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Previous Chapter: Intoxication
Next Chapter: Retribution

It wasn’t hard to find the place he was looking for once he’d honed in on the energy of the abomination. 

Abomination…. It was a word the other Aesir had used often enough to speak of three of Loki’s children. Jormungandr, Fenris, and his darling girl Hel. They weren’t abominations. Merely misunderstood. 

But this… creature? This travesty committed against demon kind? A true abomination. Order and chaos. Two forces that twisted and twined together as part of all that was natural and right. Chaos could be tamed. Order could be upended. But each always, always danced to its own tune. 

And now a supposed servant of order had reached into the dance of chaos to pluck forth bits and pieces, slapping them together with the confidence born of being oh so certain that she knew what she was doing.

He’d half a mind to find the woman responsible and give her a fitting punishment, but… he’d let the lover mages handle that. It was, after all, part of the bargain.

He popped in, easy as could be. For all their security protocols, they hadn’t bothered with even the simplest of protection or warding spells. Knowing the kinds of things they got up to, it wasn’t surprising. Probably saw magic use as a sign of demonic whatever. Simpletons.

Monitors beeped steadily, computers whirring all around the room. The lights flickered when he appeared, everything in the room pausing for just a moment before continuing as if nothing had happened. Like a God hadn’t just materialized out of thin air.

And there, on a table in the middle of it all, was the centerpiece. A testament to humanity’s lust for power. Part human, part machine. Many parts of demons without a care what they truly were. A patchwork of shoddy stitching and the marvel of technology. Loki was sure that this thing was the pride and joy of somebody’s life work. 

A very disturbed somebody.

Normally, he stayed out of human affairs. They were occasionally entertaining, and offered sweets and such. But this creature…  well, there was only one thing to be done about it. As sad as that was. 

The air crackled, and the lights went out completely. Bolts of lightning sprang forth, flying around the room and striking the creature. It only took a moment, and it was done.

The computers and monitors sent jolts of electricity flying from their damaged parts. The beeping and whirring had stopped. And the Frankenstein creature on the table? 

Well… 

Toast. With jelly on the side.

A wicked grin spread across Loki’s face as a siren started blaring overhead. With that taken care of, it was probably about time to pop back in on the gents who’d summoned him. A snap of his fingers, and then he was gone.

A moment later…

The sound of flesh meeting flesh and the pleasured sounds that accompanied such things met his ears. It seemed that sealing their deal hadn’t stopped with a kiss.

Excellent. Nothing more chaotic than a man giving in to his primal desires. 

Loki had intended only to open a door with his request. Not an entire flood gate. No matter, of course. The more the reserved man gave in, the more entertainment there would be.

“Pardon the interruption, gentlemen.” The sounds came to a sudden halt at the sound of his voice. “Merely wanted to inform you, the matter with three fourteen has been resolved, as promised. And I can see that you’re holding up your end, so to speak. Very nice view, by the way. I can see the appeal.”

Rupert smirked at that comment. Hmm. Something certainly had shifted in him, hadn’t it?

“I’ll leave this here and be out of your hair. A locket. Containing all the oomph you could possibly need. Enjoy, gentlemen. Although, you clearly don’t need my permission for such things.”

 

***

 

It had two days since he’d been able to check in on her and smuggle her some real food from the mess hall. Walsh hadn’t said anything about it, but he knew she knew. She always did. But Buffy couldn’t keep living on pre-chewed, practically liquid soup whatever forever, and now that she was really hurt, she’d need the nutrition more than ever.

 He’d tried to keep himself distracted. Occupied. Any reason not to think about… any of it. Not about watching her take that hit, and then get up and keep fighting while she bled. Not about the vampire, fighting to keep her away from them. Him carrying her back to their shared cell. Or anything that happened after.

But for all his attempts to not think about it, it was all that was on his mind.

Which was why he’d agreed to the party. He was obligated now. He knew that, and it was too late to cancel it. But truth be told, he wasn’t much in the partying mood. Even if there were cute girls there that nervously stuttered and made sidelong glances at him while biting their bottom lip. So he’d decided to stay in his room, feigning illness, and think things over. He couldn’t avoid it any longer.

The vampire’s words had struck a chord. Saying he was no better than a nazi. That he knew right from wrong. And the thing was… he’d made a good point. Taking Buffy in like that, it hadn’t set right from the very beginning. She seemed so human, he couldn’t believe she was anything but. Couldn’t see her as a monster. Not the way the others did. Not the way Walsh did. And he did know, deep down, that her being in there wasn’t right.

But he was just a foot soldier. Commander, with no real authority. No control over what the others did. And as long as they were doing it to monsters, Walsh didn’t care. And for a while, Riley hadn’t either. After all, they were just… Murderers, or worse. Who cared if they got roughed up a little more than necessary, as long as they were in good enough shape for Engleman to take apart and study.

It was for the greater good, right? Keeping civilians safe. Learn weaknesses and use them. So that less lives were lost, and people could walk safely at night.

But with Buffy…

According to what he’d read about Slayers, she was the good guy. The best weapon in the world against vampires and demons and all the things that went bump in the night. And with her locked in the Initiative, how many people had died unnecessarily? Had they saved as many as she would have? Something in the back of his mind told him… Sunnydale needed her out there.

The world needed her.

She wasn’t like anybody he’d ever met before. She was more. And even if she was the Slayer or whatever, she didn’t belong in a lab, superhuman strength or not. He realized that now, a bit too late. Much too late. And in the struggle to reconcile that with the situation at hand…

He’d decided to help her. Somehow. How, he wasn’t entirely sure. He’d have to plan, and let her know somehow what he was going to do, and there were so many risks and obstacles. Security cameras, guards, witnesses, locked doors that required specific codes to get through. Everything would have to go perfectly. 

And when did that ever happen?

He didn’t know what he could do at that point to make up for everything she’d gone through. Everything he’d caused. Getting her out in one piece would be a good start, right? Then she could thank him for reaching her, and he could get her to a safe house, and she could start forgiving him. He still held out hope that maybe, when it was all over and done with, that maybe… Just maybe… she might be inclined to kiss him like she had before.

Even if she had let the vampire touch her. Slayers were supposed to kill demons. Not socialize with them and let them… she let him feed from her. Willingly gave him blood. And not just… not like the first time. But still…

She was just in a bad situation, he reminded himself. Certain things were to be expected. She was using the vampire as a coping mechanism, that was all. Taking comfort where she could get it. And the vampire was starving. He’d do whatever he had to, to get fresh blood. Even if that meant cozying up to somebody he claimed to want dead.

What he’d seen, though… he tried to push it from his mind. The way she’d looked, laid out under that bleach blonde parasite while he grinded himself against her. How pliant and blissful and… like she was enjoying it as much as the vampire. Maybe more. She hadn’t even tried to make an excuse for it.

Somehow, over the course of just a couple of weeks… seventeen had wormed his way into her, getting her to trust him.

“Riley?” 

There was a knock on his door, jarring him from his thoughts. The voice on the other side was so familiar. Willow, he realized. A wave of panic shot through him. It was bad enough seeing her in class every day, knowing the things that were happening to her best friend. But being alone in the same room together? He wasn’t sure he could keep himself composed for that.

Not right now, with so much on his mind.

“Can I come in? It’s… really important.”

“I’m not feeling real great right now,” he lied, “Can it wait?” 

He jumped out of bed and tiptoed over to the door, pressing his weight against it to keep her from trying to open it. He could have just turned the lock, but he didn’t want her to hear. 

“Not really?” She paused a beat, then continued. “it’s about that assignment for professor Walsh’s class? I could really use some advice on it.”

“Can I do a raincheck? Meet you tomorrow for lunch or something?” Somewhere more public at least, where he could look anywhere but in her eyes.

He’d been able to avoid talking to her for weeks. Skirting out of the lecture hall before she’d even had her books gathered. Ducking into doorways when he’d seen her coming. Taking meals at different times. But now, it seemed, his luck had run out and he’d have to face her.

“Uh, yeah. That sounds great. Can I meet you here and we can go someplace else?”

“Yeah, yeah. Sure, Willow. Um, three o’clock? I’ll be free then.”

“I’ll see you then.” Silence. Not even the sound of her walking away. Then, “Feel better.”

Guilt stabbed at him, and he almost opened the door to call her back. What would he even say to her? To the girl who had threatened him with a shovel when he’d gone to her, asking how to win Buffy’s heart? I know you were worried I might hurt her, but you don’t understand. She’s super strong, so I thought she was some kind of monster.

Yeah, great idea. Reveal his own secret to a civilian while also filling Buffy’s best friend in on her secret. God, he couldn’t do this. But what choice did he have? He was her TA. He had to meet with her. And when he did…. If she asked about Buffy….

He wouldn’t be able to lie to her. Not looking her right in the face while she anxiously worried about her friend. If she asked… he’d tell her everything.


***

 

She’d managed to act almost normal about it. Not at all like she was leading Riley to a trap, or engaging in subterfuge or anything suspicious at all. She was just a college student, meeting with her TA to discuss an upcoming class related thing. Maybe she needed it explained more clearly? Or maybe she needed advice on what that lying bitch Walsh expected? 

God, it had been so hard to keep attending that class, not hexing the harpy every chance she had. Acting like the woman in front of her wasn’t holding Buffy hostage. And doing whatever horrible, unspeakable, unthinkable things to her. 

Willow still wasn’t entirely convinced that Riley was actively involved. He’d been trying to woo Buffy right before all this. Talk to her. Get her trust. Even asked Willow for advice about it! Why go through all that if he was just going to… 

Was it just part of a cover, like secret agents always had? And he’d done it to throw her off the trail? She was so confused. By everything. 

But she trusted Tara. Her instincts. She’d said Riley’s sweater was the one from her vision. That even if he weren’t directly involved in whatever was happening, he had to know something useful. Probably a lot useful.

And that meant bringing him to Giles and Ethan, for a truth spell. They’d get to the bottom of things. Figure out what was what and who was who.

She led Riley up into the courtyard, and could see Giles waiting just inside. Ready to… Do whatever he had planned to subdue Riley long enough to tie him to a chair. Maybe some kind of spell. She was uneasy about it all, but watching a new spell was at least something to look forward to. Along with hopefully making progress on rescuing Buffy.

“This — this is where I get all of my good studying done,” she babled, trying to keep Riley from thinking anything was weird. “Kind of a, a home away from home!” She opened the door slowly, then gestured for Riley to go in before her. “Make yourself comfortable. We’ve got-” 

And as soon as he stepped over the threshold, Giles clubbed him over the head with a metal pipe. He fell to the floor in a heap, thankfully far enough inside that she wouldn’t have to help drag him the rest of the way. 

“A crowbar. We’ve got a crowbar. Giles, did you really need a crowbar?”

She knew there was a darker side to the ex-Watcher, but this? He’d just… whacked him over the head without even asking anything.

“I’ve got a mace, as well. Well, Ethan’s got it. We were really expecting him to put up some kind of fight. Nevertheless. Thank you, Willow. We’ll take it from here.” 

“I-I thought I could help with the truth spell…”

“I think you’ll find that entirely unnecessary. Ethan and I are… Plenty capable, I assure you. I’ll call you when we have information. Until then…”

“Oh… uh, yeah.” She nodded, feeling weird and unnerved. She’d been hoping to help with some magic. Not to just deliver Riley to… whatever this was. “I… I know, keep researching. I got it.”

“Yes.” He gave her a quick smile. “We’ll get to the bottom of this. And get Buffy back. Until then, all any of us can do is keep working on the leads we have.”

That… sort of made sense, she supposed. Everybody had their own little projects they were working on. She and Tara had the spell researching, which Anya was supposed to be helping with but she and Xander were busy doing… things that were better left not imagining. 

And she’d thought Giles would have sent Ethan packing once he gave up the information he had but… there was something weird going on there, too. She got the kind of vibe… no. Giles wouldn’t. 

She put the thought from her mind. There was no way Giles would be delving back into the kind of magic he and Ethan used to get into. It was too dangerous, and he knew that. He was just feeling the effects of the stress, or something. That’s why he hadn’t wasted time with Riley.

“Good luck, Giles. I’m gonna go meet up with Tara. She said she had something for me, so maybe it’ll be good news.”

“We can only hope.” He paused, looking down at the unconscious body on his floor, then back up at her. “Now, if you don’t mind, we’ve got work to do.”

“Oh, yeah. Of course. I’ll, just, uh… I’ll just go?”

He shut the door in her face without another word, and the sound of the locks clicking into place followed immediately after. The whole thing left her feeling even more disturbed than the way he’d knocked Riley out. She couldn’t help but wonder what exactly he meant by ‘work’.

She stood there staring at the locked door for a long moment before finally deciding that… Well, it was Giles. It wasn’t like he was going to just kill somebody, right? He probably just figured they were on a time limit before Riley woke back up, and wanted to have him tied up before then.

And being that Riley was pretty big, and probably heavy, and Giles and Ethan weren’t exactly the heavy lifting types… Getting Riley dragged up onto a chair was going to be difficult. Right?

Right!

She shook the worry from her mind, trying to focus on more positive things. A meet up with Tara, which meant magic would happen. And maybe she’d finally get up the courage to tell her… 

And if not, they’d still be spending time together, which was always of the good. And maybe they’d come across a spell to like, freeze a bunch of people in place? Something helpful to Buffy.

She turned and walked away, a little pep in her step now. Everything was going to be fine.

 


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Previous Chapter: Intoxication
Next Chapter: Retribution

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