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The Heart of Darkness: a season 8 finale fic

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  • The Heart of Darkness: a season 8 finale fic

    Author's note: Don't read this note if you want to be spoiled but if you're curious afterwards...
    This fic spun out of the idea of "What if Riley is Twilight". I was trying to work out if I could believe in it. I'm still not sure, but writing this fic was a way of exploring the possibilities. Not so much the backstory, as what it would be like for Buffy if it was true. Though a bit about how it came about too. Cos inquiring minds want to know.
    Warning: this fic may contain melodrama.

    They were standing on the cliff top, the wind whipping around them. Buffy was just a few paces away, where her enemy had dropped her, and as she saw his hands move, she knew what was going to happen. Her belly clenched with anticipation.

    Twilight reached up and pulled off the mask, to reveal just about the last face Buffy was expecting to see.

    “No,” was all she could say, in the quietest voice.

    Riley smiled. “Not wishing to be contrary, Buffy. But... yes. It is. I am.”
    It wasn’t entirely the face he’d had last time they saw one another, but recognisable in an instant. Something about the jawline and the way his Adam’s Apple bobbed.

    His cheekbones had clearly been broken and badly set; perhaps not set at all. The formerly single scar now had a crop of buddy scars, criss-crossed across the young man’s face like drawn-on wrinkles in a school play.

    His eyes were the worst. Not human any more. Not demon either, but the result of some scary technological grafting – all metal around the edges with a glowing sensor at the edge of each eye socket, as if their old college professor had come back to finish the bionic job, but decided to focus purely on robotics this time. Only the smallest circle of natural iris and pupil nestled at their cores.

    Was he still in there in any way that mattered? She really hoped not.

    “I’m sure you have questions,” he said.

    “How?” said Buffy. “How did you do this? Become...this?"

    “Interesting. I thought you’d go for why. Maybe you’re becoming less curious? Harder?” His mouth twitched up into a smile that his eyes could no longer join in on. The result was chilling. Like seeing a dead face move.

    “I don’t need the psych 101 from you any more...” she began, but she found a sob building in her throat, forced up by memories, that she couldn’t stop from bubbling up. She turned away and covered her face so she wouldn’t have to look at him. This isn’t the first boyfriend who’s gone evil. she told herself. Pull yourself together. This is nothing new. This is old, cold Buffy territory.

    But it was new, and there was no denying it. There was no sense to this. No pattern. It came from nowhere.

    “Actually,” said Twilight – Riley – this thing in his shape. “How and why are more or less the same question here. The why led to the how but was also part of the why. Perhaps, since we’re running out of time, you’d like the potted version? After all, the end is coming. The end of magic. The end of everything you’ve built.”

    “Can’t you evil overlords just talk like regular people?” Buffy wiped away the tears and stood up straight, glaring at him, reminding herself that he was the enemy. Whoever he’d been to her before, she had to deal with who he was right now. The question wasn’t should she or could she kill him, but how.
    How really was the only question that mattered any more.

    “When you’ve seen what I’ve seen,” said Riley. The smile again. “It changes everything.”

    Behind him, lightening flashed in the sky. His armies were massing. Her armies were almost beaten. Fewer than a hundred slayers remained. God knows where Willow and Xander were. Maybe not even alive. And Dawn... oh god. Riley did that to her.

    “Yeah,” she said. She could barely squeeze the words out between her gritted teeth. “It’s definitely an eensy leap from babysitting my baby sister to killing her.”

    Riley waved his gloved hand. “She’s part of the problem. Magic. A being who shouldn’t exist. Human beings are trouble enough without things like her.”

    Buffy didn’t rise to it. “I just don’t understand. Did someone do this to you?”

    “You could put it like that. It started with a girl, as these things so often do.” A nasty smile. Or a grimace, it was hard to tell. “Sam was killed by one of our unit’s own shamans. That did shift my perspective on the world of magic. But in the end, it was the jungle that changed me.”

    Again, a lightening flash behind them. Whatever or whoever Riley was now, he had a feel for dramatic timing and the theatre of battle like no one else. He turned to gesture behind him, where the jungle spread out beneath the mountain peak where they were standing. “The jungle… and my choice. That’s what made me the man I am today.”

    “Great. Being evil is making you pretentious and vague. Double whammy of awesome.”

    “Then I’ll make it simple, stupid,” said Riley. He put on a British accent – not a bad one – managing to sound almost exactly like Spike, but an octave lower. “I went to a cave to see a bloke about a mystical makeover. Found the demon for the job. Got him to change me. Got my tech boys to give me the eyes.” He sighed, as if bored, or very tired. “Now I’m probably as close to your perfect man as anyone could ever be.”

    “Evil and about to be dead?”

    “I think you mean...actually capable of killing you. But don’t worry. I’m not here to seduce you.”

    “Good, ‘cause, the face? Not going to win America’s Next Top Model.”

    He raised an eyebrow. “Do you seriously think I’ve been watching television lately?”

    “No.” Hope was ebbing out of every cell of her body, filling up with horror instead. She was tired.

    “So, here we are now.” A toothy grin this time. Big white teeth. Her tongue had licked them once. She wanted to be sick. “Entertain me.”

    This was going to be the final fight. No friends to help her, no weapons - or none that would be any use against this monstrous super-ex-boyfriend.
    That had been enough once – just her, alone against Angelus. But those were simpler times. When a boyfriend went evil, he had the good manners to do it when you were around.

    Yes, Riley had changed since she last saw him. But so had the world. As Buffy looked at Riley, she saw something behind him in the valley, and she smiled for the first time in that long battle.

    Then, the sound of a horn. Riley swung around and Buffy began to laugh. An army was riding towards them on horseback. Through the AIR.

    Buffy could make out Willow at the rear, flying under her own power, horseless, her hands held out – presumably to keep the rest of the army afloat. At the head of the charge was Xander, with Andrew on the horse behind him holding some kind of weapon out. No. Not a weapon. A trumpet.

    “What…?” said Riley.

    “Don’t look at me,” said Buffy. “I didn’t invite the cavalry.” She folded her arms as the charge romped closer. She made out more faces. Rona, to Xander’s left. Vi. And… Faith. Giles. “But… old friends never need an invitation. Well, you know, unless they're a vampire and you've disinvited them last time they went evil..."

    She giggled. She was so elated, there was no fear any more. She had no idea if they could beat him. But she was just glad that she’d lived long enough to see a sight like this.

    A guttural chuckle coughed up from Riley’s throat, like phlegm. “They’re nothing to me.”

    “Maybe,” said Buffy. “But they’re everything to me,” she said, as the cavalry swooped closer.

    “Buffy! Here!” cried a voice from above.

    Close enough for her to leap up and into the empty saddle at Xander’s side.
    Riley hovered up into the air, grappling at her. She kicked him in the face. He recoiled just a little, but enough for her to get in one last dig before the battle really kicked off. She nodded towards Xander whose horse was flying just above.

    “Oh and Riley? Meet my new boyfriend.”

    Whatever happened next, she was ready.

    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --