London , 1975
The door to the dusky, haze-filled room creaked open. Deidre, a sandy blonde pixie figure in her early 20's, entered, playfully tugging at someone behind her. Refusing to part with his comfortable spot on the sofa, Ethan tried to focus his foggy eyes on the newcomer.
"Bollocks! Dee , I thought you'd said you two broke it off." He stumbled to his feet, steadying himself with aid from the sturdy nearby table as his head swam with dizziness.
"Not to worry, Ethan. It's not Thomas. This is someone new... someone special," she said excitedly, pulling the figure further into the room and closing the door behind her.
"Aren't they all?" Ethan grumbled under his breath, rolling his eyes skeptically. He handed off the smoldering pipe to Randall, combed his fingers through his disheveled hair, and began to weave his way through the mess of blankets and pillows scattered about the small quarters of the dimly lit flat.
"Brilliant. What stray pup has followed you home this time, luv?" Ethan's eyes lifted to study the stranger, who was tall and lean, with dense, unruly hair and the greenest eyes he'd ever seen.
"He's much more than a pup, Ethan. He's a scholar, this one," she said with a demure smile as the stranger silently watched. "You know how I like 'em." She reached her hand out, waiting for Ethan to accept it. He brought it to his lips, placing a tender kiss there, but his shady eyes never left the stranger. Deidre smiled her appreciation and drifted in a ring around him only to return beside her new interest.
Phillip stepped out of the shadows and carefully scrutinized the outsider. Puffs of stale smoke rose from the hefty, dark haired boy's lips as he flicked his cigarette in the outsider's direction. "He reeks of virtue. Poncy college boy."
Ethan stepped forward, appraising the stuffy clothes creeping out from under the camouflage of a dark grey raincoat. Though it would have been considered posh at one time, the suit was wrinkled and frayed at the seams. Even so, the young man stood tall, as if he were a soldier at attention.
"You'll have to forgive Philip; he's young, arrogant and quite frankly, stupid." Ethan dismissed Philip with a good-natured nudge. He responded with a cocky smirk and blew Ethan a kiss before returning to his watchful position in the shadows. "What he lacks in tact, he more than makes up for with hidden talents, I assure you." Ethan's voice dripped innuendo. "So, what brings you here? Did my dearest Dee find another heart to break or are you packing?"
"He's clean as a whistle. Said he doesn't even smoke; my poor, sweet champion." Deidre smiled and stared tenderly up at her companion's stern face. "Some naughty scoundrels tried jumping me on the corner. Green Eyes came out of the rubbish, like some phoenix rising from the ashes. Next thing I knew, he was standing and they weren't."
Ethan nodded approvingly. "Dead?"
"No, but he sliced them good. Ripped them to pieces, decorating the alley with 'em." She proudly took his arm. "My noble knight in raggedy armor."
"There were a number of them and they were going to hurt her. I did what I had to do." His voice was gentle and smooth.
"So it does speak." Ethan feigned horror. "Wondered if that tasty mouth had any other uses."
The man's green eyes narrowed for a moment then he turned back toward the door. "I'll just go."
"Come now, we're all friends here... or at least we could be." Ethan directed Deidre aside with a wily smile and wink. He wrapped an arm around the hero's shoulders and began to lead him further inside the small accommodations, feeling the stiffness buried beneath the shell of tweed. "You helped Dee , the least I owe you is a place to stay for the night. Besides, scrappin' around here's likely to bring the police round. Best to lay low for a night or two."
"So he can stay with us, Ethan?" Deidre asked hopefully.
"But of course." Ethan flashed his most sincere smile and cocked his head to the side, glancing over at the man, "If he is so inclined."
Emerald eyes moved in turn to each of them settling back to Ethan. And with the subtlest of nods, he accepted and Deidre clapped merrily in celebration.
"Welcome to Mercies Manor, mate!" The shout came from a drunken teenager who stumbled into a heap of pillows in the corner, clutching a bottle of whiskey in one hand and the smoking pipe in the other. The jest brought a smile to everyone's face, including the stranger and Ethan was taken by how it transformed the young man's face. He went from looking shady and dangerous to stunning.
"Please, make yourself at home..." Ethan paused, waiting.
Ethan's brows rose and his crafty smirk returned. "Of course you are. Randall, why don't you offer Rupert here something to eat while I attend to this evening's entertainment?"
"I didn't catch your name, friend," Rupert said cagily, outstretching his hand for a formal introduction.
"Ethan, Ethan Rayne." Ethan grinned and planted his hand firmly in Rupert's. When they touched, there was a spark and he just knew they'd make beautiful Chaos together.
Whispering Pines, OR, 2004
"Well, hello, luv. I certainly didn't expect to see you." Ethan smiled, pulling back the door to allow her entrance.
"Hello Ethan." Dawn smiled back and then lifted her hand and delivered a sharp, stinging blow across the side of his face. "You bastard."
It took a moment for the ringing his ears to subside enough for Ethan to realize she'd used his real name. He stiffened, his mind racing with options. Denial was useless, the truth laughable. He shrugged and smiled pleasantly, waiting for her next move.
"That is your name, isn't it? Ethan Rayne?" Dawn demanded.
He noticed that her hand was concealed in her bag and he wondered if she could actually have a gun hidden in there, mingling with her textbooks as she'd threatened upon their introduction months ago. Something else caught his eye; she no longer wore his gift to her. His smile paled. "I've been called many things." He carefully relaxed and backed away from the door, purposefully giving her some space. "Choose what you like."
"I'd hoped for something a little less deprecating."
"You lied to me!"
"I prefer to think of it more as withholding certain unattractive facts."
"You're a sorcerer. An evil sorcerer who worships Chaos."
"My, my... aren't we the educated one?" He glanced over sideways at her. "Chaos, admittedly, does hold a place close to my heart." He chuckled. "But evil? Hardly." He feigned thought. "Misunderstood perhaps."
"So the jacket gag wasn't actually an evil plot to kill Giles?" Dawn snorted disbelievingly.
"I wouldn't dream of harming a hair on Ripper's head." He strolled toward the bed, turned around and leaned back against the wall, staring over at his guest standing determinedly at the doorway.
"But you've tried to kill him before."
He barked out a laugh. "As you so candidly pointed out, I am a sorcerer and a good one at that. If it was his death I was after, he would already be in the ground." He waved his hand dismissively. "You see, it's just a game we play. Ripper has made it his goal to bury his past while I make it mine to remind him of it."
"His name is Giles," she corrected indignantly.
"He was my Ripper long before he was your Giles." Ethan's lips pursed as if biting back an expletive and then it gave way into a smirk and he motioned toward the chair positioned across from him. "You may come in if you like. Make yourself at home. You've done it before."
"Not a chance!" Dawn shifted in her spot and shivered slightly in the cold night air.
"Suit yourself. Would you care for a soda? Or perhaps some snacks?" He strolled to the small table and rustled around in a grocery bag. With a hopeful smile, he proudly displayed the contents. "I've got some of those sandwich cookies you like. The ones shaped like elves."
"I don't believe you!" Her voice cracked in frustration. "How can you be like this after what you did? All these months talking to you, hanging out, helping you... it was all a lie, wasn't it?"
"This changes nothing, Dawn."
"You're wrong." Her anger seemed to fade and she shook her head sadly. "It changes everything. Why did you do it? I trusted you!"
Ethan shrugged it off. "It was a means to an end, luv, nothing personal. It was a lil' bit o' fun, that's all. Keeping Ripper honest with himself. I needed to get near him and then you walked into my life..." He paused, seeing the disappointment in her eyes. "As if it was fated. I'd so hoped we could remain friends."
"Friends don't lie."
"Oh, but they do. Some are masters of the craft. Ask your Giles about that."
"I trusted you!" she repeated angrily.
"Dawn, I never meant to hurt you. Please believe me. It started as game, all smoke and mirrors, but then... then it wasn't. It changed." He shook his head resignedly. "I changed. I didn't realize how much I'd come to value your friendship... to value you." He took a few steps toward her, raising a hand as if to comfort her, then paused and let it return uselessly at his side. "Please come in. Give me a chance to explain. I'm not asking for your trust, Dawn. I'm asking for your ear."
"Why should I, Randall…I mean Ethan, damn it, I don't even know what to call you, so why should I listen to you?!"
"Because you care," Ethan said tenderly. "That's why I chose you. You care for Rip... for Giles as I do. And I believe in my heart, that you might even care for a misunderstood bastard like me." He flashed his winning smile and motioned to the chair. "Please, for old times' sake."
She stood still for a long moment and then cautiously entered the room.