2. This fic was inspired by the Veronica Mars episode “A Trip to the Dentist,” and also from watching too much Veronica Mars in general, which made me want to write a mystery.
3. For those who might be squicked by a rape warning, the rape itself is not described, just the aftermath. Also warning-related, Buffy is dating Riley at the beginning of this fic, hence the Buffy/Other warning. I know, I don’t particularly like it, either, but that’s how it goes.
4. Thanks to ClawofCat for betaing the first three chapters, and Slaymesoftly for taking over for the rest of the fic!
“This Film Theory class was a total mistake,” Buffy complained over the rock music blaring from the speakers. The party at Lowell House was in full swing. “I thought it was gonna be just watching movies, and instead it’s all theories and methodology.”
“Actual learning. Who’da thought?” Willow mused, taking a sip of her drink, wine from a box served in a plastic cup. Nothing but the best at these college parties.
Buffy frowned. “And the course description sounded so promising.”
“At least you’ve still got a week until the drop/add deadline.”
“Yeah, if there were any spots open in any good classes.” She pouted. “No one wants to let me in. You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson last semester.”
“Maybe we could talk to Walsh,” Riley offered. “I bet she could get you into Psych 110.”
Buffy looked doubtful. “Aren’t you TA-ing again?”
She glanced pointedly at where his hand was resting on her waist and then back up at his face.
Riley grinned sheepishly. “Guess I’m not quite used to the idea of dating an underclassman yet. Think that’d be an ethical violation?”
“Think so.” Buffy drained the last of her rum and Coke. “It’s okay. I’ll just have to beg Professor Keebler again to let me into her poetry class.”
“Mmmm, Keebler,” Willow giggled. “Like the elves.”
“Okay, no more booze for Willow,” Riley teased. He took the empty cup out of Buffy’s hand. “You want a refill?”
She nodded. “Last one, though. Two’s my limit. You don’t wanna see Cave Buffy come out and play.”
Not completely sure what she was talking about, Riley glanced over at Xander and Anya, who were hovering on the edges of the conversation. “Can I get you two anything?”
“Nah, we’re good,” Xander replied, holding his beer aloft. Anya in turn took a sip of her own drink.
“You’re such a good host,” Buffy called after him. Turning back to her friends, she asked, “Isn’t he a good host?”
“The best,” Xander mumbled.
“What’s the matter, Xander?” Buffy asked. “You guys have been quiet all night.”
“Non-college guy here. Can’t really sympathize with all the class schedule talk.”
“I don’t like this place,” Anya chimed in. “This is where the commandos live.”
“Anya, for the last time, they’re not looking for you!” Willow blurted out. “The only way they’re gonna know you’re an ex-demon is if you tell them you are.”
“Oh, no,” Buffy groaned, catching sight of a familiar bleached blond head bobbing among the crowd. Breaking off from her friends before an argument could erupt between Willow and Anya, she made her way over to where Spike was chatting up a petite freshman with a pixie haircut.
“Spike!” she barked, grabbing him by the collar.
“Whoa, sorry,” said the frosh, backing up a step and putting her hands up in a gesture of innocence. “He didn’t say he had a girlfriend.”
“She’s not my – oof!” Spike grunted as Buffy dragged him away from the girl. “Hey! Easy on the goods, love.”
“What are you doing here?” Buffy demanded. “Trolling for willing blood donors?”
Spike shot her a dirty look as he disengaged himself from her grip. “Scoping out these commando guys,” he retorted, keeping his voice as low as he could while still being heard over the music. “See if I can find a way in.”
“Why on earth would you want to go back in?” Willow asked, coming up behind Buffy, flanked by Xander and Anya.
“So I can figure out how to get this damn chip out of my head!”
Buffy was about to make a snappy comeback when something else caught her eye. “What the hell are you wearing?”
She could see a triangle of the ever-present black t-shirt, but it was mostly hidden under a royal blue polo shirt. He’d exchanged the black jeans for faded blue ones, and the combat boots for sneakers.
“Tryin’ to blend in,” he replied with a scowl.
Just then, Riley reappeared, a drink in each hand. “Here you go,” he said, offering one drink to Buffy before he stopped short, staring at the new member of their group. “That’s Hostile Seventeen.”
“Who, me?” Spike said defensively. “No, I’m just an old pal of Xander’s, remember?” He hit the r’s hard in his poor attempt at an American accent.
“This is Spike,” Buffy jumped in, quickly stepping between the vampire and her increasingly suspicious boyfriend. “He’s not – not ‘hostile.’” She glared at Spike, silently warning him to keep quiet.
“Buffy, listen to me, that’s –” Riley was abruptly cut off by the sound of his pager. He glanced down and then back up at Buffy. “I gotta go.” He pointed to Spike. “Don’t let him get away.”
Hurrying away, he glanced over his shoulder at Spike one last time before falling into step with Forrest and Graham on their way to report to the Initiative. Spike started to follow but Buffy grabbed his arm to hold him back.
“And where exactly do you think you’re going?”
“To follow them,” Spike replied exasperatedly. “Find the way in.”
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough excitement for one night?” She let go of him roughly, giving him a shove toward the door. “Go home, Spike.”
With a parting scowl, the vampire stalked off, disappearing into the writhing crowd of dancing co-eds.
“Man, I was really hoping we’d seen the last of that leech,” Xander grumbled. “Now that I finally got him out of my basement.”
“What, you think just because Spike isn’t living with you anymore, he’s going to leave us alone?” Buffy replied skeptically. “Trust me, he’s gonna be as annoying as possible. It’s all he has left.” She rolled her eyes.
“Uh-oh,” Willow said suddenly.
“What-oh, Will?” Xander asked. “You gonna hurl?”
“No, Parker alert. Nine o’clock. He’s coming this way.”
Buffy quickly turned to look for him. “Where?”
“The other nine,” Anya supplied helpfully.
She spun in the other direction, only to find herself staring at a green and white checked shirt. She tilted her head up to see his face. “Parker. Hi.”
“Oh, hey, Buffy,” he replied casually, glancing down as though he’d only just noticed she was there. He gestured to the guy next to him. “Hey, you know my friend, Kevin, right?”
Buffy nodded, feeling like she was smiling way too much. “Yeah, I – I think we were in Psych together last semester.”
“Looking good, Summers,” Kevin said with a slight leer. Buffy blushed, knowing what the guy probably thought of her if he was friends with Parker.
“Thanks,” she muttered, resisting the instinct to put her arms up to cover the skin her skimpy tank top left exposed.
“Well, this has been fun, but I think we have an elsewhere to be,” Xander stepped in, putting a hand on Buffy’s shoulder and gently steering her away from the guys. “Fellas,” he said in parting, with a nod to Parker and Kevin.
“Oh, God,” Buffy groaned as soon as they were out of earshot. “How is that still awkward?” In desperation, she began chugging her rum and Coke.
“Hey, slow down there,” Xander cautioned her.
“Ugh. There are some advantages to being Cave Buffy,” she replied dryly. “For one thing, I don’t have a problem clubbing that loser over the head. Whoa,” she said, swaying slightly as a sudden dizziness came over her. “Strong.”
Shaking off the woozy feelings, she gave Xander a nudge toward Anya and then grabbed Willow’s arm, leading her toward the makeshift dance floor. “Come on. Let’s dance.”
Buffy awoke to a terrible pounding in her skull. She peeked her eyes open to see sunlight filtering through unfamiliar curtains. It took a moment for it to register that this wasn’t her bedroom, but once it did, her eyes flew open and she shot up in bed, only to feel bile creeping up her throat at the sudden movement. Fighting down the nausea and the god-awful headache, she gritted her teeth and took in her surroundings.
Almost immediately, she breathed a sigh of relief. She was in Riley’s room. Letting the tension ease from her body, she leaned back and slid languidly down into the bed, closing her eyes, hoping to recapture the lovely oblivion that had preceded her horrible hangover. As the soft sheets rubbed against her bare skin, she realized she was naked, and a frisson of surprise and arousal went through her. Slowly, she raised her arms over her head, grasping the headboard, and stretched her legs out to their full length, curling her toes and arching her hips off the bed. Her muscles ached in protest, but she was sore in all the right places.
Unfortunately, she had no memory of the night before.
Wow, I shouldn’t have drunk so much, she chided herself, rubbing her throbbing temples. My first time with Riley, and I don’t even remember it?
It was disappointing. She and Riley had been progressing so slowly, and she’d been so looking forward to this, and now she wouldn’t even be able to cherish the memory. Her sex felt raw and stung a little, but she couldn’t call to mind the rough attentions that might have caused it. With a sigh, Buffy kicked the covers off, only then noticing the bruises on her stomach and arms. As she dragged herself out of bed, she spotted her shredded panties on the floor, and she blushed. She might not be able to remember spending the night with Riley, but judging by the state she was in, it must have been fantastic.
Riley was nowhere to be found, which hurt a little, given her previous sexual experiences, but she sternly reassured herself that Riley wasn’t like that. She remembered that he had been called to the Initiative last night during the party – maybe he’d had to run off again this morning for some emergency. He wasn’t like the others; he wouldn’t leave her to wake up alone unless he had to.
With her doubts reasonably assuaged, she grabbed a spare towel and hopped in the shower. It went a long way toward easing her hangover, and she let the hot water soothe away the aches and the nausea.
As she stepped out into the hallway, clean and refreshed and wrapped up in the towel, Buffy saw Riley heading for his room, still dressed in his soldier gear. A broad grin broke across her face as she realized she’d made the right assumption.
“Morning,” she said, flashing him a sexy smile as she sauntered toward him.
Riley glanced up at the sound of her voice, a startled expression on his face. “Buffy,” he said, pausing outside his door. “You’re still here.”
“Yeah.” She slipped her arms around his waist and pressed her body against his, tipping her head back to look at him, wet hair cascading down her back. “So, did you have fun last night?”
“Not really,” he replied, a hint of bitterness in his tone.
Buffy jerked away from him as though she’d been burned. With memories of Angelus and Parker smothering her, her throat tightening painfully, she asked in a tiny voice, “You – you didn’t have a good time?”
“Buffy, I spent the entire night at the Initiative,” Riley said shortly, seemingly unaware of her insecurity as he strode into his room. “I didn’t get any sleep.”
She stopped dead in the doorway, one hand clutching the towel tighter against her chest. “You… were there all night?”
“Yeah, I’m just getting back now.” He paused, taking in the disheveled bed. “Did you sleep here?”
Buffy swallowed hard, her eyes widening with realization as an icy wave of dread washed over her.