Disclaimer: As always, none of the characters are mine, all are Joss's. The
`dark and stormy night' quote is, as I recall, from Snoopy's Great American
novel (Charles Schulz). Apparently he borrowed it from someone else, whose name
I do not know. Anyway, it's not mine.
Spoilers: Post "Doomed"
Summary: Riley hangs with the hostiles to learn more about his new girlfriend, but ends up finding out more than he wanted.
`It was a dark and stormy night.'
Riley Finn wasn't sure why the classic phrase drifted through his mind. The sky he sourly surveyed was actually quite clear, though undeniably dark (as skies tend to be in southern California at 3 a.m.). His mood, however, was definitely both dark and stormy.
As usual, his date with Buffy Summers, girl of his dreams, had ended up at his room. Unfortunately, and also as usual, she refused to stay the night with him. She had some strange and unexplained objection to falling asleep in his room, or rather to waking up there the next morning. Or maybe it was waking up with him anywhere that she wished to avoid; she wouldn't say.
Over the last month Riley had tried every argument he could think of to persuade her to stay. A few times he even pretended to be asleep, but she just woke him up and told him she was leaving.
Tonight Riley insisted on walking her home, hoping to work things out on the way. After he left her at her door, his plan in ruins, he had nothing to do and nowhere to go. The loose hostiles were apparently behaving themselves, and his friends were either out partying, or settled in with their current girlfriends.
And so he wandered.
Without even being aware of where he was headed, Riley found himself at the exterior entrance to the lab. Suddenly he had an idea of how he might spend some productive time on this lonely night. It was time to make friends with the hostiles, get to know them as individuals, and pump them for information about slayers in general and his in particular.
The lab was brightly lit, even at this hour, but nearly deserted. Professor Walsh was a dedicated researcher, but she liked her beauty sleep. The rest of the doctors thought 8 hours a day poking, prodding and mutilating demons was quite enough for what the military paid them. The only ones around in the wee small hours were the guards, who stayed in the guardroom watching Nick at Night, and of course the demons.
The aforesaid demons were not particularly happy to see him. They jeered at him, the loser with nothing better to do than hang with the lab rats on a weekend. He remained silent until they finally ceased the catcalls.
"Ladies and gentleman," he began, "and I use those terms for lack of any better, I need some information. Information I believe only you can provide." He looked from one end of the cells to the other, trying to gauge their response.
The laughter was his first clue this was going to be a tough sell.
"You think we will help you?" The Vitor demon couldn't stop laughing, which made for a lot of noise when trumpeted through three mouths simultaneously. "Without the use of needles or probes?"
"I think you have nothing else to do and nowhere to go," Riley replied evenly. "I'm not asking you to tell me where the rest of your kind are hiding, or any of your mating rituals. All I want is to know about is someone who hunts you. I am looking for information about your enemy."
"What enemy?" The Brakken was actually a peaceful demon, as opposed to some of his fellow prisoners. He was in Sunnydale visiting an old friend when he was seized because he looked, well, like a demon.
"The Slayer." Riley felt foolish and melodramatic calling his girlfriend by such an arcane title, but he thought it probably would inspire more fear than "Buffy."
Again, laughter was the preferred response among his demonic audience.
"The Slayer is not our enemy," the Brakken gasped between chuckles. "She is the Chosen One for the vampires; the rest of us are safe if we stay out of her way. She doesn't come looking for us unless we harm humans."
"And why would we ever want to do that?" purred the Vitor, a vengeance demon. "Humans are such nice creatures. So friendly to those who are a little different." His snaggle-toothed smile was not improved by being shown in triplicate.
"I think you just don't know anything about her." Riley decided to try the oldest gambit in the book. After all, who's to say demons read the same books?
"Oh please," moaned the sloth demon from the cell on the end. "Do you really think we would fall for such an old ploy? We are evil, at least according to you, but we're not stupid." She curled up in the corner of her cell and tried to find a comfortable way to pillow her head on her tail.
"What will you give us if we tell you?"
The Vitor spun around to face the wall separating him from the vampire that had just spoken. "That's why the Slayer hunts vampires; they're easy prey." His voice dripped with disgust. "We are demon born and bred, but they are made. And if you start with poor stock, well, that's what you get."
Riley cautiously approached the vampire, staying far enough away to prevent capture, but close enough to talk without raising his voice.
"You know the Slayer? Or have you just heard of her?" He did his best to act calm and casual, but he really wished he had his M16 with him for moral support.
"You mean the current one, right? The one with working brain cells?"
Riley frowned in confusion. "Is there more than one?"
"Technically, but I wouldn't fear the dark-haired one much anymore." The vampire laughed, trying to make those assembled believe he'd never feared any slayer, much less Faith.
"So we're talking about the same girl." Riley relaxed slightly and leaned up against the post in front of the vampire's cell. "Tiny, blonde, really feisty? That's the one, right?"
"I repeat, what will you give me if I answer your questions?" The vampire was growing bored; this was no way to spend an afterlife, locked in a cell and tortured by lowly humans. Even this diversion was growing stale.
"Do you have somewhere else to be?" Riley snapped. "Why not tell me about your enemy? She kills you, I don't. You must want her out of the way; how do you know I don't?"
"You've got the look," the vampire replied dryly. "I saw it on Angelus, and I see it on you. You want her, and not in pieces like I do."
"Count me in for a nibble or two," called another vampire a few cells down.
"Like Angelus would let you have a taste," the first vampire said with a sneer. "His soul being restored keeps him from killing them, not us. Touch his woman, and you'll have more trouble than you can imagine."
"Who is this Angelus?" Riley was frantic. They were talking about some man claiming his Buffy. Some man, who consorted with vampires, yet laid claim to his Buffy.
"He is someone you do not want to mess with." The Brakken spoke up this time, since the vampires were too busy pacing and snarling at each other to answer. "He's out of town right now, but they're taking bets down at Willie's how long he can stay away."
"Correction: they were taking bets down at Willie's," said the little man in the cell on the other side of the Vitor. "Since I am that same Willie, and here I sit in all my glory, the betting window has now closed."
"So you know him? What does he have to do with Buf.the Slayer?" Riley shifted down a few cells to face Willie.
"What does Angel have to do with the Slayer?" Willie snorted in disbelief. "That's like asking what does rye bread have to do with pastrami."
The echoes from all that demonic laughter were really getting on Riley's nerves.
Finally Willie took pity on poor clueless Riley. "They're kind of well-known in the demon community, which I will admit, has more than its share of oddballs. But a vampire and a vampire slayer in love. well, that's one for the books." So was a human being imprisoned for serving drinks to demons, but that was life on the hellmouth for you. Full of surprises.
"But she never.I mean, I haven't seen any.I mean." Riley ground to a miserable halt, exhausted from trying to put a positive spin on Willie's words.
"He left, I told you," the Brakken snapped. "But when they were together.Willie's right, it was one for the books."
"He'll be back," the first vampire said with an air of authority. "Angelus will never give her up for long, though it sickens me to say so."
"Even when he had no soul."
"The good old days," the first vampire interjected with a sigh.
"She was the only thing that mattered to him," Willie finished with a scowl. "And she had it as bad as he did, maybe worse."
"She sent him to hell!" the second vampire protested. "I think she must have gotten over him at some point."
"Nah," Willie scoffed. "She didn't have a choice, and he knew it. He forgave her, and she forgave him for killing her friends. It was really kind of sweet. Kind of twisted, I'll grant you, but sweet."
"I thought this all happened to some slayer from Cleveland," a young vampire from the next cellblock called out.
"So you're telling me the Slayer, the current Slayer, was in love with a vampire," Riley said slowly. "A vampire you all appear to be a little afraid of, so he must be pretty tough. And yet, he was in love with her too."
"Truth is stranger than fiction, my friend." Willie smiled at the memory of some of Angel's nastier moments, and how he, Willie, cleverly survived them. "But I wouldn't be using the past tense if I were you."
"This is nuts." Riley was disgusted, and deeply afraid. Either they were telling the truth, and his beloved had been keeping some major secrets from him again, or they managed to concoct this story in anticipation of his questions. He really, really wished he could believe the latter.
"Sorry, pal, you're not number one on her hit parade. Never were, never will be, if you ask me." Willie relished the crushed look on Riley's face. That would teach the gun-toting little frat boy to mess with honest (well, mostly honest) businessmen just trying to make a buck in a sagging economy.
"Couldn't happen to a nicer fellow," the Vitor said with a smirk.
"There is no way she would have fallen for a vampire anyway. She hunts them, she doesn't date them," Riley protested, not caring he'd given himself away. He had a feeling they hadn't believed his cool fašade anyway.
"Well, not most of them," Willie admitted. "I heard tell she had a thing for Spike at one point, but I'm pretty sure that was just a rumor."
"But she would have told me!"
"What, tell Rebound Guy she's only with him because the love of her life beat feet? What planet are you from?" This from a three-foot-tall blue demon with five eyes and a horn protruding from its stomach.
"What do you care about this other guy?"
The voice came from behind him. Riley whirled around to see the new maintenance man walk down the stairs. He couldn't remember the man's name, but he knew he had nothing to fear. All the lab personnel were carefully screened before being allowed in the facility.
"What do you care?" the man repeated. "She's with you now. And if it's meant to be, it will be. You can't fight destiny, and neither can she."
"But they said."
"Destiny, my friend. It's unstoppable."
Riley smiled as he pictured his destiny. Buffy, a few kids, a decent- sized farmhouse back in Iowa and an end to all this demon madness. That was his destiny, and hers, he was positive.
"You know you're right. Fate brought us together, and sooner or later I'll make her realize it too." Riley grinned even more as he began to plan his campaign strategy. The first step was getting her over this ridiculous fear of staying the night with him. He was really going to enjoy persuading her.
The man watched Riley stride out of the lab, buoyed up with newfound confidence. It was enough to melt all but the most cynical of hearts.
"Of course, destiny's a funny thing," the man mused as he fingered through his key ring. "You see a pretty girl, she whacks you on the head with a book and you think: BANG. Destiny. Then she smiles at you, and you think: she knows it too. I'm her destiny. Now what you don't realize, and she's not admitting, is that her destiny is already tied up with a broody kind of a guy who doesn't tan real well." He found the key he was looking for, and headed towards Willie's cell. "And what you really don't want to know," he continued to himself, "is that your destiny is to end up on the wrong end of a Shiriike demon's razorback tail." He turned the key in the pinpad outside Willie's cell, then punched in the correct code. The door swung open and he stepped back.
"Is this for real?" Willie asked anxiously, gingerly stretching his neck to peer out of the cell.
"Time to go, Willie. I think it's probably best if you find another town with fewer bad elements, and I'm not talking demons."
"I hear you," Willie said fervently, rubbing the recent bruise an overzealous commando had given him during his capture.
"Before you go, though, I want a favor." The man held a hand up in front of Willie to prevent his flight.
"Hey, you only have to ask. Quickly." Willie was getting nervous; the guards could check on them at any time.
"On your way out of town, stop in to see the Slayer. Here's her new address." The man pressed a small piece of paper into Willie's hand. "I want you to tell her how much you've enjoyed Rebound Guy's hospitality. I think it's time she knows exactly what she's dating."
Willie grinned; he couldn't wait to sic the Slayer on her boy toy. "Hey, not a problem. Happy to help." He was halfway to the door when the man called after him.
"Willie, it's right, then left, then up the stairs. And Willie, when you see her, tell her Whistler said hey."
Go to the sequel, And the Prize for Miss Congeniality Goes To...