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Not the Way We Were by slaymesoftly
AN- on Seven Seasons, I began posting with the responses to the darker challenges. I've decided to go backwards here and begin with the light fluffy one and work my way up to the angtsy, dark ones.
The challenge was: What if Riley came back in “As You Were” without a wife? What would Buffy do?

Title: Not the Way We Were
Author: Slaymesoftly
Rating: PG13
Word count: 3100
Disclaimer: I’d like to think this is how it would have gone, if I’d been writing instead of that man who actually owns these characters…
AN: In this ficlet, Spike does not have the eggs – even to be holding them for someone else – he’s innocent of all charges. LOL

Not the Way We Were

“R—Riley?” Buffy’s eyes registered his presence, but her mind was having trouble catching up. Only seconds before, she’d been counting the minutes until her break, wondering if the blond vampire would be waiting for her outside, as had become his custom lately. Suddenly, here, right in front of her, was her last human lover. The man who had left her when she wasn’t needy enough to suit him.

“Buffy, I’m sorry I didn’t call first, but this is an emergency. We have a situation and I need the Slayer.”

“Of…of course,” she mumbled, taking off her hat and ignoring the indignant shout from her manager. “Just let me…” She dropped the hat and apron, assuming, quite correctly, that she was going to be fired anyway. With a sigh, she flashed back to her rocky high school career and the inevitable consequences of having to put saving the world ahead on such mundane things as homework or attending class.

(I guess slayers just aren’t meant to live long enough to have actual lives. Yay me, for setting the precedent.)

She followed Riley out of the fast food restaurant and over to the big black SUV that he was driving. He hesitated for just a second before opening the door and she realized that he was wondering if he should hug her or not. Taking the decision out of his hands, she reached past him and yanked the door open, jumping in before he could react. If asked why she didn’t want to hug him, she would not have been able to say – it was just one of those things where her body responded before her brain could decide what it wanted to do.

“Okay,” she said cheerfully as he climbed in the driver’s side, “What’s up and what do I have to kill?”

He smiled at her enthusiasm, completely missing the artificiality of her return smile.

“Oh, Buffy. It’s so great to see you. I have so much to tell you – so much that has happened to me…” For the first time, she noticed an angry scar running across one cheek – clearly a fairly recent wound.

“I have stuff to tell you, too,” she said quietly, opening the package of special ops clothes that he had given her. “Things are really…different here.”

Barely pausing to acknowledge her words, he continued with his excited speech.

“I’ve done so much in the last year, had so much happened to me—“

“Did you die?” she interrupted somewhat abruptly.

“Wha-? No, of course not.”

“I win.”

While Riley drove, trying resolutely to keep his eyes on the road, Buffy struggled out of her uniform and into the black pants and shirt that he had brought for her. She noted idly that they were not her size, finding herself smiling as she remembered the extra shirts and underwear that Spike had begun keeping in his crypt. After listening to her complaining about having to go home half-dressed on nights when his enthusiasm for getting her naked took a toll on too many of her shirts, he had made an early evening trip to the mall where he stocked up on tee shirts, lacy bras and matching panties. Every piece had fit her perfectly.

Resolutely pushing thoughts of Spike out of her mind, she tried to concentrate on Riley’s description of the Sulvolte demons he’d been hunting all the way from South America. As always, he had all sorts of technological help for locating the subject of the search and they were soon standing and looking down into the place his locator had said the demon was hiding.

When he had hooked up his rappelling equipment and offered her his arms, she didn’t hesitate, stepping into his embrace and enjoying the warmth of his body as he skillfully dropped them over the edge and down the face of the dam. When they reached the bottom, Buffy found herself still being held tightly, her feet a good foot off the ground as Riley murmured into her ear.

“I’ve missed you, Buffy. I’ve missed you so much – I can’t tell you how often I’ve wondered if leaving was the wrong thing to do.”

(Ya think?) Aloud, all she said was, “I tried to stop you, you know. I ran as hard as I could, and I screamed your name, but the helicopter was taking off and you couldn’t hear me.”

“You did? You tried to---oh, God, Buff. I’m so sorr-“ He was interrupted by a roar as the Sulvolte demon that he’d been chasing burst out of the shadows and leaped at them. To Buffy’s surprise and disgust, Riley quickly threw her aside and tried to meet the demon head-on. Buffy’s flight had taken her only a short distance, just far enough to allow her to orient herself and land on her feet, facing Riley and the angry Sulvolte that was now pinning him to the ground.

Rolling her eyes at Riley’s typical “I need to protect you” actions, Buffy kicked the demon away from him, following its stumbling steps and kicking it again, bringing it to its knees. While it struggled to rise, Buffy grabbed its head and twisted until she heard a satisfying “crack”.

She turned to Riley triumphantly, dusting her hands as she said, “Okay, that’s one problem solved. What else have you got?”

“Uh…” His gaze went back and forth between Buffy and the dead demon. “I guess that would be the location of her nest. I was just planning to follow her to her eggs – not kill her. Not yet, anyway.”

“Oh.” Buffy bit her lip. “Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? I mean dead momma demon means no egg hatching, right? Or, nobody to feed the babies, anyway.”

“Not exactly, Buffy. The eggs can hatch just fine by themselves if the nest is in a warm, protected place; and the baby demons are born fully functional and voracious. They will decimate the population of Sunnydale if they are allowed to hatch. We have to find them- and the dealer who is selling them. He’s known as “The Doctor”.

“Um – probably would have been good if you’d told me that before we got here,” Buffy mumbled apologetically. “You know, like, before I killed her?”

“Yeah. Got that. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you would be able to take care of her so fast…”

“Slayer. The. Remember?” Buffy’s gentle smile took the sting out of her words and the big man shook his head and smiled back at her.

“How could I forget?” he asked softly, stepping closer to her. “Look, Buffy,” he began, running his knuckles over her cheek, “I know that this isn’t the time or place, but…”

“Okay!” she interrupted suddenly. “So we need to find some demon eggs and some guy known as “The Doctor”. Do we know if he’s human or what?”

Riley swallowed his disappointment and nodded his head. “Either human or a vamp – either way he doesn’t look like a demon. Not according to my sources anyway.”

“Well then, I guess Spi—“

“Spike! Of course. That’s brilliant, Buffy! I didn’t think of him because I just assumed you would have staked him by now; but, of course, if he’s still around something like this is right up his alley. All we have to do is find him, destroy the eggs and dust him…”

“I was thinking more along the lines of asking him if he’d heard anything about somebody calling himself The Doctor,” she said dryly. “Now, how to we get out of here?”

“The same way we got in,” he answered, indicating the rappelling equipment. “It’s made to pull us back up if needed.”

Once again, Buffy found herself wrapped in the arms of the man whose departure more than a year before had left her devastated. She briefly allowed herself to remember how sweet he could be, pushing aside any comparisons between the bland, boring love-making in which they had engaged and the spontaneous, mind-blowing and creative sex to which Spike had addicted her.

When they reached the top and he once again continued to hold her, she couldn’t keep the irritation out of her voice as she reminded him that they had demon eggs to find. He nodded reluctantly -- ever the good soldier -- releasing her and getting back into the vehicle. When he headed directly to Restfield Cemetery, Buffy groaned mentally.

(Oh, this should be fun. Maybe Spike won’t be home. He probably went to Willy’s or something…I hope.)

In spite of Buffy’s best efforts, Riley continued to bring the conversation back to her confession that she had run after him when he left Sunnydale.

“But, Buffy, I don’t understand. If you aren’t seeing anyone now, and if you really didn’t want me to leave…”

“I am seeing someone, Riley. Why would you think I wasn’t?” She frowned at him with genuine confusion, knowing that she hadn’t said anything one way or the other about her love life.

“When I went by the house – to find out where you were tonight – I…I asked Willow if you were dating. She said you weren’t. That you were…depressed, and not seeing anybody.”

“Oh.” (Think, Buffy, think!) Well, it’s kind of new, and I just haven’t…Look, Willow doesn’t know everything, all right?” (Oh, good job. That’ll work.)

“Are you depressed?” She could see his psych major mind at work, and shrugged.

“I was, maybe. I’m getting over it. I am over it.”

“Maybe I could help you with it,” he offered, with a smile. “I mean - since I was the cause, it seems only fair…”

“Huh? Wha? What does my depression – which I soooo don’t have, by the way – have to do with you?” Buffy’s obvious confusion and disbelief told him that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion.

“Well, you said you didn’t want me to leave…and you’ve been depressed for months, so I just assumed…”

“Riley, do you remember what I said about things being very different here? And about dying?”

“I thought you were speaking metaphorically.”

“No,” she said flatly. “I was not speaking metaphorically. I got my ass kicked by a god, I fought a freakin’ medieval army that wanted to get to Dawn before Glory did, I closed a portal to a hell dimension the only way I could – by jumping into it. I DIED, Riley. As in dead, buried, mourned and then, thanks to my idiot friends, resurrected. I’ve got issues you can’t even imagine. AND, I’m seeing someone.”

By the time she had finished, they had pulled up near Spike’s crypt and Riley had stopped the engine. He sat in silence for a minute, then shrugged and opened his door.

“Why don’t you stay here, Buffy? I can handle Spike. I’ll make him tell me where the eggs are and then I’ll get out of your hair. I’d kind of like to meet this new guy, though. Why isn’t he around?”

Buffy opened her own door and quickly got between Riley and the crypt. “I’ll talk to Spike. Why don’t you go to Willy’s and see what you can find out there?”

“I’m staying with you,” he insisted, stubbornly. “I still want to meet this guy—“

Ignoring him, Buffy pushed open the door to Spike’s crypt, hoping fiercely that he would not be home.

(Crap! So much for that plan!)

“Hullo, love.” His smooth, deep “I want Buffy voice” came drifting over from the kitchen area. “I was wondering when you’d get here. They said at the Doublemeant that you ran off with some…” As he walked out, his shirtless torso gleaming in the candlelit room, his voice trailed off when he saw who was standing behind her. “…soldier,” he finished in a much colder voice, setting down the two glasses of wine he’d been carrying.

“Um…yeah, see, Riley showed up and he needed some help to catch a demon – and I helped. Well, except that I killed it and it turns out that wasn’t the right idea and now we need to find some eggs and some guy called The Doctor…”

“And you’re here because….?”

Riley shouldered his way into the room, accidentally bumping Buffy out of the way and earning flashing amber eyes from the vampire and a loud, “Hey!” from the slayer.

“We’re here because we know you probably have something to do with this, 'Doctor'. Where are the eggs?”

“Buffy?” Somehow Spike managed to put more into her name than she would have thought possible. She stared at him helplessly for a few seconds, then stepped closer to the glaring commando.

“Riley, I told you I didn’t think Spike was the Doctor – I said he might know something. What’s wrong with you?”

Riley looked from the shirtless vampire to the worried-looking slayer and back to the filled wine glasses that Spike had carefully placed on a table. His eyes roamed the crypt that had been so obviously a large grave the last time he’d been in it, noting the many candles, the quilts and cushions piled on the sarcophagus, the open door to what was obviously a downstairs – out of which the sounds of music were drifting.

“What’s wrong with me, Buffy, is that your friends don’t think you’re dating, you tell me you are, and this…this thing…wasn’t surprised to find you coming into his home at night. In fact, it looks like he was expecting company – female company. Do you care to explain, or should I just dust him now?”

“I don’t think either one of us owes you an explanation, soldier-boy,” the vampire growled when Buffy didn’t speak up. “You left her. Ran off to soothe your little ego, leavin’ her to face a hell-god by herself. What she does is none of your business.”

“It is if she’s doing it with you,” Riley gritted out. “I warned you, Spike. I told you if you touched her, I’d come back and use a real stake on you.” He turned to look at Buffy who was staring back and forth between the two men with wide, panicky eyes. “Buffy? I’ll give you one minute to convince me that this animal hasn’t somehow used your depression to get what he’s been wanting since last year- and then I’m going to do what I should have done before I left.”

Spike’s face was immobile, but Buffy recognized the tension in every line of his body. She wasn’t sure that a non-enhanced Riley was as fast as Spike, but he was certainly bigger and experienced in staking vampires. She moved quickly to stand in front of Spike, still without answering Riley.

“Tick tock, Buffy,” he said coldly, taking a stake out of his pocket. “You’ve got thirty seconds left—or else.“

Finally, the Slayer found her voice. “ ‘Or else’? EXCUSE me? Have you gone crazy?”

“I was crazy to leave you here without taking this thing out before I left. I should have known he’d find a way to—“

“This 'thing', as you insist on calling him, stayed to help me fight a hellgod after you ran off. He was tortured almost to death because he wouldn’t tell Glory who the key was. He was stabbed and thrown off a tower trying to save Dawn’s life. And he stayed again – taking care of my little sister just like he’d promised me he would. He did that while I was dead and buried – really not good girlfriend material. When I…came back… he was the only one to let me be miserable, even before he knew where I’d been. He didn’t insist that I be all grateful and happy, he didn’t get all mad when I wasn’t jumping for joy about being alive again, and he never…ever…asked for anything in return except to be able to help me feel better about being here.”

She stopped talking, taking deep gulping breaths and trying to control the angry trembling in her body. Riley misunderstood the trembling and moved closer to her saying in a soothing voice, “It’s all right Buffy. I understand that you don’t want to stake him. That you’re grateful to him. That’s why I’m going to do it for you. Once he’s gone, you’ll realize how wrong this is and you can—“

“Spike,” Buffy said tightly, “go downstairs, please.”

“Oh no, you don’t, Slayer. ‘m not hiding behind your skirts…” His voice was filled with righteous indignation, even as he edged towards the ladder.

“I’m not asking you to hide behind my skirts,” she purred. “I’m asking you to go down to the bedroom and light some candles. I’ll be right down.”

“Oh, well that’s different then,” he agreed with a smirk in Riley’s direction. “Don’t be long, love. You know how impatient I get…”

“Don’t push it,” she warned with a meaningful glare over her shoulder before turning back to Riley whose face appeared to be taking on a purplish tinge.

“Now, Riley, since you seem to be so fond of ultimatums, let me give you one; I’ll give you three seconds to get out of this crypt, thirty seconds to get out of the cemetery, and, oh, say, ten minutes to get out of my town. We’ll find your ‘doctor’ and his eggs and take care of them.”

“You said an ultimatum,” Riley said stiffly. “What if I don’t?”

“Then,” she said sweetly, “I’ll shove that stake somewhere you really don’t want it and throw you into the first vamp nest I can find.”

To the man’s credit, he didn’t argue or insist that she didn’t mean it; he just spun on his heel and left the building without closing the door behind him. Visions of the way she had snapped the neck of the Sulvolte demon kept him moving as he saw her silhouette outlined against the open door, watching him until the had turned the car and driven out of sight.

With a sigh, she closed the heavy wooden door and dropped the bar across. A sound from the other side of the room brought her head around and she met Spike’s eyes as he slowly rose out of the entrance to his bedroom. He walked over to her, reaching a tentative hand towards her face but only ghosting it over her cheek without touching her.

“You alright, pet?” His obvious concern for her when he could have been angry about her bringing Riley into his home was all the reassurance that she needed that she had done the right thing.

“I’m fine,” she said, brushing her lips against his mouth. “I’m just fine. But I guess it’s time to tell my friends that I have a boy friend before they start fixing me up with blind dates.”

The End