London , 1977
"Forget him, mate. Ain't worth the worry. Stodgy bastard!" Ethan dropped down clumsily onto the sofa beside his friend and wrapped a friendly arm around his shoulder, giving him a squeeze.
"Never was good enough for the likes of him," Ripper grumbled groggily, taking another swig of whiskey. "Called me a curse on the family name. Said he'd just as well disown me as see me rot away my life as I've chosen it."
Ethan reached out and cupped Ripper's chin with a wavering hand, guiding him to turn towards him.
"He doesn't see it, Ripper. None of them do. They don't understand your power. But I do. You and I are beyond such petty ideals. We aren't pinned down by duty and honor. Our destinies are our own."
Ripper's green stare held Ethan's eyes for a long, quiet moment and a gentle smile curled along Ripper's lips. "You're the only one who gets it," he whispered, pulling Ethan's hand to his face. "Just you and me, mate."
"Forever." Ethan smiled.
"Bugger this." Ripper jerked clumsily to his feet and sent his bottle of whiskey shattering to the wall. "I need something more."
"What'd you have in mind?"
"Eyghon," Ripper said with a mischievous glimmer in his eye.
"I'm game. But we've made certain promises."
"I know, I know." Ripper nodded, impatiently. "Tonight will be Randall's initiation."
Whispering Pines, OR, 2004
"Elspeth, what is it?" Willow rushed to the woman's side. She was trembling again, eyes wide with shock.
"Something terrible is going to happen," she whispered.
"With Dawn? Is she okay?" Xander moved to her.
"I can't sense Dawn. It's Rupert."
"Giles?" Xander squeaked. "What's wrong with him?"
"I see only pain and blood. It's coming."
The chain holding Ethan captive splintered apart. He pulled himself free just as Giles tackled him, knocking him to the floor. The smoking gun flew from his hand, sliding along the ground into the bathroom. Giles looked back to see Buffy bolt through the door and rush to Dawn's side, checking for any signs of injury.
"She's alive. No visible wounds," Buffy called out, used to battlefield injury assessment.
"Take her and go!" Giles ordered, slamming a hard fist into Ethan's belly. The sorcerer heaved a breath and curled up, protecting his midsection.
Buffy hesitated. "Giles..."
"Go!" He planted another punch, this time to Ethan's side.
Buffy cradled her sister in her arms and stepped outside. With a last apprehensive glance at Giles, she closed the door behind her and focused her attentions on her sister.
"Ripper." Ethan coughed, blood trickling from his mouth onto the floor as he struggled to stand. "Bloody lovely to see you again."
"What are you doing here, Ethan?" Giles growled. "You should be locked away in the Nevada desert, buried beneath the sand in some forgotten military installation."
"There isn't a prison built yet that can hold me. You know that." Ethan grinned, wiping at the blood on his chin. "Besides, I had to check in on my better half. How are you? You look great."
"Why are you here?" Giles' hand coiled into a fist and Ethan's lips curled into a lopsided grin.
"That's it, luv. Give us a kiss."
Giles stormed forward, gripping Ethan's shoulders and pinning him hard against the wall.
"Do you really want me to do this? You know I will."
Ethan continued conversationally. "You've kept yourself fit. Must be all this cool Pacific air. Or is it that Slayer of yours? Making you run laps with her at the local YMCA. It's quite a pretty little picture you've painted for yourself here."
"I have a new life. One I intend to keep free from irritants such as you."
"Come now, you know you'll never be rid of me. I'm your conscience, dear boy." Ethan looked curious. "By the way... how did you like my gift? Bet it looks smashing. Care to model it for me?"
"Gone. I incinerated it. But let's discuss this, shall we?" Giles released his grip and stepped back, dipping into his pockets to reveal the familiar bracelet.
"Oh good! I thought she'd lost it and I'd have to get her another one."
"I don't know what you want with me or Dawn, but I will not allow you seduce her into thinking you anything other than what you are, Ethan." He tossed the bracelet to the floor, ignoring it as it ricocheted and rolled along the floor, coming to rest at the door.
Ethan gently dabbed at his split lip, hissing at the sting as he wiped the blood from his cut. "Enlighten me, Watcher, what am I?"
"A coward," he answered easily. "It's all you've ever been, Ethan. And it's all you'll ever be."
"Yes, well. It's kept me alive, hasn't it?"
Dawn came to slowly and Buffy helped her sister get to her feet. "Are you okay?"
Dawn rubbed her fingers along her temples. "I'm fine. Where's Randall, I mean Ethan?" She looked around, realizing she was suddenly outside.
"Giles is taking care of him."
"What does that mean?"
"He won't hurt you anymore," Buffy reassured her, trying to comfort her with a gentle squeeze of her arm.
"He didn't hurt me." Dawn frowned, looking confused. "Did he?"
"Why were you unconscious?"
"I don't know. Maybe I fainted. He was trapped and we were just talking."
"Why were you talking? You…" Buffy stopped and stared at her. She pulled her sister into a fierce hug. "You scared the hell out of me!"
"I'm sorry, Buffy, I really am." Dawn buried her face in her sister's shoulder.
Buffy rubbed her back soothingly. "It will be okay. We'll make it okay." She leaned back to look at Dawn's face. "But why did you do it? You know Ethan Rayne is a dangerous man."
"I don't know. I wanted to understand why…" Her voice trailed off uncertainly.
"Why what? What's been going on?"
"Not nothing. Something. We know you've been sneaking around. Secretly meeting with him."
"It was for Giles. Randall, I mean, Ethan said he was Council and he was working to get Giles a promotion... to keep Giles here, with us. I did it for him and for us."
Buffy shook her head. "Giles isn't going anywhere, Dawn. I promise."
The two men stared at each other, both waiting to for the other to make the next move. Ethan gave an exhausted chuckle. He took in a choppy breath and flashed Ripper his most predatory of smiles.
"She's a lovely girl, that Dawn. We've been having such fun together, just her and I... alone... in my room."
Ripper exploded, his rage erupting unchecked as he connected to Ethan's brow, jaw, stomach, cheek, nose, and groin. When Ethan collapsed, Giles grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him upright. He slammed Ethan's head back hard against the wall and when he began to buckle again, Giles grabbed his shirt once more. This time Ethan's shirt tore open to reveal a pale torso etched with grisly scars and marks of torture.
Giles stopped, stunned at the sight. Some scars were simple little pinpricks, others, ghastly carvings that seemed to stretch the length of him. Giles released his grip and stumbled back, stunned by the spectacle before him. "What's happened to you? Who did this?"
"You did, Ripper," Ethan's choked, leaning back against the wall for support. "When you abandoned me to those fine young lads of the Initiative." Ethan labored to catch his breath. "I warned you there was more to know. But you wouldn't listen... never listened, my honorable, loyal friend."
Giles eyes fell to his bloodied and shaking hands, his knuckles raw. Then his gaze shifted to the gun lying on the floor. He turned and crouched over it, staring at it thoughtfully. Finally, he picked it up determinedly.
Ethan wheezed, and blinked as Giles came back into view, gun firmly in his hand.
"I'm not the man you once knew, Ethan," he said impersonally, eyes staring at the weapon in his hand, contemplating. "You are not my friend. You are not my enemy. You are nothing to me."
Ethan laughed it off with a pained chuckle. "Ripper, if you honestly believe that, you may as well pull that bloody trigger."
Giles eyes slowly lifted, focusing on the sorcerer. Without blinking, he raised the gun to the sorcerer's head and pulled back the trigger.
Buffy tightened her arms around her sister. "I'm sorry, Dawnie."
The teenager stepped back and wiped her eyes. "About what?"
"Today a lot of people explained what I've been too blind to see for myself," Buffy said sadly. "So much of this is my fault. If I'd talked more and grounded less you probably would have talked to me about what was going on. It was just that I was so scared."
Dawn blinked. "About what?"
Buffy smoothed her hand down her sister's hair. "Everything. Your school, my job, having a real life, a normal life...all of it. All I could think about was keeping you safe and not letting anything bad happen to you ever again. Then when your headaches started I guess I went into overprotective hyperdrive." Buffy stroked Dawn's cheek. "And I ended up making you so miserable you were a sitting target for Ethan."
"He's not so bad," Dawn defended weakly.
"Yes, he is," Buffy countered. "You and I are so much alike that it's scary. But, Dawn, you don't have to make the same mistakes I made. It took me a long time to grow up enough to stop trying to believe what I wanted to be true instead of facing what I knew really was true."
"Randall treats me like a grown up," Dawn whispered. "He doesn't think I'm a stupid kid who can't do anything."
"Neither do I," Buffy said. "All I ever wanted was to give you a chance to be a normal teenager. I didn't want you to have to worry about vampires and demons and monsters." She took a deep breath. "The problem is I never bothered to ask what you want."
Tears began to stream down Dawn's face. "I was just trying to make sure Giles got to stay with us. Everything was awful when he was gone."
"Giles is here to stay," Buffy promised, brushing away the tears. "He loves all of us and he's not leaving."
"He won't love me when he knows how stupid I've been," Dawn wailed. "Everything Ran… Ethan told me was a lie and I believed every word."
"Yes, he will," Buffy assured her. "I've done a lot of things way more stupid than this and he loves me."
Dawn sniffed. "Yeah, but he has to. You're his Slayer. What am I? Ethan said that I didn't belong with the rest of you and he's right. I'm just some weird green energy that a bunch of monks turned into a girl."
"You may have been green and, yeah, you're pretty weird." Buffy smiled. "Then again, so is the rest of our family. But, Dawn, you're my sister and I will always love you."
This time it was Dawn who grabbed hold of Buffy. "I'm so sorry. I just wanted to believe all the stuff he said about me being smart and brave."
"I know, it's important to have someone believe in you. But even though I went about it all wrong, you have to know that I believe in you, and so does Giles and Willow and Xander. We all do."
"I guess so." She looked at Buffy's serious face and nodded. "But look, can we talk tomorrow maybe?" She gestured to her head. "In here I understand what happened and that Ethan was just playing games with me, but," she pointed to her chest, "in here, it hurts. Randall was a nice guy and my friend."
"We'll be talking tomorrow, and the next day and the next day too. Giles and I have promised to do more communicating and that's going to include you too. But, Dawn, no matter what you think you feel about Randall you have to realize that Ethan was never your friend. Maybe you were just the easiest way to get to Giles, but he could have wanted something else too. Don't ever trust him."
Dawn nodded and looked nervously toward the hotel door. "What do you think is going on in there?"
Buffy shifted her gaze. She realized she couldn't hear any sounds of a struggle and rushed to find out why.
Ethan flinched back as the gun sounded the metallic click of a hollow chamber.
"You made me a killer once. Not again. Leave and never come back." The Watcher's eyes remained on the sorcerer's as he slipped the gun within his belt and moved to the door. When he turned away, Ethan collapsed to the floor.
With a loud crash, the door swung open and Buffy immediately moved to Giles.
"Are you okay?" She glanced down at his battered hands.
"I will be." He looked to Dawn who stood motionless, eyes fixed to his raw and bloody hands. "Dawn, are you alright?"
She didn't answer. Her face was pale with shock.
"Dawn?" he repeated and she finally looked up at him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, watching Giles silently forgive her with a gentle nod. Buffy glanced around the room, taking inventory of the trembling man on the floor, encircled by a splatter of blood. When Dawn began to look around, she moved in front of her sister to block the view.
A tear trickled down Dawn's cheek as her eye caught the sparkle of something at her feet. It was the bracelet.
Giles and Buffy watched as she knelt down and carefully picked it up, dusting off the dirt. Dawn stepped into the room and Buffy moved to block her, but she was stopped by a firm hand pulling her into a gentle hug. She looked up at Giles who shook his head, wanting to give the younger Summers a moment, wanting to trust her to do the right thing.
Dawn cautiously moved closer to the fallen sorcerer. She paused just out of arms' reach, and saw Ethan's bloodied face slowly peek out from the shelter of his arm. He was unrecognizable from the seemingly dark and charming prince she'd known before.
"D- Dawn..." His quivering hand stretched out to her, pleading.
She knelt down and studied him for a moment. "I thought Randall was my friend but that's not who you are." She placed the bracelet beside him and returned upright. "Goodbye Ethan."
Dawn turned and walked into the awaiting arms of her family. Giles held them close as they left together, Dawn on one arm and Buffy on the other. Ethan's trembling hand fell to the floor, blanketing the abandoned, shimmering cuff.
London , 1977
Ethan woke and with a lazy stretch of his arm, discovered he was alone in bed. He slowly rolled over, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and scanned the darkened room. Ripper stood at the splintered and crusted window, his shadowed, bare chest outlined by the light shining up from the streetlights below.
"Can't sleep?" Ethan asked pointlessly.
"Won't sleep," Ripper answered softly, remaining at the window, his left palm pressed to the frosted glass.
"And why's that?"
"It hurts," he answered wearily.
Ethan shuffled to the edge of the bed and stood up, pulling the blanket off the bed and draping it around his shoulders as he stepped over to the window. "Has that ponce Phillip passed out on the step again?" Ethan peeked expectantly out the window, seeing nothing which could hold his friend's interest so. "What are you looking at?"
Ripper sighed, his hot breath fogging the glass before him, and let his hand drop to his side. "The night."
Ethan could smell the sour scent of whiskey on Ripper's breath, entwined with musty smoke. "You've been doing that quite a bit, now. Care to share or shall I let you brood?"
"I'm tired, Ethan."
"I would think so. You haven't had a full night's rest since Ra..." Ethan paused and silently cursed himself for his slip of the tongue. "You haven't slept in over a week."
"I can't do this anymore."
Ethan began to wrap the blanket around Ripper's shoulders. "Bloody right, you'll catch your death."
Ripper shrugged off the comfort and pushed away, his face cringing with discomfort. "This... this isn't what was meant for me."
"Not this again." Ethan rolled his eyes with frustration.
Ripper turned toward him with such hard sorrow that Ethan winced. "We killed him, Ethan."
"It was necessary," Ethan urged him. "What happened was regrettable, yes. But what's done is done. We can't change that."
"Maybe we can stop it from happening again."
"You know what, friend? I'm tired. Tired of having this bloody conversation. Tired of your endless whining." He tried to keep his voice down but his anger was quickly overwhelming him. "Randall is dead. He was weak and it cost him his life. His troubles are over. But ours aren't. You think you can wipe away your sordid past by returning to that Council of yours? Face it, you walked away, Ripper. You left that world behind you." He gestured out the window at the night. "There's no going back. Think they'll just throw open their arms and accept you back into the fold? They don't want you, mate. You're a bloody junkie."
"And a murderer."
"Yes, you are. And so am I. So if we're damned, why not be damned together." Ethan reached out and gripped Ripper's arm, tight at first then his touch grew gentle, consoling. "For the last time, Ripper, your place is here, with me."
"You're right, Ethan." Ripper turned toward him, his eyes shimmering with an intense clarity. "It is the last time. I'm leaving."
Ethan watched in disbelief as Ripper shrugged on a shirt and then picked up his pack and walked to the door.
"Ripper, you can't…"
"Sorry, Ethan." Ripper put his hand on the door and pulled it open.
"Wait!" Ethan raised his voice. His eyes cast frantically around the room and spotting the black leather jacket by the bed, grabbed it. "I told you, you'll catch your death. See, you need me to take care of you." He mimicked a woman's voice, "Come now Rupert, you don't want to go out without your jacket." He grinned playfully and waved the jacket in the air.
Rupert Giles looked at him for an endless moment. "Keep it," he said finally. "That's not who I am any more. Goodbye, Ethan." He turned and walked out.
Ethan jerked as if struck. He took a step towards the door, raising an arm as if to call his friend back, before letting it drop to his side. "Not goodbye, Ripper." He turned his back to the door and shrugging on the jacket for warmth, whispered, "I'll be seeing you."