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01 November 2011 @ 11:27 pm
Fic: Out of the Dark (12/13)  
Summary, Notes, and Warnings are located in the Table of Contents.

Chapter 12

“Hi honey, I’m home.”
As soon as Buffy had managed to force his name past her lips, it was as if the masking spell had been broken.  Everyone was able to see him.  Gunn, Connor, and Angel immediately started  toward him, but were thrown back as they neared him.  Then he moved, more quickly than the eye could see.  Next thing they knew he had Buffy pinned against the far wall, his hand across her throat. 
Shaking his head, Riley said, “I don’t think we’ll be having any of that just now.  I’ll have you know, Angel, I could snap her neck in a heartbeat.  Or,” he chuckled, “maybe you don’t understand that unit of measurement.”
Angel held his hands out, palms up, in a pacifying gesture, his eyes fixed on Buffy.  “We’re listening.”
“Riley,” Buffy spoke quietly, as the pressure on her throat made every breath painful.  Even so, the sadness and disappointment were evident in her voice.  “Why are you doing this?” 
“Oh Buffy, how can you ask that?  Ever since I met you, my life has been falling apart.”  He looked at Buffy’s eyes, which were confused.  “You didn’t see it?  I’m not surprised, you’ve always been preoccupied with everyone else, overlooking those right in front of you.  See, I met you and I lost my career, my purpose, my friends. 
“And I stuck by you,” his hand tightened on her throat as his voice raised.  “I stuck by you and I tried to rebuild my life.  I backed you up and I helped with Dawn and I gave you everything I had.  But that wasn’t enough for you.”  His eyes flicked involuntarily to Angel.  “And again, I lost.”
Angel was only half paying attention to Riley’s rant.  He was trying desperately to think of any way they could get at him, or more importantly get Buffy away from him.  Whatever that forcefield was that had prevented them from getting near him was  powerful.  His fists balled in frustration. 
Riley continued.  “So I left.  I left you, I left Sunnydale, and I started over again.  And I found happiness.  Someone who loved me, a purpose again.”  Buffy looked into Riley’s eyes.  They were empty and lifeless.  “And again, you took it away.”

“But, how?  You and Sam, you were fine, happy when you you came to Sunnydale,” she forced through her fiery throat.  
“Yes, yes.  But you got in trouble again didn’t you?  Several years ago, we saw a hotspot blossoming in Sunnydale.  The humans were leaving in droves.  And Sam,” Buffy saw the first glimmer of emotion in Riley’s eyes, “Sam insisted we go help.  So I took my team, and we spread out through the city.  I was monitoring the situation from just outside the city limits.  I saw you leaving, running as though the fires of hell were behind you.”  Buffy’s eyes widened as she guessed what was coming next.
“You got out.  They didn’t.”  His hand tightened even further.  Buffy wondered how much more of this she could withstand; already dark spots were dancing before her eyes.
“Riley, I didn’t know.  How could I have known?” she whispered.
“You took everything from me again,” he continued as though he hadn’t heard her.  “My unit, my wife, my baby.  I had nothing.”
Angel tried to interject as Buffy started to sag.  “Riley, I know what it’s like to lose a child.”
Riley flung out his free hand and Angel was pushed back again, this time held in place by the invisible forcefield.
“I’m not ready for you, yet.”  Turning back to Buffy, he said, “So there I was, wandering, alone, and I met some friends.  These friends told me that you had set up a new shop, in London.   That you were living the life you always wanted.  With all those little Slayers, you didn’t have all that responsibility, you could be a friend, a sister.  And I wanted to make you pay.  And that meshed nicely with my new friends' interests as well.”  He smiled darkly.  “Hence the man you see before you today.”
Buffy struggled to hold her eyes open.  “Riley, I'm sorry that your life has been so disappointing.  And I am so sorry about Sam.  But you made your choices.  You both did.  This is a dangerous line of work.  We all know the risks.  So, sorry, I'm not footing the bill for this one.”
“And yet,” Riley answered.  “Here we are.”
“So this has all been leading up to killing me?” she questioned.
“Well, the beginning was about making you hurt the way I hurt.  This,” he gestured around him, “this is for the ultimate source of the pain.  Angel, the constant other in our relationship.  Now it’s his turn to hurt, to lose.  He gets to stand here and watch as I kill you.”

When Riley had been unveiled, Fred stood trembling at the door to Wesley’s office.  She had seen the speed with which this ‘Riley’ moved, seen the forcefield that protected him.  Slowly and quietly, she edged toward the hallway and ran to the library.
Wesley was reading when he heard her come in.  “Ah, Fred, good.  What took so long?”  He looked up and saw her frantic face.  He stood and rushed toward her, holding her tightly.  She was shaking.  “Fred, what's happened?”
Quickly, she stammered out the relevant details of what she had seen.  “Wesley, are we ready to break the spells?”
Wesley looked concerned.  “I think I have identified all the spells he has used.  But to counter them, we have to cast in a very specific order.”  He pulled a sheet of paper from his desk and handed it to Fred.  “We obviously don't have a lot of time, let me know what you think about what I've worked out.”
They worked feverishly for minutes which felt like hours, all the while wondering what was happening to their friends.  Finally, Fred nodded at Wesley.  “I think this is the best we're going to get under the circumstances.”
Agreeing, he said, “I'll need your help to cast.  Let's go.  I want to be as close as possible, just in case something goes wrong.”
They arrived as quietly as possible just in time to see Riley repel Angel.  Immediately they began the quiet chants that they had devised. 
Angel noticed the effects before Riley, the forcefield disappearing so suddenly he almost lost his balance.  Catching himself in order to avoid tipping Riley off, he stayed in place, waiting for the right moment to make his move.  He tried to alert the others with his eyes that something was sapping Riley's powers, but they seemed distracted by the insane ranting.   As Riley announced his plan to kill Buffy,  as she sagged against the wall barely breathing, held up only by Riley's hand against her throat, Angel knew the time was now or never.

It was as Riley looked back to gloat at Angel that he first became aware something was wrong.  He didn't have long to ponder what was happening.  Just as he saw Angel moving toward him, quickly followed by the other two, he felt Buffy move.  Grabbing onto his arm, she lifted her legs and planted her feet squarely in his solar plexus, pushing him straight at the enraged vampire.
From then on, everything happened quickly.  Riley put up a fight, but against Connor, Gunn, and Angel, stood little chance.  However, he seemed quite willing to make it a fight to the death, and Angel was happy to oblige.  Buffy, who had expended all her remaining energy with that kick, was crouched on the floor against the wall, trying to catch her breath.  She saw Riley go down to the ground, Angel continuing with the assault.  Trying to speak through her bruised trachea was did not provide enough volume to make her heard above the commotion.  Connor saw her trying to communicate and went over to her. 
“Don't kill him,” she gasped.  “Stop Angel.”
Connor looked hard at her.  “Are you sure?”  She nodded gingerly.
He looked at Angel and Riley.  It didn't look like he had a lot of time to stop the fight.  “Gunn, help me with him!”  Together they dove in, each grabbing one of Angel's arm, shouting his name.
“What the...” Angel sputtered as he struggled against them.  Riley moaned on the floor.  “Let me finish it!”
“No, Angel,” Connor retorted.  “Look at Buffy.”
She was shaking her head, her eyes pleading with Angel.  “Damn it.”  Looking regretfully at the battered man, he walked over to crouch next to Buffy.  He instructed the others, “Have someone restrain him.”
Buffy smiled weakly, holding a hand out for Angel to help her up.  He did and pulled her into his arms.  She thought about pulling away, but decided it was too much trouble.  She leaned into him as he tightened his arms around and rested his chin on top of her head. 
“You were incredible,” Angel's voice was trembling as he realized how close he had come to losing her for good. 
“Which part, the faking being passed out or the kick?” Buffy teased.
“But, Buffy, why did you stop me?  I mean, being slightly more rational now already, I'm kind of glad I didn't kill him, but, you, well you have plenty of reason to want him dead.”
Buffy pulled back a bit and looked up at Angel, sorrow written all over her face.  “I have lots of reasons to not want him dead too.”  She walked aimlessly away.  “I don't want any more blood on my hands, or on yours.  Something happened to him, he went insane.  But what if we can help him?”
“Help him?” Angel repeated.
“You have a lot of resources here.  Isn't there someone who could work with him, somewhere you could keep him secure, but where he could maybe be happy?”
Angel hesitated.  “Buffy, you know that Riley did some horrible things.  How do you think he would react if he were to get better, to be like he was?  It's not easy to deal with those types of actions.” 
“I know.  But I owe him that.  Besides, we can't kill him now.  It would be like executing him.”
Angel noticed that she was swaying on her feet and that the bruises were beginning to appear on her throat.  He gently took her arm and said, “We can discuss this later.  Right now, we're taking you to the infirmary.”  He looked over at Wesley, “Do you have the information the doctors need?”
Wesley nodded.  “We should be able to lift the enchantments and allow the doctors to address her wounds medically, yes.”
“Then that's what we're doing.  Gunn, have Riley taken to a secure cell for the time being.  We'll get him medical care there.”
Angel was so focused on Buffy and there was so much commotion, that he didn't notice Nina   standing in his doorway for the last few minutes.  She watched as he walked Buffy slowly to the elevators, his arm gently resting across her back, she leaning her head against him as the waited for the doors to open.

Buffy had to admit that she started feeling better as soon as the enchantments had been lifted.  She endured the doctor's poking and prodding, got her stitches and was sitting up in the bed, smiling when Angel reentered the room, looking serious. 
Her smile faded.  “What?”
Angel pulled a chair up and sat down, sighing heavily.  “Buffy, something happened.  The security guards were taking Riley to a containment cell.  He apparently tried to make a break for it.  They had no choice.”
Buffy felt a coldness spread inside her as she realized what Angel meant.  “He's dead?” she asked for confirmation.
“Yes,” Angel replied.  “I'm sorry.”
Buffy took a deep breath.  “You were probably right anyway.  Maybe it's better this way.  At least I know I tried.”  Feeling tears building, she said to Angel, “I think I'd like to go back to my room now.”
“Of course.  Do you want some company or...” Angel trailed off.
“No, I think I'd like to be alone.  A lot to process, you know?”  Angel nodded.  She added, “The doctors want me to hang around for a couple of days, but then I'll be out of your hair.”
She hopped off the table and gave Angel a quick hug, trying not to think about how good he felt and how much she would miss this again, and scurried out of the room before he could insist on accompanying her. 
Angel sat in the now empty room.  He hadn't thought she would be in such a hurry to leave, but he should have suspected it.  She had shown no interest in picking up their relationship, even showed interest in other guys.  It was selfish of him to assume that she would still be harboring feelings for him.  Plus there was Nina.  Buffy had made it clear several times over the last few days that she thought he belonged with Nina.  And maybe he did. Why then did he want to persuade Buffy that she belonged with him?