Riley let the vampire drink from his wrist, leaning back wearily in his armchair in the attic of an abandoned building. He hated the sound of the creature's obscene suckling, hated himself for what he was allowing to be done to him.
"Buffy…" he whispered, almost soundlessly. He loved her so much… and he was nothing to her. Oh, he was certain that she cared about him, in a way, somewhere below Xander but above Anya on her personal list of priorities. Not the way she cared about Angel… not the way she still loved Angel.
He'd lost quite a bit of blood. He was aware of that, and aware enough to swiftly stake the vampire into a cloud of rapidly dissipating dust before he could lose enough blood to fall unconscious.
A woman's laugh, sultry and full of unspoken promise, came from the shadows of the attic room. "Who's there?" Riley demanded.
A small blonde woman came forward slowly into the light of the room's only lamp, clapping her hands softly. "Bravo," she said in a voice as sweet as honey, with an underlying edge of steel. "That was quite the performance."
"Who are you?" Riley found the strength to stand upright, towering over her. She looked up at him with one eyebrow slightly raised, obviously not intimidated by his size and height.
"My name's Darla. You may have heard of me."
"Never heard of you, lady." Riley used his tough-commando voice, trying to scare her. She merely pouted a little.
"Never? Oh, my, I suppose Buffy doesn't like to talk about me." She laughed lightly.
"What about Buffy?" Riley demanded.
"Oh, well, I guess it must just be too painful for her, poor dear. You see, I am… I was… Angelus's sire."
"Angel's sire? You're a vampire." He gestured menacingly with the stake he still held.
Darla chuckled and walked right up to him, her head tilted back as she looked into his eyes. "You won't stake me."
"And why do you think that?" He could stake her easily, but for some reason he hesitated.
"Because I have what you want, my darling boy. Immortality."
"I don't want that."
"Oh really? Is that why you've been wandering the streets and letting random vampires feed on you?"
He shook his head. "How do you know that?"
She smiled. "I have my sources."
"They're wrong. I don't want to become a vampire."
She pouted. "Don't lie to me."
"Listen, lady, I don't know where you came up with this crazy… idea…" His sentence stuttered to a halt as she reached for the wrist the vampire had been sucking on earlier. She gently raised it to her lips and licked the slight trail of drying blood from the wound.
"Dear, dear boy… I know what you want." Her eyes were filled with a terrible knowledge. She tugged once, sharply, on his hand, and before he could brace himself he'd fallen to his knees before her.
"I don't… I don't want this…"
"Yes, yes you do." She cradled the back of his neck in her hand. Leaning forward, she murmured throatily, "You want this… you want Buffy to respect you again… you want her to love you… even if you have to kill her first." She leaned forward, her face transforming terribly as her fangs emerged.
"Yes… yes…" Riley whispered, feeling her sharp teeth pierce the column of his neck. Pain mixed with pleasure flooded his body as she drank his lifeblood away. As his eyesight dimmed and began to fade away, he whispered, "Buffy…"
Riley's body slipped limply from Darla's hands. She stretched catlike, grinning. "Oh, that was simply marvelous!"
A light, sardonic British voice came from the shadows. "Yeah, great." Spike wandered over to Riley's body and kicked him in the ribs. "I thought I was going to puke all over myself if I had to hear anymore of that saccharine-sweet syrupy shit."
Darla's sweet face froze into cold, hard lines. "Don't question my tactics, William."
"Yeah, well, don't call me William." Spike lit a cigarette.
"I will call you whatever I choose to call you, whenever I choose to call you. You would do well to remember that… William." She calmly pulled the cigarette from his mouth and took a deep drag off it.
"Hey!" Spike glared at Darla, but didn't protest further.
"Bury the body in the woods."
"You're not going to give him the siring blood?" Spike lit another cigarette and kicked Riley in the ribs again, grinning nastily.
"No." Darla smiled serenely. "I want Riley to rise as a revenant… no trace of his old personality, barely sentient, just a killing machine with an unbearable thirst for blood. It'll rip Buffy's poor heart into shreds when she has to stake him… and then you'll step in."
Spike grinned. "She'll be unable to resist my charms."
"Whatever." Darla yawned. "I don't care what you do to Buffy. The two of you can set up undead housekeeping together for all I care. Just keep her away from Los Angeles… away from my boy."
"Not a problem." Spike ground the cigarette out under his booted heel.
"It had better not be." Darla smiled prettily. "Now it's back to L.A. for me… back to convincing Angel I still have my soul." She flipped her blonde hair and exited down the stairs.
As Spike heaved Riley's heavy body over his shoulders, he muttered to himself, "Poor bugger." He didn't mean Riley.