It was never shared, anywhere. Nothing else came of it until recently. Definitely a work
in progress, I have nine chapters written with no idea of how many more are to come.
I'll post one chapter per week, unless my impatience gets the better of me, as usual.
Hope you enjoy my latest offering!
Summary: In a bid to create the perfect Super-Soldier, what if the Initiative went a little bit further than what was common knowledge?
Warning - if you like Riley Finn, this fic is most likely not for you.
Spike was on his way back to his crypt when he heard something that pricked at his predator’s instincts; the shrill cries of a young child in distress. Habit – after all, what business was it of his – had him continuing on his way. But all it took was a few seconds (and a flash of a very disappointed blonde in his cranium) for him to roll his eyes and change direction.
“What the bloody hell is she turning me into?” he muttered as he stomped through the cemetery; hurrying, but not.
He found the child near one of the mourner’s benches. After checking the surrounding area in case the little nipper was bait for something nasty, he stepped forward for a closer look. The kid had dirty blond curls and red-rimmed eyes, and was crying as though its heart would break. Couldn’t be much more than two years old, he reckoned.
“There, there, platelet,” he crooned, wiping the tears from the child’s eyes. “Wanna tell old Spike what you’re doing out in the middle of a cemetery all on your lonesome?” He scooped the child into his arms, looking it over for any injuries but finding nothing wrong.
“Leavin’ you here’s not an option,” Spike mused aloud, relieved that the child had stopped crying. His poor sensitive ears weren’t made for the shrill decibels children were capable of producing. “Lots of bad oogedy-boogedys around these parts. Can’t rightly take you to the coppers, either. One look at this gorgeous mug and they’re likely to toss me in a cell for snatching you myself.”
There was something about the kid that tugged at the corners of Spike’s memory, but he shrugged it off. Seen one sprog, seen ‘em all, he figured.
“So,” he said, bouncing the little one in his arms. “You got a name?” He wasn’t expecting anything, so was rather surprised when the child actually answered.
“Dan’l,” the kid piped up.
“Daniel?” Spike repeated. “And how old are you, Daniel?”
The baby held up two fingers. “This many.”
Only one more question to go, Spike thought, realizing he was reaching the limits of the bitlet’s language skills. “Are you a boy or a girl, snack-size?”
“BOY!” he shrieked, thumping his fists on Spike’s shoulders.
Spike had to laugh at the little boy’s bravado. Then, for one odd moment, he thought about Drusilla and how she would view the little one as nothing but a nummy treat. Shaking his head with the bittersweet nostalgia of it all, Spike made a decision.
“Gonna take you home with me, Daniel,” he said, chucking the little boy under the chin. “Slayer’ll be by eventually an’ she’ll figure out what to do with you.”
The little boy clapped his hands together, and Spike headed back to his crypt with the kid in tow.
Buffy looked up from the counter at the Doublemeat Palace, fully expecting to see yet another in the long line of Sunnydale residents who cared nothing about what they put in their mouths. Instead she was met with…
“Sorry to drop in on you like this, Buffy.”
Riley! “It’s you,” she said, like a slack-jawed yokel.
“It’s me,” he said, shrugging uncomfortably.
“You’re here.” Why was she turning into such an idiot? She of the stellar quippage reduced to monosyllables.
“And were you always this tall?” she asked, looking up and cringing inwardly. Her conversation skills weren’t getting any better, were they?
“Look.” he said, leaning in over the counter between them. “This isn’t the way I wanted it. But something’s come up… something big. We don’t have much time. You understand?”
Buffy nodded slowly. “Not a word you’ve said so far,” she admitted.
“Right. I should have known… anticipated,” he said, hesitating before stating the obvious once again. “You’re working.”
“Well, just the counter,” she said, spreading her arms to show her domain. “Not the grill anymore.”
“I want to explain; I just don’t have time. I’ve been up for forty-eight hours straight tracking someone and I’ve followed them here, to Sunnydale.”
“My hat has a cow.” Why on earth did she say that?
Riley sighed. “I know that I’m putting you on the spot, showing up like this, but… but you know, here we are. I need the best. I need you, Buffy. Can you help me?”
“Hellooo, Buffy?” Todd, her manager, stuck his face into her personal space. “People are waiting.”
“I see my husband has been monopolizing your time.”
Buffy turned back around to see a tall, thin woman – her brunette hair pulled back into a low bun – staring lovingly at Riley.
The woman smiled softly. “Ri, you spend all this time talking to her and don’t happen to mention that you’re married? And that we’re here for a very important reason?” She turned to Buffy with a ‘forgive him, he’s male’ look.
“Uh… Buffy, I’d like to introduce to Sam… Samantha, my wife.” He scratched his head in that bashful way she remembered... way back when she used to think it was cute. Not so much anymore.
Here she was, busy reliving the past warm-fuzzies, and he was a married man. With a wife. Who was here. Standing in front of her.
“Summers!” Todd’s screechy voice was working on her last nerve. “Is there a problem here?”
“Look, Buffy…” Riley said, ignoring the irate manager. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t important. Can you come with us?”
Buffy took off her Doublemeat hat, grabbed her coat from under the counter and joined the couple.
As they headed towards the exit, Todd tried to stop her. “Buffy, uh… Buffy! Wait! Buffy!”
“What’s that guy’s deal?” Riley asked as they kept a brisk pace.
Buffy waved her hand in the Doublemeat’s general direction. “Todd? He’s got just enough authority to make my life miserable.”
“You sure this is all right? I don’t want you to get fired.”
“From the Doublemeat Palace?” Buffy’s eyes twinkled with merriment. “Tougher than you’d think. So… you’re tracking a demon?”
“Not exactly, although at times…”
“Ri, stop! You’ll give the girl the wrong idea,” Sam interrupted. “We want her help; she deserves the truth.”
Abashed, Riley stopped and turned to face Buffy squarely. “We’re looking for… our son,” he said, barely meeting her eyes. “We were here on assignment, and he was snatched out of our hotel room.”
Son. Son? “Son?” Eloquence much, Buffy?
“His name is Daniel and he’s two years old,” Sam gushed, reaching into her pocket for her wallet. “See? The most adorable little guy, don’t you think?”
Buffy couldn’t wrap her head around this development. Not only was Riley married (with a wife!) but they already had a two year old baby. Had he cheated on her? Had he forgotten about her so soon?
“Let me explain,” Riley pleaded at Buffy’s confused expression. “We adopted Daniel through the Initiative. He was found in one of their cleanup missions in Belize. His parents had been killed and he was left defenseless and alone. Sam and I brought him home and we fell in love with him.”
“How long have you been married?” she asked, trying to keep herself focused.
“Almost four months,” Sam said with a smile. “Daniel was an unexpected blessing.”
“So, you-you guys do this often, you know, the whole ... husband-and-wife tag-team demon fighting thing?”
“Yeah, it's what brought us together.”
“And now you’re here?” Buffy really wanted to do nothing more than slink away from this… marriedness in front of her. It was almost too much for her to bear, especially after what she’d been doing with…
“Yes,” Riley said, slowly, as if talking to a brain-damaged child. “As I said, we’re looking for our son. Our babysitter was of no help; she was knocked out from behind and didn’t see who took Daniel. There was this scribbled message,” he said, taking out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and handing to her.
“You kill ours, we take yours,” Buffy read aloud. “This is it? Nothing else?”
Sam shook her head. “Nothing else. There were no signs of a struggle and thankfully, there was no blood – so we’re hoping he’s unharmed.”
“That’s not a lot to go on,” Buffy pointed out gently. “He could be anywhere, with anyone or anything. You’ve killed a lot of demons, Riley. I’m sure there are plenty who hold a grudge.”
“We’re hoping that whatever HST has Daniel is still nearby. He’s only been gone since this morning.”
“And you’re just coming to me now?” Buffy was incredulous.
“We’ve been looking for him, Buffy,” Sam said, “When Ri mentioned that you were much more familiar with this town’s demonic element than we could ever hope to be, I suggested we ask for your help.”
Looking into the woman’s face, Buffy wanted to hate her on principle, but the pain of loss tinged with desperation in her eyes made it impossible. The bottom line here was that a baby’s life was at stake, and that was all that mattered.
“Why don’t we hit Willy’s first,” Buffy suggested, “then troll through the cemeteries? Someone has to have heard of a missing baby.”
“Thank you!” Sam cried, pulling Buffy into her embrace. “He’s such a sweet little baby… the most loving boy one could ever hope for. We have to find him.”
Riley stood stoically silent, but Buffy could see unshed tears in his eyes.
“We’ll find him Riley… and Sam,” Buffy said, awkwardly. “We’ll scour Sunnydale from top to bottom.”
“We can hit the cemeteries and Willy’s,” Riley offered.
Buffy just nodded. Really, what more was there to say? She followed the couple to their car and headed home.
This fic was beta-read by my dear stalwartsandall and fabulously talented banner artist Twinkles. Any remaining gaffes are due to my post-beta fiddling.