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Could Be You ~ Chapter 12

Author: Abby
Title: Could Be You
Chapter: 12
Previous Chapters Here
Setting: Season 5
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Sexual Situations, language, bloodplay
Summary:  You know you wanna dance.  Spike knew it, the fans knew it, and this time, Buffy knew it, too.  Begins in the alley scene outside the Bronze during Fool for Love and moves swiftly off-canon.
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em.  I’m just borrowing them for a while.  Not for profit and no copyright infringement intended.
Beta & Banner: xtanitx (thank you so very  much for both, darling.)

NOTE:
I'm dedicating this chapter to the amazing, wonderful, fantastic, awesome, and super incredibly dreadfully horribly swamped with work dampersnspoons.  This fic wouldn't be what it is without her help and guidance.  Everyone please send good, workload-reducing thoughts her way, because it's just not fair, damn it!  All work and no play makes Dampers not happy!

Could Be You
Chapter 12
*~*


It felt as though an invisible fist reached into her chest and squeezed her lungs until nothing remained but a fierce, burning pain.  The rage blazing in Riley’s eyes sent a glacial shiver down Buffy’s spine, and though something inside her screamed for her to move, to act, to do something, she stood riveted to the floor as everything came tumbling down around her.

He’s going to kill him. 

The words were a mantra in her head as she stood motionless, stuck inside a body built for action that failed her when she needed it most.  The fingers clamped down around her heart like a vise as Spike struggled to his feet, eyes shining with tears.

With betrayal.

“Spike...”

Buffy couldn’t hear his words for the sound of the world grinding to a painful halt.  A mournful whimper she couldn’t stop trickled from her lips as Spike turned away from her and moved down the steps in slow motion.

The door slammed shut, shaking the walls and rattling through her insides until the emotions holding her hostage crumbled to dust and fell away.  In their place rose a hot, prickling wave surging up from her gut until it pounded like a drum behind her eyes and set her flesh on fire. 

Riley turned to face her, misplaced triumph twisting his mouth into an unrecognizable smirk.  He started to speak, but Buffy brought her hand up so quickly his lips snapped shut and he flinched backward.

“Shut. Up,” she said, clenching her teeth so hard her jaw ached.  “Don’t you dare say another word.”

Muffled footsteps sounded overhead and she turned her eyes toward the ceiling, her thoughts whirling, spinning like a top inside her head as her brain struggled to catch up to what happened. 

“Buffy—”

His voice was jarring, grating. Buffy threw her hand up again, stopping him mid-step.  “If you upset her, Riley, I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” he said, his tone more derisive that she’d ever heard him.  “Sic your pet vampire on me?

“My pet—” Her body trembled hard and her face burned as she forced a deep breath of air into her still aching lungs.  “You’re out of line.”

“Am I?”

Something else crept into his voice, jabbing a gaping hole in her anger.  Buffy dug her fingernails into her palms, willing the pain to cover the weeping little wound, to maintain the edge that was the only thing keeping her standing.

“Get out,” she said, turning away, unable and unwilling to look at him for another second.

Whatever Riley said in response was lost to the pounding of her feet as she ran up the stairs.  Hot tears blurred her vision before she was halfway up, and she detoured once she reached the second floor, hoping Dawn could manage without her while she got control of her emotions.  Her mother couldn’t see her like this, not tonight, not now when Buffy needed to be stronger than ever.

The smell of sex assaulted her when she opened her bedroom door, and she raced to the window, opening it to the night.  The cool air, soothing and welcomed, rushed over her flaming cheeks and for a second or two before she opened her eyes, it didn’t hurt so much to breathe.

Spike looked up at her from the shadow of the tree.  She couldn’t see his face, only the glint of his eyes as they unerringly met hers.  She wanted to call out to him but the words caught in her throat, trapped inside the rapidly growing lump she couldn’t swallow.  She could only stare after him as he turned and walked away.

Her bedroom door clicked shut.

“We need to talk,” said Riley in a quiet voice that made her neck prickle. 

Buffy stared after Spike’s retreating back and said, without turning around, “What could you possibly have to say that you haven’t already?”

“I don’t even know anymore, Buffy,” he said, still in that same low tone.  “I don’t know you anymore.”

Buffy turned from the window, a shiver of irritation zinging through her when she found him sitting on her bed.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You tell me,” Riley answered.  “I hardly see you, Buffy.  Haven’t been with you in days.”

Buffy’s head pounded harder, and she squeezed her eyes shut a moment against the pain.  “I have to look after my mom.”

Riley let out a snorting laugh, so bitter she could nearly taste it.  “Yeah, there’s always something with you.”

“So I should just abandon her?” Buffy asked, tightening her arms across her chest as she moved to stand in front of him.  “What do you think she’d be doing if it were me, or Dawn?”

“I get it, she needs you,” Riley said, rising to his feet with his hands on his hips.  “But what next?  Willow needs you?  Xander?  Spike?  I need you, too, Buffy, but when does it end?”

The lump in her throat grew a little thicker, the heat in her face a little hotter.  While she blinked her eyes rapidly, attempting to twist her tongue around some sort of response, Riley came forward until barely a foot of space separated them.

“I understand this, I do,” he said, pointing toward her mother’s bedroom.  “I know she needs your help right now, but after that, even when she’s back to normal, it’ll be the same old thing, won’t it?  I don’t see why you can’t just take a break, let somebody else shoulder the load sometimes.  Why you can’t just let me in? 

Buffy wanted to scream, to growl her throat raw, or throw something delicate and watch it smash into a million pieces.  There weren’t many more ways of saying the same old thing, and yet no matter what she did, Riley just wouldn’t or couldn’t understand.

Buffy stepped backward and held out her arms.  “This is me, Riley,” she said, in a rasping whisper that somehow seemed to echo through the room.  “The only me.  I can’t take a break from who I am just to soothe your ego.”

“Not about my ego,” he muttered, moving toward the window.

Buffy let her arms fall to her sides and tipped her face up toward the ceiling.  “Well you could have fooled me.”

“It’s not!” Riley spun back around with such speed Buffy had to resist the urge to back up.  “I try to be there for you, Buffy, but you send me away to play with your friends.”

“I needed you to help with patrol,” Buffy said, flinging her arm out toward the window.  “And you couldn’t even do that.  Giles told me about tonight’s no-show.”

“Well maybe I had better things to do than be conveniently out of your way!” he said, picking up Mr. Gordo from the bed and throwing him at the vanity. 

The mirror vibrated from the impact and Riley tried to press forward into Buffy’s personal space, but stopped as she levelled him with a hard stare. 

“You don’t need me, Buffy, that’s the thing,” he said, shoulders slumping as he wilted backward.  “And you can’t even pretend to anymore.”

Her stomach clenched and cramped as though she’d been sucker-punched in the gut.  The room spun slowly on its axis, threatening to tip the floor out from under her feet.  A scream scratched its way into her throat but she swallowed it, though it clawed at her on the way down.

“What do you want me to say?”  Buffy retrieved her wounded pig and hugged him to her chest.  “What’s the magic word, Riley?”

He didn’t answer.  He wouldn’t even look at her as he sat back down on the end of her bed, just stared at his feet as though she wasn’t even in the room. 

The door opened and Dawn walked in, not attempting to make her entrance anything but obtrusive.  Dawn’s eyes met Buffy’s for a split second before she turned and shot Riley a scathing look.

“Is Mom okay?”

“She’s fine,” Dawn said, still staring at Riley.  “No thanks to him.”

Riley’s face was unreadable as he met Dawn’s death glare.  “Don’t get involved in things you don’t understand, Dawn.”

Dawn’s hands slid to her hips and her lips tightened into a thin line.  “I heard everything you said, Riley, and I understand exactly what happened.”

Dawn turned, missing the furrowed-brow confusion on Riley’s face.  She met Buffy’s eyes, softening her expression so much she could almost have been a different person.  When she spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper. 

“Mom’s okay,” she said, standing close in front of Buffy.  “I told her you took care of the monster and I gave her one of the yellow pills.  She’s sleeping now. I just came to make sure you were okay.”

Buffy swiped at the moisture in her eyes and pulled Dawn forward for a quick hug.  “Thank you,” she whispered in Dawn’s ear.

“Want me to stay?”

Buffy did, but also knew that Dawn’s presence would solve nothing.  The significance of the offer wasn’t lost on her.  Tension wound around and between her and Riley, an elastic band pulling tighter and tighter until eventually, it was going to snap and knock them both down.  Dawn knew it—knew better than Riley how bad it was going to get—and it took guts to want to stick around in sisterly support.

“This is my mess to clean up,” Buffy said, with a rush of gratitude for her sister.   “You go look after Mom.”

Dawn just nodded and stepped away, making sure to send another scary glare toward Riley before leaving the room.

Buffy waited until the door clicked shut before facing Riley again.  He stared back at her, dry eyes refusing to betray his feelings to her.  If it weren’t for the tension in his jaw, she would have thought he felt nothing at all.  Buffy searched his face for some sign, some clue to tell her when and why and how this stranger had replaced her solid, dependable boyfriend.

A heart-pounding wave of dizziness came over her, rising up from her chest and sweeping over her head like a shroud.  Buffy squeezed her eyes shut against the sensation of the floor falling out from under her, and slid heavily down on the chair as her thoughts whirled and danced and coalesced inside her head.

That was a lie.  There was no stranger, even if the face staring back at her looked foreign under a new light.  He hadn’t changed, not really.  The lack of Initiative enhancements only brought out what was already there.  Not wrong or right or new at all, just Riley.  Normal, All-American Riley, who needed so much more from Buffy than she could ever give.

“Buffy?”

She blinked her eyes open.  Riley was looking at her with a hint of concern, his hands braced on the bed as though preparing to propel him up and to her rescue.

Buffy let out her captive breath and said, “I’m sleeping with Spike.”

Nothing happened for so long Buffy wondered if she only imagined saying the words.  Then slowly, Riley’s hands left the bed to settle, trembling, in his lap.  He swallowed, Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat.

“Why?”

She had imagined—dreaded—this moment countless times since that first momentous kiss behind the Bronze, but Buffy hadn’t predicted this lack of anger, the strange calmness in his voice as he asked his question and waited, unblinking, for her to respond.

“I…”

She didn’t know how to answer him, even if she could find the words. Buffy suspected the whys of her and Spike ran deeper than she could ever dream, and she could hardly explain it all to Riley when she was only just beginning to sort it out herself.  Dragging her gaze from his, Buffy got up from the chair and walked to the window.  Except for the light breeze, nothing moved outside.  Inside, Buffy heard the shifting of fabric as Riley stood and the soft swish of the carpet beneath his feet as he walked toward her. 

An arm’s length away from her he stopped. In the glass of the window, his reflection reached out and the air buzzed around her neck, but he didn’t touch.  The two pinpricks that normally flared with heat now ached with a sudden chill, and Riley’s arm fell back to his side.

“Did it hurt?”

Buffy hadn’t survived as long as she had by relying on predictability, but once again Riley’s reaction surprised her.  She turned slowly, brows drawing together as she faced him.

“Did it hurt when he bit you?” he asked again, fists clenching and unclenching in front of him.

A little gust of wind burst through the window, and Buffy wrapped her arms around her stomach to ward off the cold.  That’s your question?”

Even if Riley heard her response, he didn’t acknowledge it.  He kept on talking, pulling at his fingers with violent tugs.  “No, he couldn’t do it unless you wanted it.  Of course you wanted it, just like you wanted the others.  Because you know they need you and you get off on that, don’t you?”

Buffy opened her mouth to reply, but said nothing.  Riley was staring through her as he spoke, a faraway look in his eyes that made even less sense than his words.  A prickly sensation crept over her scalp and trailed down her spine in an ominous shiver.

“You think I don’t get it,” Riley said, his gaze retreating from wherever it was to meet hers at last.  “You think I can’t understand because I’m not like you.  But I get it now, Buffy.  I do.”

She was missing something here, something vital hidden in Riley’s words that she couldn’t quite grasp.  The prickling intensified in a way that usually meant something was going to happen—something she wasn’t going to like.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Something flared in Riley’s eyes as he stared at her and though she wanted to look away, the force of what she saw there held her riveted to the spot.  Riley gripped his turtleneck and tugged so hard the black fabric ripped, exposing three, maybe four sets of fang marks in various stages of healing.  His finger grazed the freshest set and the change in his face was instantaneous—hard, furious eyes drifted shut, tense jaw relaxed until his lips parted and she could almost hear the moan threatening to spill into the crackling air around them.

The giggle surprised her, rising up with the same burning ache as the scream she withheld only minutes ago.  With an almost out-of-body sensation of detachment, Buffy watched bliss fall from Riley’s face.  It wasn’t funny, not even in the most twisted sense of the word, but the longer she stared at the marks on his neck, the harder she laughed, until her eyes became so clouded with tears that everything, Riley, his bitten neck and confused face, was just a big, runny, jumbled mess.

In the next breath, the giggling collapsed into something more like a sob, except she buried that, too, right down her aching throat with the rest of it.  This wasn’t happening.  Riley, of all people, knew better than that.  Bite me once, shame on me, bite me twice...or three, or four, or five times—

When she rubbed the moisture from her eyes they were still there, tiny spots of deep red glaring at her with a truth more painful than fiction or stupid sayings or the sting of the bites themselves.

What did you do?”

It took a moment for Riley to snap out of the trance her laugher put him under.  He roused with a jolt that sent him pacing across the room, mouth flapping as he recounted the vilest story Buffy thought she had ever heard.

When he finished, Riley came up in front of her, the gleaming madness in his eyes a fair substitute for his frantic pacing. 

“They needed me,” he said, as though that would explain, or excuse, or make her understand his colossal stupidity.  “Me and only me.  All of me.”

“They needed dinner!” she said, her stomach roiling with nausea.  “Smart of them, really.  Why go out to hunt when the food delivers itself?  How could you be so stupid?”

Riley’s gaze slid pointedly toward her neck.  “You tell me.”

Buffy clenched her fists hard, nearly drawing blood with her fingernails.  “Don’t you even try to compare Spike to your—your whores.  This is different.”

Riley no longer looked mad, just angry, but Buffy wasn’t sure which she preferred. 

“How?” he asked, stopping just short of seizing her by the shoulders.

Buffy lowered her hands, which she raised to deflect Riley’s hold, and set them firmly at her hips.  “Spike loves me.”

Riley shrank back, looking so small and pitiful despite his actual size.  I love you.”

“You love the idea of me.” Where the thought came from, Buffy didn’t know, but she couldn’t fault the truth of it.  “But you don’t even know me at all.”

“I know what you felt when he fed,” Riley whispered.

Buffy tried to picture it, to imagine the ecstasy Riley claimed at being needed, being used by these faceless, despicable excuses for vampires who cared nothing at all about him except that the right kind of blood flowed through his veins.  She tried to grasp onto the logic, the reasoning that somehow, something in her was so lacking she couldn’t hope to make Riley feel as whole or alive as the dead things who fed on him.  She remembered Spike’s fangs piercing her neck and a shiver passed over her, a memory of the fire, the warmth, the vitality and connection of the moment that just could not be confined into Riley’s cold, greedy notion of feeding.

She tried to process it, but it just wouldn’t take.

“No,” she said, slowly.  “You don’t.”

They fell into silence.  Riley stood like a statue in the center of her room, but her eyes no longer saw strength or security in his size.

“You needed somebody to take care of, somebody to need you,” Buffy said, thankful in a detached sort of way that Riley did nothing but stand there and listen.  “So you offered yourself up to the prettiest bloodsucker you can find.  Spike and I are nothing like that.”

Riley scowled, but didn’t move.  “At least I didn’t fuck her in your bed.”

Buffy snorted.  “No, but I betcha you did it in hers.”

His lack of denial was all the answer she needed, and while she shouldn’t be surprised, the truth settled cold and heavy and aching in her heart. 

“I need somebody who can accept what I am without trying to make me feel guilty about it,” Buffy said, pressing forward before she lost the courage to voice the words screaming to get out of her head.

Riley opened his mouth to speak, but Buffy cut him off.  “You needed me helpless and I’m not.  I needed you there, and you weren’t.”

Riley sighed, a breath as full of feeling as it was final.  His body sagged, shrinking from the statue into a crumpled, fallen soldier.  “And Spike was.”

“And Spike was.”  Buffy looked toward the window, remembering how the moon shone off Spike’s back as he walked away.  “Riley, you need to leave.”

He stammered a reply.  Something about tomorrow, about coffee, about trading more useless words that would only lead right back to where they were now.

“No,” she said, not caring that he was still trying to speak.  “I mean leave.  Go.  Because I can’t even look at your face anymore without feeling completely disgusted.” 

Riley didn’t move.

“We’re done,” Buffy said.  “You need to go.  Now.”

“You’re making a mistake!” He jumped forward, suddenly animated, gripping her shoulders as he didn’t dare before.  “We just need to work through this, talk it out.  Don’t throw away what we have, Buffy!”

All they had were holes.  The ones in their necks and the cold black one growing in her heart.

Her feelings for Riley were bleeding now, aching and sore and mixed up in emotions of the night, but the confusion couldn’t hide the truth, what she’d known all along but hadn’t let herself acknowledge.  Riley loved her, but Buffy didn’t love him, and any chance of that ever changing was long gone.

“Go,” was all she could say, before wrenching free from his grasp and turning back to face the window.

When the front door slammed shut, Buffy spun and fell onto her unmade bed that still smelled of Spike.  Heavy, breath-stealing sobs shook her body and the scream finally clawed its way to the surface, tearing past her throat until all of her was raw and wasted.  Tears soaked into the bedding, hot and violent and endless, and Buffy curled into herself and wept.

*~*


>>to be continued in chapter 13

 

 

Comments

( 9 have spoken — take the speaking stick )
kaitlyn_lehman
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Amazing update!
abelina
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks!!
kaitlyn_lehman
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
I got all excited for it while I was skyping with my friend and now she thinks I'm crazy
fangfaceandrea
Jan. 13th, 2011 04:06 am (UTC)
Mind has been blown away.
One of the best takes on th Biley break up I've read. I loved the rage that dissolved into giggles and then emptiness. Just brilliant! and for as much as I loath Riley, this kinda made me feel sad for him, which is to say a lot.

abelina
Jan. 17th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
You flatter me, thank you. And I'm glad you feel a little bad for Riley -- you were supposed to, just a little, even though he's far from the innocent victim here. Thanks!
sarian71
Jan. 15th, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
Amazing chapter! Hands down the best Buffy/Riley breakup scene I've ever read. I loved the intensity of it. I think I almost forgot to breathe, especially when I was reading this:

"Buffy let out her captive breath and said, “I’m sleeping with Spike.”

Nothing happened for so long Buffy wondered if she only imagined saying the words. Then slowly, Riley’s hands left the bed to settle, trembling, in his lap. He swallowed, Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat.


And I loved the repeat of the end of the last chapter, this time from Buffy's pov!
abelina
Jan. 17th, 2011 03:17 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad the breakup scene worked for you. I hated the way the real one played out. You forgetting to breathe might be one of the best compliments I've ever received! So glad you liked the chapter, thanks, Sari.
jamalov29
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
Great insights into buffy's heart and wonderful analysis of her inner feelings.
It's a step in the right direction... Spike's loving arms, forever.:)
abelina
Jan. 23rd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you :) It was an important chapter for just that reason -- it's a pretty big step. Thanks for reading and reviewing.
( 9 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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