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Still in the process of moving - expecting another couple of
weeks of turmoil before turning in the keys to the old place.

Still managing the time to post the latest chapter, albeit
later than I would have liked. Enjoy!



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What to wear? Buffy f pulled outfit after outfit out from her closet and tossed them on her bed. It should be simple after all, she’d only been dressing herself for the past eighteen or so years and yet the reject pile continued to grow.

“Why am I stressing over what to wear,” she asked her four walls. “It’s not like I have to impress Riley anymore, right?”

“What’s your damage?” Dawn asked, appearing in the doorway. “Oooh, I know – you want to make Sam look like a schlub so Riley will remember what he’s missing.”

“You’re such a child,” Buffy snapped.

“Yeah, well, I’m not the one trying to shove my best self at my ex-boyfriend and his wife,” Dawn retorted.

Ignoring her sister, Buffy held up a pair of black leather pants and a red halter-top. Finally satisfied, she dug a pair of black demi-boots with a chunky stacked heel out of her trashed closet.

“Good choice,” Dawn commented. “Spike’s favorite colors.”

Buffy very nearly dropped the pieces like hot potatoes, but calmed herself and shooed Dawn out of the room to get dressed. Her choice of outfit had nothing to do with Spike. She just wanted to look her best, is all.

She glanced at the clock and got busy. Riley was due to pick her up in a couple of hours, and she still needed time to do her makeup and style her hair.

*****

As soon as she climbed into the car, Riley demanded in clipped tones, “Is he dust yet?”

“Good morning to you, too, Riley,” she said, fastening her seatbelt and trying to maintain her calm. “I’m taking care of things.”

“So once again you’re shirking your duty and letting that scum live.” Statement, not question.

“You know, you’re not my superior officer, issuing orders that I have to jump to obey,” Buffy said curtly. “You came to me for help, not the other way around. So I suggest you drop the dog-with-a-bone crap and try being civil.”

Riley took a deep breath, keeping his eyes on the road as he drove towards the hotel. “I’m sorry, Buffy,” he said, slowly – softly. “You have to understand I’m still upset about my son, and the missing clutch of eggs. I really didn’t get much sleep last night. I don’t mean to be short with you.”

“Well, that’s something, at least,” she muttered. “How is Daniel after his ordeal? And how is Sam?”

“Daniel slept like the baby he is – untroubled. Sam is just relieved to have him back with us. But,” he said, voice growing steely once more, “I still have a mission to accomplish. And I know you said on the phone that Hostile 17 isn’t behind the kidnapping, but you don’t exactly have a good track record for understanding the threat posed by-”

“Spike,” she emphasized, “might be an amoral, soulless demon, but he’s not a good liar – especially when he’s trying. I can pretty much guarantee he had nothing to do with snatching your son.” Taking another calming breath, she continued, “You might wanna try being grateful that he found Daniel and kept him safe from harm.”

“I refuse to thank that creature for anything,” Riley grumbled.

“That’s on you then,” Buffy retorted.

The rest of the trip was made in silence.

*****

“Buffy! It’s so wonderful to see you again,” Sam greeted her at the door with Daniel in her arms. “Come in, please.”

Gone was the military gear, Sam was decked out in a simple pair of jeans and flannel shirt; her hair tied back in a low pony. Definitely overdressed, Buffy thought. Good.

Daniel was giggling happily and it warmed Buffy’s heart to see the boy so happy, obviously where he belonged.

“May I?” she asked, reaching for the boy.

“Of course!” Sam happily placed Daniel in Buffy’s waiting arms. “Someone else should have a turn. I’ve barely let him go since Ri brought him home last night.”

“I promised I would find him,” Riley said gruffly – the first words he’d had spoken since midway through the car ride.

“Who’s a good boy?” Buffy cooed, jiggling Daniel up and down. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”

Daniel looked into her eyes and Buffy who was not usually a maternal kind of gal couldn’t tear her eyes away from his stare. There was something…

“Buffy, give the boy back to his mother,” Riley said, interrupting her thoughts. “We need to check out these maps.” He pointed to the scrolls on the coffee table. “The Suvolte is tagged, so it should be relatively easy to track.”

“If the Suvolte is trackable, why did you need me?” she asked. “You can find it easier without my involvement.”

Sam smiled, putting her hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Ri thought you wouldn’t mind backing him up; you’re more familiar with the terrain than he is. He’s told me so much about your exploits here in Sunnydale. This should be a breeze for you.”

Buffy’s back stiffened at being called backup to Riley. The dude had a lot of freaking nerve!

As if sensing an imminent explosion, Riley interjected, “I didn’t mean backup, exactly,” he tried to backpedal. “It’s just that-”

“It’s fine,” Buffy said quickly before he could launch into what was sure to be a long-winded, chauvinistic explanation. “You asked for my help, and you’ve got it. I only have one demand.”

“Really?” Riley’s eyebrow pulled the scarred portion of his face taut as it rose towards his hairline in surprise.

“Really,” Buffy repeated, hands on hips with her chin jutted upwards in defiance. “You stay the hell away from my vampire. Both he and Sunnydale are under my protection. Whatever grudge you hold against him needs to be dropped.”

“You’re protecting him now?”

“Riley!” Sam’s shrill voice caused her husband to turn his attention to her.

“Spike may be a vampire, and I’m sure he’s done some unforgivable things but you need to remember the most important thing he did… He found our son alone in a cemetery and protected him overnight. He didn’t have to do that. We should both be grateful for his help.”

I could get to like this woman, Buffy thought. At least she has some reason in that head of hers. Out loud, she said, “I’m not asking for an apology, Riley. Not to me and not even to Spike. Just that you keep your distance from him while you’re in my jurisdiction.

Tone implacable, she added, “As soon as we find this demon, and the location of these eggs you’re so worried about, you need to take your little family and go back home where you belong.”