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by Liz Barr
March-July 2001
Giles, Riley
summary: Riley's vampire-sucking-addiction-thingie reminds Giles of his past.
characters: Numfar! Do the dance of non-profit fan fiction!
notes: I started this back in March, ran out of plot and put it away. Returned to it in July, fixed it up and left it as an extremely short character piece. Post "The Body", but more related to "Into the Woods".
feedback: accepted with gratitude.

Pain. A sharp sting as inhuman teeth pierced the skin, and then a dull ache -- almost worse than the first pain -- as muscles and tendons tore. The throb: the vampire develops a rhythm, not quite tuned to your heartbeat, but close ... the throbbing becomes all, as you try to figure out which pulse of liquid is the work of your heart, and which is from the vampire. Everything goes black, and it doesn't matter any more.

I remember all of this, but say nothing. I have excuses. They might even be valid. She's already lost Riley to the seduction of that pain. She shouldn't have to know about my Ripper days. These were my excuses, and I think they have some validity. Some.

I didn't lie to her. I didn't need to - Anya was able to explain the concept. And Buffy didn't need to live the experience, even vicariously, to destroy the nest.

I think that perhaps she was right to destroy it. "Willing victims," I said. Again, there was a grain of validity in my excuse. Like the drug users who inject themselves with dirty needles and impure, sometimes unknown substances. Do we help them by taking away the drugs, or just give them clean needles and a pamphlet on how to avoid killing themselves?

The government calls it harm minimisation, and I wonder how they'd mangle the English language to describe the Sacrifices. They have different names in different areas - blood dolls, chew toys, offerings. Snacks. We, in our arrogance, avoided the crass humour, choosing to emphasise the depth of our offering. At the time, anything less would have seemed blasphemous. Now it seems pretentious, and worse, stupid.

So typical of us, playing with things we didn't care to understand. I'd like to say it was all Ethan's influence, but that's an excuse without validity. Like Angel, I have learnt to take responsibility for my mistakes.

But Buffy shouldn't have to deal with them. Another excuse, the same one as before. She has done so before, and may do so again, but I shouldn't involve her where it's not necessary. She was losing Riley, and barely understood why. She has come so close to losing everything in her life, especially the things she has appreciated least. There is a sick irony, but no humour in the thought. Out of all the things she has almost lost - her mother, her sister, her boyfriend - Riley was the most expendable. And he knew it, which only made it worse. I can understand the despair, the self-loathing, the anger, which drives a person into the arms of the vampires. The pain, the throbbing of the pulse and the heady adrenaline as you wonder if this time you'll die ... I understand it all. Young men, especially young men who feel unloved, can do stupid things. Vampires, drugs, fast cars ... there are different ways of achieving the same thing, the pulse of blood and the adrenaline to tell you that you're alive.

Darkness. To a young Irish lout, or a British university student or an American soldier ... it's always so tempting.


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