We have to be out of here by Friday, and there still seems to be so much to do.
So, by the skin of my teeth, I get this out for your perusal. Hope you enjoy.
As always, comments are always encouraged.
The SUV pulled to a halt. There wasn’t much by way of scenery – mostly rock and some scraggly trees. They exited the vehicle and started walking in the general direction Riley’s locator beacon indicated.
“So, where’s the demon?” Buffy asked, looking around and seeing nothing in any direction.
“It’s not here,” Riley said, shrugging his shoulders.
They walked over to a fence and looked down. Wouldn’t you just know it? They were standing on top of a huge, inactive dam – the water still and silent down below. The only way to get to the bottom was covered in rough, uncut stone walls.
Buffy looked up at her companion with uncertainty. “Down we go?”
“Looks that way,” he said, fiddling around with some piece of tech on his belt.
“That’s a big first step,” Buffy said with slight trepidation in her voice, sorry that she hadn’t thought to wear the army gear. “So, Mr. Finn, got an extra jet-pack for a girl like me?”
“Sorry, fresh out of jet-packs. Looks like we’ll have to share.” He attached one end of a rappelling line to the chain-link fence. “This test line’s built for one, so if we go together, we’re not hauling any gear. Just you and me.”
“I was never big on the hardware anyway,” Buffy tossed back, hand going automatically to the stake holstered into the back of her waistband.
“Hold onto me?” Riley said, with a rakish smile.
“If that’s what it takes.”
“Let’s go, then.” Riley lifted her onto the fence.
“Ready when you are, Agent Finn,” she said, her eyes steely with determination. She put her arms around his shoulders and they started their descent.
When they reached a stone platform at the bottom, Riley detached the line from his belt.
Looking around, they ducked past a large pipe with a small trickle of water coming out. Past it, the stone ledge opened out into a wider space with a ladder against one wall.
And then demon attacked, tackling Riley from behind. He managed to throw it off and duck its swinging arm.
Buffy attempted to leap on the demon’s back, but quickly got tossed aside. Leaning against the stone wall, she watched Riley grapple with the demon for a moment and then leapt back into the fray. She managed to kick the thing off of Riley, who proceeded to punch at it, achieving little and getting hit in the process.
Annoyed, Buffy kicked at it, hoping to turn its attention to her, but after a couple of hits – the demon’s arms like pile-drivers – and she and Riley both went reeling back against the wall.
Bruised and bleeding, Riley attacked yet again, this time getting hit in the stomach and hunching over in pain.
Buffy grabbed onto him, using him as leverage to lift both feet off the ground and kick the demon. This time, it fell to the ground.
Riley turned her around and pushed her up against the wall. Both were panting deeply, and staring into each other’s eyes.
At the sound of the wounded Suvolte’s roar, Riley grabbed a Taser from his belt and the Suvolte finally went down.
Buffy leapt back into action. While Riley continued to kick the demon, Buffy grabbed it by the head and twisted with all her might. The ‘snap’ sounded throughout the stone enclave as the demon slumped to the ground, dead.
“Mission accomplished?” Buffy said, panting, looking for Riley’s pleased reaction.
And not finding it.
“You killed it,” he said, kneeling down by the dead Suvolte. “That’s okay,” he said, his voice flat.
“Okay?” Buffy was non-plussed. “You guys were tracking this thing for a couple of days straight, and you… did want it dead, right?”
Riley’s expression told a different story. “I meant to tell you… there just wasn’t time. I never thought you’d be so gung-ho with the killing.”
“That’s my job, as you keep reminding me, Agent Finn. Track demon, find demon, kill demon. Especially the dangerous ones, which you went out of your way to inform me that this one was.
Riley pulled a large knife out of its sheath and opened the demon’s stomach. Thick yellow blood oozed out, puddling on the ground. “Damn,” he said with revulsion.
Buffy made a disgusted face.
“We’re too late, anyway,” he said, resigned. “It’s already out of heat.”
“Okay, not going there,” Buffy shuddered, not wanting to think about the Suvolte’s menstrual cycle. A little bit TMI for her liking. “So, how do we dispose-”
“I placed a call – Special Ops will take care of things,” Riley explained. “Now, if you don’t mind – I’ll take you home and get back to my wife.”
Buffy was fine with that. She’d had enough playing with soldiers (tech and all) to last a lifetime.
“Okay, you guys,” Buffy said before the assembled Scoobies and Dawn. “Riley is coming over with his wife and son-” she got out before they erupted with questions.
“Riley has a wife?” Xander shouted. “Already?”
“And a son?” Willow exclaimed. “Wow, he works fast.”
Buffy couldn’t help but cringe as Willow’s thoughtless words hit home – way harder than she would have liked.
“Oh my goddess!” the redhead exclaimed. “I’m so sorry, Buffy… I didn’t think-”
“It’s all good, Wills,” she murmured. “You’ll like Daniel – he’s adorable.”
“His wife?” Willow scrunched up her nose. “Just so you know, I'm prepared to hate this woman any way you want.”
Buffy smiled, small but sincere. “Thanks, but no. I don’t wanna seem all petty. Besides,” she continued, “Sam’s actually really nice. You can tell at a glance how much she loves her husband and child. It’s hard to be angry at her for falling for a guy with some history.”
“I’m sure Riley didn’t mention how much he hurt you by leaving like he did,” Dawn added churlishly. “I’m sure, in his version, he was completely blameless.”
“Go, sisterhood.” Buffy couldn’t help but laugh at Dawn’s staunch defense.
The doorbell interrupted their moment of sisterly affection. Buffy gave Dawn a quick smile and went to greet their guests.
“Hey there, Buffy,” Sam’s happy smile greeted her. “Thanks for having us over.”
“It’s good to see you again.” Riley was smiling too. “Especially with nothing immediately threatening.”
“Buff-eee!” Daniel’s enthusiasm gave Buffy the warm fuzzies. Especially when the little boy held out his arms for her.
There was a chorus of ‘Awwwws’ from the Scoobies as Sam transferred the little boy to Buffy’s arms.
“Hey, Daniel. I’m so happy to see you,” Buffy said, softly, once again gazing into the child’s hazel eyes. “How are you?”
Daniel clapped his hands and shouted, “Happ-ee,” as loud as he could.
“Pizza’s been ordered,” Xander announced as everyone found seating. “Is there anything special needed for the little nipper?”
“Daniel will be fine with pizza, Xander,” Sam insisted. “I just need to cut it up into little pieces. He loves it.”
“Well, will you look at that,” Dawn exclaimed, peering at Daniel. “He’s got the same weird little nose you do, Buffy.”
“What are you talking about?” Buffy asked, but turned to look anyway. “You know… you’re right,” she murmured, tracing the contours of Daniel’s nose with her finger. “What are the odds?”
Riley hurriedly snatched his son up into an embrace, and sat down, settling the boy on his lap. “It’s just a nose,” he insisted. “Besides, it’ll change as he grows up. You can never tell what a kid’ll look like as he ages.”
“Why are you making such a big deal of it, Ri? I think it’s a perfectly adorable nose,” Sam said, tweaking the tip of her son’s nose, making the boy laugh.
“Looks cute on Daniel,” Dawn shrugged. “I still say it’s weird on Buffy.”
Pizza eaten, Buffy turned to Riley and Sam. “So, what are we going to do about the missing eggs?” she asked, looking at Riley and Sam.
“I wouldn’t worry too much,” Riley said, dismissively. “I called a patrol unit last night for a search and destroy mission. It should all be taken care of by now.”
Sam looked surprised, but said nothing.
“What are you talking about?” Buffy asked, anger mounting quickly. “If you had the ability to send out a search team in the first place, then why in the hell did you bother coming here to involve me?”
“Yes, Ri,” Sam finally spoke up. “Why would you do that?”
“I-I thought we could gather them up without needing to involve the military,” he stammered. “But since Buffy killed the Suvolte and we needed to call out a disposal unit anyway – I figured we might as well kill two birds with one stone.”
“You know that makes sense… in the kind of way that does not,” Buffy spat, angered at having Riley insert himself back into her life unnecessarily. It seemed as if all he wanted to do was shove his successful personal life in her face. And gloat.
And then, as she tried to decipher the bizarre patterns in Riley’s behavior, another idea crystallized. Stunned by the realization, she said, “And all that Sturm und Drang about Spike being the Doctor and trafficking the eggs? That was a setup, wasn’t it? You knew he had nothing to do with it.”
“There were rumors,” Riley insisted, self-righteous indignation puffing up his chest. “Knowing Spike as I do-”
“That’s just it, Riley,” Buffy heard her voice rising with her mounting anger. “You don’t know Spike at all. You never knew Spike. You and the freaking Initiative saw ‘vampire’ and stuffed that chip into his head and considered yourself accomplished. What the hell gave you the right to do that to a sentient creature?
“Then you came back here, shoving your perfect wife and perfect son in my face, in the belief that you could tell me about Spike’s dirty dealings and I’d finally dust him. Because then all would be right in Riley’s world again. All done, tally counted – you win!
“Well, let me tell you something once and for all, Mister Know-it-all. Spike may be evil, but he comes by it honestly. He doesn’t go about putting the blame for his actions onto somebody else – he owns his own crap.”
“Buffy, hold on a minute,” Sam tried to interrupt, looking very upset.
“I’m sorry, Sam,” Buffy said apologetically. “I like you, I really do – and Daniel is a sweet, adorable child. I don’t wish either of you harm but your husband seems to have had his own agenda in this whole Suvolte deal. You might want to work that out with him when you leave.”
“I-I’m sorry, Buffy,” Sam said, tears forming in her eyes. “We-I never meant to impose on your hospitality.” She stood, gathering her son into her arms, and made her way towards the door. “Let’s go, Riley,” she said, determination coloring her voice.
Riley wisely kept his mouth shut, and followed his family out the door.
“Does anyone else here have anything they want to get off their chest before I declare this meeting over and done with?” Buffy asked, eyes bright with rage.
Dawn jumped up and hugged Buffy around the waist, whispering, “Good for you, sis. I’m proud of you for defending Spike from that asshole.”
“Dawn, language,” Buffy said, automatically.
Nobody else had anything else to add.