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The Ring Talks

Part 2: Under Construction

Chapter 18: Cluck Cluck

I stare down into my coffee cup. The silence has gotten awkward. I’m trying to come up with a convincing lie, but everything I think of sounds stupid. Now would be a really good time for a demon to attack the Espresso Pump, to provide a distraction.

“Buffy, it’s not a difficult question. What did you want with Dr. Rodgers?”

I take a deep breath. “We needed him to correct a problem, before the Initiative could leave it behind.”

Riley narrows his eyes at me. I think he’s figured out where this is going. “What kind of problem?”

“You could remove your own chip, Ry. Spike couldn’t.”

“You made him remove Hostile 17’s chip?” His voice has gotten kind of high. I guess he’s surprised, but I don’t understand why. He knew the Scoobies had some affiliation with Spike, even if he didn’t know much about the details. He should’ve expected us to do something like this.

I cross my arms over my chest and lean back in the booth. “I made Rodgers undo the crime against nature he’d performed, yes.”

“So a vampire who -by your own word- is as infamous and dangerous as Angel used to be, is running loose in Sunnydale.” He leans forward across the table, locking his eyes with mine. “Have you lost your mind?”

“No.” I finish my coffee and slide toward the edge of the booth. “But I should get going. I’m supposed to meet him at my Mom’s at nine.”

His eyes get wide. “You’re going out with him?!”

“Yeah. Patrol. Maybe some food.”

There goes that high pitch again. His voice is almost squeaky. “Like a date?”

I’d probably be squeaky, too, if I tried to say that. “Like a patrol partner.”

I’m chickening out. I can’t help it. I’m not ready to say the D word about Spike, even if it’s kind of accurate. Not even to Riley. Cluck, cluck, cluck. Cowardice, thy name is Buffy.

But if I know I’m being a coward about this, does that mean we are D-wording? Have I already made that decision?

“You trust him enough for that?”

“He’s not going back to killing humans or hunting slayers, Ry. But he still needs an outlet. It’s necessary. You know that twitchy feeling when you haven’t had a good fight in a while?”

“Actually, I don’t.”

“Well, I do, and it sucks. So he can take his violent urges out on demons, just like I do.” I shrug. “If making my job easier will help keep Spike in line, it’s a win-win.”

“You’re comparing yourself to a demon.”

“Only a little.” I glance up at the clock on the wall behind the counter. “So was there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

“Um, yeah, actually. About us. About that stuff you said, me not getting you as a slayer?” He follows my gaze to the clock. “But maybe you need to get home, before your mom accidentally invites the un-chipped vampire into the house.”

“Not an issue. If I’m late, they’ll just hang out in the kitchen and talk.”

Riley’s mouth hangs open at the implications. “He already has an invitation? And he knows your mom?”

I nod. “For two years, in both cases. They’re kind of friends. …So what were you saying about my life as the slayer?”

There’s another awkward silence as he processes this. “That you’re right. I don’t get it.” He slides out of the booth and stands in front of me for a minute, looking for words. “Have a good patrol. …And Buffy? Watch your back around him.”

I smile, trying to ease the tension. “I’ll be fine. I’ll see you at the Scoobies’ Bronze night tomorrow?”

“My flight home to Iowa leaves early the next morning, so no. I’ll see you in a month.” He shifts his weight. “Maybe we can talk more then?”

“If you want to.” I stand up to hug him goodbye. “Have a good trip.”

I can’t help but feel a sense of relief. Riley’s constant pushing for me to open a ‘we could get back together’ door is starting to make me dread seeing him. I don’t hate him, and I’m really happy we had a quiet, friendly break up, but he’s on the verge of totally ruining it. The next four weeks are going to feel like I’m the one on vacation.

Actually, as quiet as the Hellmouth usually is in summer, I kind of will be on vacation. No Riley. No school. Minimal demon activity. And lots of free time to figure out if I should be saying the D word.


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