Ch. 55 – Hello, Lover
A/N: involves episode “New Moon Rising”
Two weeks later:
Giles checked his watch for the third time as Xander, Anya, Willow and Tara hung out in the living room, trying to stave off their boredom from the long wait.
“I’m sure she’s on her way,” Xander replied when he saw Giles’ look of concern.
“Or she’s tied up,” Willow suggested.
“Or she’s on her way to being tied up,” Anya remarked.
The gang settled stares on Anya who simply shrugged and eyed Willow.
“You said she was with Dean. I imagine he has tied her up.....in many ways.”
Anya cracked a grin as the stares deepened. A few minutes later, the front door swung open and Buffy casually strolled in alongside Dean. Buffy waved and beamed a giddy smile.
“Hey....sorry we’re late....we were um....caught up in stuff.”
Anya narrowed her eyes on the two and noticed the glow on their faces.
Buffy widened her eyes and gulped at the gangs collective stares. “Nnnooooo. We were caught up in.....stuff.”
Anya assessed the two a little longer before she nodded confidently.
“Yes, sex stuff, I see.”
Buffy whined very softly as the awkward looks deepened.
Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her stance as she glanced briefly at Dean. After another minute of shifting, she hitched her head defiantly.
“If you must know, we went....shopping....in fact, it was all Dean’s fault, he insisted we go SHOPPING as soon as he arrived in town so he tempted me into - SHOPPING.....right Dean?”
Buffy stared up at Dean and shot him a conspiratorial look. He gave a mild scoff as he regarded the gang.
“Yeah, right cuz I love.....shopping for HOURS......”
Giles frowned with dismay.
“Could we please get to the purpose of this gathering?”
Grateful for the change of subject, Buffy eagerly trekked further into the living room. She angled down onto the couch arm and addressed the group. Dean drifted to Giles’ desk and leaned against it. He picked up a strange looking artifact that resembled a wooden Rubic’s cube.
“Yes, well, last night on patrol the cemetery was LITERALLY dead. I made a couple of passes and didn’t come across a single demon.”
“That in of itself should be a note of concern,” Giles replied gloomily.
Dean studied Giles’ apprehensive expression.
“So all quiet on the demon front is just what, a prelude to another end of the world?”
“I fear that whatever has trumped the normal level of demon activity may have to do with Adam.”
Buffy crossed her arms and flashed a confused frown.
“Well, that’s weird because according to Riley, the Initiative has been swamped. They’re netting a high level of captures.”
Dean blinked in great surprise as he eyed Buffy. He pushed off the desk and slowly edged toward her.
“And HOW would you know this?” he asked suspiciously.
Buffy glanced at the group as another awkward silence dropped in the air.
“Um....he um....he called to give me an update.....”
“He’s calling you?”
Buffy shifted in her seat as she saw the suspicion deepen on his face.
“Um....as a professional courtesy,” she explained.
Dean let out a deep huff before his suspicious expression shifted into an irritated glare.
“When the hell were you going to tell me that you and your ex are buddies again?”
He shook his head in deep disappointment.
“We’re not buddies exactly, we’ve just been talking....”
Dean heaved a sigh as harsh lines painted his face.
“Talking.....I see.....how long has THAT been going on?”
Buffy drew an irked expression.
“I don’t know, just in the past two weeks or so Mr. Green Eyed Monster,” she spat.
Anya rolled her eyes and sighed. “So Buffy had a slow week at work but we have no solid evidence to cause us to hit the big red panic button. Are we done with this excruciatingly boring meeting?”
Anya glanced at Xander.
“Let’s go.....shopping,” she said casually.
Giles shot a look of offense at Anya.
“Pardon me if my years of experience means nothing to you,” he replied sharply.
Dean edged closer to Buffy. “You never thought to mention this until now?”
Buffy drew a deep huff. “I didn’t think it was that important.”
Dean shook his head as he heaved a sigh. “Important. Right. Because being HONEST with me isn’t important to you, huh?”
“Do we really need to get into this now?”
“If you had told me from the start that you were conversing in secret with your ex boyfriend, we wouldn’t be getting into this now.”
Willow and Tara looked on with awkward expressions as Giles and Anya bickered on one side of the room while Buffy and Dean hashed out their issues by the couch. Tara drew a shy expression at Willow.
“Um, is this normal at your Scooby meetings?”
“Well, yes and no.....”
Buffy shot to her feet and glared up at Dean.
“Oh. So after a long week of working, you would have wanted me to call and say, “hello lover, what’s new, by the way my ex boyfriend called me out of the blue to let me know about their increase of demon activity and that I should keep my eyes open’.....did you miss me??? Yeah, right. You would have hung up on me.”
“So you decided to keep your mouth shut? You can talk my ear off about some stupid shoe sale at the mall but when it comes to your ex showing up back in your life, you get all tight lipped?”
Buffy clenched her knuckles and let out a deep breath of aggravation when silence slammed into the room. She noticed Willow exuding deep astonishment as she stared at the door. Buffy shifted her sights and gasped in shock. All eyes in the living room regarded the door where Oz stood with a casual look. After a minute, Dean blinked out of his shock as the others stood around with various degrees of awkward expressions.
“Well, speaking of exes....” he said.
Tara shifted her eyes to Willow briefly.
“Exes?” she asked meekly.
“Hh-how long have you been back in town?” Willow asked.
Oz shrugged as he slowly stepped inside.
“Since now,” he answered.
After another long minute of stares, Xander ambled up to Oz.
“Oz, long time no see, are you too good for a phone call or a postcard?”
They shake hands as the group continued to stare.
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
Oz shifted his eyes around the room. After looking at Willow for a time, he saw Dean assessing him. Oz nodded and after a long minute, Dean nodded back.
“Hey man, you just dropping in or are you setting up shop again?”
“Let’s not interrogate him straight away,” Giles suggested. “Let him settle in a bit. Could I offer you some tea?”
Willow exuded her protest as Oz waved a hand dismissively.
“No but thanks,” he said.
Oz slowly wandered over to Willow. Buffy looked on as the two talked softly. Dean shifted his eyes away as his disgruntled frown returned.
“She seems to be okay so far,” she commented. “It can’t be easy to run into an old flame.”
“It didn’t seem too hard for you.”
Buffy shrouded a frown as she turned her eyes to Dean.
“You really are going a little overboard with this jealousy bit. Riley and I just started talking to each other again.”
“Yeah well, ‘talking’ can lead to a lot of things,” Dean grumbled.
Buffy deepened her glare. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Dean fished his buzzing phone out of his pocket and broke his eyes away from her glare. He glanced at the text message on the screen before he met her glowering eyes again.
“Do what you want,” he grunted softly. “I’ve never been able to stop you anyway.”
He pushed off toward the door leaving Buffy with a wounded expression. He paused at the door where Xander and Oz were chatting. Xander regarded Dean.
“Oz and I are going to visit our old haunt, The Bronze. You want to join in?”
Dean glanced behind him to see Buffy still glaring at him.
“Yeah, what the hell, give me a call later.”
He nodded at Oz before ambling out the door. Buffy heaved a breath when Dean walked out without saying goodbye. After several long minutes to absorb the sting of his abrupt departure, she slowly moved over to Willow to console her.
Several hours later, Dean settled his frustration into a pool game as he waited for Xander and Oz to show up at the Bronze. After a few rounds, he set up another and noticed Xander and Oz strolling up to the pool table. As Xander and Oz made brief conversation, Dean half listened in, distracted by his own mess of thoughts. Xander left to collect some drinks, leaving Oz to observe the solo game. Dean glanced at Oz as he gauged his shot.
“So, you and Buffy hooked up.”
“For the moment.”
Dean pulled back the cue stick before propelling it forward. Several striped balls soared across the table.
“You guys working it out?”
Dean heaved a sigh as he leaned against the table.
“It’s complicated but I guess..................I really don’t feel like talking about it.”
Oz nodded with a casual shrug. “What about Willow? Is she.....seeing a new guy?”
Dean lifted out of his black mood briefly as he cracked a small smile.
“Uh.....not a new ‘guy’.......”
“So she’s not seeing anyone?”
Dean widened his smile.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that. I’m sure she’s seeing a whole lot of new.....things....well, not new, just ‘familiar’ but....different you know?”
Oz frowned with confusion. “No, sorry, I don’t know.”
Xander returned with two drinks as Dean fetched his cell phone from his pocket. He sighed when he saw the caller ID.
“Yeah........yeah, yeah....I’ll meet you on the north side of the quad in fifteen minutes.”
Dean put his phone away and nodded to Oz and Xander before he took off.
A short time later, after roaming through the cemetery with little or no conversation, Buffy broke the tense silence as she paused at a gravestone. She looked up at Dean and pouted.
“How long are you going to be mad at me?”
Dean surveyed the immediate area as he swung his crossbow around.
“I don’t know, until I can kill something.”
“Well, considering we’ve been patrolling for almost a half hour with no demon sightings, I guess it’s going to be awhile.”
Dean shot his eyes around the cemetery searching for something to kill. After a minute of inspecting, he sighed with disappointment.
“Look, I just want to hunt then go home and drink until I forget you ever told me about this Riley crap.”
“I didn’t intentionally try to deceive you, I just didn’t want to bring it up. I mean, when we talk on the phone, I just want to focus on us, I don’t want to hash it out about my past love life.”
Dean flashed a disgruntled frown.
“PAST.......huh.....seems like it’s the present,” he grumbled.
Buffy drew a sigh of exasperation. “Will you just....”
“Duck,” he barked.
Buffy blinked. “What?”
Dean hardened his expression as he batted her aside seconds before a demon lunged out of the shadows from behind her. He fired off a bolt into the demon’s chest, but it swerved at the last minute, hitting a tree.
“Dammit,” he groaned.
In a flash the demon roared and barreled toward Dean. Buffy sprung forward and attacked. The demon staggered back a few steps. Dean caught the demon in a chokehold as Buffy slammed a knife in its throat. The demon wailed and died. Dean hurled the demon to the ground and caught his breath, hoping the kill would have washed away his bad mood.
“Dammit, I’m still pissed off.”
Buffy glanced down at the dead demon on the ground.
“I know, I hate when it’s finished before it even gets started.”
“I wasn’t talking about the demon.”
Buffy inhaled a deep breath, trying to settle her rapid heartbeat.
“Oh. Well, you really are making a big deal out of nothing Dean. I told you that Riley and I just started talking. That’s it. He approached me in a strictly professional way because we share a common enemy.”
Dean studied her expression for a brief moment before he drew suspicion.
“Is that the only thing you’ve been sharing?”
Buffy rolled her eyes and scoffed.
“Are you kidding me with this? If there is anyone who should be worried about being cheated on, it’s me Mr. New Town, New Girl.”
As she gazed at him with scrutinizing eyes, her expression softened slightly.
“Maybe you already have......”
Dean let out a breath when he saw the fear swimming in her eyes.
“I told you I haven’t,” he said.
“How do I really know?”
He shrugged. “You don’t, you just have to trust me.”
She looked at him pointedly.
“Yeah and you have to trust me,” she stressed, narrowing her eyes on him.
Dean heaved a deep breath to stave off his growing agitation.
“Look, you were the one who stressed honesty was important to you,” he remarked. “And that’s all I’ve done since we started this thing. So I have a right to be pissed off finding out that you’ve been cozying up to your ex boyfriend since I’ve been away.”
“I told you we’re just talking,” she growled. “That’s it Dean. I don’t have coffee with him,
I don’t hang out in his dorm. It was one five minute phone call and that was it. I’m not cozying up to him and we’re not technically even friends again.....we’re just polite and professional. It’s not like I’m going to run into him in a cemetery and we have a nice chat.”
Dean assessed her briefly before a rustling sound drew his attention away. He heard footsteps and swung around in alarm.
Dean heaved a breath when Riley emerged from behind a mausoleum. Buffy drew an awkward expression and gulped.
“Riley....um, hi. I didn’t think I’d run into you, here.”
Riley flashed a polite smile.
“Yeah because I never hang out in cemeteries at night.”
Riley eyed Dean before he noticed the dead demon on the ground.
“I bet this is the demon I was tracking that gave me the slip. Seems you took care of it.”
“Yeah, we got it covered,” Buffy remarked casually. “It was quick and painless.”
“I can dump this for you,” he offered.
Buffy noticed Dean stewing with disapproval as he watched her with Riley. She gave a polite smile.
“Uh, sure, thanks, I’d appreciate it. We’ve got.....”
Riley nodded, saving her from having to make any more polite conversation.
“Enjoy your night.”
Riley hunched over the demon before he flashed another civil smile.
“It was...nice chatting with you.”
Buffy heard Dean huff almost inaudibly as she threw back a civil smile.
“Yes, it was. Bye.”
Riley nodded and began dragging the demon body away. Dean looked up at the night sky with questioning eyes.
“It’s not like I’m going to run into some Playboy bunnies in skimpy bikinis while in a graveyard and they have a.....pillow fight.”
Dean strained his hearing for the most subtle sounds as Buffy rolled her eyes. After a brief moment, Dean sighed in disappointment before he saw her frown.
“Hey, I had to try.”
After another moment, he shrugged and pushed off toward the clearing. Buffy followed him as he headed back to his car. He heaved a sigh when he noticed her waiting on the passenger side. He cracked the driver side door and flashed his seething frown.
“Not tonight,” he said flatly.
Buffy blinked before she scoffed.
“Are you seriously that mad at me? I can’t believe after everything we’ve gone through, everything I’ve told you, that you’re so quick to write me off because I didn’t mention that some guy I used to date called me out of the blue to talk shop, and that was all it was Dean, SHOP, there were no ‘hi how are yous?’, no, ‘nice talking to yous’, just, ‘be on the look out for the whatnots’. I didn’t mention it because it wasn’t worth mentioning. Plus, we kept playing phone tag all last week and I didn’t want to leave you a message about Riley.”
When she saw him assessing her for a long minute, she sighed.
“I miss you the minute you leave town, and I’m sad when I miss your call because all I want to do at the end of the day is talk to you. YOU are the only guy on my mind. You know me, so look me in the eyes when I tell you, I only want to be with YOU. I don’t have any regrets about the choices I made. I love you and I miss you like crazy when you’re gone and I hate wasting what little time you have here on trivial things like who did or didn’t call me. But if you want to waste time fighting about this, then go Dean, go and get drunk and go have your revenge or spite lay and throw everything away now.”
After the tense silence lingered on, Buffy held back the tears in her eyes and let out a deep breath. She pivoted in the direction of her dorm and sulked.
“Get in the car,” Dean replied softly.
She swung her eyes and saw the decrease in the hard lines in his face. He popped the lock on the passenger side, allowing her in.
The next morning, Buffy roused from her sleep at the sound of a rock ringtone. She groaned softly and lightly batted Dean on the shoulder. After a moment, he groaned and yanked his phone off the bedside dresser and pulled it under the covers. He groaned louder as he folded forward and swung his feet on the floor.
“Hey dad,” he said wearily. “Uh, yeah, yeah, I got time........okay, bye.”
He set his phone aside as Buffy released a long yawn.
“Come back to bed,” she said as she curled up against him.
Dean tossed the covers off and raked a hand through his tousled hair.
“I have to take care of some stuff,” he grumbled.
Buffy eyed the time.
“Yeah now,” he grunted.
Buffy gasped softly as he begrudgingly shuffled to the bathroom without another word. A short time later, she glared deeply at him when he emerged without acknowledging her.
“You’re still mad?”
Dean heaved a sigh as he slipped into a shirt.
“A little,” he replied.
Buffy sat up against the headboard and frowned.
“Why? I’ve told you a thousand times already that there’s nothing going on with Riley and I thought after last night you would have forgotten about the whole stupid thing.”
“I thought I would, I did, but it still bugs me,” he confessed.
Buffy heaved an exasperated breath as she looked at him with a deeper glare.
“Well, you’re being ridiculous,” she snapped. “I’m not going to leave you for Riley or for anyone else for that matter, unless you screw things up, which, you’re working pretty hard to do.”
She stared at him for a long moment before pouting.
“Do you want to screw things up?”
Dean met her eyes and drew a deep sigh. He leaned against the dresser and rubbed the back of his neck.
“You should have just told me instead of having me find out in front of everyone,” he groaned.
“Oh, so this is about your pride now?”
He shook his head when her pout shifted into a frown.
“You used to tell me ANYTHING even when I didn’t want to hear it, and I’m used to being out of the loop but I thought things changed,” he remarked.
“So you really wanted me to tell you in what little phone time we have, that Riley made
one five minute phone call to me? You wouldn’t have been pissed?”
“Of course I would have been pissed,” he admitted. “But at least....”
He heaved a deep sigh as he edged over to the end of the bed.
“At least I could take it out on some mean spirit or the latest demon of the week, instead of rubbing off on you,” he added candidly. “Because.....you’re right, it’s stupid to waste time on this kind of shit. But if you told me last week about this, I could have wasted my own time getting it out before I came to see you.”
Buffy stared at the deep set lines of hurt on his face and softened her harsh expression. She scooted over to him and settled in his lap.
“Okay, I see your point but honestly, I really didn’t think it was such a big deal. There’s no reason to be pissed about it. Riley extended the hand of......business, I mean, we do frequent the same areas at night so it’s not uncommon for us to run into each other.
But I don’t hang out and chat because it’s still awkward.”
She curled her arms around him and met his eyes.
“I have no desire to be with another guy,” she said. “You’re my guy – you have been through the best of times and worst of times.”
She planted a deep, loving kiss on his mouth. When she broke away, she noticed the tension in his expression had subsided.
“So, are we good now?” she asked softly.
After a brief moment, he let out a breath as he eyed the time.
“Yeah, we’re good,” he affirmed. “So let’s make up some more.”
He clutched her waist and settled her down on the bed.
“But I thought you had to take care of some stuff,” she pointed.
“I am,” he cracked with a smile.
Several hours later, Buffy met Dean in the Downtown district for lunch. She heaved a sigh of relief when he greeted her with a fantastic smile that melted her anxiety away. After devouring a plate of appetizers, Buffy imparted the news about Oz. Dean blinked several times before he settled back in his seat.
“Wow, he went all the way to friggin’ Tibet for a girl? Jeez,” he said with an incredulous look. “So no more Wolfie Boy, cool, cuz I always thought he was a cool dude and I really didn’t want to cap his ass.”
“He didn’t tell you any of this when you hung out?” Buffy asked.
Dean dove into the entrees the server dropped off at their table before meeting her eyes.
“We didn’t really hang out that long and I....I was venting so I wasn’t really listening if he did mention it, anyway, guess Oz and Willow had their own little ‘makeup’ session last night, channeling his inner beast.”
Dean cracked a smile as he stuffed a cheesy fry in his mouth.
“Um no, they didn’t actually.....there’s other stuff involved.”
“Other stuff? Such as?”
Buffy gulped as her cheeks flushed red.
“Did you know um that Willow um was a, is a.....um was into um....”
Dean hitched an eyebrow up in curiosity as she fidgeted in her seat for a moment.
Dean chuckled when she drew a bright red.
“Yeah, you didn’t figure that out?”
“Um, I guess I never really noticed or realized and um....so, did it like....really surprise you or um....like make you wig for a second....or three.”
He paused mid bite. “You freaked out over Willow liking the chicks?”
Buffy winced with shame. “Um, maybe just a little but only because I was surprised but now, I’m not, I’m cool with, I totally am.”
Dean studied her for a brief minute.
“I am,” she affirmed.
“Okay, so how about the next time I roll into town, you crawl into bed with another hot chick and fire me up as soon as I walk through that door?”
He smirked wide as she scowled and chucked a balled up napkin at his head. A few minutes later, he fished out his cell phone as it buzzed in his pocket.
“Hello? Yeah, she’s here.”
Dean heaved a sigh and frowned lightly.
“What am I? You’re answering service?”
He shook his head as he handed Buffy the phone.
“Hello? What?! Oh. Oh my god, okay. We’re on our way.”
Buffy hung up and pushed her chair from the table.
“What’s going on?”
“We have to go,” she urged.
Dean glanced at his half eaten plate and sighed.
“Willow said Oz is in trouble, she’s at Giles’,” she replied hurriedly.
Buffy grabbed her coat and purse and flew out of the diner as Dean lingered over his plate, stuffing his mouth. She heaved a sigh and bounded back over to him. She hooked a hand around the crook of his arm and tugged him away.
A short time later, Buffy and Dean arrived as Giles, Willow, Xander and Anya assembled in the living room.
“So what happened?” Buffy asked as she drifted into the living room.
“There was an attack and the Initiative guys took Oz away. Tara came looking for me right after it happened.”
“It hasn’t been that long, so maybe he’s not shish kabob yet,” she remarked flatly.
Xander flashed an apologetic expression to Willow as he clapped his hands on Anya’s shoulder.
“This might be a good time to practice your ‘no comment’ moment,” Xander replied gently.
Dean strolled around the living room and shook his head as Buffy picked up Giles’ land line.
“Damn Initiative,” he grumbled.
He glanced at Buffy and shot her an annoyed look.
“You should have let me blow that damn place up when I had the chance,” he groaned.
He paused in the middle of the room when a thought crossed his mind.
“I think I still got those chargers somewhere,” he remarked with a spark in his eyes.
“Perhaps we should consider more covert measures,” Giles suggested. “Not that infiltrating the Initiative is an easy task.”
Xander snapped his fingers.
“Gee, don’t you wish one of us knew someone on the inside?”
Dean eyed Buffy suspiciously.
“Oh, but we do!” Xander replied.
Buffy hung up the phone and moved to the group.
“No luck,” she imparted. “I paged him a couple of times and left him an mg.”
Buffy felt the weight of Dean’s calculating stare.
“He said to call if there was ever an emergency that he could help with,” she explained.
“What do we do now?” Willow asked apprehensively.
Buffy paced a short length as her mind spun up scenarios.
“We need to act fast, without his help,” she said.
“Who says we need him anyway?”
Buffy glanced at Dean and saw that flicker of disapproval in his eyes. She let out a sigh as she continued to pace in the room.
“We’ll have to go deep cover,” Buffy rattled as she kept pacing. “Maybe kill the power somehow.”
“You must also sedate Oz,” Giles noted.
“How is it that he was all wolf happy in the sunshine?” Xander asked. “Isn’t that like debunking the myth?”
Willow gripped the couch arm as the dread thickened on her face.
“He learned how to control it,” Willow explained. “Is it even possible for the wolf side to turn during the day?
“If he successfully contained the beast all this time, it is very possible that it could reach a breaking point, where it overpowered him, regardless of what time or lunar cycle in the month,” Giles assessed.
Buffy glanced at her watch. “Well, we don’t have much time to wait help.”
Dean took notice when Buffy eyed the land line.
“We don’t need GI Joe’s help,” he grunted. “We’ll go storm that evil castle and take down whatever beasts get in our way.”
He fished out his pistol and checked the rounds.
“Why all the fuss over this guy?” Anya asked. “I mean, you’re all hopped to fight for this guy that broke Willow’s heart. Why not just leave him there and suffer for what he did to her?”
Willow shot to her feet and glared at Anya.
“We’re making a fuss because Oz is my.....was....we were together once and then he left and came back for ME, he got captured because of me, this isn’t any of his fault....”
She heaved a deep breath and glanced at Buffy.
“I’m going to help,” she replied firmly.
“Not a good idea,” Dean replied sharply. “These guys are way too dangerous, there are too many unpredictable scenarios, the less bodies, the better.”
Willow huffed as determination thickened on her face.
“He’s right Will,” Buffy stressed. “The danger factor is off the charts. I need your hacker skills to infiltrate the electrical grid anyway. We need to try and cut the power.”
Willow shook her head, almost completely wild with conviction.
“Giles knows how to do that,” she growled. “I’m not going to just sit around and wait. I can’t.”
Buffy and Dean exchanged looks after regarding Willow. He shook his head as Buffy slowly nodded.
“Okay,” Buffy sighed in defeat.
She glanced up at Dean.
“Arm her up?”
“With what? A wand?”
Buffy shook her head as she brushed his comment off.
“The only way to access the Initiative is through the secret elevator in Lowell House but I don’t have clearance anymore,” she moaned.
“Then we’ll just crack a few heads and jack their codes,” Dean remarked brusquely.
“Might be easier to just sneak in the back way, and much less fuss.”
All eyes shifted to the front door as Spike wandered inside. Dean flashed a disgruntled frown.
“How the hell does he keep getting in here?”
Spike ignored all the glares and simply shrugged.
“You don’t fancy ever locking your door Rupert, not really wise. You never know what dangerous thing could just strut right in.”
“Or what ‘formerly known as dangerous’ could skip right in,” Dean cracked with a deeper frown.
Spike flashed a scolding expression at Dean.
“Don’t be like that or I won’t graciously offer my services to help you break out Red’s beasty boy. Gossip in the demon circuit spreads fast.”
Willow blinked before deepening her scowl.
“What? Demons like a jolly good laugh too,” Spike reasoned.
“In need of replenishing your cash again?” Giles asked derisively.
Dean deepened his frown even more.
“Forget it, we are not paying him a damn thing.”
Spike shrugged casually. “Eh, I could use me some more smokes, but there’s nothing like pure, cold revenge against those bloody army blokes to get me kicks.”
Buffy shared the collective skeptical frowns.
“Right, and how much are you being paid or bribed to double cross us?”
Dean sauntered over to Spike and twirled a stake in his hand. He edged closer to Spike.
“Get lost Bleach Head Revisited,” he barked. “Before you ‘accidentally’ fall on this.”
Dean waved the stake around as he hardened his glare. Spike shrugged again.
“Whatever,” he replied casually. “I’ll go but, I have valuable knowledge you know. I was locked up down there and I’ve heard the chat on the lucky ones who broke out. I know the quickest way in and out without any hassles, or annoying alarms or cameras. BUT, if you’re not interested, I’ll be off then.”
Spike slowly turned around to the door.
“Good riddance,” Dean griped.
He let out an aggravated breath before taking notice of the group’s collective exchange of contemplative looks. He scowled deeply.
“Are you friggin’ kidding me? No, no goddamn way we’re working with another neutered vampire. We’ll figure another way in.”
A little while later, Dean grumbled incessantly as Buffy and Willow followed Spike through the woods. Buffy heaved a sigh as she glanced back at Dean who was dragging his feet along the path way. She frowned when his grumblings banked off the trees and echoed through the woods.
“Will you shush? Your moaning and groaning is going to blow our cover,” she replied sharply.
“This idea reeks of bad,” he moaned softly.
“I know, I don’t like it either but you were outvoted and we didn’t have a lot of options in a time crunch.”
Dean huffed as he shifted uncomfortably in his commando uniform. He eyed his ammo before settling his sights on Spike.
“I can’t believe you still have that thing,” she muttered.
Dean shrugged casually as they caught up to Willow and Spike.
“It came in handy once in awhile for...sneaking in somewhere or....picking up on chicks,” he blurted.
He stopped in his step when she gasped with offense.
“That was before you and I were....”
Buffy narrowed her eyes and glared at him for a long minute. Spike rolled his eyes.
“Oh lovers spat, fun,” Spike groaned. “Can we get on wit it?”
Buffy blew out a deep breath and settled her glare on Spike.
“You do know that I’m going to beat you really bad before I kill you if this turns out to be some kind of sham?”
“You think I’d wear this pansy getup for kicks?”
“Hey, it’s not the clothes that make the man,” Dean barked softly as he shifted into a confident model pose.
“Hey, look,” Willow whispered.
Buffy, Dean and Spike swept their sights Willow who was standing next to a pair of rusty doors on the side of a hill. Spike swiftly moved to the door and yanked them open without much effort. He drew a grin.
“Nobody fancies locks in this town,” he replied dryly.
Buffy, Dean and Willow glanced at the dark beyond the doors. Dean glared at Spike as
he nodded toward the dark entrance.
“Ladies first,” he cracked with a smirk.
Spike met the deep glares of the trio before begrudgingly leading them inside.
Several minutes later, the four crept down a hallway as the power suddenly shot out. They took pause as some dim utility lights flickered on before lurking further down the hallway.
When they reached the darkened quarters of Colonel McNamara, the four barreled through the door. McNamara roused from his sleep as Buffy lunged toward him with her mini-crossbow and aimed it at his heart. Spike and Willow covered the door as Dean leveled his pistol on the Colonel.
“Recognize me?” Buffy barked.
McNamara, still coming off an abrupt wake up, simply nodded.
“Then don’t make any stupid moves because I won’t miss,” she growled.
Dean swept up the clothes from the floor and tossed them hard at McNamara. He shot a steely glare.
“You got girls in the room, get decent,” he barked.
McNamara moved slowly to dress as Buffy deepened her intimidating glare.
“Forget it, Finn committed a court martial offense, it’s a military matter, he’s not getting out of the brig. We don’t take lightly to assisting an HST in escaping.....”
Buffy blinked in great surprise.
“What? He tried to break Oz out?”
McNamara flashed an annoyed look.
“Oh, you wanted the wolf.”
Buffy regarded Dean very quickly.
“Take them and get to Oz, I’ll find you, I’m going after Riley.”
Dean flashed an opposing frown.
Seeing the flare of jealousy flickering in his eyes, Buffy drew a deep breath as she gauged his thoughts.
“He tried to help Oz because it’s the right thing to do,” she reasoned firmly. “Not for any other reason. He’s not the bad guy Dean.”
After a brief moment, he blew out a breath before whipping around to the door. The four filed out into the hallway with McNamara. Dean glared at the Colonel.
“Which way is the brig douche bag?”
Buffy blinked in surprise when she heard the question. McNamara nodded toward the other side of the hall. Dean skipped back in that direction and eyed Buffy.
“Come on,” he urged.
Buffy glanced at Willow who nodded and took off with Spike and McNamara.
Buffy and Dean hugged a wall and snuck a peek around a corner. After eyeing the M.P. standing guard outside the brig, they exchanged looks. Dean stumbled out into the hallway and feigned a bewildered look. The sound of his booted footsteps immediately drew attention from the M.P. The M.P tensed before relaxing when he noticed Dean in his commando getup.
“Woah, how in the world did I get here?”
The M.P. looked Dean over as he approached.
“Hey dude, I’m the new guy and....god, I’m embarrassed to say this but uh...I’m lost. I was trying to find the uh...cafeteria....got the late night munchies.”
Dean pulled a goofy grin over his face as the M.P studied him. After a brief moment, the M.P. relaxed his stance, pivoted and pointed down a hall.
“You want to go....”
Dean snapped his fist up and punched the guard hard in the face. The guard stumbled back as Buffy moved quickly down the hall. She clamped her hand on the guard’s face as he was about to let out a howl. She punched him in the face, knocking him out. She snatched the guard’s keys and shook her head at Dean.
“Always got have a story,” she said as she fumbled with the keys.
Buffy pushed through the door as Dean gathered up the guard and dragged him inside.
A minute later, Buffy flew into the brig and acknowledged Riley in his cell. He shined his surprise at her, then at Dean as he stuffed the unconscious M.P. in the corner. Buffy quickly unlocked the cell door as Riley bounded out. He glanced at Buffy and then Dean, still reeling with shock.
Buffy shook her head.
“No time. We got to move.”
“If I do this, I’m finished,” he stated.
After a minute to let the statement settle in, he pushed off toward the door.
“Just wanted to say it,” he said.
Several tense minutes later, Buffy, Dean and Riley regrouped with Spike, Willow and McNamara outside a holding cell.
“Where is Oz?”
McNamara nodded toward the far end of the hall. As the group bolted down the hallway,
several commandos lingered around. Dean yanked McNamara toward him and pressed the pistol to his temple. Willow tossed the mini crossbow to Buffy who swiftly added more drama by aiming at McNamara’s heart. All the commandos took notice at the group as they slowly edged down the hall.
“Everybody just stay calm,” Dean grunted. “No sudden moves or heroics or Bonnie and I will make swift work of your commander here.”
The commandos remained still as the group filed out of the hall. Buffy spotted Oz in his holding cage and glared at McNamara as more commandos assessed them.
“Give the order to release him,” she growled. “NOW!”
McNamara nodded to one of the commandos standing guard. Oz bounded out of the cell and met Willow’s eyes. For a long moment, the two regarded each other with deep emotion. Buffy and Dean watched as Oz started to shake violently. He looked down at his transforming hands and began to retreat away from Willow. Buffy and Dean exchanged knowing looks. Dean tightened his grip on McNamara as Buffy drew away her mini crossbow and snatched up the tranquilizer gun. She readied the gun as Oz cowered for a long minute before freezing. The group sighed in relief when Oz roped in his control.
After retreating back through the hallway, the group rushed towards the stairs leading to the elevator. They abruptly slowed as an army of commandos and M.P forces greeted them with guns leveled. Dean dragged McNamara at gunpoint up the stairs, with the rest of the group assembled around him. A sea of glares rained upon Riley as he ascended the stairs. Oz wobbled greatly. Willow reached for him but Oz shook his head. Riley swept an arm out and assisted Oz.
A long tense minute later, the group piled into the elevator with their hostage in tow. When the elevator arrived back at ground level, the group spilled into Lowell house. Buffy ripped the control panel out of the carriage wall as Dean roughly released McNamara. He kept his pistol leveled on the Colonel’s head as the commander glared at Riley. Dean blinked in surprise when Riley punched McNamara hard in the face, after exchanging harsh words. McNamara crumbled to the ground as the elevator doors swung shut.
A short time later, the group split off in different directions. Dean grumbled under his breath as he watched Buffy and Riley conversing softly as they ransacked a camping supply store.
After trekking through the blackened hallways of Sunnydale High, Riley rolled out his sleeping bag and camping supplies.
“I think this is pretty off the beaten path,” he commented as he flashed a polite smile.
Buffy nodded with an optimistic smile. “Yeah, I really don’t think anyone will bother looking here. I hope Oz is doing okay, I didn’t have a chance to check him before we broke off.”
She eyed Dean hovering nearby with a brooding look.
“Has anyone called?”
Riley glanced at the two.
“You two don’t have to stick around,” he said. “I’m public enemy number one in the Initative’s eyes, so please, go on and....enjoy your night.”
“What are you going to do now?” Buffy asked as she glanced at Dean, still brooding deeply.
“Not sure,” Riley answered. “I’ve got some time since the blackout is still in effect.”
Feeling the tension rise, Riley hunkered down in his campsite and tried to settle in. Dean pushed off a charred wall and started to drift away.
“Let’s go Summers,” he commanded lightly. “You owe me half a burger.”
Buffy eyed Riley who gave an understanding nod.
“Take care,” she said.
“You too,” he said.
Later that night, back at the motel, Dean sulked in front of the TV, picking at the last of his takeout as Buffy emerged from the bathroom in her sleep clothes. She flashed a sweet smile and climbed onto the bed, rolling up affectionately next to him. She glanced at the program on TV before drawing a playful smile. When he didn’t take notice, she sat up and started teasing him with sweet kisses on the face before crawling into his lap.
Dean gently pushed her off his lap. She fell into a deep mope.
“You can sleep here tonight, but that’s it,” he said coarsely.
Buffy shifted into a resentful glare as he went back to watching TV.
“Are we doing this again? I told you that....”
Dean glanced briefly at her.
“Just give me some time to.....let the dust settle.”
“Do you want to talk about this?”
“Not really,” he answered succinctly.
Buffy opened her mouth in protest until something in his deeply reflective expression stopped her. She drifted out of her sour pout and settled down onto the mattress. After moping for several minutes, she felt a hand brushing over her hair. The small, subtle gesture spoke volumes to her as she heaved a breath of relief, feeling her anxiety slip away.
Later the next morning, Buffy and Dean headed over to Giles’ apartment at his urgent request. They were surprised to find him by himself and not gathered with the rest of the gang. Giles exuded his own surprise when Buffy arrived with Dean at her side.
“What’s got your tongue Giles?” Dean asked as the silence lingered.
“Um, sorry, I wasn’t expecting you,” Giles replied with an apologetic expression.
“Oh, I thought I told you ‘we’ were on our way,” Buffy noted.
“Perhaps you did. Sorry, I’m still absorbing the news.”
“So what’s so urgent?” Buffy asked as she drifted into the living room.
Giles eyed Dean before answering.
“I have an update on the Faith situation,” he answered.
Dean stared at Giles with intense anticipation. He widened his eyes in excitement.
“Oh god, please tell me she died in a hail of gunfire.”
Dean frowned with deep disappointment.
“Dammit,” he groaned.
“Well, I thought you said it was good news,” Buffy remarked.
“Um, yes, sort of, the good news is that I can confirm the whereabouts of Faith, for the most part.”
“And? Where is she?”
“She was spotted, in Los Angeles, in the lobby of Wolfram and Hart.....she tried to kill someone.”
“Well, guess it’s safe to say, that bitch ain’t changed a bit,” Dean remarked flatly.
Buffy studied Giles’ hesitant expression.
“What aren’t you telling me Giles?”
Dean caught Giles staring at him.
Giles heaved a breath before regarding Buffy.
“The ‘someone’ was.......Angel,” Giles answered.
Buffy shot to her feet, dread flooding her face as Dean brightened with joy.
“She killed Angel?! Well, she’s dropped a few notches down the bitch scale,” he cracked with a pleasant smile.
“She made an attempt and failed,” Giles clarified.
Dean flipped into an annoyed frown.
“Dammit,” he groaned. “What the hell Giles, I thought you said there was good news involved and so far I haven’t heard it, unless this ends with that crazy bitch getting shuffled away to the looney house or getting thrown in the clink after being beaten incessantly by the cops when she resisted arrest.”
“Um, sorry, she is currently at large,” Giles replied morosely.
Dean kicked the leg of the couch.
“God dammit,” he groaned.
Buffy flashed him an annoyed look before shifting concern to Giles.
“Faith tried to kill Angel and she got away, again,” she moaned.
She shined her fury as she snatched up her coat and purse from the couch.
“It’s time to put a stop to this,” she barked. “I’m going to L.A. to find Faith, if she’s gunning for Angel, he’s going to need help.”
Buffy caught Dean’s eyes as he rained an intense glare upon her.
“You got to be kidding me,” Dean groaned.