Into the Woods

October 28, 2000 (white)

Written by: Marti Noxon

Teaser

INT. HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM - DAY (DAY 1)

WE PAN along a pair of small reclining legs to find DAWN, who's laid out over a couple of chairs in the hospital waiting room with her head in Buffy's lap, sleeping.

Now we WIDEN to see that Riley is sitting next to them. Joyce is still in surgery, and Buffy watches the clock nervously. Riley puts his hand over hers reassuringly - Buffy can only smile wanly...

Buffy hears footsteps approaching, looks over expectantly. But it's only Giles.

GILES
Just me. Sorry
(then)
Can I get you anything?

BUFFY
No. Thanks though.

GILES
Riley?

RILEY
I'm fine. Thanks.

Giles nods - moves across the way to another bank of chairs where WILLOW AND XANDER are sitting, also looking anxious. Xander is slouched down, hands in pockets.

WILLOW
What time is it?

XANDER
There's a clock on the wall behind you, Will.

WILLOW
I know - but your watch is right
there above your hand.

With a little bit of effort, Xander sits up, pulls his hand from his pocket, holds it in front of her, showing her the watch. She looks at the time.

WILLOW
That can't be right.

Xander reacts as she turns around, looks at the clock behind her, confirms it.

WILLOW
Oh.

They fall silent, both fidgeting nervously.

ON BUFFY AND RILEY

Buffy's anxiety is mounting.

BUFFY
I can't stand this, what's
taking so long?

RILEY
It doesn't mean anything.

BUFFY
You think?

RILEY
I'd worry more if your mom was out
of surgery quickly. It might mean
there wasn't much they could do.

Buffy takes this in, nods. But it doesn't really help. Then she spies the doctor coming down the hall in his scrubs. She shakes Dawn awake and both girls jump to their feet.

The others - Riley, Giles, Willow and Xander - also stand as the doctor nears.

PUSH IN ON BUFFY

Watching the doctor approach. Full of fear and anticipating.

BLACK OUT.

END OF TEASER
Act One

INT. HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM - DAY

CLOSE ON BUFFY, DAWN, RILEY and DR. KEISER

Who hang on every word as the doctor reports on Joyce's condition. Willow, Xander and Giles also listen in the background.

DOCTOR KEISER
Okay. Your mom's in recovery-

BUFFY
(cutting him off)
What happened? Is she alright?

DOCTOR KEISER
Well, it was possible to visualize
the tumor completely - which means
I was able to get all of it. So baring
complications in recovery, I think
your mother's going to be fine.

A happily stunned beat as this sinks in. Then-

DAWN
Are you kidding?

DOCTOR KEISER
(smiling)
I never kid about my amazing
surgical skills.
(then)
Of course, we're still going to
have to watch your mother's
condition and have her back
in for follow-up testing, but
overall I'd consider the procedure
a complete success.

Relief and joy wash over Buffy, Dawn and all the others. They fall into ecstatic hugs (or back slaps in Giles' case) and excited exclamations as the doctor beams.

Near grateful tears, Buffy breaks from the group and turns to the doctor.

BUFFY
Oh My God, Doctor - thank you.
Thank you so much.

DOCTOR KEISER
Believe me, it's my-

But before he can finish Buffy grabs the doctor into a big bear hug. In her joy, Buffy forgets her strength-

DOCTOR KEISER
Oh, hey... Uh, owww. Owwww!

Buffy realizes what she's doing and lets him go, contrite.

BUFFY
Sorry, sorry - but thank you,
thanks. I mean it-

Buffy offers her hand to shake his, but the doctor quickly and politely backs off. Speaks to the entire group-

DOCTOR KEISER
Really, my pleasure. Your mom's
going to be in recovery for a while -
you should all go home, get some
rest, relax.

INT. XANDER'S APARTMENT - NIGHT

Xander, Anya and Dawn are at the tail end of a major celebratory Chinese Food feast. Dawn is playing with her chopsticks.

We can see, in the BG, that Dawn's sleeping bag is laid out on the couch, and that she brought an overnight duffle with her.

DAWN
When I was younger, I used to put
my chopsticks in my mouth like
this...

Dawn puts chopsticks in her mouth like vampire fangs.

DAWN
(talking around the fangs)
...and Buffy would chase me around
the house yelling "I'm the Slayer! I'm
gonna get you!"

ANYA
That's disturbing. You're emotionally
scarred and will turn out badly.

Dawn takes out the fangs.

DAWN
No, it was great! She didn't
really stake me in the heart,
you know.

XANDER
Buffy's pretty cool about that.
(then)
So what do you want to do
now, Dawnster? Keeping in
mind that I'm not going to chase
you, because I am old and stuffed
full of mu-gu-gai-starch.

ANYA
(eagerly)
We could play that game again.
Life? That's fun.

DAWN
For you. You always win.

ANYA
Well, we could wager this time.
You could give me real money.
That would be different.

XANDER
And after we teach her to gamble,
maybe we could all get drunk.

ANYA
(dead serious)
I don't think they'd server her
in a bar. But we could bring
something in.
(brightly/to Dawn)
Strawberry Schnapps tastes just
like ice cream.

XANDER
(to Dawn)
There will be no Schnapps, no
alcohol of any kind until you
are at least old enough to be
President, understand?

DAWN
Got it.

Xander gets up and grabs the paper.

XANDER
How about a movie? They're
showing 'em in theaters now.
I hear it's like watching a video
with a bunch of strangers and
a sticky floor.

Xander lays the movie section out on the table. They all look.

DAWN
That one looks sad.

XANDER
The chimp playing hockey?
Is that based on the Chekhov?

Anya grabs the paper, fascinated.

ANYA
There's a chimp playing hockey?!

DAWN
I meant the other one. I don't
wanna see a sad movie.

ANYA
We have to see the chimp playing
hockey! That's hilarious! Ice is so
slippery! And monkeys are all
irrational... we have to see this!

Both Dawn and Xander stare at Anya. Then-

XANDER
You pick, Dawn. This is your night.
We're celebrating your mom's good news.

ANYA
Go monkey! Choose monkey!

DAWN
That's okay. You guys don't have
to make a big deal for me. The
only reason I'm sleeping over here
is so Buffy and Riley can boink.

XANDER
That's not it at all... they just
need some time to... be tender...
relax...

ANYA
He's not very convincing.

DAWN
Yeah, 'Alone time' always
translates into 'Get Dawn
out of the house so we can
have loud obnoxious sex.'

Anya and Dawn share a knowing smile. Anya suddenly turns to Xander --

ANYA
Does that mean we can't?

INT. BUFFY'S LIVING ROOM - NIGHT

Candles are lit. Romantic music plays. There's evidence of a half-eaten dinner on the coffee table... Buffy and Riley have pushed some of the furniture back and they're dancing, holding each other tight and swaying to the music. Buffy sighs happily.

BUFFY
Can we put this song on "repeat?"

RILEY
Whatever you want.

BUFFY
Can we put this night on "repeat?"

RILEY
Absolutely.

BUFFY
Good...
(then)
God. I can't believe how relaxed
I feel. Like all the tension's just
been released from my body...

RILEY
Already? I had that scheduled for
a little later on.

BUFFY
(coy)
Scheduled? Are you planning to
seduce me?

RILEY
Always.

They smile and he kisses her tenderly. Then-

RILEY
I want tonight to be special for you.

BUFFY
It's more than special. It's perfect.

RILEY
I'm glad. You deserve it after
everything you've been through.

BUFFY
It was nothing compared to what
Mom had to deal with.

RILEY
But it was a lot. And you were
incredible.

BUFFY
Not really. I was just covering
for the weepy chicken within.

RILEY
Don't sell yourself short. You
stayed strong the whole time,
Buffy. You never even cried.

BUFFY
Oh, I cried alright. There were
a few times I couldn't stop.

Riley takes this in - surprised and a little pained. She never let herself cry with him.

RILEY
Oh.

Buffy snuggles closer to him, unaware of his hurt.

BUFFY
But that's all over now. Now
Mom's out of the woods and I'm
here with you - and that's all that
matters.

Riley wants to believe that - and when Buffy kisses him, he responds to her affection. The kiss grows quickly passionate...

INT. BUFFY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT

A SLOW PAN across Buffy and Riley as they make love. It's tender and loving... (NOTE: we should see that Riley is wearing a few bandages on his body. Subtle, but noticeable...) Buffy's reaching (an 8:00pm) climax as the camera drifts away from them...

EXT. BUFFY'S HOUSE - NIGHT

Outside we find Spike lurking, watching Buffy's window and smoking. His expression is grave. He can guess what's going on inside now, and he's not happy about it.

INT. BUFFY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT

Buffy and Riley lie together in bed, post lovin'. Buffy's sleeping contentedly - but Riley's awake, holding her.

Instinctively, in her sleep, Buffy rolls AWAY from him. A beat as Riley takes this in.

EXT. BUFFY'S HOUSE - NIGHT

Spike's starting to feel like a real ass for hanging around all moony-like. He throws his cigarette down in disgust, preparing to take off.

But as he's turning to leave he sees RILEY sneaking out of the front door. His movements have a furtive quality that raise Spike's suspicions.

Riley moves quickly down the street. Spike hesitates only a moment before following him.

EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

Riley ducks into a dark alley. Spike follows him, sticking to the shadows.

CLOSE ON RILEY

As he disappears up a dingy back staircase.

ON SPIKE

Eyes narrowing. He can't believe it. He knows what Riley's up to - and it isn't what he expected at all.

EXT. HOSPITAL - DAY (DAY 2)

Establishing.

INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY

Buffy's sitting on Joyce's bed. Joyce looks a little groggy, but like Buffy, she's in good spirits. This despite the fairly fake-looking WIG she's wearing. Joyce adjusts it while she looks in a mirror she holds.

JOYCE
(re: wig)
You don't think it's too obvious?
I think I look like I have a cat on
my head.

BUFFY
But a very well groomed cat.

JOYCE
Well that's a comfort.

BUFFY
I think it's fun. We can get you
a whole bunch of different wigs.
You can be like - Action Mom,
Sixties Mom, French Maid Mom...
Maybe get a big green Grinchy-
looking one for Christmas...

JOYCE
I must be getting better.
You're making fun of me again.

BUFFY
Well, yeah. I have a lot of lost
time to make up.

An affectionate moment passes between them. They're both so clearly relieved by the outcome of the operation...

JOYCE
I think you have more important
things to make up. I know you've
been missing a lot of school...

BUFFY
I'm fine. Willow's been bringing
me my work. I may have to take
a few incompletes, but I'll get
through the semester.

JOYCE
Well what about slaying - and your
friends? I want you to get back to
your life.

BUFFY
I will. I promise. But right now
I'm more into being here - and
styling your beautiful new plastic
dream hair.

JOYCE
Fair enough. But you don't have
to keep me company all night.
Go have fun. Get Riley to take
you to a movie or something.

BUFFY
I am having fun. Besides, I gave
Riley the rest of the day off.

JOYCE
I don't think he thinks of you as
a chore, Buffy.

BUFFY
Mom - I told Riley to make his own
plans tonight because I wanted to
have you all to myself. Okay? I
can see him anytime.
(then)
Besides, I'm sure he'll come around
later looking for some-
(catches herself)
Bible study.

JOYCE
(a little unsure)
Well - good. As long as you two
are getting come quality time with...
the Lord.

BUFFY
We are. Absolutely.

OFF BUFFY

Who appears completely confident. Things with Riley are fine.

INT. CHEAP MOTEL ROOM (BEAUTIFUL TWO WALL SET) - DAY

Major Ellis and the Black Ops are encamped in a small, dark hotel room. A few guys wearing headphones sit monitoring radio signals, which squawk quietly in the background. Ellis is reading a map as Graham comes over, full of urgency, and hands Ellis a transmission.

GRAHAM
Sir.

ELLIS
What have we got?

GRAHAM
Belize. Last transmission.
Infra-red scans say...

ELLIS
They're breeding. They won't stay
put in that village for long.
(nods)
Looks like we got ourselves a hot
spot. Tell the men to get ready.

Graham nods and starts to move out, then stops, turns:

GRAHAM
What about Riley?
(off Ellis's look)
Agent Finn. I'm telling you sir,
if we go in for a sweep and drop,
he's definitely a guy we want on
the team.

Ellis considers it.

ELLIS
Let's bring him on board.

GRAHAM
It might take a little convincing.

ELLIS
Why? What's he got here in
Sunnydale that's so special?

INT. BUFFY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT

CLOSE ON BUFFY

In bed and sleeping soundly, clearly not wearing anything under the covers. Then a noise wakes her. She sits up, holding the covers to her.

BUFFY
Riley?

But it's SPIKE who slinks from the darkness.

SPIKE
It's me.

Buffy's suitably surprised and pissed.

BUFFY
Spike. Every time you show up
like this, you risk all your parts -
you know that?

SPIKE
I wouldn't be here if I didn't have
a good reason. As usual I'm here
to help you and are you naked
under there?

BUFFY
Get out.

Spike can't help it - he's flustered by her nearby nudity.

SPIKE
I'm serious- Not about the naked
part, I mean...

BUFFY
(deadly)
Get out or I'll drop you out,
head first.

That sobers him. His tone is suddenly deadly serious.

SPIKE
I want to show you something.

BUFFY
(suspicious)
What?

SPIKE
You need to see it.

A long beat as Buffy assesses his tone. Finally decides that he may be on the level.

BUFFY
This better be worth getting out
of my warm bed for, or so help me-

SPIKE
It is.
(then)
But we have to move if we want
to get there in time.

But Buffy doesn't budge. Spike just stands there, hoping. Buffy makes it clear with a look that Spike's going to have to turn around before she goes anywhere.

SPIKE
(scoffing)
Please. Like I give a bloody damn.

Spike turns around. Oh my God, does he give a damn. He's dying, just knowing that an in-the-buff Buffy's right behind him.

EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

Spike leads Buffy into the same alley he saw Riley disappear into.

INT. VAMPIRE DRUG DEN - FIRST FLOOR - NIGHT

Spike leads Buffy up some back stairs and into the first floor of a seedy flophouse that looks like a cross between a crack house and a low-rent whorehouse. The walls are covered in graffiti, the floors littered with debris and mattresses... It's dark, but we can see that the place is inhabited by a sordid bunch of lowlife humans and vampires.

CLOSE ON BUFFY

Taking this all in.

BUFFY'S POV

Through the darkness she can just make out people passed out in corners, folks locked in strange embraces, money changing hands here and there...

RESUME

Spike leads Buffy to another flight of stairs. Before they can start for the second floor a TOUGH-LOOKING VAMPIRE gets in Spike's face.

TOUGH VAMP
What do you think you're doing?

SPIKE
Just having a little look, mate.
Keep it down.

Spike tries to move past him - but the guy won't go away.

TOUGH VAMP
(louder)
You can't just go up there.

WHAMP! Spike grabs the vampire by the neck and nearly chokes the life out of him.

SPIKE
I said, keep it down.

Spike casts the guy aside. The vampire hits the ground hard, gasping for air... Spike and Buffy move up the stairs.

INT. VAMPIRE DRUG DEN - PRIVATE ROOM - NIGHT

Buffy enters the room, which is lit only by one dim bare light bulb. The only thing in the room is a soiled mattress, where RILEY sits - getting bit by a trashy, junkie vampire girl.

Buffy, stunned beyond words, takes in the scene before her... The vampire in Riley's arms... The money on the mattress...

Riley hasn't noticed them standing there yet. Instead, he speaks to the vampire girls, his tone hard and insistent-

RILEY
Harder.

At this, Buffy gasps. Riley looks up. He and Buffy meet eyes.

BLACK OUT.

END OF ACT ONE
Act Two

INT. VAMPIRE DRUG DEN - PRIVATE ROOM - NIGHT

The same moment we left off. Buffy's mask of shock gives way to horror. She can't believe what she's seeing. Behind her, Spike stands - savoring every minute of this.

Riley, also in some kind of terrible shock, can only utter-

RILEY
Buffy-

But Buffy's every instinct is telling her to get out. She turns and runs.

RILEY
Buffy!

Riley, still weak from the bite, tries to disentangle from the girl in his arms. Spike lingers behind a moment.

SPIKE
(mock sincere)
We only came here because we care
about you, friend. You need help.

Riley, infuriated, lunges at Spike - but Spike's already out the door.

INT. VAMPIRE DRUG DEN - FIRST FLOOR - NIGHT

Buffy's racing down the stairs to the first floor of the building, half blind with shock and disbelief. Suddenly the intimidating vamp owner of the place, WHIP, comes at her - either trying to calm her or hurt her, it's not clear which...

WHIP
Hey, hey!-

Buffy doesn't waste any time figuring out his intent. Instead she HURLS THE GUY out of her way with all her might. WHIP goes flying and crashes into a nearby wall... A few more paces and Buffy's out of there, with Spike not far behind.

A beat and Riley comes racing down the stairs, trying to catch up with Buffy. He looks pale and shaky as he buttons the shirt he just threw on. He's just about to hit the door when a firm hand stops him. It's WHIP, recovered from his blow and FURIOUS.

WHIP
Was that the Slayer?

Riley doesn't reply, just tries to push past him. Whip's certainty grows-

WHIP
What the hell do you think you're
doing, bringing the slayer here?!

RILEY
Back off. I didn't-

WHIP
She knows where my operation is,
it's over. Nobody's going to risk
coming here.

RILEY
(intense)
Back off, man, or-

WHAMP! Whip punches Riley hard. Riley doubles over, but doesn't fall. Whip approaches him menacingly.

WHIP
You working with her - is that it?
I knew you were too vanilla for
this scene-

Before Whip can hit Riley again, Riley rears up and HEADBUTTS him - sending him staggering back. Riley bolts for the door and escapes.

EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

Buffy and Spike spill into the street from the tenement. Buffy is so stricken, she looks ill. Spike sees this, tries to offer some kind of explanation-

SPIKE
I thought you should know. I-

Buffy shoots Spike a look so deadly and full of pain that it stops him in his tracks. It's clear that another word from him might mean his demise.

A beat. Then Buffy takes off down the alley, disappears around the corner.

OFF SPIKE

As his expression registers what he's just done to Buffy. And that it didn't make her like him even remotely more...

INT. RILEY'S APARTMENT - NIGHT

Riley - deeply shaken - moves into his dark apartment and clicks on a light, only to find that he isn't alone. MAJOR ELLIS, GRAHAM and another black op are quietly waiting for him. A beat. Riley can't believe this. Then-

RILEY
Get out.

ELLIS
I need to talk to you.

RILEY
I'm not in the talking mood.

Riley and Ellis face off - but Graham intercedes.

ELLIS
Then listen.

GRAHAM
Riley, just give the man a chance.
If you don't like what you hear -
we'll be on our way.

Riley takes this in, relents a little. Says to Ellis-

RILEY
Talk fast.

ELLIS
We have a Code One in Belize.
A demon tribe is tearing apart
missionaries in the rainforest
down there.

RILEY
And you're telling me this because...

ELLIS
We're going down to terminate
their operation. Want you to join us.

RILEY
I'm a civilian.

ELLIS
You're a soldier.

RILEY
I quit the government a long way back.

ELLIS
We're not government. We're army.

GRAHAM
Just like you.

Riley can't bring himself to protest...

ELLIS
When demon activity goes unchecked
in parts of the world most people don't
want to know about - we move in. It's
not the Initiative, Finn. We don't do
experiments. None of us gives a damn
what makes monsters tick. We just
stop 'em.

RILEY
What do you need me for?

ELLIS
I think you can handle yourself,
and I always need bodies. I'm
not gonna lie: it's the real deal.
High risk, low pay and seriously
messy. We ship out for South
America tomorrow midnight.
Now maybe civilian life's working
out for you...

Ellis gives Riley a pointed once over. Sees his pale, shaken face - the bags under his eyes.

ELLIS
... And maybe it's not. Midnight
tomorrow. Decision is yours.

Ellis, Graham and the other Black Ops file out.

GRAHAM
It's a hell of a ride, bro.

They go. The door closes.

CLOSE ON RILEY

Completely spun. First Buffy, now this...

INT. BUFFY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT

Buffy comes home, truly freaked by what she's just seen. She leans against her door - upset and bewildered.

FADE TO:

INT. THE MAGIC BOX - DAY (DAY 3)

The next day. Anya and Willow are opening and stocking new boxes of inventory, while Xander and Giles begin to put up some holiday decorations.

Giles hangs a decorated sign over the sales desk - "DON'T FORGET WINTER SOLSTICE, HANUKKAH, CHRISTMAS AND KWANZA ARE COMING!" He stands back to survey his work.

GILES
And so it begins. No longer
a victim of crass holiday
commercialization - I am
a purveyor of it.

Willow unwraps a beautiful statue of a fairy, places it on a shelf.

WILLOW
Pretty.
(then)
This is sort of like un-Hanukkah.
I keep opening things that I
actually want, only they aren't
for me.

Now Anya opens a box and her face falls. She lifts a bag of chicken feet from the box.

ANYA
Who ordered more chicken's feet?
The ones we have aren't moving at all.

XANDER
That' generally what happens when
you cut them off the chicken.

ANYA
I'm serious... Maybe we should do
a holiday promotion - one free with
every purchase.

Giles comes and takes the bag of chicken feet from Anya.

GILES
Ah yes, what dear holiday memories.
Joyful tykes by the fire, enjoying
their new Christmas chicken feet.

WILLOW
(teasingly)
Holding them close as they fall
asleep, painting their tiny toenails...

Anya doesn't appreciate the mocking.

ANYA
Oh, yes. Very humorous. Make fun
of the ex-demon. I can just hear you
in private: "I dislike that Anya. She
is newly-human and strangely literal."

WILLOW
What? I don't say that. No one
says that. No one talks like that.

ANYA
There is nothing wrong with my
idea, anyway. I have been very
good for this store. If it wasn't
for me, Giles would be a terrified
old man staring at a quarterly tax
statement and wetting himself.

GILES
I say, that's an exaggeration--

WILLOW
Anya, you've helped out a lot,
but I have too.

ANYA
Yes, that's right. I forgot about
all the vigorous sitting around.

XANDER
(to Anya)
Hey, Ahn, you can back off a
little. You get paid. Willow's
doing this on her own time.

ANYA
(sweetly)
I'm sorry, Willow. Thank you for
making time in your busy life to
come in here and get in the way
of mine.

XANDER
Anya! Play nice!

ANYA
Fine! Take her side instead of mine.
Even though I'm the one who sleeps
with you and feeds you and bathes you!

A beat.

WILLOW
She bathes you?

XANDER
(embarrassed)
Only in an erotic, Penthouse-y
way. Not in a sponge-bathy,
geriatric sort of-

GILES
(cutting him off)
Please. Stop. I beg of you.

Giles might go on, but Buffy enters - clearly agitated.

BUFFY
Giles, I need to find out
everything I can about a
vamp nest downtown.

GILES
A nest? What sort of-

BUFFY
(cutting him off)
It was like a... there were people
there. It looked like they were
paying vampires to bite them.

XANDER
(mock relief)
Now I know what to get for the
person who has everything.

WILLOW
Who would pay to get bitten?

ANYA
It's been going on for centuries.
Humans hire vampires to feed
off them. They get off on the rush.

GILES
And the danger. Traveling in the
underworld can become addictive
for these people.

XANDER
Why don't the vampires just kill them?

ANYA
Because they get cash, hot and
cold running blood - and they don't
leave any corpses around, so they
don't get hunted.

GILES
Still, it's terribly dangerous for
humans. People end up dying
accidentally or meeting a vampire
who only pretends to play by
house rules.

Buffy turns to Giles, a little too intense.

BUFFY
You knew about this and you
didn't tell me?

Giles is a little surprised by her attitude.

GILES
I- I haven't seen it since my
Ripper days. I didn't know it
was going on in Sunnydale.

Buffy moves to one of the weapons cabinets, starts to load up.

BUFFY
Well it is, and I'm going to stop it.

Giles moves to her.

GILES
Buffy, even if I had known about
this - I might no have told you.

BUFFY
What? Why?

GILES
I'm not sure this is where your
efforts are best spent. Perhaps
you should focus your efforts on
a... less ambiguous evil. Glory,
for instance.

BUFFY
You said people are dying.

GILES
But they're willing victims. And
there are so many other people
who deserve your help who aren't...

ANYA
Not to mention the fact that if
you cut off their supply - they'll
only look for another fix
someplace else.

But Buffy won't hear it.

BUFFY
Vampires are vampires. And my
job description is pretty clear.
(hard)
Are you coming with me or not?

XANDER
What's the rush, Buff? If we're
going into a nest maybe we
should come up with a strategy.
Wait for Riley...

Buffy's face clouds a little at Riley's name. Xander sees it.

BUFFY
Back me up or not, I'm not waiting.

And she starts out. Giles, Willow and Xander exchange a look. Then gather their own weapons and move after Buffy.

GILES
Anya - will you mind the store?

ANYA
Sure thing.

They all head for the door. Anya calls after them in her cheerful shopkeeper voice-

ANYA
Have a nice day. Don't get killed!

And they're gone.

INT. DRUG DEN - FIRST FLOOR - DAY

The dingy room looks like it's been recently abandoned. Personal belongings are scattered around, and a COLEMAN CAMPING STOVE still burns on the floor.

A beat, then Buffy, Giles, Xander and Willow troop down from the stairs that lead to the second floor. They've clearly been over the whole place once before.

BUFFY
I don't know what happened.
This place was doing serious
business last night...

XANDER
Guess everybody jumped ship
when word got out that the Slayer
found their crib.
(quickly)
And let me just apologize for
that use of the word crib.

BUFFY
(to Giles)
You think they'll set up shop
again here in town?

GILES
It's hard to say. I imagine
they'll lay low for a while.

BUFFY
(frustrated)
But they're around somewhere.
There's got to be a way we can
find these creeps.

WILLOW
Don't worry, Buff. You'll find them.

XANDER
Yeah. I'm sure you'll get 'em
next time, champ.

Buffy looks at Xander, her attitude openly steely. Then she grabs the Coleman stove from the ground and hurls it against the opposite wall. Kerosene splatters everywhere and the whole area goes up in FLAMES.

BUFFY
(deadly calm)
We'd better get going.

Buffy heads quickly out. The others lag a bit behind, exchanging concerned glances. Buffy's turned into the Terminator and they don't know why.

INT. SPIKE'S CRYPT - DAY

Spike's sitting in the dark in his armchair, nursing a bottle of whiskey. He's still smarting from Buffy's reaction at seeing Riley the night before...

A beat - then RILEY STORMS INTO THE CRYPT, in a hot rage. He moves to Spike and YANKS HIM ROUGHLY OUT OF HIS CHAIR. Spike throws attitude, 'natch.

SPIKE
What took you? Guess it takes
a while to get to full strength
after those bites-

Riley HURLS Spike into the opposite wall.

SPIKE
(alarmed)
Hey. Hey. Let's be reasonable
about this.

Now Riley YANKS Spike off the ground and shoves him up against the wall.

RILEY
You may have noticed Spike, I left
reasonable about three exits back.

SPIKE
Look, I'm not the one who got you
into this. I mean, don't kill the
messenger-

Without warning, Riley pulls a SERIOUS-LOOKING WOOD STAKE from his coat and brutally STAKES SPIKE THROUGH THE HEART.

RILEY
Why the hell not?

BLACK OUT.

END OF ACT TWO

Act Three

INT. SPIKE'S CRYPT - DAY

Exactly where we left off. Spike's just been staked, Riley's standing over him. Spike's in agony - but he's not dust.

SPIKE
Owwww! Ohhhh, God-
(getting it)
Hey.

Riley YANKS the stake out of Spike's chest. Regards it coolly.

RILEY
Plastic wood grain. Looks real,
doesn't it?

Spike falls against the wall, overwhelmed by both the pain and the relief at not being dead. Riley comes on strong, furious.

RILEY
You think I don't know what's
going on with you, Spike? Stay
away from her - or we're doing
this for real next time.

Riley's about to turn away when Spike unexpectedly starts to LAUGH. He's still in incredible pain, but he's laughing.

SPIKE
Oh... man... you're really under it,
aren't you?

RILEY
What?

SPIKE
Look at you. All afraid I'm hot
for your honey...

RILEY
Because you are.

SPIKE
Well - yeah! But that's not your
problem. Even if I wasn't in the
picture, you're never going to be
able to hold onto her...

Riley grabs Spike again, who yells with fresh pain.

SPIKE
Ahhhh! Bloody hell-

RILEY
Maybe I didn't almost kill you enough-

Spike manages to speak through his pain, he can't pass up this chance to show Riley he has his number.

SPIKE
Come on. You're not the long
haul guy and you know it-

RILEY
(hard)
Shut up-

SPIKE
You know it, or you wouldn't be
getting suck jobs from two bit
vampire trulls.

This gives Riley pause - Spike sees it.

SPIKE
Girl needs some monster in her
man, and it's not in your nature.
No matter how low you try to go.

Riley deflates a little at this - knows there truth in it. He roughly unhands Spike. Spike, wincing with pain, grabs his whiskey bottle from the armchair, drinks from it to try to dull the incredible fire in his chest.

RILEY
Do you actually think you've got
a shot with her?

SPIKE
No, I don't. Fellow's gotta do
what he can, though. Got to try.

RILEY
You touch her, you know I'd kill
you, for real.

SPIKE
I had this chip out, I'd a killed
you long ago.
(beat)
Ain't love grand.

Another moment, and he tosses Riley the bottle. Riley swigs.

SPIKE
Sometimes I envy you so much it
chokes me. And then sometimes
I think I've got the better deal. To
be that close to her and not have
her... To be all alone even when
you're holding her, feeling her,
feeling her beneath you, surrounding
you, the scent of -- no, you've got
the better deal.

Riley drinks again.

RILEY
I'm the lucky guy. Yeah.

He almost means it. He tosses the bottle back to Spike, who drinks.

RILEY
I'm the guy.

INT. TRAINING ROOM - NIGHT

We find Buffy working the punching bag hard - trying to expel some of her anger and hurt...

INT. THE MAGIC BOX - NIGHT

Anya's behind the counter, finaling the cash register tally for the day. Xander's there, helping to close shop. They can hear Buffy straining as she works out. Xander glances toward the training room, concerned.

XANDER
How long has she been in there?

ANYA
A while. She seemed pretty gung ho
about it, too. Didn't even stop to say
hello.

XANDER
Yeah... When we went to deal with
that vampire nest, she got all Rambo
and torched the place. Something
seriously bad is going on with her.

ANYA
I don't know. Maybe you're
overreacting. I mean, who
hasn't done stuff like that from
time to time? I made this one
guy spontaneously combust,
and he set his whole village on
fire-

XANDER
(cuts her off)
Could you stop being scary for
a minute and listen to what I'm
trying to tell you?

He'd continue but RILEY enters, looking pretty intense himself. He sees Anya and Xander - hears the noise coming from the training room.

RILEY
Is she in there?

XANDER
(nods)
She's training.

Riley nods. Then-

RILEY
Would you guys mind clearing out?
I need a minute alone with Buffy.

Xander nods. He understands that something serious is going down - while Anya...

ANYA
Ah - a little after hours hanky-
panky in the training room, huh?
Xander and I can tell you some
stories-

Xander, rolling his eyes, grabs Anya and slams the cash register closed as he cuts her off, saying-

XANDER
Not now. Let's go, Anya.

ANYA
There's a funny thing with the
vaulting horse, you can-

XANDER
Anya-

Xander leads Anya out. As they're hitting the door, Anya turns to Xander.

ANYA
What? He was the one who started it.

XANDER
In your world, maybe. But where
the people are this isn't the time
for tales of Anya and Xander's
Sexcapades.

Anya takes this in, gets that she messed up.

ANYA
Oh.
(then)
Well, let's just go home and,
y'know, have 'em.

XANDER
Actually, I got some stuff to
take care of.

Anya looks a little put off, but Xander's too distracted to notice as they head out the front door.

INT. TRAINING ROOM - NIGHT

Buffy's still beating the hell out of the punching bag when she notices Riley standing in the doorway, looking grave. Buffy falters a moment at seeing him - then continues, her face going hard. She's too freaked and upset to deal with him. Riley moves closer.

RILEY
We need to talk.

BUFFY
I'm not ready to talk to you yet.

Riley catches the punching bag - stops it.

RILEY
Too bad.

Buffy just looks at him for an angry beat. Moves away from him and starts to gather her stuff.

BUFFY
I'm serious. Unless you want a fight-

RILEY
So let's fight. We need to have
this out, Buffy. Right now.

Buffy turns on Riley.

BUFFY
(pained)
And say what, Riley? What were
you thinking? How long have you
been lying to me?
(then)
Nothing you can say right now is
going to make it better.

She tries to move past him, but Riley grabs her - holds her fast.

RILEY
I realize that. I don't expect...
I just need you to hear me out.

A beat. Buffy relents a bit - but her expression remains hard.

BUFFY
Fine. But get your hands off me.

She says this last with such pain and force that Riley unhands her. Buffy stands her ground, waiting for him to talk.

RILEY
I think - I... when this thing
started, it was just some
stupid, immature game.
I wanted to even the score
after you let Dracula bite you-

BUFFY
I did not let him-

RILEY
(cutting her off)
I know. On some level I know
that. But I was still spun, and,
I don't know... I wanted to know
what you felt, I wanted to know
why Angel and Dracula had so
much power over you-

BUFFY
(shakes her head)
You so don't get it.

Riley grows emphatic, trying so hard to be understood.

RILEY
Exactly. Which is why I let the
first one bite me... I wanted to
get it, Buffy. I wanted to get you-

BUFFY
So this is my fault? Gee, Buffy's
so mysterious - I think I'll go almost
die. I think I'll let some other woman...

She stops, can't even say it.

RILEY
This isn't your fault. It's mine.
And I feel like hell for what I've
put you through. But it's just -
these girls-

BUFFY
Vampires, killers.

RILEY
(ignoring)
They made me feel something.
Something I didn't even know
I was missing until-

Buffy starts past him again - this is too much.

BUFFY
I can't. I can't hear this-

Riley grabs her by the arm again, desperate to get through to her, desperate to make her understand...

RILEY
You need to hear this-

BUFFY
(livid)
Fine. Tell me about your whores.
Tell me what on earth they've been
giving you that I can't.

RILEY
They needed me, Buffy-

BUFFY
(cutting him off)
They needed your money!
It wasn't about you.

RILEY
No - on some basic level it was
about me. My blood. My body.
When they bit me, it was beyond
passion... They wanted to devour
me, all of me-

BUFFY
(pained)
Why are you telling me this?

RILEY
It wasn't real. I know. It was
just physical. But the fact that
I craved it, that I kept going back...
Even if it was fleeting - they made
me feel like they had such hunger
for me...

It dawns on Buffy now what he's trying to say - and it hits her like a slap in the face.

BUFFY
And - I don't? Make you feel that way?

Riley falls silent. That's what he's saying. Buffy's appalled.

BUFFY
How can you compare me to,
to that? How can you say you
understand what those vampires
were feeling? You're not a passion
to them, you're a snack! An idiotic,
willing snack!

RILEY
I know exactly what they feel when
they bite me - because I feel it every
time we're together. It's like the whole
world falls away - and all there is is you.

BUFFY
And you don't think I care that
way about you? How dare you
tell me-

RILEY
(cutting her off)
You keep me at a distance Buffy.
You didn't even call me when your
mom went into the hospital.

BUFFY
I'm sorry I couldn't take care of you
when I thought my mom was dying.

RILEY
It's about me taking care of you!
It's about letting me in, so you
don't have to be on top of
everything all the time-

BUFFY
But I do. See, that's part of
what a slayer is. And that's
really what this is about. You
can't handle that I'm stronger
than you.

RILEY
It's hard sometimes, yes.
But that's not it-

BUFFY
Then what? What do you want
from me Riley? I've given you
everything I have. Every part
of me, body and soul-

RILEY
(anguished)
You say that, but I don't feel it.

BUFFY
Well whose fault is that?
Because I'm telling you -
this is me. This is the
package. And if it's so
deficient that you need
to get your kicks elsewhere
then we have a real problem.

This hits Riley hard. A beat, then-

RILEY
They want me back, Buffy. The
military. It's deep undercover.
No contact with civilians.
(then)
The transport's leaving tonight.

BUFFY
(stunned)
Tonight? When were you going to
tell me about this?

RILEY
I'm telling you now.

BUFFY
Are you going?

RILEY
I don't know. If we can't work
this out...

BUFFY
Then what? That's it - goodbye?

Buffy's anger returns, ten-fold.

BUFFY
You are unbelievable! You're
giving me an ultimatum?

RILEY
I'm not. I-

BUFFY
You are! You expect me to get
over it now or you're gone!

RILEY
I don't. Buffy-

But Buffy's had it, she starts for the door. Riley blocks her way.

RILEY
That's not what I meant-

BUFFY
No. I've heard enough. I'm not
taking the blame for all of this-

RILEY
I'm not asking you to-

BUFFY
(cutting him off)
Let me go, or I'll-

She stops herself.

RILEY
What? Hit me? Go ahead.

She just stares at him. Riley forces the issue, wanting the connection - desperately wanting something from her-

RILEY
(hard)
Come on, do it.

BUFFY
(deadly)
Get out of my way.

Riley stands his ground.

RILEY
I'm serious, Buffy. Hit me.
Hit me.

Finally Buffy just moves around him. Grabs her things. Riley deflates. She just going to walk away... Buffy almost hits the door when-

RILEY
I'm leaving, Buffy. Unless you
give me a reason to stay, I'm
leaving tonight.

This stops Buffy in her tracks.

CLOSE ON BUFFY

Taking this in, expression hard. A long beat - then she walks out the back door of the training room.

OFF RILEY

Watching her go, pained.

FADE TO:

EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

Some time has passed. Buffy is walking aimlessly through an alley - devastated. Completely distracted by her fight with Riley. Then she realizes that she's not alone... WHIP, THE VAMPIRE "PIMP", moves out of the shadows. He has THE JUNKIE GIRL VAMP WHO BIT RILEY on his arm. The junkie girl vamp has been beaten - looks really out of it.

WHIP
The pyro act was a bad idea, Slayer.

Buffy's in no mood.

BUFFY
Felt pretty good to me.

Now there's some more movement in the darkness and we see that Buffy's surrounded by WHIP'S STABLE OF VAMPIRES, four men and three women. Buffy goes on high alert - aware of danger on all sides.

WHIP
I'm not running. And you're not
shutting me down.

The vampires start to CLOSE IN ON BUFFY.

WHIP
In fact - you're not going to make
it through the night.

OFF BUFFY

Whose eyes dart, taking in how very much trouble she's in...

BLACK OUT.

END OF ACT THREE
Act Four

EXT. HELIPAD - NIGHT

Riley has joined Ellis, Graham and the other Black Ops at the helicopter, which is on a helipad on the outskirts of town. The men are loading the copter, while Riley scans the horizon, hoping. He looks at his watch.

EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

The vampires are continuing to close ranks around Buffy. Buffy's in no mood for this. She warns them, her tone pained and lethal-

BUFFY
Walk away.

But the vampires continue to move in.

BUFFY
I'm serious. Don't do this.
Not now-

One of the vampires LUNGES FOR HER. That's it. Buffy springs into action, ripping a thin, long wooden plank from a boarded-up window near by. In a series of blindingly fast, economical moves Buffy breaks the wood plank at each end, making stake-like points. Fighting "Trinity Style" in the Matrix, Buffy spins and thrusts her double-ended stake, dusting vampires left and right. The vampires doesn't even have time to react - one through seven are gone. Then she unceremoniously finishes off WHIP with one final, deft move.

The whole fight takes about eight seconds - and the only other creature left standing in the alley besides Buffy is the junkie vampire girl who bit Riley. The girl trembles, wide-eyed, before Buffy. Clearly messed up and harmless. Buffy hesitates. She can't kill this one. It stinks of pointless vengeance.

Buffy slumps, spent and feeling no better for the raw display of power. A beat as the junkie girl realizes she's being spared. Then the girl takes off running down the alley.

CLOSE ON BUFFY

As she hears the girl retreat. Buffy doesn't move... The moment plays out for an unusually long time... As long as it took Buffy to kill those vampires...

Then, without warning, Buffy hurtles her weapon toward the retreating vampire girl. WHOMP! She impales the junkie vamp girl. DUST. The double ended plank clatters to the ground...

Buffy just stands there - looking at the space where the vampire girls just was. Expressionless.

Then a voice startles her.

XANDER
So how'd that work out for you?
Make you feel better?

Buffy turns to see Xander moving out of the shadows.

BUFFY
What are you doing here?

XANDER
I thought you might need to talk.
Then I saw you get into this
skirmish... I was going to lend
a hand - but you seemed to grow
a few extra ones.

Buffy starts to walk away.

BUFFY
Go home, Xander.

XANDER
Buffy-

BUFFY
I'm serious.

Xander heads after her.

XANDER
So am I. Something's up.
You're acting like a crazy person.

Buffy ignores him. She takes off and turns a corner, trying to get away from him

EXT. WAREHOUSE - NIGHT

Buffy sees that the sliding door of a warehouse is slightly ajar. She runs to it and forces it open enough to slip inside. A beat later - and Xander comes around the corner, sees Buffy disappearing into the warehouse.

INT. ABANDONED WAREHOUSE - NIGHT

Buffy moves inside, upset and cornered now. Xander's right on her heels.

XANDER
Take this, for instance. You
don't want to deal, so you hide?
Not very slayer-like.

BUFFY
Just leave me alone, Xander.
You have no idea what's going on.

XANDER
No? Good. So you and Riley
aren't imploding?

Buffy turns toward him, surprised.

XANDER
Doesn't take a genius. What I
can't figure out is how you didn't
see it coming?

BUFFY
What? Who told you-

XANDER
Nobody told me anything, Buffy.
It's been right in front of my Xander
face. The guy would do anything
for you-

BUFFY
(cutting him off)
The guy got himself bit by
a vampire!

Xander reacts to this. He suspected, but...

BUFFY
He lied to me. He ran around
behind my back and almost got
himself killed. And now he has
the nerve to tell me that he's
leaving with some covert military
operation at midnight, unless
I convince him not to.
(then)
No tell me you "understand" -
because I sure as hell don't.

XANDER
Are you going to let him go?

BUFFY
It's not my decision if he wants
to take off--

XANDER
Of course it is.

BUFFY
Well, that's not fair!

XANDER
Who cares if it's fair? In about
twenty minutes Riley's gonna
disappear -- maybe forever --
unless you do something to
stop him.

BUFFY
What am I supposed to do?
Beg him to stay?

XANDER
Why wouldn't you? To keep Riley
here, you wouldn't --

BUFFY
I don't even know who he is!
I mean he's... I thought Riley
was dependable --

XANDER
Dependable? What is he, State Farm?

BUFFY
You know what I mean.

XANDER
Yeah, I think you mean convenient.
I think you took it for granted that
he was gonna show up when you
wanted him to and take off when
you didn't.

BUFFY
Look who's talking! You've got
Anya following you around like a
love sick puppy --

XANDER
Oh boy is this not about me --

BUFFY
Is she more than a convenience?
'Cause that'd be kind of a surprise.

He stares at her a moment, dead serious... Maybe she's got his number, or maybe he's just got hers.

XANDER
If you don't want to hear what
I have to say, I'll shut up right now.

BUFFY
Good. 'Cause --

XANDER
I lied. See, what I think?
You got burned with Angel.
Then Riley shows up-

BUFFY
I know the story, Xander.

XANDER
But you missed the point. You
shut down, Buffy. And you've been
treating Riley like the rebound guy,
when he's the one who comes along
once in a lifetime. He's never held
back with you - he's risked it all -
and you're about to let him fly
because you don't like ultimatums?

This hits Buffy hard. Xander sees it, comes on strong-

XANDER
If what he needs from you just
isn't there - for God's sake, let
him go. But if it is? If you can
go deeper... Let him get to know
that raw, unguarded heart you
tried to put away... Maybe you'd
better risk something too.

CLOSE ON BUFFY

He's finally gotten through to her - her anger gives way to realization...

XANDER
Okay. So he's drawn the line.
Good. Cause either this is the
end - or maybe it's the beginning.
It's up to you.

RESUME

Buffy looks at Xander with stunned tears in her eyes.

BUFFY
Xander-

XANDER
Run.

A flicker of hope lights Buffy's face. They share a quick look - Buffy's appreciation clear. Then she TAKES OFF.

INTERCUT:

EXT. VARIOUS/STREET - NIGHT

Buffy running as fast as she can.

EXT. HELIPAD - NIGHT

The military helicopter is about to take off. Ellis, Graham and the others - but Riley's still hanging back, hoping that Buffy will show.

EXT. VARIOUS/STREET - NIGHT

Close on Buffy's legs as she races toward Riley....

EXT. HELIPAD - NIGHT

Everyone else is on the helicopter. Riley hesitating... Then-

ELLIS
Come on, Finn!

A beat. Riley moves reluctantly toward the copter, still holding out a shred of hope.

EXT. VARIOUS/STREET - NIGHT

Buffy's giving it everything she's got...

INT. HELICOPTER - NIGHT

Riley straps himself into his seat - looking in vain for Buffy.

EXT. STREET NEAR HELIPAD - NIGHT

Buffy turns a corner. In the distance, she can just make out the copter on the helipad. It's not too late-

INT. HELICOPTER - NIGHT

The copter starts to lift into the air. The noise is overwhelming... Pained, Riley's expression falls. It's too late.

EXT. HELIPAD - NIGHT

Buffy trips and falls as she frantically tries to reach the helipad in time, but the copter has already left the ground.

She yells - the sound of her voice obliterated by the chopper.

BUFFY
Riley!!

INT. HELICOPTER - NIGHT

Over Riley's shoulder, we see BUFFY BELOW, although RILEY DOESN'T. She's calling for him - but he can't hear her.

EXT. HELIPAD - ANOTHER ANGLE - NIGHT

CLOSE ON BUFFY

She desperate. They have to see her. She calls again as the copter takes off into the night.

BUFFY
Stop!! Riley!!

INT. HELICOPTER - NIGHT

Riley is totally unaware of Buffy's presence. Instead, his hopes fade as the copter rises higher into the air.

EXT. HELIPAD - NIGHT

CLOSE ON BUFFY

Who stops yelling as the copter disappears into the darkness. She can't believe it... She slumps, spent and heartbroken.

INT. HELICOPTER - NIGHT

Riley looks straight ahead as they leave the ground far behind... He never sees Buffy below.

FADE TO:

EXT. STREET - NIGHT

Buffy walks home, numb with pain.

INT. ANYA'S APARTMENT - NIGHT

Xander comes through the front door, already talking as he moves toward Anya - who stands, sleepy in her PJ's at the other end of the room. His manner is urgent and heartfelt-

XANDER
I need to say something to you.
I should have said it a long time
ago. I mean, you may not even
know... I love you, Anya, more
every day. I love the way you see
things. I love the way you work a
cash register and how beautiful
you are - and how amazingly sweet
and crazy you can be at the same
time...

He's at her side now, and she's crying joyful tears. He takes her face in his hands...

XANDER
I can't imagine my days without
you - and I wouldn't want to.

...and kisses her deeply. It grows quickly passionate and loving as we-

FADE TO:

INT. BUFFY'S STAIRS/UPSTAIRS HALLWAY - NIGHT

Buffy walks up the stairs toward her room - but she's too broken to make it. She slumps to one of the stairs and just sits there for a long beat. Then she starts to cry.

INT. HELICOPTER - NIGHT

CLOSE ON RILEY

As the copter leaves the lights of the coast behind. He stares out at the black horizon - his expression going dead as he prepares to disappear.

BLACK OUT.

THE END