Outside London , 1976
It seemed like they'd been driving forever over the uneven terrain, escaping again into the cover of night. A shudder from the motorcycle beneath them made Ethan tense his arms around Ripper's midsection as they skimmed over the dusty path. It was close to witching hour and he signaled Ripper with a tap of his hand to his friend's firm stomach.
A moment later, they pulled into a nearby clearing and shut off the bike. Ethan slipped off the back and after a quick stretch, fired up a joint. He took in a rough breath and handed it off to Ripper who graciously accepted it with a deep drag of his own. Ripper set the bike down and began to stretch out the stiffness that had settled in his arms.
"You alright?" Ethan asked, retrieving his joint. "Took a beating back there."
"Nothin' that a bottle of Jack can't fix." Ripper nodded, straightening his dusty leather jacket and immodestly adjusting himself in his jeans. "But still a bit..."
"Restless?" Ethan smiled knowingly.
"I guess." Ripper shrugged it off and knelt down to examine his prize, the stolen Triumph motorcycle. He fidgeted with a couple wires and returned upright. "Right catch for a bloody day's work." Ripper grinned roguishly; running his greased fingers through his scalp as Ethan smiled his approval. "I'd say it was a success. Fetch us 500 quid plus."
"You were magnificent." Ethan swaggered up to his buddy and draped an arm around him. He placed the joint to Ripper's lips and smiled. "Then again... you never fail to amaze me." He shifted forward to get a better look at his companion.
Ripper's green eyes locked on Ethan's. "We should get back. Dee'll be waiting," he said, the joint bobbing as he spoke. Ripper tried to step aside but Ethan gripped his leather jacket and pulled him back with a rough tug.
"Let her wait," Ethan purred, releasing his heavy-handed grip and flattening out the wrinkles he'd caused. "It's early yet."
Ripper caught his wrist, his jade stare pinning him with a commanding look. "Ethan…"
"We're crashing, mate. Best not to be wheeling around until we've rested up."
"I'm fine, Ethan." Ripper dismissed him with an unconcerned wave.
"I'm well aware of that," Ethan said quietly and began to whisper an enchantment, leaning back along a rotten tree stump as the hum of magicks tingled through his body. Ripper's head slowly lifted from the cycle and he glanced back with a raised brow and wicked grin.
"Enjoy the night," Ethan spoke smoothly, watching in satisfaction as Ripper joined him on the stump. He carefully leaned in to breathe softly along the rim of Ripper's ear. "The night is our time. The time of magic..."
Whispering Pines, OR, 2004
Ethan rubbed his fingers and thumb along the peppered whiskers on his chin, examining Dawn from across the small room.
She sat stiffly, with her arms crossed in an effort to appear unimpressed, but the nervous twitch of her leg revealed her anxiousness. "So, how do I know this isn't all part of some plan? How do I know you aren't lying again?"
"You don't. You'll just have to take my word for it."
"I'm afraid your line of credit in the honesty department isn't too good."
"If I'm not mistaken, I'm not the only one masquerading here." He winked with a clever smile curling his lips. "I've told you the truth. Now do me the same courtesy, pet."
"What do you mean?" Dawn asked, taking a nibble of another cookie elf.
"Tell me... who are you? "
"Dawn isn't at home. Liz doesn't know much, except that Dawn's been meeting ‘Randall' for a long time and that the last meeting she knew about happened last Sunday," Xander said gloomily as he walked through the door to the coven. "And there were no messages at the house except one very angry one with lots of colorful metaphors from a certain school nurse." He gestured towards the inner rooms. "How is she?"
"She seems okay. Elspeth's a strong woman." Willow walked along with him toward the family room.
"Any luck on what happened with the reading thing?"
"I'm not sure. She won't tell me anything. Maybe it's some kind of mystical confidentiality agreement or something. All I know is she saw something and she didn't like it."
"I haven't heard anything from Giles or Buffy. You?" Xander asked.
"No." Willow could see the distraction in Xander's blank stare. "How's Carrie?"
"Understandably pissed off. I don't know what to do." Xander shook his head. "How do I tell her that I was cursed by Giles' old jacket?"
Lessa hurried into the room and anxiously gestured her hands. "She got something. Not much but it may be a start."
"What is it?"
"Crates. A whole wall of them," Lessa said. "It might be a storage area or a warehouse."
"Good thinking." Xander smiled gratefully. "Anything else?"
"No, but she's still really shaken. Whatever she saw must have been pretty darn freaky."
Willow and Xander looked nervously at each other then Xander offered a confident grin. "'Pretty darn freaky' is our mantra. Oh, I forgot, Liz said that Dawn mentioned something about him having a flashy, new black Jaguar."
"I'll do a little research and call Buffy." Willow looked over at Lessa. "You have a computer I can use?"
"Sure, if you don't mind staring at Wolfman wallpaper."
"What should I do?" Xander asked.
"Wait for a phone call." Willow shrugged and disappeared to catch up with Lessa.
"You know who I am," Dawn said confused.
"I know who you're posing to be."
"I'm not posing."
"Who are you?"
"In name only. You see, I've had the regrettable pleasure of crossing the Slayer's path before. You've heard the accounts, though quite biased, I'm sure. And in all those brushes with greatness, I saw no sister, met no sister, never heard of a sister. That's because there isn't one. Buffy Summers didn't have a sister in days past. Now she does. Connect the dots for me."
"Buffy has a sister. I'm her sister. Have been all my life!" Dawn protested.
"Come now. Don't play a player. Who are you really?"
"I don't know what you're trying to do but..."
"You aren't a demon. I'm capable of distinguishing beauties from beasts. You weren't adopted: I found no records of any such arrangement. It's all very impressive, by the way. The paper trail seems flawless and legitimate. For all intensive purposes, you are Buffy's sister, born and raised a Summers. Very nice work indeed. So why are you here?"
"I am Buffy's sister," she said defensively.
"But Buffy has no sister."
"Yes she does," she insisted, growing increasingly frustrated.
"You believe that, don't you? I can see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice. But I know it's not true... or is it?" He stood slowly and began to stroll around the room, caressing his beard thoughtfully. "Perhaps there are two truths."
Dawn looked up in shock.
"The dreams were real," Ethan whispered, sounding stunned but somehow satisfied as if he'd finally proven some hypothesis. "All this time, my memory twisted... I'd thought it was madness brought on by the sickness or a side effect from the lab. But no..."
"You know who I am?" She didn't intend to speak aloud, but the words fell past her lips with a gasp of breath.
The SUV weaved through the intermittent traffic and Buffy felt her heart pounding in her chest as Giles expertly maneuvered the beast of a vehicle along the narrowing roads.
"Where did you learn to drive like this?" She wrapped her hand around the grip above the passenger side door. "Do Watchers have some sort of demon taught drivers ed class?"
"Sorry. Secret of the trade." He made a sharp right, sending Buffy leaning into him and straining the tension in her seatbelt.
"You're really not grasping the whole open communication part of relationships, are you?" Buffy teased. Before Giles could respond, her cell phone rang and she struggled to get to it and keep herself from flailing into the door. She juggled the phone, trying to answer it before it reached the seventh note to her personalized ring tone, "Every Breath You Take."
"Buffy, Elspeth had a vision. Look for a hotel somewhere in the warehouse district. Hard to interpret but we're guessing that's the target area. And it was one of the places I got in my location spell."
"Xander talked to Liz and she claims to have seen her get into a black Jaguar a few days ago. I did a check and found a record of one stolen model KX8 from Nevada . Mirrored or heavily tinted windows and dealers' plates."
"Thanks. We're on our way and we'll let you know the minute we find her."
"Any news?" Giles asked.
"Stolen car. Keep your eyes peeled for a black Jaguar with tinted windows and dealers plates." Buffy closed the phone and set it down. "And I think I just figured out where you learned to drive like this."
"Hasn't lost his touch," Giles snorted, as he suddenly sent Buffy leaning away from him with a severe left turn.
"Neither have you, apparently."
London , 1977
Screams echoed out from the darkness of the deep alleyway. Ripper marched forward through the chilling downpour, brandishing his switchblade with a practiced flourish.
"Think I'll wait here." Ethan motioned hesitantly backwards.
Two beasts, over seven feet tall, snorting snouts and plated from head to toe in thick, slimy scales trudged out from the shadows stopping Ripper's advance.
"Some of your mates, I presume?" Ethan scrambled backwards, gripping Ripper's leather jacket and shielding himself safely behind his friend.
"K'dar demons," Ripper said, backing away. "It may be too late."
"Pity for him. Let's go." Ethan gave Ripper's jacket a tug. A groan sounded over the demon's growls and Ripper charged head-on towards the beasts.
"Bloody fool." Ethan threw up his hands in frustration.
Ripper was met with a hammering blow from one of the monsters and was knocked off balance straight into the other. Another heavy swipe of the demon's armored forearm and he tumbled to the rain drenched cement, just barely rolling out of the way of a stomping hoof. He managed to send his blade slicing along the tendon in the back of the beast's leg and it howled out in pain, hobbling back into the darkness.
Ethan kept his distance, watching as the second beast lumbered up behind Ripper, swiping at his back with razor sharp claws. It missed: Even wasted on Jack, Ripper was much faster than the demon. But as the other beast returned, Ethan cursed and began the enchantment. He struggled to keep his voice steady as one of the beasts caught sight of him. Another stanza as the demon plodded towards him. A roar echoed from beyond the approaching creature, but Ethan couldn't see anything past the brute towering over him. Just as he finished the final phrase, the beast lifted his heavy arm. Suddenly, the demon froze and collapsed in a heap onto the wet cement. Heart pounding, Ethan let out a nervous chuckle, surprised to see Ripper grasping tightly to the plated beast's back, his blade buried deep within its neck.
Ripper grinned, blood trickling down his temple and seeping into the collar of his jacket. With a quick jerk, he removed the blade out of the creature's flesh, wiping it clean on his jeans as he headed back into the shadows of the alley. Ethan followed and as they reached the end, they saw a young, handsomely dressed gentleman struggling to his feet amongst the trash. Ripper helped him up and steadied him as he swayed dizzily. When the young man looked up, he smiled in relief.
"Rupert? Thank heavens I found you."
"What are you doing here Percy?" Ripper asked harshly. "I thought I'd made myself clear, I didn't want to see anyone from the Council."
"I have a message from your father." He pulled back his blazer and slipped out a sealed envelope, offering it to Ripper.
"Not interested," Ripper said bitterly, lowering his head to shield a cigarette he was attempting to light.
"Be a dear, mark it 'return to sender' and piss off," Ethan sneered.
"I think you should read this," Percy insisted, stepping nearer to his old friend, holding the letter closer.
Ripper stared down at the damp envelope and with a frustrated sigh, snatched it from his hand and tore it open. As he unfolded it, the raindrops speckled and spread the type. Percy swiftly removed his coat and sheltered Ripper and the letter. After a few moments of silence, Ripper stepped backwards into the rain.
"You know this says?" Ripper asked Percy, gesturing angrily with the crinkled letter.
"Not entirely. He sent me to persuade you into coming back so I assumed..."
"Over my dead body," Ethan growled.
"I should think that can be arranged." Percy took a threatening step forward as Ripper gripped Ethan's collar, pulling him back.
"This isn't going to happen. Go home, Percy," Ripper ordered. He turned and began to walk away with Ethan at his side.
"Rupert, he misses you."
"Not according to this." Ripper crumpled up the letter and let it fall to the wet ground.
"I miss you. And we need you."
Ripper stopped, but did not turn. "Tell my father the line dies with him. He was right, I'm not the man he thought I was."
Whispering Pines, OR, 2004
"Who you are is for you to discover, luv. But I know you don't belong here." He smiled calculatingly. "You don't belong with them. Your blood bond is a counterfeit one. That must be why you find yourself pulling away. Dawn, you sense the error in it all... I know you do."
"No. We're family," Dawn persisted.
"You are no more part of that family than you are mine."
"But the memories... the monks changed everything... changed everyone...? How can you see through it?" She gulped suddenly and stepped back. "Are you insane?"
Ethan burst out with wild laughter. "Aren't we all?"
"I mean, are you sick... in the head? Did Glory get to you?"
"Glory... that's an odd description of it." He snickered. "I guess in some demented way it could seem that way. The glory of being blessed with such insight. But how it came about was much less divine." His voice grew bitter. "The coats thought they could control me. Cut into my skull, nosey about a bit and find the key to my magicks." His fists clenched. "Of course they never saw their own hypocrisy. They denied my magicks even while trying to define or control them." He shook his head. "Science never could accept the nature of magic, of chaos. When they couldn't control it, they worked to eliminate it from within me, trying to take it a piece at a time. They dug deeper and deeper still until they finally gave up hope." He finally looked at her and spoke confidently. "But they tapped into something and I was liberated from the affliction of your artificial existence."
"I am not artificial!" Dawn objected.
"No, you aren't. Not anymore." He smiled. "You're so much more."
"Stop it! You don't know me!" She yelled, throwing a cookie to the floor, her eyes tearing. "Don't act like you know me because you don't." Anger and a trickle of fear ran through her.
"I know you far better than they do. Perhaps better than you know yourself. It's why I see you as you really are. I know a great deal more about your mysteries than that Watcher would ever know. More than the Slayer could ever understand. I've searched the world over for answers and I can help you find yours."
"I don't need answers. You don't know what you're talking about."
"Then why are you here?" He shrugged, offering and empathetic grin. "It goes against everything they've taught you. They've trained you to mind them, to obediently fall in line and be the good little girl. They claim to protect you from the world, Dawn, but what they do is lock you away from it. You are as much a prisoner here with them as I ever was with the Initiative."
"That's not true!"
"You've said it yourself. Maybe not in so many words but the sentiments were always there. You're suffocating. I know you sense it. That's why you're here. That's why you came without telling them." He paused, donning a sympathetic smile. "They don't know, do they?"
Dawn's eyes shimmered on the verge of tears. "What are you saying?"
"Only what your heart already knows. Come with me, luv."
"What?" Dawn jumped to her feet.
"Leave this lie behind. We're meant for greater things, you and I. Let's find our destinies together."
"No. I belong here."
"You belong nowhere," he said gently. "Just like me. It's time you accept that. You need to find your own place in this world, to make your place. I can help you. Come with me." He held out his hand, pleading for her to accept his proposal. "Please..."
Xander stepped outside and took in a deep breath of cool night air. Giles' advice given at the airport days earlier crept back into his mind and reached into his pocket. He took out his cell phone and slowly punched the numbers. The ring sounded a couple of times and then a tired voice answered and his heart raced.
"Carrie, it's me. Please don't hang up."
"I don't have anything to say to you."
"I know. Believe me, I know."
"You have a lot of nerve!"
"No. No, I don't." He sighed. "That's why I'm calling you like a coward instead of showing up on your doorstep with dozens of flowers, chocolates, an 80's cover band playing a rock power ballad and the entire DVD collection of Ghostbusters: the Directors Cut."
"You don't know where I live so big relief there," she said harshly. "So, now on top of being a complete ass, you're a coward. Why am I listening to this?"
"I'm so sorry. And I know nothing I say can fix what I did."
"You're right about that."
"But you deserve an explanation."
"I don't really care."
"I wasn't myself."
"Really?" Sarcasm dripped from her voice.
"I never meant to hurt you. I like you a lot, Carrie."
"Practically sexually assaulting me in public place then insulting me. I don't think like has anything to do with it."
"I mean I care for you."
"You have a strange way of showing it."
"Okay, here's the thing." He took in a deep breath and crossed his fingers. "I was accidentally turned into a whiskey-drinking, bar-brawling, womanizing hooligan by wearing a leather jacket that was intended to be a birthday gift for Giles, which had a spell put on it by an evil sorcerer. I didn't mean anything I said, though I do find you extremely attractive. And if it makes you feel any better, I got an extreme ass-kicking at the Slumdunk and puked my guts out because of all the alcohol and the jacket's been burned." He paused hopefully.
"Carrie, I know it sounds completely crazy and though I don't deserve it or expect you to in any way, I hope you can forgive me because I haven't felt this way about someone in a long time and I don't want to lose my only chance with you. So, I'm willing to risk being labeled a complete spaz, and quite possibly being institutionalized, by telling you the truth in hopes that you might let me get a do-over and pick up from where we left off at the party supply store. I'll understand if you never want to see me again but I just couldn't live with myself if I didn't try."
There was a long silence.
"Carrie?" Xander asked nervously. "You still there?"
"You expect me to believe that?"
"No, not really. I'm not sure I even believe it."
"This is the story you're sticking with, cursed jackets and evil sorcerers?"
"That's the one. You deserve the truth. And though I know it's ridiculous and I know it will most likely result in a restraining order, I can't lie to you. I respect you too much. And... and I like you... a lot. So there it is."
There was another long pause and Xander waited anxiously.
"How was Mr. Giles' birthday party?" Carrie asked softly and Xander looked up to the heavens in a silent thank you.
The minutes seemed like hours as Ethan waited for an answer, hand outstretched to her in anticipation and excitement.
Dawn's face was creased, staring at the worn carpet as she rigidly held her tears at bay. It was eating away at her, he could feel it; the churning stomach, the clenched jaw, the trembling hands. He already had her, she just needed to accept it. Their bond couldn't be denied; she had to feel it as strongly as he did.
Dawn finally looked up at him. Their eyes locked and she hesitantly took a step towards him, then another. She crossed the room and stood before him with her glistening eyes staring up into his. Pulsing energies flared outward, stretching out to tickle his nerves and he could taste the trace of spice on his tongue, sizzling and peppery.
He held his breath and remained absolutely still, as her fingers touched his and he closed his eyes for the briefest second to savor the voluntary connection. It was the sweetest sensation, her hand joining his in a willing union.
A metallic chink and ratchet sound made him look down to see his wrist handcuffed securely to the sturdy chain bolting the TV set to the metal framed shelf built into the wall beside him. He gave it a tug, his eyes rising to greet hers with an incredulous gaze.
"I am Buffy's sister, Ethan," she said, her chin raised in defiance. "And you aren't going anywhere until she gets the answers she wants."
"Oh, Dawn, no… don't turn away from me." He looked into her resolved face and tried pleading. "Dawn, don't turn me in. You haven't any idea what they'll do to me."
"They'll do what they always do," Dawn said confidently. "The right thing."
"You are…" Ethan searched for the right words but nothing could even come close to expressing his feelings. "You're extraordinary, Dawn," he said sincerely. As she turned away he whispered, "I only wish there was some other way..." and began to chant.
Dawn turned to rustle through her backpack. She didn't notice Ethan's whispering as she pulled out her cell phone and hit the speed dial to Buffy's cell. When it failed to connect, Dawn tried Willow 's number, feeling her head suddenly grow heavy. As she waited for an answer, she felt the familiar dizziness and queasiness come over her.
"Not now!" She shut her eyes as a stabbing pain shot through her head and she fell to the floor, dropping the phone as she grasped at her head in agony. Through the fog of pain, Dawn heard the faint sound of Willow's voice coming from the receiver but couldn't speak a word. Gasping out from another bolt of pain, she rolled onto her back and blacked out.
Ethan casually knelt down and retrieved the cell phone, listening for a moment to the frantic urgings for a response from the person on the other line. With a wicked grin, he shut off the phone and threw it hard against the wall, shattering it to pieces.
"Sorry, luv, wrong number."
Buffy heaved a sigh. "Why would Dawn have kept something like this secret?"
Giles glanced sideways at her before returning his attention to the road. "Perhaps she was afraid of how you would react."
"What do you mean?"
"Far be it from me to tell you how to rear Dawn, but you do have a tendency to ground first and never ask questions later," Giles explained gently.
"Yeah, several people have mentioned that today." She stared out the window for several minutes before releasing a shuddering breath. "Oh, god, I really screwed up." Her cell phone trilled and she grabbed it. "Hello."
"Buffy, I just got a disconnected call from Dawn's cell number." Willow's excited voice rang in her ear. "How long ago?"
"Not more than five minutes," Willow said briskly. "Buffy, she didn't answer me. She didn't say anything."
Buffy gnawed nervously on her bottom lip. "We'll get to her, Will." She clicked of the phone and looked anxiously over at Giles.
"What is it?" Giles asked softly.
"Willow just got a disconnected call. It was Dawn's. No answer."
"Giles, if he hurts her..."
"Leave him to me."
"I don't think..."
"He's mine!" Giles said severely. "He's close. I can feel it." His eyes darted from window to window, searching the dark corridors of alleys. He turned right, cutting through a break in the large storage containers and his eyes brightened as the path opened up into a small strip of ethnic shops. "There!" He pointed to a small one-story building stretching along the block ahead.
Buffy stared at him. "How do you know?"
"I just do."
"Clever, clever girl," Ethan sneered to his jailer sleeping helplessly at his feet. "You think you've won. Slayer's sister, Ripper's daughter... it makes no difference because we both lose here. If only you'd come with me, pet. But I can still have what I came for. I can still have you, my darling Dawn."
He knelt down beside her, feeling his captured arm tense as his binds went taut. He gripped her jacket and gave her a tug, pulling her closer to him. He leaned forward and gently cupped her cheek, drawing his thumb along her bubblegum pink lips.
"You should have come with me." He stroked her cheek again. "So beautiful and oh so sweet. I'll never forget how you taste." He knelt closer to her, feeling her breath mingle with his. His lips brushed hers and he whispered, "this wasn't how I saw this but you leave me no other choice, luv. I need something from you that you are unwilling to give. So I'll just have to take it."
"Willow , do you feel that?" Elspeth asked.
Elspeth took her hand. "Concentrate with me."
Willow closed her eyes.
"Yes, I feel it. Someone is using powerful magicks," Willow whispered.
"You think Ethan is doing the old casting something nasty?" Xander asked.
Willow opened her eyes. "I can't tell who it is. It's weird." She shook her head. "It's familiar though."
"Giles?" Xander suggested.
"Could be. But there's something more. I can't explain it." Willow looked over at Elspeth. "The energies are so random... all over the place. I can't make any sense of it."
"Nothing!" Buffy yelled as she returned outside from the hotel lobby. "Front desk doesn't have a record of Randall Page and no one's seen anyone fitting Dawn's description. "But we got the Jag right there." She motioned to the car. "Feel like playing room service?"
"Sshhh!" Giles stepped away from her, walking a short distance toward the row of rooms.
Buffy frowned. "What are you doing?"
"Listening for something," Giles raised a hand, continuing on before she could speak, "...that can't be heard with your ears." He motioned his finger to his lips then closed his eyes for a moment, holding a breath as he concentrated.
"Is this that honing you've been trying to sell me?" Buffy asked, unable to stay silent.
"He's here, Buffy," Giles growled, his fuming eyes scanning the rows of doors stretched out before them. "I feel it."
"Ripper," Ethan snarled, jumping to his feet. His eyes darted between the door and Dawn. "No! She's mine."
His gaze fell on his bag lying beside the bed and he reached out, feeling the cuff dimple his skin as he tried to take hold of it.
"I won't let you take her away from me."
Closer now, barely an inch from his clawing finger and he felt the metal dig into his skin and then break the skin, sending a thin stream of blood to the floor below. His fingertips scraped the edge of the canvas and he pulled the bag to him and reached inside.
He clenched his fist around the cold, textured grip. Dawn lay sleeping at his feet, looking like an angel in her peaceful rest. He gently curled a stray hair behind her ear with his shaky finger.
"Forgive me, luv." He raised the gun.
Giles ran past Buffy to the last door under the neon light. He kicked his heavy boot against the door.
The sound of a gunshot rang out.