Ch. 44: No More Mr. Nice Guy
A/N: episode: Goodbye, Iowa
Can’t Smile Without You Lyrics are by Barry Manilow
After the conversation settled down, Buffy released a deep breath and moved into the living room to address everyone.
“We should head over to Xander’s before it gets dark.”
Giles reluctantly packed a bag as the group headed out the door. Buffy eyed Dean who was ambling in the opposite direction toward his car.
“You need to come too,” she said. “They might go looking for you.”
“They won’t find me.”
“It’s their business to find people,” she said. “They probably know about our relationship. They’ll check all the hotel registrations. That’s how they found Ethan.”
Dean gave a dismissive look. “He was stupid enough to register under his own name, they didn’t have to look too hard. If they go looking for ‘me’ they won’t find ‘me’. I know how to stay under the radar.”
Buffy drew out a breath as her face thickened with frustration.
“There aren’t that many hotels in town,” she said. “If they want to find you, they have the resources to stake out every one of them until you show up.”
“Well maybe it’s just best that I leave town,” he said. “I doubt they have the resources to stake out every damn motel in the country….at least I hope not…”
Buffy rubbed her face and growled under her breath.
“Will you please just stay?”
She let out a long breath, feeling defeated.
“I need you, okay? Is that what you want to hear? I know I’ve gotten a little too immersed in my relationship with Riley lately but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to still come around. I’ve always told you how important you are to me. You keep me grounded when I’m too far up into the sky to see things for what they are or might be….that’s what you have always done for me and right now….with everything, Riley, Maggie, the Initiative, it’s all just overwhelming me and I can’t really think straight and I need to. I need you to help me figure this all out, so please, don’t turn your back on me…not now.”
He watched her lips quiver as she fought hard not to burst into tears. The question of Riley’s knowledge in the Initiative’s true agenda had weighed on her heavily as he could see the fissures bleeding through the hard lines on her face. Her eyes welled up with tears but she bit them back as she stared up at him and expressed a silent plea.
Dean heaved a huge sigh and dipped his eyes to the ground. After a long minute, he set his eyes on hers.
“Maybe we should pick up some food on the way to this slumber party,” he replied.
After carousing over take out, the gang settled into the basement. Xander divided the room in half with a curtain, separating the boys from the girls. Giles glared at the floor in disgust as Xander set a pillow and blanket down. Buffy, Anya and Willow took over Xander’s bed.
Buffy swept her eyes around the basement as everyone settled down to bed.
“I saw him doing dishes upstairs,” Xander commented.
Buffy lit up with amusement. “Are you sure you don’t need your eyes checked Xander? Since when has Dean ever done chores?”
“When I get to use the garage in exchange.”
All eyes shifted to Dean as he ambled down the stair. Xander blinked with shock.
“Mom let you use the garage?”
“Well, where else was I going to hide my car?”
“Bb-but she refused to let me live there because she said she was going to turn the garage into a home gym…which I have yet to see.”
Dean shrugged as he flashed a smug smile. “Well, you need to work on your ‘skills’ Xander.”
Xander glared at Dean. “Did you flirt with my mom? Do I need to kick your ass for offending her?”
“Dude, I meant your negotiation skills. Anyway, I just dropped in to say goodnight.”
Dean retreated back up the stairs and paused at the door when he heard his name called.
“Where are you going?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, I got you set up on the other side of the curtain,” Xander replied.
Dean gave an appreciative smile. “Thanks but I’d rather not sleep in the pool of whatever died back there. I’ll crash
in the car.”
“Huh? What died?” Xander asked.
Dean left the room as Xander went to investigate the dark corner of the men’s side. He saw a shadow of something and crouched down to get a closer look.
The next morning, the gang stirred from a restless night in the cramped basement. Giles poked his head through the curtain.
“Will you please turn that mindless drivel down?” he asked peevishly.
Willow heaved a sigh and snapped the set off.
“Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” she grumbled.
Giles drew a frown thick with aggravation. “Seeming how I didn’t sleep in an actual bed, I can’t have really gotten up on the wrong side. Is it so much to ask that Xander get a decent piece of furniture? I would have settled for a cardboard box instead of that bloody blow up chair.”
Giles massaged his aching back as Anya threw him a dry remark. He quickly snapped back before Buffy stepped in to mediate. She was looking even more despondent than the previous evening. Willow drew a comforting shoulder around Buffy’s arm.
“Riley just needs some time,” she said.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Buffy lamented. “I feel like this may get worse as it goes along. Did you see the look on his face when he left? He was crushed. Completely crushed.”
“You really need to find yourself a nice, average boyfriend….like mine.”
Anya frowned at Buffy.
“But you can’t have mine,” she snapped.
“Well, I had hoped that Riley was Mr. Nice and Regular Guy and that we’d hold hands and do silly things– like skip through tulip patches singing la dee da dee da!”
“Alas, your life repels all things average and regular,” Willow replied lightly.
“Get rid of him then,” Anya said flatly. “But Xander is mine. Don’t get any ideas.”
Anya looked shrewdly at Buffy
“I won’t,” Buffy replied. “But I think I’m in too deep already. I’m in that ‘can’t smile without you’ phase…you know I’m sad when he’s sad.”
Anya nodded. “Ugh, I hated that phase with a disgusting passion.”
Buffy pulled an optimistic smile over her face.
“But every couple has stumbling blocks in their relationship and I just have to see this as one. Riley and I will work through this.”
Willow nodded enthusiastically.
“I think you probably will. He does seem crazy about you.”
“No thinking. I know we’ll work this out and we’ll end up having a stronger connection and a stronger relationship,” Buffy replied confidently. “I have to believe….no, I do believe that.”
The girls heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Dean flashed a glowing smile.
“Good morning ladies,” he chimed. “Sleep well?”
“Looks like you did,” Willow replied.
“Yeah, like a baby,” he bragged.
Giles shot his head out of the curtain. His face was knitted with deep irritation again.
“Oh, so nice that everyone but me slept so peacefully,” he chided.
He retreated back behind the curtain. Dean eyed the curtain curiously.
“What’s with him?”
Willow shot him a look of warning. “Don’t ask.”
Xander suddenly flew down the stairs carrying a tray full of breakfast food.
“Channel 2 News! Hurry!”
Willow leaned over and snapped the TV on as Xander set the tray down. The gang gathered around the set as a female news journalist reported live at the scene of a crime.
“Sunnydale is still in shock over the grisly murder of a young boy found in the woods early this morning. Sources in the Medical Examiner’s office report the boy was stabbed by a large skewer like instrument….police have not disclosed any information about the suspect…”
Xander reached over and turned the set off as everyone in the room tried to absorb the news.
“Oh my god,” Buffy replied weakly. “The thing that killed that boy, that was a Polgara demon – they have skewers for arms….but we caught it and…”
“She must have set it free,” Giles deduced. “To go after you.”
“But it found someone else along the way….this is all my fault!” Buffy cried. “That little boy died because of me!”
She stumbled back onto the end of the bed as agony riddled her face. The gang hovered around her drawing sympathetic looks.
“No, it’s Walsh’s fault. She’s desperate to keep her dirty little secret so she sent a demon to kill you because she was too chickenshit to come after you herself,” Dean replied sharply. “I – am – going to kill that bitch.”
Dean wandered away from the group to blow off a little steam.
Giles drew a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Yes, Dean is right. This isn’t your fault, you can’t blame yourself.”
Buffy stewed in a cauldron of emotions before her anger boiled to the surface. She got to her feet and stood straight and strong in front of the gang.
“I won’t,” she replied firmly. “I’m going to check out the crime scene for any clues. The rest of you get cracking on
research. I want to know everything about the Polgara demon and where to find it.”
Her eyes flared with fury as her fingers curled into fists.
“And when I get my hands on that thing, I’m going to hurt it a thousand times before I kill it. I’m going to tear it to pieces inch by inch until it’s begging me to end its life!”
She paused as her eyes drifted down to her flannel pajamas adorned with baby ducks. She flushed a light red as her stony expression cracked with embarrassment.
“Uh, maybe that would have sounded more convincing if I wasn’t in my Baby Ducky PJs.”
She swiftly dove over to her bag and went upstairs to change.
A short time later, Buffy and Dean arrived at the crime scene. Uniformed officers, medical examiners and various city officials roamed around the grounds. Dean parked the Impala at the far end of a dirt road. He reached over into the glove box and popped it open.
Buffy was amazed when she spied the numerous billfolds with various official looking identifications. Dean rummaged through the pile and cracked open a few, trying to determine which one he wanted to use.
“Wow,” she said. “So this is your life, huh?”
Dean paused in his task and gave a modest smile. “I guess my secret is out.”
“Do you make all of those?”
“Why? You want one?”
The sparkle in his eyes cracked away at her iron composure. She couldn’t help but smile playfully.
“I don’t know, how much do you charge?”
Dean chuckled as he stuffed a badge in his pocket.
“Way too much.”
He cracked a sly smile.
“Can’t I get a cute girl discount?”
He shook his head in amusement as he climbed out of the car. The police had cordoned off the crime scene and uniformed officers were monitoring pedestrian traffic. Dean approached the gatekeepers to the crime scene as
Buffy snuck past the barriers. She caught sight of Dean flashing his badge as he spoke to one of the officers. Her eyes shifted to the stretcher rolling past her. She steeled herself when she saw the shape of a small body beneath the cover. She surveyed the grounds and searched for clues.
Buffy shifted her eyes down the street and spotted Riley approaching the crime scene. She straightened and drew a deep breath as she ambled toward him. Riley met her eyes and for a long minute, the two simply stared at each other in a tense silence.
“Hi,” Buffy said, breaking the tension in the air.
Riley let out a breath and replied, “Hi.”
Buffy relaxed her stance as her face knitted with remorse.
“I’m sorry about that scene earlier at Giles’. I know it must have played out like some harsh intervention and the thing with Spike….it really isn’t as warped as you think…..”
Buffy noticed that Riley barely kept his eyes on her, choosing instead to focus on the activity going on at the crime scene. Every once in awhile, he glanced at her with steely eyes but never broke from his stiff posture.
“Well, okay, so it’s perhaps a bit warped but I swear when I explain it, you’ll understand.”
When she looked up at him, Riley was staring at something behind her. Her sympathetic expression faded into a frown.
“Excuse me? I’m saying sorry even though I was the one who almost got squeezed into Jello by a pair of demons. You could be the bigger person here and accept my apology or say you understand or say….something!”
Riley shifted his eyes back on Buffy and shot her an icy glare.
“How about….Maggie is dead - that enough of ‘something’ for you?”
Buffy displayed her shock as her eyes went wide.
“Does that make life better for you now?” he asked caustically.
Buffy gasped, completely appalled by his cold behavior toward her. Shards of ice cut into her heart as she saw the anger glowing in his eyes.
“Make my life better? Why would you ask me such a thing? My god Riley, what kind of person do you think I am to be truly overjoyed over someone’s death? How did she die? Are there any suspects? Was it a demon?”
In a dry monotone, Riley answered, “I’m not at liberty to release that information to a civilian.”
Buffy sighed and shook her head.
“The demon that killed that boy – the Polgara, it attacked her and then got out. That must have been what happened.”
After a long moment, Riley finally shifted in his stance and let out a breath before nodding. Buffy swallowed the hurt tightening in her throat as Riley couldn’t meet her eyes.
“I’m going to track it,” she replied. “Then I’m going to kill it and then you can stop questioning me about whether all this death makes my life better.”
She stamped back the tears tugging at the corner of her eyes as she stormed down the road. Riley felt his stone composure rapidly cracking away as the guilt over his behavior blasted through him. He drew a deep breath before heading toward the crime scene.
Buffy charged back to the Impala. When she reached the car, she crumbled against the hood and let go of the storm of emotions raging through her system. She let out a few tears until she heard footsteps approaching her. She swiftly wiped her eyes and roped in her pain for the time being. She swung around to see Dean ambling toward her. He looked ashen as he heaved a deep breath.
“I got a glimpse of the body,” he said. “The kid was completely eviscerated like he was some kind of freaky science experiment.”
Dean took a long moment to scrape the horrifying image from his brain. He drew a couple more long breaths before his eyes fell on her.
“As usual, the cops got nothing,” he said.
Buffy nodded as she climbed inside the car. She brushed off the last of her hurt as Dean got in.
“We should check in with the gang, see if they have any ideas about where to find the demon,” she said softly.
Dean nodded as he fished out his cell phone.
“In the meantime, we can try Willy, see if he knows anything.”
Dean cracked a grin, “Ah, good ol’ Willy the Snitch, yeah, I could use some boxing practice after that little shop of horrors.”
He started the car and pulled back on to the road. After several minutes of riding in silence, Buffy shifted in her
seat and glanced at Dean.
“Walsh is dead,” she said flatly.
Dean snapped his eyes on hers and let the news settle in.
“Who killed her?”
“The Polgara demon maybe,” she answered. “But…..”
Buffy drew a deep breath before she shook her head. “Never mind, let’s just get to Willy’s.”
Buffy and Dean strolled into Willy’s Bar and were surprised at the new look. It was still a dumpy bar but Willy had made some subtle changes. A green neon sign on one wall read: Willy’s Place, there was a single but mint condition pinball machine in one corner and the room was filled quite decently with the regular demon patronage.
Willy looked up when he heard the chime above the door ring. He spotted the Slayer and recognized the guy with her. He went white as a sheet and nodded toward the dark end of the bar, out of view of the customers.
“Aw come on,” he groaned. “You can’t be serious.”
They leaned over the counter. Buffy flashed a sweet smile.
“Aw, not happy to see me?”
“Keep your crazy friend away from me,” Willy said.
Buffy shot a look at Dean who merely smiled smugly.
“Business has gone up,” she noted.
“Yeah…I’ve turned a new leaf you know? I’m trying to build a new image for myself.”
“Does that involve not ratting everyone out for a price?”
Willy nodded. “You probably have a hard time swallowing it but believe me, ever since those apocalypse demons came through here, I’ve had a life changing revelation that made me see that I…”
Dean shuffled into his pocket and dropped a quarter on the bar. Willy paused in his speech and looked at the coin in confusion.
“Call someone who cares man,” he quipped.
Dean snickered softly and grinned with pride. Buffy glared at him.
“Oh come on, that was pretty clever.”
She rolled her eyes and regarded Willy. “I’m looking for a Polgara demon that’s running loose and has been on a killing spree over the past couple of days. Tell me what you’ve heard.”
“Well, see the thing is, I don’t eavesdrop on customers anymore. I’m trying to class this joint up. ‘Willy’s Place’ brings in a higher end of customers.”
Buffy shifted her eyes around the room seeing nothing but demons and a few low life humans.
“I also revamped the happy hour menu,” Willy informed.
He flashed a laminated flyer.
“You won’t believe what demons will eat if you…”
Dean slapped another quarter on the counter and shot Willy an annoyed look. Willy gulped and started to sweat.
“If I’m caught talking to you, then all the work I’ve done was for nothing and I’m the same old Willy, playing both sides of good and evil.”
Buffy and Dean eyed each other and exchanged glances. Buffy turned her eyes on Willy.
“We’re going to have to rough you up, right?”
“Just a little but go easy. It don’t have to be too graphic just believable.”
Buffy glanced at Dean as he asked, “May I?”
She saw the spark in his eye and shrugged.
“Oh fine,” she said.
Dean clenched a fist as Willy yelped with pain.
“Dude, I haven’t even touched you yet.”
“Oh, uh, sorry…I was practicing….let’s try it again.”
Willy cleared his throat.
“Go away! I’m not talking to…”
Dean threw a right hook across Willy’s jaw. Willy squealed in genuine pain as Dean grabbed him by the collar and shoved him hard down to the counter. He held a fist close to Willy’s face, ready to pound on him.
“Start talking,” he growled.
“The only one I know of was around a week or two ago but I heard you and those army guys took care of him.”
“And you haven’t heard anything new?” Buffy asked.
“What have you heard about these army guys? Has anyone talked about something known as 314?”
“Just stories, rumors, nothing solid.”
Willy stopped and tensed up as his eyes drifted to the door. Buffy turned to see Riley regarding her with great suspicion. Dean released his grip on Willy, feeling the tension thicken in the bar. Riley glared at Buffy, his face sweaty and pale. Buffy shot him an icy glare.
“You’re following me?”
Dean tensed as he watched Riley close in on Buffy like a predator eyeing its prey.
“You said you were going to look for the demon so I wanted to help you.”
His voice thickened with anger as he eyed Willy and the other demons in the bar.
“But it’s obvious you were lying. You’re not hunting demons, you’re interacting with them…”
Riley shot scrutinizing eyes at Dean.
“And you’re hanging out with shady people claiming to be cops.”
Dean hid his alarm as Riley deepened his glare.
“I talked to the officers too,” Riley said.
Riley shifted his eyes to Buffy.
“I thought you were supposed to kill demons but instead you’re…having drinks with them.”
All the background chatter abruptly ceased upon hearing Riley’s statement. A handful of demons set their sights on Buffy. She felt the weight of their stares.
“Real sly there Mr. Covert Op,” she grumbled.
“Tell me what you’re doing here,” Riley demanded.
Dean kept a cautious eye on Riley’s holster and the proximity of his shaking hands to the pistol. Cold beads of sweat coated Riley’s face as his eyes darkened with fury.
“Easy man,” Willy interjected, “She’s just cooling her jets for a bit.”
Riley cut the distance between himself and Buffy even more. Dean heard his pulse elevate as he felt a sharp twinge in his gut.
“Stop lying to me Buffy,” Riley growled. “And tell me who you really are. Now.”
“Hey uh, can I interest you in an appetizer off our new menu?” Willy asked.
Riley whipped his eyes to Willy and glared at him.
“Can I interest you in a cold white cell? I think the coats back at the lab would love to get their hands on you…”
“Back off dude, he’s human, shady but human.”
Riley directed his wrath back on Dean.
“You should talk. Why are you impersonating law enforcement officials? Maybe I should run you in…”
Dean pushed off the counter as his eyes flared with fury.
“You do not want to threaten me man.”
“Riley, you need to calm down,” Buffy said.
Riley shot his eyes at Willy before setting them on Buffy.
“Why are you protecting him? Because he sympathizes with demons like you do? That makes him a good guy?”
Dean grew apprehensive as Riley drew closer to Buffy. He didn’t like that Riley was behaving like a junkie suffering from withdrawal. The fact that the guy was armed deepened his worry even more. He stamped down his rising panic as he narrowed his eyes on Riley.
“Back off soldier boy,” he warned.
Riley ignored Dean and kept his eyes on Buffy. She noticed his pale complexion, his damp face and his shaky hands. Her heart flooded with panic and worry.
“Tell me the truth Buffy.”
“You know the truth Riley. You’re just having a hard time seeing it because of your relationship with Professor Walsh.”
“I can see clearly,” Riley growled.
Riley stepped closer and grabbed Buffy firmly. She normally would have snapped her arm away without blinking but Riley’s physical condition jolted her nerves. She was frozen with fear.
Dean bolted forward as the adrenaline kicked through his system.
“I said back off!”
Dean saw Riley reach for his pistol as he whipped around. Dean swiftly plucked out his Glock 17, snapped off the safety and leveled it on Riley. Buffy watched as the two of them exchanged steely glares.
“I told you to back off.”
“I’m assuming you don’t have a permit for that gun,” Riley growled. “Impersonating law officials, carrying
Riley shifted his focus to Buffy.
“How can you align yourself with someone like him?”
“Because she trusts me,” Dean answered.
Riley’s focus shifted to an older woman trying to inconspicuously sneak out the door. He trained his gun at the woman’s head.
The woman froze in fear. Buffy eyed the woman and determined she was not a threat.
“Stay there until I say it’s okay to go, understand?”
“There’s no killing in here anymore,” Willy interjected. “New house rule.”
“Rules, right. The thing is, it seems that everyone around here seems to overlook rules.”
Riley looked back at the frightened woman.
“If I put a bullet in your brain, would you die instantly or would you come back to life?”
“Okay man, I’m really sick of this shit,” Dean growled. “Put the gun down and let the lady walk out of here.”
Riley’s hand began to shake violently as he settled his aim back on Dean.
“If I don’t, are you going to kill me – a human?”
“Riley, please,” Buffy pleaded.
Her voice was small and meek. Riley’s gun hand shook violently.
“You’re more likely to shoot yourself at this point,” Dean noted.
“Riley, you don’t look well,” Buffy stated weakly.
Buffy eyed the woman’s knees wobbling.
“Just let her go.”
Riley, completely frustrated and confused, heaved a loud sigh before leveling his shaky aim on the woman. The woman whimpered and shut her eyes as Riley raised his gun in the air.
“Do not make me shoot you,” Dean warned.
Buffy choked down the panic in her throat but tears broke through her eyes. Her voice was shaky and gripped with worry.
“Riley, please,” she cried softly.
Riley shifted his eyes briefly and saw the terror on Buffy’s face. He growled as he slammed the butt of the gun into a bowl of nuts resting on the bar. The woman shrieked and darted away.
Dean relaxed slightly as Riley set the gun down on the counter. He put his pistol away and slowly approached the bar.
“I think I’ll take that,” he said.
Riley suddenly whipped around and sucker punched Dean hard in the face. Dean staggered back and shook off the sting in his jaw. He bore cold, steely eyes into Riley. He threw a left hook at Riley, who was too weak to counter.
“Stop it!” Buffy wailed.
Riley stumbled forward, throwing a weak uppercut that Dean easily blocked.
Buffy hardened her frown and sprung between them. She shoved them apart with enough force to send them both staggering to the ground. She glared at Dean.
“I can’t believe you railed on him! Can’t you see he’s not well?”
Dean swiped a trickle of blood from his mouth and looked at her with a tinge of resentment.
“Are you kidding me? He – attacked – me!”
He shook his head.
“Unbelievable,” he grumbled.
Buffy set her eyes on Riley who was shaking violently. She softened when she noticed the intense fright on his face.
“Buffy….” he said weakly.
Buffy held him close to her as he picked at the scratch on his hand. She helped him up and felt the weight of his body anchored against hers. Buffy realized his strength was fading fast. She had to get him to rest. She shifted her eyes forward to see that Dean was leaving the bar.
“Dean,” Buffy cried softly.
Dean paused abruptly in the doorway and let out a long breath. He swung around to see Riley leaning against Buffy for support.
“Could you drop us off at Xander’s?”
Dean blinked with disbelief. “You got to be kidding me.”
“Please,” she said weakly, “I need to get him to lie down before he gets worse.”
The icy wall around his heart splintered as he watched the tears streaming down her face. Seeing the agony on her face chipped away at his aggravation.
Buffy assisted Riley to the door.
“I need your help Dean,” she said. “Please.”
He noticed she was barely holding herself together and let out a sigh. He roped Riley’s free arm over his shoulder and worked with Buffy to get him to the car.Dammit Dean, you are a weak man around her.
Once Riley was in the car, Buffy closed the back door and went to the passenger side. Dean glared at her with extreme irritation.
“What is it with the guys you date that want to beat the crap out of me?”
Her face knitted with equal irritation.
“I guess you bring it out in them. Can we go now?”
Back at Xander’s house, Buffy coaxed Riley into getting some rest. When she emerged from the basement, she found Xander, Anya and Giles researching. She noticed Dean was sitting in a corner sharpening a couple of his knives and grumbling under his breath. He didn’t look up to acknowledge her. Giles regarded Buffy with paternal concern.
“How is he doing?”
“I don’t think this is just a case of mourning the loss of Walsh. He’s having some kind of physical reaction….”
Dean looked up from his task and set resentful eyes on Buffy.
“Yeah, he’s been juiced and now he’s drying out.”
She glared back at him.
“He’s not a drug addict.”
“No? He’s got the shakes, the sweats and he’s in denial. I’d say you got yourself an addict.”
“I don’t think he knows what’s happening to him.”
“Maybe Professor Walsh was giving him something?” Anya asked.
“I really don’t know but you can bet I’m going to find out.”
“Well, considering your main suspect is embracing her deadness, getting that information will prove to be difficult,” Xander replied.
Buffy sighed as she rubbed a large knot in the back of her neck.
“There must be records, files, something with notes. I really find it hard to believe that she was working alone.”
“Okay, so now what? You have a plan?” Xander asked.
Buffy regarded Giles and Anya.
“You two continue with the research,” she instructed.
She shifted her eyes to Xander.
“Xander, you and I are going to do some recon.”
Anya snapped her eyes at Buffy and frowned in dismay.
“Hold on. You said you wouldn’t take Xander – in a plain lover kind of way or a get him killed kind of way.”
“But Xander has military experience,” Buffy replied.
Anya rolled her eyes, “Wearing a costume for one night does not give him military experience.”
Xander scoffed, “Plain lover?”
“Hello? My dad was in the Marines.”
Buffy, Anya and Xander shifted their attention to Dean who had suddenly lost interest in sharpening his knives.
The scowl on his face deepened.
Buffy drew a breath, “Can you stop being pissed at me for one second and back me up if I need it?”
Dean responded by getting up and exiting the room. Buffy shook her head and frowned. A few seconds later, he appeared in the room again.
“Are you coming?” he asked roughly.
Buffy started gathering weapons and stuffing them in her bag.
“Buffy, I assume the Initiative security system is top of the line. How are you going to get in?” Giles asked.
“Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Maggie didn’t take the time to revoke my clearance. Have you gotten anywhere in finding the Polgara demon?”
Giles sighed and shook his head.
“Well, you guys keep at it and let me know,” she said.
“Stop here for a second.”
After arriving on campus, Buffy paused at the science lab and snuck inside the dark classroom. She returned a few minutes later with a white lab coat, a pair of glasses and a clipboard. She noticed Dean’s questioning eyes as she tied her hair up in a bun.
“We’re going under cover,” she explained. “We need to look the part, which you’re lacking in.”
When they reached Lowell House, they casually strolled inside. They relaxed when they found the lower level of the house empty.
“You can’t just walk into the Initiative like that,” she pointed. “You’ll stick out like a sore thumb.”
Dean glanced at the stairs leading to the resident rooms and felt his mind spark.
“I’ve got an idea.”
He shifted toward the stairs.
“Meet me at the end of that hallway,” Buffy whispered.
Dean snuck up the stairs and crept down the quiet hallway. He ducked behind a corner when he spotted Graham and Forrest walking out of their room. They headed in a different direction down the hall. After a minute, Dean ambled over to the door and reached for the knob. Finding it locked as expected, he quickly jimmied the door open with his lock pick.
Once inside he shuffled to the closet and thumbed through the clothes until he found what he was looking for.
“Yahtzee,” he said.
Buffy waited at the end of the hall and tensed when she heard footsteps. She blinked when she saw Dean dressed in full military combat attire complete with weaponry. He fidgeted in the uniform, not used to wearing disguises. If she didn’t know any better, she would have mistaken him for a real Initiative commando. He shifted in his stance, a little uncomfortable in the dark green long sleeve sweater he had borrowed.
“Do I look ridiculous?”
“Where did you get that?”
He followed her down another hallway until they reached a mirrored wall. Buffy stopped in front of the mirror, a little apprehensive of her plan’s success. Dean glanced in the mirror and took a long look at himself. He broke into a smug smile.
“Woah,” he said. “I look damn good in this.”
He fussed with his hair for a bit before admiring himself some more. Buffy heard a whirring sound and suddenly recognized what was happening. Her eyes widened in panic as she abruptly shoved Dean away from the mirror.
He rubbed his arm.
“What the hell did you do that for? Are you jealous that I look better than you?”
“The only way in is to pass a retinal scan. Which only I can take,” she pointed.
She turned to the mirror before shifting her eyes back on him and glared.
“And you do not look better than me.”
“Oh, I so do.”
She faced the mirror again and tried to relax. A green laser swept over Buffy’s eyes as an automated voice stated her name. A moment later, the elevator doors pulled open. They stepped inside. Dean was pleased to find more of his reflection beaming off the bright white walls of the elevator. He admired himself from a few different angles. Buffy rolled her eyes.
When the elevator doors opened, Buffy stepped out and noticed Dean still staring at his reflection.
“Come on Fabio,” she muttered.
Dean tore himself away from his glorious reflection and set his eyes on the interior of the Initiative headquarters.
His eyes widened.
“Holy cow,” he replied. “You weren’t kidding about how big it is.”
They tensed at the foot of the stairs as a pair of guys headed up toward them. Dean forced his body into the traditional military ‘at ease’ position as Buffy pretended to be interested in the blank page affixed to her clipboard. The two guys were engaged in deep discussion and paid no attention to them.
As they snuck down a hallway, they heard voices and ducked around a corner. They heard clipped conversation concerning Riley before the voices broke away. Spotting Dr. Angleman, Buffy barreled after him, catching the secured door before it shut behind him. Dean was right on her heels, one hand close to the holster.
Buffy tailed Dr. Angleman into a large two story document vault lined with file cabinets. Dean followed behind after sweeping his eyes around the room. Angleman moved toward a file cabinet as Buffy pounced on him. She grabbed him from behind and threw him hard into a wall. She grasped him firmly by the collar and bore her eyes into him. Dean spied through a small window in the main door, looking out for unexpected visitors.
“I usually have a policy to never take a human life,” she said. “But sometimes there are exceptions.”
Angleman smiled obnoxiously. “Well, you sure took your time showing up.”
Buffy mocked a sad expression. “Oh gee, did I keep you waiting? So sorry.”
Her expression shifted into stone, cold game face.
“Tell me what you gave Riley and then tell me all abut 314,” she growled.
Angleman scoffed defiantly. “Security team is probably on their way. You’re too cocky to have remembered the surveillance monitors.”
Footsteps echoed from another part of the room. Dean drew cautious eyes and saw Riley bounding in.
“Surveillance monitors are offline - we experienced an operational malfunction. Been down for ten minutes or so,” Riley replied.
Angleman drew a cocky smile. “Agent Finn. Escort this girl and her friend to the stockade for questioning.”
Riley didn’t move. He merely stared at all the faces in the room. Buffy drew her eyes back to Angleman,
“Why did Maggie want to kill me?”
Angleman nodded. His confident smile had been replaced by a fearful expression.
“That was her decision and hers alone,” Angleman replied shakily. “The Initiative was not involved in her own personal vengeance.”
“What are you talking about? What personal vengeance? Explain in detail before my spontaneous bout of rage kicks in,” she snapped.
“I – I’m not sure,” he answered.
Buffy clenched her fist and shot him an intimidating glare. “Feeling the rage brewing.”
Angleman gulped. “Um….It had to do with her pet project.”
“Let me guess. 314?”
“It broke out.”
Riley suddenly burst toward Angleman.
“Stop it,” he replied sharply. “Maggie was not some psychopathic killer abusing her power. She was an amazing woman, brilliant….she was working toward something great to help people, she was compassionate and caring….but no…you want to corrupt her memory.”
“Riley, please, you have to listen to me. Angleman said he was dosing you with drugs.”
Riley clenched his jaw and got in her face. “No, it’s you! You’re making me this way!”
Buffy hardened her heart as she glanced up at Riley.
“I’m trying to find out what’s going on but you need to listen.”
Riley stiffened with anger. “What’s going on is that you did something to her, didn’t you?”
“No,” she answered firmly.
“You’re lying!” Riley growled.
Riley grabbed Buffy by the arms. She gasped at his action and swiftly knocked him back. He staggered back but quickly bounded forward. Buffy backed away as Riley closed in on her.
Dean darted over and wedged himself between Buffy and Riley.
“Back off,” he snapped. “And calm the hell down.”
Riley got in Dean’s face. “I’m getting a little sick of you interfering in Buffy’s life. This is between her and me.”
Dean stamped back the fury raging in his throat when he felt a small hand on his shoulder. He backed off and charged over to the door.
“Riley, this isn’t about you and me,” Buffy stressed. “It’s about what’s really going on here. This is where we’ll find answers. We need to know what project 314 is.”
Suddenly, the tense silence was broken when a hideously mangled body flew down from the catwalk above. All eyes drifted up to see a huge man stitched together with various demon parts, including the Polgara demon’s skewer arm.
“It’s me,” the man said. “I am called Adam.”
Dean widened his eyes as he kept his hand close to his gun.
“Holy shit,” he whispered. “What the hell is that?”
Everyone in the room was completely captivated as Adam began to pace the length of the catwalk. He began to speak with care about his origins, his purpose, etc. He jumped off the catwalk and landed gracefully in front of the group. He reached into his vest pocket and removed a floppy disk with his name on it. He slipped the disk in a hard drive embedded in his chest. He read the information out loud to the group without feeling or passion.
Adam maintained full attention in the room as he replaced the disk with one marked with Riley’s name.
“I wasn’t mother’s only creation,” Adam replied in monotone.
Riley staggered back and shook his head.
“No, no. My mom is…”
“A vessel,” Adam finished. “She brought you into this world but Maggie, she shaped you, taught you about basic human feelings. She nourished you with chemicals to strengthen your mind and your body. You and I were her blessed gifts. You and I, are brothers, we are family.”
Riley was crestfallen upon hearing the revelation. Adam studied him curiously and continued to command the room with his presence. He flashed the disk at the room and as Riley sunk with each word.
“Riley,” Buffy replied softly.
Riley, gripped with confusion, grief and shock, ripped out his gun and leveled it on Adam.
“No!” Buffy cried.
She rushed toward Riley and reached for his arm but Adam smacked the gun away and knocked Buffy on her ass. Riley followed with a punch to the face but Adam didn’t even blink. He flung Riley across the room with a flick of his hand. Buffy scrambled to her feet and shot a quick glance at Dean. Dean groaned low under his breath when he read her signal.
“Oh god this is a bad idea,” Dean mumbled as he rushed toward Adam.
Adam flicked Buffy and Dean away, sending them both sailing across the room. Dean crashed into a wall and slumped to the ground. He let out a groan and rubbed his head.
“Let’s rush the zombie super soldier,” he grumbled. “Fantastic plan.”
Buffy charged at Adam and went hand to hand. He continued to knock her back without much effort. Each counterattack seemed to weaken her as she stumbled back further and further. Adam took off after Angleman as he scurried toward the door to escape.
Dean got to his feet as he watched Adam probing Angelman’s head with his skewer arm. Riley sprung to his feet and attacked Adam from behind, snagging his neck with some utility wire. Buffy lunged into the air and launched her foot out.
Dean swept his eyes around the room and snatched up a large hard drive tower. He ran over to the tag team and slammed the tower into Adam’s face. Adam bolted back only slightly as Riley tightened his grip around Adam’s neck, cutting off the air supply. Adam swiftly reached his arms behind him, grabbed Riley and twirled him around to face him. Adam slammed his skewer arm into Riley’s side, puncturing him through.
Buffy gasped when she saw blood pouring out of Riley’s mouth. She hardened her game face and went ballistic, charging Adam in a fit of rage. Adam released his grip on Riley as Buffy and Dean attacked with all their strength. Adam clutched a monster arm around Dean’s neck and lifted him high in the air.
Dean gasped for air as Adam stared up at him with dark, emotionless eyes. Buffy barreled into him several times before Adam tossed Dean across the room again. Dean hit a filing cabinet and groaned loudly. Adam closed in on Buffy when his attention shifted to the sound of rapid pounding on the door.
Adam bowed out, crawling up the catwalk and escaping through an open vent in the ceiling. Buffy quaked with worry when she saw Riley’s pale face and the deep crimson blood oozing from his wound.
The front door crashed open as Forrest, Graham and a few other commandos raced inside. They stared at the carnage in the room before removing their weapons. They leveled their guns on Buffy and Dean. Forrest narrowed his eyes on them.
“Hands up!” Forrest demanded.
“Easy man,” Dean replied. “We’re not the guilty ones here. You got a zombie soldier on the loose – took off through that vent.”
“It’s some kind of man,” Buffy added.
Forrest kept his weapon trained on them. “Oh, sure, and you just dropped in to say hi.”
Riley clutched his wound and struggled to speak clearly. “It’s the truth. It attacked me and killed that MP and
Angleman. It’s got at least two minutes on you. You need to go. Hurry.”
Forrest and Graham exchanged looks before sending their team through the vent. Forrest crouched over Riley to examine the wound.
“You have to get him to a hospital,” Buffy cried.
Her emotional strength was fading fast. Forrest and Graham get Riley to his feet just as he passed out cold. They helped him walk toward the door. Buffy started to follow when Forrest glared back at her.
“We’ll take of care this,” he said.
“’I’m coming along,” she said.
“No civilians allowed at a military hospital.”
“But I have to do something,” she said.
“You’ve done enough,” he barked.
Forrest glanced at a few of his commandos.
“Escort these two off the grounds,” he instructed.
Riley suddenly gripped consciousness and weakly called out for Buffy. She rushed to his side but the team of commandos held her back with guns drawn.
“Please,” Riley replied meekly.
Riley reached for her but Forrest and Graham ushered him out the door. Buffy shook her head as her eyes welled up with agony. She turned when she heard footsteps. She glanced at Dean as she buried her head on his shoulder and sobbed softly. Dean comforted her for a long moment before his eyes fell back on the carnage in the room.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said softly.
She clung to him as he guided her out of the facility.
Buffy slid inside the car and crooked her head against the window. She stared off as Dean veered onto the road leading to Xander’s house. When they arrived at the house, Dean shuttled Buffy inside where the group anxiously waited. Xander and Giles grew alarmed at Buffy’s despondent expression as she padded over to the other side of the room and sat on the bed.
Xander, Giles and Anya glanced at Dean expectantly. Just as he was about to speak, he heard his cell phone ringing in his pocket. He fished it out and glanced at the screen. He ambled out of the room as Xander took a peek at Buffy. Dean returned after several minutes, looking conflicted.
He padded over to Buffy. She looked up and met his eyes. She noticed the heavy reluctance on his face.
“I have to go,” he said. “My dad’s colleague ran into some big trouble on a job and he needs me. Normally I would have asked him if I could stick around but he was pretty stressed out, so…”
“I’ll be fine, I’ve got Xander and Will and Giles.”
Dean let out a breath and nodded. “Call me - anytime okay?”
She nodded and managed a very weak smile. “Thank you, for everything. I always can count on you.”
He nodded and paused on a thought.
“I’m sure Riley will pull through,” he replied.
Buffy flashed an appreciative smile as he wandered back to the group to say his goodbyes.