"I give up!" Dawn announced, gesturing dramatically.
Ethan held the door open, a gentle smirk playing along his lips at the sight of the defeated young lady. "Well now, that doesn't sound like the Dawn I know."
"It's the new, unimproved me. The aim-low, underachieving, just-get-by, loser me." She dragged herself through the doorway and Ethan closed the door behind her and followed her to the table.
"I'm sensing a disturbance in the Force." Ethan was teasing of course, but there was truth behind the oversimplification. He'd learned to differentiate her moods with her shifting energies. Her power had many different flavors corresponding to her disposition. She tasted tart now, but even so, he still craved her, like a slice of lime with tequila.
"You're a guy." She pointed abruptly, almost catching him on the chin with her animated motion.
"Thank you for noticing."
"Why are guys like that?" Dawn asked, tossing her bag to the floor in a huff and then sinking into the chair with arms crossed.
"Like what, luv?"
"Non-communicato. They won't tell you how they feel or what they really want. I don't get it."
"Funny... I've heard the same exact complaint about the fairer sex."
"I just want a clear reading here. Does he or doesn't he? Yes or no?"
"It might help if I knew the question…"
"But all I can get out of him is 'hello' and 'nice day'. Why won't he *really* talk to me?"
"The male of the species communicates differently, that's all."
"Then fill me in on 'male-ian lingo 101' 'cause I'm flunkin' big time."
"Let's begin again." Ethan ran his fingers through his tousled hair and decided to make himself comfortable on his bed. Usually, he'd prefer to remain as close as possible, to soak up any threads of power she might offer, but her current tang wasn't suitable in large doses. "What happened?"
"There's a Valentine's Day party on Saturday and I know Brian isn't going with anyone. I've been dropping hints like crazy and here we are, Tuesday night already, and still nothing. Time's running out!" She shrugged helplessly. "What's a girl gotta do? Should I just throw myself at him?"
"If it were only that easy," Ethan muttered under his breath. He smiled encouragingly. "Perhaps he's shy? I've known my share of timid creatures, barely able to speak let alone approach a girl. Perhaps you should take the initiative and make the first move?"
"But what if he's not interested?"
Ethan chuckled. "How could he not be?" He'd said it without thinking and caught her surprised but amused stare at his unintended compliment. He quickly glanced away. "You want to be sure of his affections to avoid any foolish misunderstandings. I understand that. But it is all a part of human interaction, Dawn. You must be willing to put yourself out there, to risk ridicule, in order to gain companionship."
"I know all about ridicule... with the dizziness and fainting spells, I'm the super freak of the high school. Just for once, I'd like to be sure I won't make a complete dork of myself."
Ethan smiled sympathetically. "Did you try the relaxation exercises I taught you?" he asked innocently, knowing full well they were useless against what was affecting her.
"Yeah. They aren't helping. They hurt so much... the headaches. Feels like my head is gonna explode."
"No need to worry, luv. It'll pass," he reassured her. "Probably just stress related to Buffy's over-parenting of you."
"I hope you're right." Dawn's troubled gaze stared him down, as if searching for answers but he offered nothing more then a kind smile. "Anyway, I want to know what's going on. With Brian at least." She hesitated. "I know this sounds weird, but I was thinking about trying this truth spell I found." She rustled around in her school bag and removed a magic text Ethan was very familiar with. She opened it to the correct page and set it down before him on the bed. "See, it's designed to use on men. It won't affect women, so that'll keep me from blurting out something I don't want to say." She grinned. Ethan smiled back and nodded approvingly.
"And I was thinking of enchanting some perfume." She pulled out a small perfume bottle and set it on the table along with some purified water and a few essential oils and spices. "I could wear it to the party and when Brian gets a whiff, he'll have to tell me what he really wants."
"A spell?" He cocked a curious brow, showing both interest and amusement. "Well, that's very much out of my league. From what I understand, truth spells tend to require tact and cunning. He won't always just blurt out the obvious."
"I know... it sounds silly, but this magic stuff can work sometimes. I just didn't want to try it alone. You know... in case I messed up or something."
"Can't say I'd be of much help. I'm afraid I am completely at a loss when it comes to the more mystical aspects of my, um, industry. Perhaps I could supervise you and make sure no harm comes to you." He smiled. "But you have to promise to fill me in on the next chapter in your fable."
"It's a deal!" Dawn said. "I really appreciate this, Randall. But don't let Buffy or Giles ever know I tried this. They'd totally freak."
"Would they, now?" He grinned slyly. "But you're such an able bodied and responsible young woman. How could they possibly doubt you?" Dawn's face lit up and he swore he could taste honey in her smile.
He watched as she set up the items along the table, placing a small terracotta cup in the center of a tackily decorative scarf. "Seems straightforward enough."
"Yeah, I've worked some stuff in the past, but you never know when these things will blow up in your face."
"Are you quite sure you have all that you need?" he asked.
"I think so," she hesitated in her preparations and looked over with an anxious glance. "Randall...you think this will work? You think Brian will tell me he likes me?"
There was a flash of a knowing grin and Ethan stood up and crossed the room to her, his intense, dark eyes focused on her. He shifted the other chair to face her, sat down, and then slipped his hands over hers with a tenderness that made her blush.
A stream of heat traveled up Ethan's arm, reminding him of the unspoiled force waiting to be tapped into. Breathing deeply, he waited until the stir of excitement settled, and then spoke.
"There's no need to worry, Dawn. Boys are of little value when you can have the man your body calls for." His hands tensed around hers and he saw her eyes transform slowly from comfort to panic. And there it was, his other favorite flavor, the flavor of her fear. "Or should I say, the man who understands your true value."
"Randall? What are you doing?"
"You are mine, Dawn. You know that." It was so natural now, the feeling of his energies reaching out to mingle with hers. She froze in shock, her body trembling as his energies coursed through her, invading her. "Give in." His grip tensed, digging into her flesh as he pulled her closer to him.
"It hurts. What are you doing?" Dawn tried to scream but her voice was barely a whisper.
"I'm giving you what you want...," he hissed with pleasure. "And taking what I need."
"Let go," she cried, barely able to struggle against his grip.
"Give yourself over, Dawn. You know I'll take this no matter what you do, so you might as well give me what I want... what you need to give me... what you want to give me..." He squeezed her wrists a bit tighter and a green glow surrounded where they touched. "You know it's worse when you struggle."
"No," she cried weakly, her head swimming with pain as she fought uselessly to get away. "Let me go!" Her face lost all color and she blacked out. She fell forward, her face landing directly on his lap and Ethan gasped at the sudden wave of arousal that shot through him.
"Oh yes... so willing to please, dear girl." He directed a wisp of hair away from her face. "So beautiful," he whispered, caressing her sallow cheek with a rough finger. He combed through her silken strands, pressing her against him with the subtle motion. He shifted slightly and sighed contentedly.
After a long moment, he allowed the connection to close and the green haze slowly dissipated. "Ah, thank you, my dear. I do hope that was good for you too," he said cheerfully, as he cradled her in his arms and carried her to the bed. Carefully positioning her on one side of the bed, Ethan settled along side her, nestling closer. He propped himself up on his elbow, examining her thoughtfully as she slept.
"You want to know the truth of what your Brian wants of you, do you? Very well, my sweet, you'll have your perfumed potion. But what are you ready to offer me in return?" His finger drew up the length of her arm, moved along her throat and cupped her chin, turning her face toward his so her moist breath tickled along his lips with every exhale. He leaned in close, his nose brushing hers and a green burst snapped between their lips.
"So sweet." He licked his lips. "I wish I could continue this gentle foreplay forever, luv, but I think it's time we move on to something more permanent." He sighed as he stood up and moved to the table. "Ah, but not now. It should be perfect for you. Valentine's Day would be so much more fitting." He took up the magic text and began to prepare the oils in the decorative glass bottle. "Soon... but for now, I'll do this gift for you." He inspected the spell, committing it to memory in one read through. With a casual gesture over the bottle, he chanted.
"Rip away a man's disguise,
Find hidden truths and open lies,
Scent the truth, seal your fate,
No barriers between man and mate."
The sorcerer looked back at the sleeping young lady on his bed and smiled proudly. "It is done." He reached into his nearby supply bag and revealed a small pocket knife.
"And now for my payment." He opened the blade and retrieved the small unused terracotta cup, positioning it beneath her. "Or more, accurately, a down payment on what you will give me soon."
"I apologize for this but…" He gingerly sliced the blade along her fingertip, watching with fascination as the crimson syrup bled from the wound and into the bowl. After a few moments, the base of the bowl was covered with a thin coat of her blood and he lifted the finger away. "Not too much…," he muttered. "After all, I don't want you weaker than you already are." He brought the cut flesh to his lips and sucked on it briefly before bandaging it with a clean handkerchief.
"Thank you, my dear. I'll save this for later." He disappeared into the bathroom, taking the terracotta cup with him. He returned with a vile of oil and gently moved her arm to rest back to her side, kneeling down beside her. "I was right, you taste of honey."
He carefully replaced the handkerchief with a small Band-Aid, smeared a few drops of the oil along her neck and recited his reliable forget spell. When finished, he casually took a seat at the table and waited.
Dawn stirred and began to awake, yawning and rubbing her eyes as she slowly sat upright. When she opened her eyes to see Randall sitting across from her at the table, she blushed.
"I'm sorry," Dawn giggled embarrassedly. "Did I fall asleep on you again?"
"It's quite alright. It's rather late and you must have needed the rest. I take it as a compliment that you're so relaxed around me." He lifted up her book bag and set it down on the table. "Now you best hurry home before your sister worries."
"But the spell?"
"You finished your spell, my dear. Don't you remember? You did the spell and then you dropped the cup at the end of it… see, you somehow managed to nick your finger while attempting to clean up." He smiled sadly, "And I had to dispose of it, I'm afraid. I hope it wasn't worth anything."
Dawn frowned, trying to remember. Then she shrugged. "Naw. Something I made in art class. So the spell went ok?"
"You were magnificent."
"Did it work?" she asked, cautiously getting to her feet.
"I don't honestly know." He stood up, casually stepped forward and held out the bottle to her with a subtle smile. "Care to give it a try?"
"What do you mean? You want me to try it on you?"
"Why not? I've nothing to hide." It was a gamble but he loved playing the odds.
"Okay." She took the stopper out and dabbed it on her wrist, not really smelling anything but the faint fragrance of lavender. "What should I ask you?"
"Ask anything you like, I suppose." He held his breath.
"What do you really see when you look at me?" She asked hopefully. He stepped up to her, took her hand in his and raised her wrist to his face to take in a deep breath of the perfume. He saw the twinkle of apprehension in her eye and smiled seductively as he released her.
"I see a brilliant star burning for all to admire. A raw beauty winning over hearts with every look and smile. And lastly, I see a young woman whose vitality and energy empowers me with her very presence."
"Thank you, Randall." She smiled gratefully and wrapped her arms around him. Ethan gasped slightly at the rush of sweet energy. "It's nice to have someone I can trust."
"Think nothing of it." He pulled away and gestured with the perfume bottle. "We'll hide this here for safe keeping. You wouldn't want your Mr. Giles or Buffy stumbling upon it before your party. With Mr. Giles' expertise in the mystical realm, he's sure to recognize such a charm. Best to keep it out of sight until you need it."
"Good thinking," she agreed and handed it over. "Always watching out for me."
"Guess I have a dash of Watcher in me after all. Go on home now, and I promise that I will get this back to you before your engagement. If cupid has an arrow for you, it will find its target, I assure you." Ethan drew back a stray wisp of hair from Dawn's face.
"Thanks. I hope you're right."
"Ah, my dear Dawn, I have every confidence that this Valentine's Day will be most memorable. In the end, I'm sure you'll find the man who truly appreciates you for what you are."