It was soon after dusk that the pager that the Initiative had given Buffy went off, with Riley's going of simultaneously. Buffy vaguely wondered how they managed to make both of them go off at once. Willow could probably explain it.
Buffy had spent most of her day alone with Riley, besides the brief time she had spent with Willow and Oz. It seemed like the pair didn't know what to do with themselves, and Buffy couldn't blame them. She wouldn't know what to do if Angel came back with some kind of mystical solution meaning that they could stay together, just when she was beginning to put her life back together.
Like now, in fact.
But Buffy couldn't dwell on the past right now, and she wasn't much in favour of that kind of thing anyway. She followed Riley to the secret elevator that led into the Initiative, wondering what they wanted her and Riley for. She doubted it was an apocalypse, Giles would've told her about that. It was probably just some run of the mill demon hunting. Yippee.
"Your target is a HST known as a Polgara demon." said someone that Buffy thought was either called Dr Anglemen, Englemen, Angleman or Engleman. It seemed to change every time she heard someone say it. She figured she'd just stay with the first option. "It has a thin bone skewer in its arms, which slide out when it feels threatened. It is imperative, I repeat imperative, that its arms are not damaged. Is that clear?"
Amongst a chorus of "Yes, sir!"s, Buffy wondered if she was the only one who took issue at that. She raised her hand, and Anglemen gestured for her to speak, annoyance evident. "But surely, Dr Anglemen, if we're in a fight with this Polgara demon, and it tries to stab us, damaging its arms may well be unavoidable?"
"Which is why you must exercise all possible caution when dealing with the HST, so that that precise event does not take place. And my name is Angleman." he said, to much concealed amusement from the ranks of the military men.
"Right, but what if it happens anyway?" Buffy asked before she could stop herself. She'd forgotten for a moment that she wasn't talking to Giles, to whom she frequently asked such questions.
Buffy got more or less the same answer Giles would've given here too, albeit with a lot more exasperation. "Well, you'll just have to make sure it doesn't, won't you Ms Summers?"
Walsh jumped in before anymore barb-exchanging could take place. This was, after all, merely a field test of the Slayer's abilities, to see how well she fit into the Initiative. Or more precisely, where
she fit into the Initiative. The arms from the Polgara demon would just be a bonus. "Alright, I think that's everything. Lieutenant Finn, you take point, use whatever strategy you think necessary to take that HST down."
It was a quick, simple fight, lasting no more than a handful of seconds. The Polgara demon didn't know what hit it. It was Buffy and Riley's team that stumbled across it first - well, after the demon tossed Riley several feet into a tree - but Buffy had already snapped the creatures neck by the time a woozy Riley managed to make his way to his feet. And Buffy hadn't even needed to damage its arms.
Buffy stepped in close to examine the graze on the side of Riley's face. She gently touched it, sending a shiver down his spine that had nothing whatsoever to do with the slight injury. He caught Buffy's hand in his own, easily engulfing it. Then he leant down and kissed her.
Walsh watched from the button-hole camera that doubled as a heart-rate monitor that she had secretly installed on Riley's uniform. She was pleased to see that, as brief as the encounter had been, Riley's heartbeat had remained steady, even when he was briefly knocked flying. The drugs were having their desired effect.
The Slayer had performed admirably, but then, after having seen the demonstration against the group of soldiers, Walsh had expected nothing less. But that wasn't the problem. The problem was the way Riley's heartbeat soared when the tiny blonde came near him. Walsh couldn't have that, Riley was hers. She just had to make him aware of the fact.
Which meant that the Slayer had to go. Oh, not tonight, it would take a while to set things in motion - despite the fact that Walsh had thought ahead and even created a solution to the problem she believed that the Slayer might cause - because things weren't quite ready yet.
But tomorrow, Buffy would die.
Spike hadn't dressed up for the occasion. He didn't really have the clothes for it. Or, for that matter, the experience. So he'd just put on his standard all black clothes and black leather duster, which just made him look even paler than normal. Although, had he still had a beating heart, he still would've been ridiculously pale. He was just that nervous.
Spike didn't know why he was acting this way. Well, that's not strictly true, he knew exactly why he was acting this way, but not why he was acting this way after spending a century acting like Spike. Perhaps it was his way of getting over Drusilla, and doing it with the only person he knew that wouldn't judge him for being a mass-murdering vampire.
None of which helped Spike to work up the courage to knock on the door. So it was much to his surprise when Sam opened it anyway. This feeling was promptly followed by relief to see that Sam hadn't dressed up either - although this was probably because she hadn't brought any other clothes with her from Colorado.
"So, where are we going?" asked Sam, cheerily.
"This little Chinese place I know." Spike answered before pausing for a moment. "You don't mind four-armed demons, do you? Only my mate Jim runs the place, and he says that having four arms makes everything just that little bit easier."
Sam looked at him incredulously. "You know, I've got to see this place now. A Chinese restaurant run by a four-armed demon named Jim. Congratulations, Spike, this has got to be the most original night out I've ever been on."
"His names not really Jim, but humans can't pronounce it, so everyone calls him Jim." Spike said anxiously, before noticing the compliment and beaming. "Shall we go, then?" he said courteously, extending his arm to Sam.
Sam took it. "Let's."
"So, what'll it be?" asked the gravelly voice of Jim the proprietor. To Sam's disbelief, he really did have four arms, all of which seemed to be constantly in motion. Other than that, and his amazingly rough voice (Sam wondered whether he ate rocks or something) he seemed surprisingly normal.
"The usual for me, Jim." said Spike, looking inquiringly at Sam. Sam ordered, some mild prawn curry thing (at least, she thought it was) and a mango juice. No alcohol for her, she still had a plane to fly.
"One plate of mouth scalding gristle and a glass of O-Neg, a prawn curry and a mango juice coming up." Jim affirmed, sounding like someone walking down a gravel path. He walked back the kitchen, arms whirling.
Sam raised an eyebrow at Spike's order. "Mouth scalding gristle?" she questioned.
"I did say I didn't have much of a taste for human food, didn't I? Well, ludicrously spicy food has a nice tang to it, contrasts the smoothness of blood." Spike said, watching her to see how she took the reminder of his blood-drinking.
Sam wasn't unduly bothered. When your father is host to an alien and one of your best friends meditates instead of sleeping, you get used to people's idiosyncrasies pretty quickly. Nevertheless, she wanted to change the subject. "D'you come here often, then?" she said, cursing herself for the cliché.
Spike smiled to show he had noticed. "Oh, a fair bit. I was around here, hmm, about twenty years ago or so. Jim was having trouble with the contractor he'd paid to build this place - bastard took his money and worked about five minutes a day - so Jim, being a peaceable sort, came to me with the problem. I hired a bunch of Fyarl demons, clobbered the contractor until he agreed to work for free. So I pop in every now and then, yes." he concluded.
"You beat the contractor up." Sam said, keeping her face neutral.
"Oh, yes. Made quite the day of it." Spike said, face wistful. Clearly he was remembering the days when he could actually hit people, rather than having to get Buffy to do it.
It was about then that Sam realised what she was getting into. She liked Spike - Spike the man, that is, if such a creature could be said to exist - but Spike wasn't just a man. He was a killer, and not even a reformed one at that. If it wasn't for the chip on his head, he'd still be killing people now.
Dating Spike would be like dating a more personable version of Apophis.
Their food arrived at that point - Sam guessed that having four arms really did make cooking faster - but she asked Jim if she could make hers a takeaway. Jim nodded once and took her food away again.
Spike didn't say anything, just looked at Sam in such a way that she felt compelled to give an explanation of some sort. "I've just remembered I've got a plane to catch. I've got to give a lecture tomorrow." she said, aware of the low-quality of the excuse.
Spike clearly saw it too. His eyes narrowed, and he said "Can I walk you to the plane, then? Or drive you?" as Jim brought Sam's food back, this time ready to take away.
"No, no, I'm quite alright." Sam muttered, scooping up the food and rushing out.
Spike watched her go, then shook his head. "What did I say?" he asked to the room in general. But the only answer he got was a four-armed shrug from Jim.
Sam realised the source of the vague melancholy that had been bothering her all day. Recently, she'd given up any chance of Jack, or she'd thought she had. But she hadn't, not yet. Perhaps not for a long time.
Perhaps Sam was being over-sensitive about Spike. Perhaps she wasn't. It didn't unduly matter, because, either way, Sam hadn't the faintest clue what to do with her personal life. The truth was, she never had. That was why she threw herself so into her work.
Like Sam and Spike, Oz and Willow's day wasn't exactly filled with happiness. Fraught with awkward moments would be closer to the truth. Or at least, that's how they had been around their friends. Slowly, over the course of the day, as the pair went and did the things that they used to do when they were alone together, things got progressively less and less awkward.
Eventually, they reached the point where it wasn't awkward at all.