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And here we have the last of my safety net - the latest chapter of
Pieces of Me. I guess this means chaining the muse to her chair and
hoping she can cough up another chapter in a somewhat timely fashion.

In the meantime, please read and enjoy. As always, comments and
encouragement are always welcome.


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Sam pulled in to the parking lot of Sunnydale Inn, her mouth twisted into a moue of disgust. One problem with small towns like Sunnydale – not a lot of choice in places to stay. The motel was somewhat rundown, and the neighborhood was sketchy, but at least Riley would be unlikely to look for her here.

She’d already made the important phone calls – one to the motel she’d stayed in with Riley to have all her and Daniel’s belongings packed up and sent to her new accommodation. And one to the Military Family Advocacy Program who would ensure that Riley would have no access to her whereabouts or goings on from this point forward.

But despite the practical steps forward, she still felt as if she were about to come apart at the seams. Rationality seemed to have left the building and she couldn’t wrestle back control.

Not only did it turn out that her beloved husband was a vengeful jackass still pining for his old girlfriend; he was also a master manipulator. He’d used her. He’d damned well used her like… like… Aargh! Sam was so angry and hurt she couldn’t even think of an appropriate metaphor.

What he’d done to Daniel was worse. All his apparent affection for the little boy had clearly been an act. To him, Daniel was simply a weapon to be utilized. A prop with which to taunt his most hated adversary – rubbing Spike’s face in the fact that he was raising his child. And a tool with which to lure back Buffy.

Sam gasped as she realized something new – Riley must’ve knocked out their babysitter, taken Daniel and abandoned him in the cemetery as bait for Spike. The boy could have been killed by any one of the many HSTs roaming around in the Sunnydale night.

What did he expect would happen when all his plans lined up and Spike actually found the boy? Did he think the vampire would kill him? Drain him? Oh god, maybe even turn him?

Sam furiously wiped the tears from her cheeks. The longer she had to think, the worse her thoughts became. The man she loved was growing into a ten-foot-tall monster in her mind.

Whipping the files from her attaché case, Sam spread them out on the bed before her. It was all there right in front of her eyes. Spike – Hostile Sub Terrestrial 17 – had sperm extracted multiple times while unconscious. The process the Initiative doctors used to revive its motility was incomprehensible to the layman but for Sam, it wasn’t the important part.

In vitro fertilization with Spike’s sperm was a success.

Quickly opening Buffy’s file, Sam felt the bile build up in her system. She was relieved to learn that, at least, Buffy had been spared the egg retrieval. They’d gathered her DNA from a blood sample taken from a field dressing retrieved by Agent Finn…

There it was – the proof that her husband was complicit in aiding and abetting the violation of two people. Sam ran to the bathroom and heaved up the contents of her stomach.

A swift rinse of her mouth and she was back to reading Buffy’s file.

They’d injected Buffy’s DNA into hollowed-out ovum gathered from one of their own soldiers – whether or not she was a willing donor or just one more victim, the file did not say. It was done over and over again until finally they had achieved their goal.

There were twelve viable embryos implanted in volunteer personnel. Six resulted in spontaneous miscarriage before six weeks, three pregnancies failed at four months, and two more were lost at seven months.

The only surviving embryo resulted in Daniel.

Tears burning her eyes, Sam finally opened the file for Hostile Sub Terrestrial 1701 – her little boy reduced to a beuraucratic number – and read the story of Daniel’s gestation. Normal, normal, normal for five months, and then his growth accelerated. He was born a seemingly full-term baby at just twenty-eight weeks, weighing in at 6lbs, 7.5oz. and twenty inches long.

He was raised by revolving shifts of laboratory personnel. Until (just before her marriage) Riley Finn had petitioned the Initiative for custody of the boy and the chance to raise him in an actual family setting.

Sam felt her self-control shatter and she broke down sobbing. She was adrift, and she needed her anchor; she had to get to Daniel as soon as possible.

Taking a deep breath, she washed her face with cold water and fixed her makeup. Replacing the folders in her attaché, she called Buffy and told her she was on her way.

*****

To say Riley wasn’t a happy camper was the understatement of the year. And sitting around his empty hotel room was accomplishing nothing but fueling his temper. How dare Sam side against him? His plans had been simple and straightforward and, if she’d just stuck by his side until he was ready to dump her, her life would’ve been so much easier.

Maybe she was stupid, as well as naïve.

And maybe, he should be laying the blame right where it belonged – at the feet of fucking Hostile 17, the bane of his existence. Thanks to that creature, the Initiative had been disbanded, friends had died, and his relationship with Buffy had tanked.

It was all Spike’s fault.

“What the hell am I doing, sitting here and letting that bastard have free rein?” he asked himself. “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.”

Gathering up a handful of stakes and some holy water and checking his holsters for the rest of his weaponry, Riley left the motel, determined to end this once and for all.

First stop: Restfield Cemetery, to stake out Spike’s crypt. No noise emanating from inside but that might just mean Spike was on the lower level. Riley made himself comfortable behind the nearest mausoleum and hunkered down. Sooner or later the vampire would show himself and Riley would make sure it was the last time he ever did.

Hours of fruitless waiting did nothing for Riley’s disposition. With dawn breaking, and the likelihood of Spike strolling through the cemetery to hole up for the day rapidly vanishing, Riley gathered his belongings and shifted locations.

Second stop: Giles’ home. The man had (for reasons that defied common sense) often harbored the vampire in the past. Giles was supposed to be the man behind the Slayer, was supposed to ensure she did her job and actually killed the creatures. Instead, Giles had allowed one to roam about his home freely, lounging on the couch and chugging blood like he hadn’t a care in the world.

No discipline – that was the problem. Buffy was supposed to follow her Watcher’s lead, and if she failed at her duty, it was probably at least partially Giles’s fault. Thank god the army didn’t have such lapses in leadership, or there’d be nothing but anarchy.

Riley tried peering in the windows, but the shades were drawn. He knocked on the door but nobody was home. That left one last place to look…

Third stop: Revello Drive. No such problem with the blinds here – half opened – enough to see clearly who was in the living room. Giles, Buffy, the little sister, Willow and - yes, the fucking vampire! What he hadn’t expected was the sight of his wife with the brat.

“Just let me finish this one last thing,” he muttered, “and I swear I’ll never set foot in this fucking town again. Sunnydale can get swallowed up by the earth and I’ll never give it another thought.”

He tried the back door, which was locked for the first time since he’d known Buffy. “Front door it is,” he growled, head down and determined.

The front door was also locked – again unusual. He could hear the people inside moving.

“Buffy, I know you’re in there,” Riley yelled, pounding heavily on the door. “We need to settle this once and for all.”

He was mid-pound when Buffy opened the door, standing back a few steps from the threshold. “And just what is it we have to ‘settle’, Riley?” she asked, her face a mask of disdain.

“For one thing, why my wife and kid are here?”

“I know, Riley,” Sam spoke firmly as she walked up behind Buffy. “I know everything. The part you played in creating Daniel. Who his birth parents actually are.” Her chin wobbled, but the tears remained unshed.

“I also know that you don’t give a damn about Daniel. You used him, just as you used me.”

“Look, Sam,” Riley tried, “I don’t know what these people have said to you, what they think they know –”

“We know everything, Cardboard,” Spike sneered, joining the women in front of the open door. “Got the files an’ everything to prove you’ve been messin’ with things you’ve got no business messin’ with.”

Riley’s temper flared and he saw red. He lunged through the doorway – or rather attempted to – but a claxon-like noise sounded and he bounced off a red-tinged force field that sent him stumbling backwards onto his ass.

Buffy stood over him, with her arms folded across her chest, oddly still as if she were waiting for something.

“What the hell did you do?” Riley demanded. He could feel his face turning red as he scrambled to his feet.

“See how you like it, git,” Spike sneered. “You’re not welcome here.”

“Spike, that’s enough,” Buffy said softly, eyes never leaving Riley.

“The whole world’s gone mad!” Riley spat vehemently as he smacked the unyielding barrier. “You’re supposed to be the fucking Chosen one – the protector of the people – and yet you fuck your prey! And one vamp wasn’t enough for you, was it? You went back for more. You don’t fucking learn! You’re nothing but a demon-whore, cavorting with creatures the world would be better off without.”

As he wiped the spittle from his lips, Riley watched Buffy hold the vampire back from attacking with just the touch of her hand. Maybe he was wrong about who had the thrall.

“Go home, Riley,” Sam said. “Nobody wants you here.”

Riley ignored his wife, continuing to vent his invectives. “I’m not leaving until Hostile 17’s ashes are floating on the breeze,” he hollered. “Stop hiding behind Buffy’s skirts and come out here and fight me!”

Spike snarled. “I’m willin’ to bet the headache would be worth it to kill you once and for all.”

“There will be no killing here of any kind,” Buffy insisted, standing between Spike and the doorway. “Riley, go home. I promise there will be consequences if you don’t leave now. I don’t want to turn this into a beat down,” She shook her head sadly. “Because we both know who’ll win.”

Riley never got the chance to answer. With a screech of tires, a series of vehicles pulled into the Summers’ driveway, their high beams lighting the night. The doors opened on two Humvees, as a phalanx of Military Police surrounded Riley, tasers drawn.

“I’m sorry, Riley, but you left me no choice,” Sam said softly. “You’re a threat to my son and to the lives of others.”

“On your knees, soldier,” the man in charge barked. “Hands above your head where we can see them.”

“You’re being charged with several counts of fraud and endangering the welfare of a minor,” read a second solder from a list of charges. “You’re coming with us to face a court martial and stand trial for criminal offenses.”

Riley raised his hands above his head, his chin jutting out in defiance. If looks could kill, everyone inside of 1630 Revello Drive would be dead.