Author's Note: Thanks goes out to all the people who gave me such wonderful feedback for "Solace" and (in some cases) asked about a sequel. That's why I'm dedicating this fic to them: Diana, Skye, Anne, Tess, Laine, Celeste, Mel, Erin, Sha, Saffron and 'Leta! You guys rock! :)
You'll never touch these things that I hold
The skin of my emotions lies beneath my own
You'll never feel the heat of this soul
My fever burns me deeper than I've ever shown to you
You'll say "don't fear your dreams"
It's easier than it seems
You'll say you'd never let me fall from hopes so high
But never is a promise and you can't afford to lie
You'll say you understand
You'll never understand
I'll say I'll never wake up knowing how or why
I don't know what to believe in
You don't know who I am
You'll say I need appeasing when I start to cry
But never is a promise and I'll never need a lie
It had been almost a month and I still couldn't stop thinking about him. Isn't that pathetic? I mean, Riley and I managed to save our relationship, but sometimes at night when I was lying in Riley's arms I'd imagine it was Allen holding me close. It was like I was trapped in a cheesy, cliched romance novel, and I didn't know how to get out.
I went to Las Vegas again. I don't know what I was looking for. I mean, I didn't even know his last name so could never find him again. But maybe, somewhere deep inside, I thought that fate couldn't be so cruel to me. Three times burned is one time too many for anyone, even the Slayer.
I actually went back to that old, run down motel we'd spent the night at. I asked the owner if I could check the register to see what name Allen had registered under. He said no way, until a little bribe and some threats of violence got him to see things my way.
I flipped through the pages of the register quickly, so quickly that I almost missed the exact entry I was looking for. There it was. I ran my fingers over his name, the neatly scripted letters looked to me like they belonged to him. Allen Francis. I'd never heard of anyone with a last name like Francis, but, hey, my first name's Buffy so I really don't have room to talk, do I?
Throwing the register down in a flurry of pages, I cursed softly under my breath. Why was I obsessing over this? It's not like I went into it looking for some kind of long-term commitment. I knew it was going to be a one-night stand from the moment we left the bar together. And when he was gone in the morning, leaving me that beautiful flower to remember him by, I wasn't sad. I was a little disappointed, but I didn't dwell on that. Instead I went right back to Sunnydale, hitch hiking across the country, and had a good long talk with Riley about his little "fling" with Faith. True, he thought it was me when he slept with her, so it's not like it was his fault or anything. But somehow, in the back of my mind, I kept wondering if Allen would have been able to tell, even when Riley couldn't, that it wasn't really *me* in there. That's not fair of me, I know that. But every time I felt Riley's hands on my body, every time he kissed me, I wondered if he was imagining that he was really kissing Faith instead. And sometimes, I'd even wish that he was so that the fact that I was wishing he was someone else wouldn't make me feel so guilty.
Every day, Riley and I seemed to be growing further and further apart. We didn't talk anymore. All we did was have sex and slay vampires. I don't really think that's the basis for a lasting relationship and I'm sure Oprah would agree with me. But I couldn't break things off with Riley. He was all I had left. Without him, I'd just be left with a cold bed and a lot of memories that I *really* didn't want to deal with right then.
So I just went through the motions. I was barely passing my classes,
Willow and Xander were getting worried, Giles kept suggesting that I take
some more time off, as if that helped the last time! But the worst thing
was when Riley looked at me with that sad, lost expression and I couldn't
do anything about it. I couldn't even bring myself to care all that much.
It was totally pathetic. I hadn't been this screwed up since Angel left.
And that was what scared me the most. Because that meant that this was
not going to end any time soon. And I wasn't ready to handle that.
I couldn't reach her. She was drifting further and further away, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it! That really drove me nuts! There had never been anything that I couldn't handle before. I was the guy that got things done. All you had to do was ask around and you'd see. I was an achiever. But ever since I met Buffy, my world had been spun on its head. I didn't know anything anymore. Nothing made sense to me now except that I loved her and she was pulling away from me.
There was a knock at my door, which surprised me out of my self-pity party. Forrest and the guys were out on patrol and Buffy was at the Bronze with Willow and Xander, catching up on old times. So I couldn't think of anyone who could possibly be at my doorstep right then. I didn't want to answer the knock. I wanted to just lie on my bed in my boxers, watch old cartoons on TV, and sulk. That was the first quality brooding time I'd had in days. But being polite, I got up, pulled on a pair of jeans and walked over to the door, not even bothering to pull on a shirt. Whoever they were, they weren't going to be staying long if I could help it!
"Who's there?" I demanded harshly as I yanked the door handle hard, pulling the door open with more force than necessary. It hit the wall with a loud thump.
Imagine my surprise when the very person who was causing me all this stress turned out to be the self-same person that I found at my door. "Buffy?"
"Riley," she replied, not quite meeting my eyes. "We have to talk."
I felt myself go numb, my emotions shutting off to protect myself from what I knew was inevitably coming. I stepped aside and allowed her to enter, shutting the door behind her. Then I perched on the edge of my desk and watched her with cold eyes. "So," I shrugged my shoulders, fully aware of how distant I was being but not really caring at this point. "Talk if you want to talk."
Buffy swallowed nervously, her eyes darting around the room as if she wanted to be anywhere but here with me. Finally, she met my eyes and said, "Riley, I don't think we should keep doing this."
"Doing what?" I asked, forcing her to say the words I dreaded to hear.
"Doing this." She gestured back and forth between us. "Us. We're not working anymore."
"Don't I get a say in this?" I asked, my voice losing its hard edge and taking on a needy quality that I hated.
She shook her head, tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes. "No," she whispered, brokenly, "You don't."
Damn it! Why did she have to cry? Why couldn't she just let me hate her?
I stood up and grabbed a Kleenex from behind me on the desk and handed it to her, not saying anything else. There was nothing left to say.
She dabbed at her eyes delicately. "Thank you," she told me softly. I wasn't sure if she was thanking me for the Kleenex or for something else entirely.
I grunted in response, not feeling up to a lengthy conversation just then.
"I'd better go," she added, clutching her purse to her chest. Then she
walked out the door and out of my life. And all I could do was sit silently
on the edge of my bed as the coyote chased the roadrunner through the deserted
countryside on my TV screen.
I felt terrible for causing Riley so much pain, but what was I supposed to do? Keep pretending that we were happy? That wasn't helping anyone.
As I walked down the darkened hallways and made my way into the cool, night air, I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper. Written on it were 5 words: Allen Francis. Las Vegas, Nevada.
I ran my fingers over the name on the paper, a hint of a smile crossing my lips. A plan formed in my head. I would have to run it by Giles first, of course. But I was sure that I could convince him to agree with my idea. He had to.
I turned a corner and made my way back to my dorm room, fully intending
to talk to Giles in the morning. And for the first time in a long time,
I felt good.
I was trying to force myself to digest some painfully bad coffee when the vision hit. The cup slipped from my suddenly lax fingers and shattered on the ground, black liquid splattering everywhere. The pain was worse than I remembered it being. But since I hadn't had a vision in almost three months, ever since I "died" on the Quintessa, it was hard to remember exactly how they had felt back then.
I covered my face in my hands as the pain finally ebbed away, trying to stop my body from spasming. Then I grabbed a napkin and stole a pencil from a passing waiter's pocket so I could write down everything I had seen before the images faded. Old habits die hard, I guess.
After scribbling an address and a town's name on the napkin, I allowed myself to focus on the face I had seen. It was a face I'd know anywhere: Buffy Anne Summers.
Throwing some cash down on the table, I grabbed my coat and headed for
the door, hoping to get out of there before they figured out who had broken
the coffee cup. Sighing, I put my coat on and shoved my hands into my pockets.
"Looks like yer goin' ta Sunnydale, man," I muttered to myself. "Ye'd just
better hope tha' the Slayer donnae stake ye on sight!"
To be continued in part three of the series: "Gravity."