Buffy caught his eyes. She nodded and hiked her bag over her shoulder. Buffy regarded Willow and completely ignored Dean.
“That’s the bat signal,” she explained. “Gotta fly.”
Buffy ran off with Riley and his team. Xander and Anya returned to the table a few minutes later.
“Well, that was a fun night,” Xander replied dryly.
Dean was still stewing with aggravation as Xander, Anya and Willow lamented over being blown off by their best friend.
“Excuse me, I need to go kill something,” Dean replied sharply.
“She’s not blonde and yay tall is she?” Xander asked lightly.
Dean was too pissed off to answer. He weaved through a crowd and charged out the door.
After passing through a couple of cemeteries without a single vampire encounter, Dean headed toward the outskirts of the woods along campus. He should have just gotten in the car and taken off. He was tired of trying to look out for someone who didn’t listen to him or care what he had to say anymore. He suddenly froze when he heard a low growl behind him. He slowly swung around to see an enormous demon with skewer like arms galloping toward him.
Dean felt his adrenaline kick starting his system as he clutched his pistol. He squeezed off a few shots but the demon darted out of the way.
“Dammit,” he grumbled.
The demon closed in on him fast and flailed its sharp arms at his head. Dean ducked and rolled out of the way. The demon lunged at him, forcing him to go hand to hand.
Buffy drew a proud smile as she watched Riley scoping the woods with a fancy pair of binoculars. They were instructed to find and collect a Polgara demon for containment and study.
“Got something,” Riley replied.
Buffy perked up when she saw the concern on his face.
“We got a civilian under attack,” he informed.
Riley took off running while relaying orders over a walkie talkie. Buffy was right beside him as they raced through the woods. Buffy narrowed her eyes to see the demon throwing someone into the air. Buffy lunged toward the demon and launched an attack. Riley removed his telescoping wand and shot out an electrical charge as the demon reached for Buffy. The two battled the demon together for several long minutes before a second team of commandos arrived for backup. The commandos eventually managed to knock the demon out. As Riley’s team dragged the demon away, Buffy became aware of the innocent bystander who had been thrown aside. She looked around and saw a pair of boots peeking out from a brush of trees.
“Riley! Someone’s hurt!”
She ran over and abruptly halted when she thought her eyes deceived her.
She heard a low groan as she rushed over to him. She crouched over him and saw he was bleeding from the head. His eyes fluttered open to see the fury on her face.
“What the hell are you doing out here by yourself? You could have been killed!”
Dean grimaced as he slowly sat up.
“Would you have even noticed?” he asked curtly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Dean glanced at Riley who had emerged from the trees.
“Never mind,” he grumbled.
“I’ll call a medic,” Riley offered.
Dean held up a hand in protest.
“No, thanks, I’m fine. I’m used to being kicked in the head around here.”
Buffy frowned with offense as he started to amble away. “Don’t mind him Riley, he’s just being an ass, as usual.”
Dean paused in his tracks and swung around. “Oh, right. You blow off your band of friends and I’m the ass….that’s rich.”
He shook his head and pivoted back around. Buffy sunk with hurt.
“Come back here! I’m not finished yelling at you!”
Dean ignored her, charging down a sloping hill leading out of the woods.
“Maybe you should go talk to him,” Riley replied.
“No, he’s being a stubborn jerk right now,” she said. “There’s no point in trying to talk to him.”
Riley took pause when he noticed her eyes were still trained on the sloping hill.
“Buffy, maybe you need to take a break from all of this,” he said. “We have spent loads of time together lately and
I couldn’t help but notice that Willow had a sad puppy dog look on her face. I think I’ve been a little too greedy with you….”
She let out a breath. “But, you’re my boyfriend and I want to spend time with you. Will and the rest….they
understand how happy I am….well, maybe not Dean, he’s always taken issue with the guys in my life….what I mean to say is, they just have to get used to you being my life and the amount of time we’re going to be spending together with school and the Initiative stuff…”
“Still, I’m starting to feel bad….”
Buffy was surprised when she had caught sight of Dean ambling down the far end of the road. Riley took notice and let out a breath.
“Why don’t we call it a night? It’s late,” he said.
Buffy swung her eyes up to Riley and moped. “But….I thought since we’re finished with work, we could play…”
She gave a coquettish smile.
“I mean, it’s been hit and miss for quite a while since my birthday….I was hoping….”
The sound of a pager disrupted the moment. Buffy and Riley eyed their pagers. Riley smiled.
He checked the screen.
“Walsh,” he said. “I need to go.”
Buffy showed her disappointment. “Well, come by later after you see her?”
Riley curled her body against his and kissed her.
After she watched Riley heading off, she shifted her eyes. She pivoted in the opposite direction and took a short cut back to the dorms. When she spilled out of another bank of trees, she blinked in surprise when she saw a blur of a black car veering down the road. For a very brief moment, Buffy locked eyes with the driver as the car sped past her.
After a couple of seconds, she heard the brakes screech on the Impala. She glanced at the car as it sat idle at the foot of the road leading out of town. She let out a breath and jogged toward the car. As she neared, she heard the heavy drum beats of a rock song. She ambled up to the passenger seat and peered inside to see Dean’s disgruntled expression. The gash on his forehead was still bleeding but he didn’t seem to care. He kept his eyes on the road as an Alice Cooper's "No More Mr. Nice Guy" blared through the speakers.“I got no friends cause they read the papers
They cant be seen with me and I’m getting shot down"
“Campus is the other way,” she said.
Dean met her eyes very briefly before shifting them back to the road.
“I’m not staying,” he replied sharply.
“Why? You always stay at least a day,” she said.
“Yeah well that was before I didn’t have to wait in line to see you,” he answered.
Buffy let out a breath of frustration.“And I’m feeling mean"
After another minute, she climbed inside the car.
“Okay, so I guess I’ve been spending a lot of time with Riley lately, but he’s my boyfriend and I like being with him.”
He shook his head in exasperation.
“So Willow and Xander are just supposed to deal with the fact that almost every night of the week for the past two weeks - you’ve made some lame excuse about not being able to make plans with them?”
Buffy opened her mouth and gasped in offense. “I have not made excuses….how would you know this?”
“Well, we had a lot to talk about in the hour and a half we spent waiting for you to show up tonight,” he answered curtly. “So good of you to detach yourself from Soldier Boy’s hip for five frickin’ minutes to say hi to us and then bail….”"No more mister nice guy"
Buffy gasped in offense.
“I didn’t bail on purpose,” she said. “I got called away.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “Oh, right, your great new job with perks.”
Buffy shot him a resentful glare. “What is with the attitude?”“No more mister clean”
He let out a frustrated sigh as he shot back her resentful glare.
“I didn’t drive eight hundred miles just to have you call me an ass,” he grumbled. “I was under the impression that you were looking forward to this night but obviously that was the last thing on your mind. You want to give me the brush off? Fine, there’s no reason for me to be in your life anymore but Willow and Xander? Those two have stuck by you since you came to this town, you three are tight – but tonight, you were too busy making goo goo eyes at Robotic Boy to even notice the hurt on their faces when you showed up so late. So don’t sit there and accuse me of having an attitude problem,” he admonished.
Buffy swallowed a gasp in her throat as his statement struck her hard in the heart. ”No more mister nice guy”
“Now if you don’t mind,” he said. “I’ve got miles to burn.”“They say he’s sick, he’s obscene”
She sniffed when she heard the callous tone in his voice.
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited for her to get out. She noticed the icy look in his eyes and let out a soft sigh.
“Stay,” she said softly.
“What the hell for?” he asked brusquely.
“Because that’s what you do. You come to town to visit me for a few days. That’s how it’s always been. I don’t see how me having a boyfriend changes that.”
He blinked in disbelief. “Are you that oblivious? It’s already changed. You don’t return my calls anymore. You’re going off on tangents if I say one thing you don’t like. So, I get it, you don’t want me around anymore, you don’t have to hit me over the head with it. I’m heading out and you and your new crew can trip the light fantastic. Just try and remember to say hi to Willow every once in awhile. You may live together but she’s feeling pretty alone these days.”
After a long minute, Buffy slumped down in her seat and drew a guilty look.
“Okay, so I’ve gotten carried away with excitement but that is no reason to skewer me for being happy.”
“And when you’re not? Are Willow and Xander supposed to just fall back in line to comfort you when it all goes to hell? You think you can just put all of them on the backburner until you get around to seeing them again?”
“Okay! I don’t need a lecture,” she groaned. “I feel bad that I had to bail. And I really am sorry that I was so late….but…”
“You didn’t want to offend your new crew, yeah I remember.”
The tense silence was momentarily broken when a pager beeped incessantly. Buffy fished out the pager and viewed the screen.
“It’s Walsh,” she said. “I have to run.”
“That makes two of us.”
She rolled her eyes at his unwavering stubbornness. “I don’t have time for this now. Go, don’t go, whatever, I’ll call you later.”
“Oh, well I won’t get my hopes up,” he said acerbically.
She climbed out of the car and charged off.
A short time later, Buffy made her way down the sewer tunnel on the north edge of town. Walsh had sent her on a solo mission to find a demon lurking underground. She cradled her weapon under her arm as she crept through the passageway. She reached a split and eyed each direction. Her ears perked when she heard a snarling noise followed by a low growling. She pivoted to her right and bounded down the tunnel. She paused when she spotted two demons emerging from a dark corner, wielding large battle axes. The demons swung around, feeling her presence. Suddenly, the pair sprung toward her.
Buffy leveled her special blaster gun and fired. The weapon jammed, causing sparks to shoot around the exterior. She jumped when a jolt of electricity shocked her. She tossed the weapon aside. It hit the ground and continued to sputter and spark. Buffy shook off the sting of the electrical shock when she heard a whirring sound. She spun around to see a metal gate slamming down, sealing her in with the two demons.
Buffy shifted her eyes around. She was trapped with two angry demons and no weapon.
The two demons split off to surround her from both sides. Buffy kept her eyes on both of them before she charged at one of the demons, fighting for her life.
Dean watched Buffy through the rear view mirror as she stormed back to campus. He clenched the steering wheel and grumbled for several minutes until a sudden instinct rang through his gut.
He let off the brake and swung the car into the opposite lane leading back into town. An Alice Cooper song blared through the radio as he caught a flash of blonde bounding around a corner. He pulled against a curb and cut the engine as Buffy edged toward a group of fraternity houses at the far end of the block.
Buffy crept inside one of the frat houses. Dean studied the structure then recalled the house from memory. He remembered attending a party here in the past and wondered with great curiosity why Buffy was reporting to a frat house for a meeting with Walsh. He thought back to her ramblings over the supposed size of the Initiative headquarters. He was also aware of the fact that Riley’s buddies Forrest and Graham lived in the same house. He began to hear the wheels in his brain cranking away with theories.
“It’s underground,” he muttered.
A short time later, Buffy emerged from Lowell House and ambled in the direction leading toward the north side of town. Dean waited until she disappeared around the corner. He climbed out of the car, hastily circled to the trunk and stuffed a few weapons in his pockets. He was wary of her lack of backup, since she had pretentiously lauded about her well armed commando team. He also took into account Giles’ repulsion of Professor Walsh, although the old man could have just hated her for personal reasons.
As he tailed her from a safe distance, his mind continued to spin a web of suspicion about the Initiative and the mysterious 314. After a few minutes, he reached the north edge of town. Buffy pried open a manhole and swept her eyes around the street before jumping down. Dean waited several minutes before he echoed her actions.
When he dropped down into the sewer, he fished out a small flashlight and snapped it on. After a short time, the tunnel split off in two directions. He heard a faint noise and followed a tunnel off to his right.
As he peeled around the corner, he caught sight of a metal gate slamming down. He bolted down the tunnel as he spotted Buffy fighting with the two demons. He tried with all his strength to pry the gate up but it was no use. Buffy kicked one of the demon’s away while the other one swung her into the air. She stumbled onto the ground.
The second demon crashed into the gate. It shook off the impact and raised its axe into the air.
Buffy started to get to her feet when she noticed the second demon about to charge. She saw an arm shoot through a hole in the gate and lace around the demon’s neck, getting it into a chokehold.
Dean gripped the demon’s neck in a firm hold before slamming his knife in its back. The demon wailed as it slumped to the ground, bleeding out. Buffy snapped her eyes to the gate and glared at him.
“Watch your back!” he hollered.
She swung around to see the other demon getting back onto its feet. She charged the last demon and let out her frustration, punching and kicking with all her strength. She dodged out of the way when the demon swung its axe. Her eyes filled with fury as she jumped up and kicked the demon in the head. The demon staggered back a few feet. Buffy darted over to the blaster gun, swept it up and tossed it at the demon’s foot. The gun hit the water and created a huge pool of blue sparks. The demon began violently convulsing as fifty thousand volts coursed through its body. After awhile, the demon crumbled to the ground, a smoking, limp heap.
Buffy caught her breath as smoke billowed from her boots. If she had not been the Slayer, the shock would have killed her. She wiped blood from a cut on her mouth and glanced behind her. She set her glaring eyes on Dean very briefly before shifting her focus on something else. She spotted the wireless communication device that had a camera attached. She crouched down and swept up the unit. She fiddled with one of the cables before staring into the camera.
“You there Professor Walsh? So it seems that little assignment you wanted me to do wasn’t just a sewer rat. It was me, trapped here with a malfunctioning weapon and two of your demonic assassins that you let loose to try and kill me. If you think that’s all it takes to do me in, you have no clue what a Slayer really can do. But don’t worry, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll find out,” she growled.
Buffy raised her boot and brought it down on the unit, splintering the camera into several dozen pieces. She let out an angry breath as she twisted around to the gate. She charged at the metal gate several times until caved in, creating a small opening in the corner. Buffy crawled through the opening in the gate and dusted herself off. Her eyes snapped up to Dean.
She threw him a hard glare, “What are you doing here?”
“I thought it was odd that you got called on a solo mission, no army of soldiers to back you up. So I tailed you, it’s a good thing I did because I saved your ass.”
“I had a handle on it,” she said sharply. “I didn’t need your help.”
“Fine, whatever but I told you so,” he chimed roughly.
Dean pivoted around and started heading out of the tunnel. Buffy hardened her scowl as they trudged down the sewers.
“Oh great, so you were just looking for an opportunity to prove yourself right, is that it?”
“I had a feeling about this Initiative. No secret government operation ever works for a good cause and that little stunt just confirmed my suspicions…..”
Buffy drew her hands to her face and began to rub the stress lines forming over her face.
“Spare me the self-righteous gloating,” she growled. “I need to see Giles…and everyone. If Maggie wants me out of the way, she’s public enemy number one.”
Dean begrudgingly drove Buffy over to Giles’ complex. The drive was short but long on tense silences. When he pulled up to the curb, Dean let out a breath and broke the tension thickening in the car.
“I was just trying to look out for you,” he said softly.
After a long moment, Buffy drew out a breath and eyed him with understanding. “Yeah, I know. I’ll be mad at you later.”
When they poured into Giles’ apartment, they were surprised to find everyone, including a bandaged Spike, in the living room. Buffy overheard the tail end of Giles’ warning to Spike.
“You’re not safe,” Giles stated.
“Actually, no one is,” Buffy warned.
After absorbing the dire looks on everyone’s faces, Buffy shuffled into the center of the living room and began to impart the details of being trapped in the sewers with a faulty weapon.
“Only Maggie wasn’t banking on me reporting back to duty,” she finished.
As most of the group tried to absorb the shocking revelation, Spike merely shook his head in amusement.
“Have to say there Blondie, you sure know how to pick ‘em. Got me a cousin, snagged up a Frovlax demon, regurgitates bloody everywhere…still has better taste than you.”
Buffy frowned at Spike’s obnoxious grin.
“What does my love life have to do with anything?”
“Oh come on, you think Riley was out buying you a home with a white picket fence and picking out names for your future little ones while Maggie stuck a target on your back?”
As the comment sunk in, Dean blinked in awe at what he was about to say.
“I hate to admit it but fang boy actually has a point,” he said.
He shifted his eyes to Buffy.
“What are you oh for three now in the seemingly nice and average boyfriend category?”
Buffy flashed an appalled look when she noticed everyone in the room struggled to mask their agreement.
“You really think Riley is involved?”
Dean shook his head at her cluelessness.
“We know now that Walsh has it out for you and Soldier boy is her devoted dog – do the math.”
“I find it hard to believe that Riley could be so covert like that,” Willow commented, “I mean, he seems so clean cut.”
Dean swung his dismayed expression toward Willow.
“He’s the front man for a top secret military operation while masquerading as a TA, you don’t get much more covert than that.”
Buffy scowled with skepticism. “Are you just being jealous? You’ve never liked my boyfriends.”
Dean huffed with extreme agitation.
“Right, I’m jealous that you’re dating a guy whose boss wants to kill you….get over yourself!” he barked.
He charged over to a corner of the living room.
“I think it would be wise to consider every possibility,” Giles interjected.
Buffy drew her eyes to Giles and let out a breath. “Um….yeah, every possibility….no, no. I can’t believe that Riley was in on this “Operation: Kill Buffy” thing, I mean, he wasn’t there when I went to see Maggie….that makes me think it was just Maggie who has a beef with me. So that pretty much means that the Initiative has a beef with me.”
Xander leaned forward in his seat. “Yeah, I’m thinking Dr. Demento isn’t loving the fact that the Scooby Gang has a dial on what they’re up to.”
“I’m still trying to understand why Maggie tried to kill you,” Giles lamented.
“Well, she wasn’t thrilled that I asked so many questions.”
“So she thought you were too curious and could cause trouble,” Anya assessed.
Giles’ face painted with grave concern. “Yes, I have to agree. Whatever the Initiative’s true agenda is, it seems Maggie felt you threatened to expose them.”
Buffy crossed to a cabinet and hastily gathered weapons.
“Arm up everyone,” she commanded. “We need to get out of here.”
Xander put his battle face on and picked up an axe. “We raid the compound and take those evil suckers down! Yeah!”
“Actually, the plan is to hide,” Buffy imparted.
Xander displayed relief as he put down the axe. “Oh, I love that plan.”
Dean pushed off the wall and shook his head.
“Hell no, we’re not hiding,” Dean protested. “These guys are military, not demons. We can take them.”
With that, he flashed his pistol at his side. Xander reluctantly picked the ax back up again. Buffy drew out a breath and shined her growing aggravation.
“We don’t have access to the technology they do. They can find us anywhere they know to look. We need to regroup somewhere they don’t know about so we can put together a plan.”
Xander started to pick the ax up then hesitated not sure whether he was supposed to arm himself or not.
“Well, I’ve got enough room for everyone,” Willow offered.
Buffy shook her head. “The Initiative probably knows how often we hang out. They’ll check into where you live…..oh, Xander, what about your place? I doubt the guys have seen us hanging out and I think you can squeeze everyone in.”
Xander gave an enthusiastic nod. “Sure. Come on down to Xander’s Pleasure Palace.”
Anya rolled her eyes. “Oh goodie.”
“I respectfully decline,” Giles replied indignantly. “There is no way I will stoop in that cramped little hole you call a basement.”
Spike scoffed. “Oh, you’re too good for that place but not me, is that it?”
“I think you’re going about this all wrong,” Dean replied. “That bitch tried to kill you so I say we find her and beat the crap out of her until she talks instead of cowering in a corner of Xander’s dank little basement like scared sheep….”
“Why can’t we just stay put? I have a hard time believing those Initiative lads will know to come here to look for you,” Giles stated confidently.
The creaking of the front door drew looks as Riley bounded in. His eyes swept over everyone in the living room until he froze on Buffy. He looked relieved to see her as Buffy made her way over to the door.
“Buffy, thank god. Are you hurt?”
“So you know.”
“All I know is something went wrong,” he said. “Please fill me in.”
“Maggie tried to kill me,” she said.
“And now she’s pissed because, Buffy’s still alive,” Anya added.
Riley looked at Buffy with heavy skepticism. “Hold on. That doesn’t really make sense. Tell me again but in more detail. Give me the play by play.”
Dean drew an irritated glare at Riley. “What more do you want farm boy? Your boss put a hit on your girlfriend. Where the hell were you when this shit went down?”
Riley, visibly shaken, staggered further into the living room.
“I uh…was on assignment and then I went back….but….that’s not important though….what we need to address is….”
Riley suddenly froze.
“Riley? What’s wrong?” Buffy asked.
Her eyes followed Riley’s to see he was staring intently at Spike. His face flooded with recognition.
“You!” Riley said. “I knew you looked familiar. You’re hostile 17.”
Spike cleared his throat and attempted his bad American accent again. “Uh no, no, no…I told you before I’m Xander’s pal….and….oh hell…right…I’m him.”
“That’s Spike,” Buffy imparted casually. “It’s a long story, too long but basically he’s not a threat anymore.”
Spike scoffed. “Excuse me? I’ll have you know I’m a huge threat! I’m the worst!”
Spike glanced at Riley’s shocked expression.
“Well, okay, so I can’t kill humans thanks to you sorry wankers!”
“We’ve had you on the books for weeks. We’ve been searching everywhere and you…”
Riley’s face hardened into a disapproving glare as he regarded Buffy.
“Buffy – you’re harboring an HST? What is the meaning of this?” he asked harshly.
Dean shot over a few feet, completely irked by Riley’s tone of questioning.
“You really have no right to just barge in here and start interrogating her or anyone else,” he chided. “You’re the one who has a lot of explaining to do.”
“Oh spare me the melodrama,” Spike groaned. “I’m off.”
Spike glanced at Riley.
“If you and your crew are hopping to kill the Slayer and her friends…”
Spike flashed two thumbs up before walking out the door. Riley shifted his eyes across the room and realized everyone was expecting answers – from him.
“Note all eyes on you,” Xander replied. “You might want to start talking.”
Riley shifted in his stance as he felt the weight of stares coming from the room.
“Um…I – I don’t know….I was out….and then I came back to base and Maggie said you….she said you were killed on a mission….but then you were there, on the screen…” he stammered.
Riley pushed a hand against the top of the couch to steady as he was gripped with a wave of dizziness. His voice quavered with confusion and disbelief.
“I just, I just can’t believe she would be capable of doing this,” he replied. “She must not be herself….something must be effecting her, causing her to behave so recklessly…”
Giles seemed to be the only one in the room willing to listen to Riley’s explanation. The others looked on with a mixture of expressions.
“We suspect that Buffy was becoming too curious about the true agenda of the Initiative,” Giles proclaimed. “It’s very possible that Professor Walsh was trying to hide something that Buffy threatened to expose with her incessant questioning. Do you have any idea what she may be trying to keep under wraps?”
Buffy started, “314. Maybe it was about that…”
“Maybe she was just running a drill…” Riley suggested.
Dean frowned with deep skepticism. “Yeah, the goal of that drill was to kill the Slayer.”
Riley shook his head defiantly.
“No, it had to have been a routine exercise.”
Buffy gently cornered Riley. “Well, why would she make you think I was dead?”
Giles sidled up to Buffy as he regarded Riley.
“There has been a lot of talk in certain circles,” Giles interjected. “Nothing proven, theories mostly but all share a common theme: the Initiative is not what they presume to be. Most believe that the work they do is part of a shady agenda….a dark, dangerous agenda that may threaten everyone’s lives.”
Riley shook his head. “No, that can’t be true….I can’t believe that’s what’s going on.”
Dean rolled his eyes, “Open your eyes man. ‘Secret’ and ‘military’ never add up to a good thing.”
Buffy drew sympathetic eyes toward Riley.
“I know it’s hard to absorb right now…”
She reached for his hand but Riley, seeing the circle of people surrounding him, staggered back.
“No….” he said softly.
“We don’t have solid evidence yet,” she replied. “But we’re going to figure it out.”
Riley stumbled toward the door. “I’ll figure it out….without you….”
Buffy flashed a hurt expression as he opened the door. She started toward him but he shook his head as he took off. She stared out the door for several minutes before a flurry of comments spilled out from everyone.