Twisted truth and half the news
[A/N: Just saw JM in concert yesterday. . . And hot damn he looks so freaking good. He’s just so . . .yeah. So anyway, my muse perked up (and so did someone else’s) and I’ve been plugging away at this. Title (from a Thompson Twins song) and quotes are as attributed – disclaimers, as always, are in full force and effect. I own nothing.]
Previously: Faith and Jenner came back to Sunnydale in an effort to fool the California authorities into believing Faith’s been killed; another Slayer’s been called; Tara’s strangely under the weather; and Buffy called the Initiative. This picks up immediately following the last installment.
Chapter Four Twisted truth and half the news
Knowing someone by reputation
is not as good as meeting him face to face.
Let every eye negotiate for itself,
And trust no agent.
Much Ado About Nothing, act ii, sc i
Information can tell us everything.
It has all the answers.
But they are answers to questions we have not asked,
and which doubtless don’t even arise.
Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories, ch. 5
Wesley had been talking, questioning her decision to contact the Initiative without letting any of them know beforehand, when Buffy leaned forward, her eyes intent on his. Resting her elbows on the table, Buffy launched into her reasons why. The last one was the most telling.
“Spike would have wigged.”
He shot her a look which clearly stated he thought she’d lost her mind.
“Okay, so he wigged anyway.” Buffy made a face, then continued, “I goofed, didn’t I?”
“I believe you might have miscalculated.” She winced and knowing how volatile her emotions were, Wesley reached out to grasp her wringing hands. “He’ll calm down.”
Her lower lip wobbled, her eyes growing wide and misty, and Wesley realized he had to bolster her spirits. “Buffy, he’s not going to stay angry with you. We already knew this was our only recourse.”
With an obvious effort, Buffy composed herself, fighting back the tears that had threatened. “So it’s all good.” Her smile took over her features and she leaned further forward. “He knows I love him. And he knows it has to come out.”
Wesley acknowledged the truth of her statement. “He does.”
Buffy was about to speak when someone – a very large male – loomed behind her, calling her name. Wesley looked up and had to crane his neck to get a better look at the man. The male was tall, well-built, and his buzz cut hair and the livid scar marring one cheek clued Wesley in to at least his occupation.
Buffy’s eyes bulged – something Wesley never thought he’d see – and sheer panic flooded her expression.
She stared at Wesley for a minute longer, visibly paling.
“Buffy? Are you all right?” Wesley felt the need to ask her, though he could very clearly see and sense she wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity of all right.
She squeaked out something, then cleared her throat. “Ah.” Another look around had her panic growing.
“Buffy?” The soldier spoke again, his tone clearly indicating he knew it was her. And knew her very well.
Finally, with her teeth firmly clamped on her lower lip, Buffy dared to look up. “Hey, Riley.”
Something thunked down on the table between them, rocking it from side to side. Wesley had jumped, nearly scrambling to his feet when the soldier’s identity was revealed.
“What the hell are you doing here, Riley?” Dawn pushed Buffy’s ice cream toward her, but didn’t take the seat next to the blond.
“I got a message from your sister.”
Dawn snorted, a very unladylike sound. “Sheyah. Sure you did.”
An uncomfortable silence descended and Dawn glanced from Buffy to Wesley, noting both their expressions.
“Actually, I did try and get a message to him.”
Shifting her stance, Dawn plopped her own ice cream down. Crossing her arms over her chest, Dawn stared down at Buffy. It was clear she was awaiting a better explanation and she wasn’t going to allow them to let it slide. Her raised eyebrow and stance had Buffy feeling guilty for her actions, and worried that Dawn’s parentage would be clear for anyone to see.
Inhaling deeply, Buffy pushed back away from the rickety table, revealing her condition to their unwanted companion.
“Buffy? What the hell happened? The last time I heard from anyone, Xander wrote to tell me you were dead!” Riley spluttered, his voice rising to a near shout.
“Keep your bloody voice down, soldier boy.” Spike leaned over, pulling out the chair Buffy was still struggling to get out of. A second sigh of relief escaped from Buffy and she laid a hand in Spike’s while shooting him a grateful look. Her smile went a long way to easing some of his tension and anger.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Spike.” Riley squared off, widening his stance, trying very hard to stare down the shorter man. Spike just glared at Riley, daring the younger man to make a scene.
Buffy let Spike help her up, resting her hand on his tense forearm. Clutching at him, Buffy addressed her next statement to Riley. “Why don’t you meet us in the Magic Box?”
Quentin Travers listened with half an ear as his assistant Nicholson ticked off the availability of the Council’s wetworks operatives. The bulk of his attention was on the hard copy reports of the transcripts of the DVDs from Sunnydale.
“Nicholson, how soon will a team be assembled?” Travers flipped through the pages, his eyes flicking rapidly over the words.
“No sooner than thirty-six hours, sir.” He shifted, hoping Travers wouldn’t unleash his temper.
“That is acceptable. Where is our newest Slayer?”
Nicholson rocked back on his heels, very aware he’d just dodged a dressing down of Biblical proportions. “I believe she’s being debriefed on the Sunnydale situation as we speak.”
Travers waved Nicholson off. “Very good. Advise me when she’s finished.”
“Yes, sir.” He backed out of the doorway, closing it softly behind him.
Quickly checking the corridor, Nicholson moved swiftly away from the executive offices, toward the research wing. Once there, he quickly entered the Journal archive room. There was rarely anyone in the archives, especially at this hour of night and Nicholson was certain he and his accomplice would be relatively safe.
“Leslie?” His voice was soft, barely discernable in the musty air of the oldest journals in Council possession.
“Over here, Robert.” McKeown leaned back from the stack he was in front of, into Nicholson’s line of sight.
“I’ve delayed as long as I possibly can. More than likely the team will be ready before Thursday.” Nicholson turned around, facing away from his counterpart, eyes constantly scanning the room.
“That’s fine. Contact has been made. They’re already aware of the situation.” Leslie re-shelved the journal he’d been reading, then glanced over his shoulder. “Who’s been picked for the girl?”
“Bloody. . . Why on earth did they pick her?” McKeown turned to face him, distaste clearly visible in the dim light.
“It is believed the new girl will respond better to a woman.”
“What the hell for?”
Nicholson chuckled ironically. “The new Slayer’s exhibited a distinct problem and lack of respect for male Watchers.”
“Robert, what the hell does that mean?”
“Well, Leslie, evidently the new Slayer is a lesbian.”
McKeown stared at him, mirth swirling in his eyes. He dare not laugh out loud , but he was suddenly struck with the irreverent thought that Travers just might have gone from the frying pan into the fire with the new Slayer.
An urgent phone call had Giles and Anya opening up the Magic Box, and a follow-up call to Connor had him cutting short his solo patrol to meet them all there. Wesley’s third phone call was to Jenner, alerting him to keep a very low profile and avoid the house for the next couple of day, but also warning him to keep in contact.
The contingency plan they’d formulated in case the Initiative returned to Sunnydale rolled into action, and while Dawn and Wesley followed Buffy and Spike, they hastily dialed numbers, making phone calls to friendly demons like Clem.
Buffy was leaning heavily on Spike’s arm, and from her position Dawn could sense the tension her parents were trying very hard to control.
“Wes? Why is he here?” Dawn’s tone of voice indicated she wasn’t going to let him get away without answering.
“The chip.” Those two words were enough to enlighten the teen.
“So she called them?” There was a pause while Dawn processed the situation. “She called him? Why the hell . . . He’s an asshole!”
“Dawn. . .“ Wesley glanced over at her, preparing to admonish her language but was stopped by the expression on her face.
“He is, so don’t yell at me. I don’t believe she’d do this.”
“None of the surgeons we contacted would make the attempt. We had no other choice.” Wesley stuck his hands in his pockets and kept walking, expecting Dawn to keep up with him.
“Whatever. He doesn’t really look happy, not that I care.” Dawn waved him off, not wanting to hear any of Wesley’s explanations. “Did you call Connor?”
“He’s on his way. He’ll meet us at the shop.” Part of Wesley was very unhappy with the way Dawn and Connor had become close, while the saner part of him was very grateful. His feelings for Dawn hadn’t eased had in fact, only grown stronger. She was maturing, becoming more comfortable with herself and it showed, making him ache every time they were alone. Thankfully, before the situation had a chance to get more awkward, they were interrupted.
“Hey. What’s up?” A barely out of breath Connor raced up behind them, pushing himself between the two.
“Bad guy alert.” Dawn stepped into him, playfully blocking his steps. The two played for a moment, then Dawn grew serious. “Do you think they’ll be able to take care of it?”
Wesley gave her question the gravity it deserved. “The better question is; will they?”
“Who the hell is Riley?” Jenner closed the cell phone, his eyes focused on Faith.
“Oh, shit.” She struggled to get to her feet, dropping the weights on the floor bedside the bench she was lying on.
“Should you really be doing all that?” The big Welsh vampire loomed over her, pushing her back down onto the narrow bench.
Faith stared up at him, wrapping her legs around his waist and pulling him forward, closer to her. “I’m a Slayer. I can do anything.”
“So you keep telling me.” He smirked, then nuzzled between her breasts. She tugged at his shoulders, trying to drag his lips toward hers, while Jenner resisted. His low laugh reverberated through her and Faith pinched his side. In retaliation, Jenner laid a series of bites across her breasts.
“Who is Riley?”
“You’re sucking on my tits and asking me about some guy?” Faith tightened her legs around his waist. “There something you wanna tell me, dude?”
Jenner bit down hard, closing his teeth around one nipple. “You really don’t have anything to worry about.”
“Hmmm. You sure about that? I’ve seen you eyeing Spike.”
In response, Jenner pulled their groins together, grinding Faith against his turgid erection. “Spike isn’t girl enough for me.”
Faith snickered, quipping, “He’d look mighty pretty in a dress though.”
To which Jenner just laughed harder. He bucked his hips, arching her up into his thrust. “So who the hell is Riley?”
“Geez. What’s with the single-mindedness?”
“The junior Watcher sounded serious.”
Faith wrapped her arms around Jenner’s shoulders. “Riley’s . . . he’s Buffy’s ex honey and with the government boys that put the chip in Spike’s head.”
“So not someone we want to accidentally run across?” He ran his hands down her side, then slid one up under sports bra.
“Nope. So I guess we have to lay low?”
“That’s the warning.”
Faith slipped one hand between them, raking her nails down the middle of Jenner’s chest. “Guess we have to find something to keep us occupied.”
Jenner groaned when her hand skimmed over his erection, then flittered away. “Looks that way.”
Her husky laugh echoed in the empty gym. “Man, I’d hate to be in B’s shoes right now.”
Buffy could easily feel the tension radiating through Spike’s body, could sense the anger and confusion threading through his emotions, while every single one of them magnified and multiplied within her. She was teetering on the edge of a colossal meltdown and she almost couldn’t even explain why. Yes, she’d been the one to make the phone call; yes, she’d asked for Riley by name, but she hadn’t actually expected him to be the one to come and investigate.
They were halfway to the Magic Box when a wave of anxiety threatened to overwhelm her. Buffy clutched at Spike’s supporting arm, digging her nails into his skin. “Are you mad at me? Please don’t be. I . . . “ She turned watery hazel eyes up at him, her teeth biting at her lower lip.
One look at her stricken eyes and Spike knew he had to hold it together for her. Buffy was a mess, her face splotchy, hectic with fever spots, an indication that her blood pressure had risen, and the tears pooling in her eyes wrecked havoc with his resolution to stay angry with her. Spike knew this was a possibility, knew all those long months ago, when they’d first discussed the idea of removing the chip that it would all come down to this moment. A confrontation he’d wanted to avoid all along. It was inevitable. It was karmic.
Riley and his merry band of misguided do-gooders were the ones responsible for his inability to protect his family. Riley Finn was the reason why he had the girl. If not for Riley and his disappearing act, and his betrayal, Spike wouldn’t have been the one Buffy had been forced to rely upon. Spike heaved out a deep sigh, then glanced down at the woman holding the strings on his heart. There was really only one way to respond to her. “I’m not angry, kitten.”
“You’re sure?” Buffy’s eyes scanned his, looking for some sign of deeply banked anger, some ticking of his jaw. Finding none, she stepped into his embrace, the tears she’d been fighting finding a home on his soft cotton tee shirt. “He’s not gonna come between us, right?”
“No, sweetheart, he’s not gonna.” His arms locked around her, one hand smoothing down the tense lines of her back.
A flare of insecurity rose in her and Buffy held on tighter. Words tumbled from her, words Spike never expected he’d hear. “He was supposed to be my shot at normal. Supposed to be the steady, understanding guy. The normal guy who got the slaying thing. The guy everyone told me I should want.” Buffy slipped to the side, leaning against the stillness of Spike’s chest. “Wanna know a secret?”
When he didn’t answer except to thread his fingers in her hair, she squeezed him again. “I didn’t know if I wanted normal. If normal was ever gonna be enough.”
A low laugh sounded in her ear and she tilted her face up to look at Spike’s. “Not when the real deal was just under my fingers – too close to ignore and too far to . . . God, I so didn’t want to notice you. Didn’t want to remember what it was like to be close.”
Spike’s thumb brushed away the tears slipping from the corners of her eyes, his touch gentle and soft. “I was so mad at Willow for giving me something so good and then just stealing it away from me. You always made me feel safe, even when you didn’t want to.”
“Always wanted to, kitten, ‘specially at that time.” Spike finally spoke, his voice just as low and soft as hers had been. “Wanted to throttle the witch, though, for forcin’ me to face m’own feelings. Didn’t want to want you so much either, jus’ couldn’t help myself.”
His fingers were cool against her over-heated flesh, his touch lowering her panic to more manageable levels. “You know I wouldn’t have trusted him with Dawnie.”
“Why’s that?” Spike couldn’t help the question from surfacing. He’d always wondered if she’d turned to him because there was no one else around, because Riley had gone. Now, it seemed he was going to get his answer.
“He couldn’t deal. He was having trouble just dealing with the slaying. No way would he have been okay with the whole hellgod and someone must die thing.” She got quiet then, her thoughts racing through her head too fast for her to put them into words. Every moment where Riley talked down to her about the slaying, and about how he thought she should act, and then, the end of their relationship, when he’d sought something from the vampire whores he wasn’t getting from her replayed in her mind, and Buffy could feel her anger growing. “Riley wasn’t a really a nice guy, was he?”
Spike stared off into the night, unwilling to meet her eyes. He had decidedly negative thoughts about Finn, none of which were flattering, and that was before he connected him with the Initiative. On his own, Riley was a bigoted, throwback Neanderthal, who believed anything that wasn’t like him was beneath him. He didn’t answer Buffy’s question, just tightened his hold on her, rocking her back and forth slowly.
“I love you, kitten.” It was the only thing he could think to say. Now was not the time to lay all of Riley’s crimes out on the table, not when they needed the man’s assistance.
“Spike? You wouldn’t do that, would you.” Though it sounded like a question, they both knew Buffy wasn’t asking him, she was stating a truth.
Again he didn’t answer her. There was no need to. They both knew the truth of things. Spike wouldn’t ever leave her, wouldn’t dream of cheating on her. His hand cupped the back of her head, his thumb brushing gently over the curve of her cheek. “Isn’t anythin’ that would drive me to that.”
Buffy rested her head on his chest, her face tilted up toward his. The tears had finally stopped and the steady thumping of her heart was echoed by the rapid pitter-patter of the twins. Spike narrowed his focus, closing his eyes to just listen to the three of them. A slow smile bloomed on his features and his free hand smoothed down her side, resting on her belly. Buffy linked her hand with his. Her sigh released all the tension from her body and Buffy sagged into his chest, leaning into Spike. Her softly uttered, “I love you,” had him rumbling the same back at her.
Connor, Wesley, and Dawn passed them, Dawn stealing a glance at the still pair as she walked by, concern etched on her features. Spike smiled at her, urging her forward with a shrug of his shoulders. Wesley herded the two teens on, catching Spike’s movement and nodding his acknowledgment.
For long minutes, Spike continued to hold Buffy, his hands brushing across her soft skin. “C’mon, kitten, we need to get moving.”
“Can’t we just go home?” She pouted a little, shifting her weight from foot to foot. “Please?”
Spike’s exhalation blew through her hair, making loose strands waft around. “No, we really can’t. This is something we really need to do.”
“We can’t just change our minds?” She stepped away from him, her feet reluctantly heading toward the Magic Box and where her ex-boyfriend would be meeting them shortly. Spike tugged her forward, his hand firmly wrapped around hers.
“Buffy. . . . no point in stallin’, is there?”
“No, not really.” She paused, then whined a bit. “But can’t we do it tomorrow?”
“Sweetheart. . . “
The exasperation in his voice was easy to hear, and Buffy didn’t for one second fool herself into thinking she could avoid this situation, even employing her pout. With a slump in her shoulders and an air of dejection around her, Buffy dragged her feet as much as she could, but it wasn’t long before they were in front of the Magic Box. One last time she tried, tugging on Spike’s hand to stop his entry into the shop.
“Tomorrow would be better for this.”
His raised eyebrow and stern expression were more than enough, but when he added her name in a tone that brooked no argument, she gave in. “Buffy.”
“Fine. Be that way.”
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