"Buffy?" Giles called out as he put down the razor and wiped his face. "I’m done in here if you want to use the bathroom now," he said as he
for his shirt. When there was no answer, he approached her bedroom door and knocked gently. "Buffy? Buffy, it’s time to get up."
After waiting a moment longer, he tried the door handle and found it unlocked. Opening the door he stared at her empty bed. Frowning in confusion, he shut the door and headed down the steps to look for her.
Buffy’s eyes fluttered open. She grimaced and tried to stretch but couldn’t move. She looked down and saw that she was tied to a chair with a rope. She rolled her eyes and took in a deep breath. But when she tried to tear the ropes apart, they didn’t budge.
Panic started to creep into her face and she looked around the room. There was a bed, a desk, a door that presumably led to a bathroom, a cupboard and a window next to another door from which someone was approaching.
"Good morning, dear. Sleep well?" Ethan asked her cheerfully.
Giles closed the door leading into the basement. "Where could she be?" he murmured to himself.
"Buffy's not in the training building." Dawn skidded to a halt, the words tumbling out of her mouth. "The door was still locked and the lights weren't on. If she's been out there she might have remembered about the door, but she always forgets about the lights and someone else has to go back and turn them off."
Giles sighed. "She’s nowhere in the house and she hasn't been downstairs either. I thought perhaps… " He stopped and cleared his throat. "She's gotten into the habit of leaving notes taped to the screen of my computer."
"And always leaves the lights on," Dawn added with a small laugh that quickly turned into a choked sob.
Giles nodded and put his arm around the teenager. "Don't worry. She's probably just run out to get some orange juice or something."
"There's like ten gallons of the stuff in the fridge." Dawn's voice was muffled against his shoulder. "And her purse and everything is still in her room. She wouldn't go shopping without that."
"Willow took one car and the other one is still here," Xander said, as he walked up with Carrie. "At least we know the streets of Whispering Pines are still safe."
Giles nodded absently.
"Is Buffy really such a bad driver?" Carrie asked.
"Yes," everyone chorused together, grinning at each other for just a moment before their smiles quickly faded.
"You don't suppose…" Dawn shuddered and didn't finish the sentence.
"What?" Giles asked encouragingly.
"That she's out looking for Ethan," Dawn said in a rush. "She might have decided that the best way to keep all of us safe was to go after him by herself."
"She wouldn't leave without telling us," Giles said.
Xander snorted and Giles gave him a stern look. Xander countered with a raised eyebrow until Giles ducked his head and said sheepishly, "She didn’t go. I checked the weapons chest and everything is still there."
"She's not at the jogging track in the park," Willow said as she entered the house and saw them standing grouped in the hall. "And as I was leaving I saw Fred and Alice outside working in their yard. They said they'd been there for over an hour and hadn't seen Buffy leave."
"An hour? What time is it?" Carrie gasped and looked at her watch. "Oh, my gosh. I didn't realize it was so late. I've got to get to school."
Dawn looked up at Giles. "Do I have to go? I want to stay here and help look for Buffy."
Giles looked at Carrie. "Can you make Dawn's excuses for her?"
Carrie nodded. "I'll check in and then come back here as quickly as I can arrange for a sub."
"You don't have to…" Xander began.
"I want to," Carrie assured him, clasping his hand and squeezing gently.
"Maybe I should give the map one more try," Willow suggested.
"Please do," Giles said hopefully. "She can't just have vanished into thin air."
"What have you done?" Buffy said through her teeth, not bothering to hide her anger.
Ethan laughed. "Now really, Buffy, isn’t that quite obvious? I’ve broken into your house, kidnapped you, tied you to a chair and had a good night’s sleep and a hot breakfast."
"You know that you won’t get away with this."
"Actually, I'm quite good at getting away with things like this. But you know that, don't you?" He winked confidently. "However, I haven't finished with Ripper's little family yet. Plus I have such lovely plans for you."
"The others will find you."
"Oh yes, because that worked so brilliantly yesterday. I hate to tell you, but Willow has yet to learn a few crucial aspects of magicks. Not that her power isn’t very… inviting." He licked his lips.
"Ew. Has anyone ever told you you’re disgusting?"
"Often." He grinned. "Although they didn’t necessarily mean it in a bad way."
Ethan's grin vanished as he moved closer to Buffy. He leaned down, his face so close she could feel his breath. "You have no idea how sick I am. The good news is there is a cure." He smiled and stepped away again before continuing wistfully. "I’ve never had it as sweet as your ‘sister’. Then again… it’s been so long."
"You’ll never get your filthy hands on her!"
"Oh Buffy, but I already have. Hasn’t your weeping Willow told you everything? Or perhaps she’s hiding something from you?"
"Willow is not hiding anything from me. Neither is Dawn. Yes, we know what you did and you better remember it, too, because that memory is all you’ll ever get again from Dawn!"
"Such fire, such conviction. I like that in girl," he purred. "You should see your face, teeth bared, that adorable line creasing your brows. Give us a growl, luv." He chuckled.
"Enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t be long."
"Is that a fact? That’s interesting. Because for all that you know, I could have drained the witch, killed good old Ripper as well as the boy and his pretty little girl in their sleep, and have my Dawn tied up over there for whenever I want to dip into her again and again and again." As he spoke, he drew his finger teasingly along the bare skin of her arm.
Buffy’s eyes widened.
"How utterly delightful, she’s worried. How sweet," he said cheerfully. "I'm afraid you were wrong about her, my dearest Dawn!" he called towards the door. "She’s not just thinking about herself all the time." Buffy stared in horror at the doorway and resumed struggling against the ropes.
He turned back to Buffy again and his smile disappeared. "Of course to actually believe that I would kill all others yet spare your life is rather self-centered." He studied for a moment. "Oddly enough, I feel this aching need to get to know you, Buffy. Since we are having this civilized little chat, why not talk a bit about yourself? Or do you have other plans?"
"Giles, I don’t sense either Buffy or Ethan and the map’s giving me a big nothing," Willow said with frustration. "I don’t know what’s going on."
"Ethan’s probably long gone now, playing with his new energies," Giles said unconvincingly. "And Buffy’s just…" He stuttered for a moment and waved his hands helplessly. "…out."
Xander approached and placed a hand reassuringly on his shoulder. "Don’t worry Giles, she’ll be back soon and then you can glare at her to your heart’s content for giving us this scare."
Giles nodded and turned away.
Willow stood and headed towards the kitchen. "I’m going to call Elspeth, see how she is and if she has any ideas, okay?"
"Very well, but please don’t press her. She and Deborah have been through enough."
"Giles! Xander! Dawn! Get down here!" Willow's panicked shout reverberated up the basement steps and through the entire house and moments later everyone was gathered around the computer.
"Elspeth’s phone didn’t answer, so I was going to email the Devon Coven and see if they knew of some way to increase the range of the tracking spell," Willow explained. "When I opened the email I found this." She pointed a shaking hand at the screen.
I suppose by now that you've noticed the absence of your precious little Slayer. Not to worry. I'm keeping her very good company. We're getting along rather well and she's very willing to please, as I'm sure you already know.
I can see why you're so taken with her. She's very entertaining and almost as tasty as the younger one. I wonder if you know that as well?
You really should have learned to share your toys, Ripper. But I don't suppose that matters since you'll never see your beloved Buffy again.
By the way, tell Red that she may have some promising talent but she's got a very long way to go toward being a match for yours truly. She would have been better off with me. Your loss, pet.
And tell my dearest Dawn I'll be seeing her soon.
All my best,
For a moment Giles stared at the screen in shock. The blood slowly drained from his face, leaving him a pale shade of grey. "Oh god," he whispered. "He has Buffy."
"Is there anything in particular you’d like to talk about?" Ethan asked, crossing his arms as he casually parked a hip against the wall behind his prisoner.
Buffy gave her restraining ropes a threatening tug, but was unable to turn her head far enough around to see her captor. "How about how good it's gonna feel when I kick your ass?"
"Ah yes, you must derive much satisfaction from having the benefits of Slayer powers. Strong, invincible Buffy. You must be very proud of being the Chosen One, or should I say a Chosen One. I hear there is a whole crowd of them now." Ethan paused thoughtfully. "It’s odd. One heads off for a few years of torture, and when you come back the whole world has changed." He stepped forward and looked pointedly at her. "Well, mostly your world. Tell me how does it feel being stripped of the exclusivity of being the Chosen One?"
"I’m feeling very well, thank you. Now if only I could get you out of my face…"
"You will soon enough. Quite frankly I have no idea why you’re so hell-bent on ending our little chat. I doubt you will enjoy what comes after." He stepped back for a moment and stared down at her. "So you don't take issue with fact you are no longer the Chosen One? Or do you? Is that why you've separated yourself from the other Slayers? Dawn mentioned the different headquarters. Yet you’re here, with no other Slayer in sight. Maybe needing to still be the queen of your little domain?"
Buffy turned her face away, her head held up high, ignoring him.
Ethan straightened, stroking his goatee. "I've struck a nerve, haven't I, princess?"
She turned to him. "The only thing that will be struck is you!"
"Charming as ever, Buffy," said Ethan shaking his head. "You really do disappoint me. Physical threats again. Didn't that Watcher of yours teach you that violence is not the answer?" He chuckled disapprovingly. "But it fits, doesn’t it? You’re a Slayer. That makes you special. Not as much as before, mind you, but still special. You’re stronger than others, better… in that respect. Could it be that it’s the only thing that makes you better than other people? Superior?" He leaned down and whispered into her ear, "Is it even possible, that you aren’t a special person at all, but rather nothing more than a self-absorbed, narcissistic, annoying bitch who’s full of herself and likes to order people around?"
"I’m not the one who's running around killing people," Buffy spluttered.
"Ah, but you do, Slayer. You are judge, jury and executioner to many walks of life."
"I fight evil."
"You fight what you deem as evil and command others to do your bidding like some bloody dictator."
"In case you’ve forgotten… you asked Dawn to go with you, but she didn’t. I didn’t command her, she chose."
"Yes, you have all of them quite well-trained. I have to admit that’s one thing I admire. Even though they all complain about you, they don’t leave."
She looked away again.
"Oh wait. Someone did, didn't they? Someone dared to leave you. Did dearest Dawn run away before?" He stood and studied her carefully, but she didn’t move and refused to look at him. "Or perhaps you mean the witch that turned against all of you once, almost killing Ripper… aww, Buffy, don’t you want to tell me?"
She turned to him and spat, "You don’t know anything about us and stop calling him Ripper! His name is Giles!"
His brows lifted with the realization. "Oh!" Ethan exclaimed. "It was Giles who left?"
Buffy was taken back. "I didn’t say…"
"That ponce managed to walk away?" Ethan said with a wide grin. "Now, I'll wager that's the reason for your sudden change of feelings. I seem to remember that your taste in men was lacking. There was that vampire, that annoying nancy soldier boy who took me away, and then Dawn said there was a ‘thing’ with another vampire." He ticked them off as he walked around her slowly. "I was wondering where Giles fit into this, but if he left, that might explain it. Did he threaten to go again and you looked at him with puppy eyes and said ‘No, Giles darling, don’t go. I’ll be a good little girl from now on. I'll do anything to keep you here, even sacrifice my crumbling virtue and fuck you’?"
"You wouldn’t know true love if it bit you in the ass," Buffy growled, struggling against her bonds once more.
"Oh, so it’s true love is it?" He lifted his hands to his face in mock delight. "I’m so happy for you. All these years you jump from bed to crypt to coffin, sleeping with one prat after another while treating Ripper like an useless old eunuch, and then out of the blue you suddenly realize that he is in fact your true love. Oh that’s so bloody," his tone suddenly turning cold, "convenient."
Buffy took a deep breath and calmly shook her head. "You know nothing."
"I know more than you think, my dear. Both Dawn and Rupert have shared quite generously with me because I am a good listener. I'm listening now."
"You know nothing," she repeated.
"So enlighten me! It wasn’t selfish need that made you profess your love to good old Ripper? You honestly believe that you love him. I’m trying to wrap my mind around this. Two vampires, apparently souled vampires," he clarified, "and a boy soldier. It seems to me that you like the kind of bad boy who isn’t actually bad. Now what about Ripper or wait, Giles… That’s right, could it be that by now you’ve actually seen a bit more than the part of the harmless old fool he liked to play in front of you?" He whirled to face her again, features filled with true delight. "Oh dear, was it my spells? When he went back to his ‘wild’ youth because of the candy or when I turned him into a demon? Was that what got your knickers wet?"
Buffy’s jaw clenched.
"Could it be that you think that that is his wild side, but his true nature is the good man that he became? Bad Boy Ripper but Good Man Giles?" Ethan shook his head. "Could you be so daft as to not even know that much of who he truly is?"
Buffy looked away again, breathing in deeply as her hands curled into fists.
Ethan started laughing.
"What do we do now?" Willow asked. "If we can’t find him or Buffy… are we back to driving around town and looking into windows?"
"At least I could help with that," Xander said frustrated.
"We’ll try to trace his magic," Giles told Willow, who started to protest, but he continued. "Together. I’ve shared magic with him. Maybe we can find him through this link."
"What if he’s left town with her or killed her and left then," Dawn said in growing panic.
"I… I doubt it. He was never after Buffy. He wants to throw us by taking away Buffy, but she is not what he wants." Giles spoke hesitantly.
"No, we wants me," Dawn said weakly.
Xander put his arm around her. "He won’t get you."
"We’ll protect you, Dawn," Willow said firmly. "And we’ll get Buffy back. Giles, what do we need for this spell?"
"Has he ever told you anything of our shared youth?"
"Enough to know that he’s changed, unlike you."
"Ah, I see. ‘Oh Buffy, I did horrible things in my past, but I’m not that man anymore.’" Ethan laughed derisively. "Spare me the redeemed man speech. Repeating it like a bloody mantra won’t make it any more true. He’d prefer you to think that he made just a few mistakes that are forever locked safely away in the past. But you can’t put something behind you that is a part of you."
"Maybe you just don’t want to accept that he never really was that man in the first place."
He smiled. "’That man’. You can't even begin to understand what I’m talking about. I knew Ripper before you were even a glimmer in your mother's eye or itch in your father's trousers. I know him inside out, through and through. I know what he’s feeling, what he's thinking, what he's craving… even when he doesn’t know it himself."
Buffy glared at him defiantly. "You think you have some inside track to knowing Giles 'cause you two shared a joint or crashed a few parties when you where kids? I know who he is now and he’s the man I love and who loves me."
"Loves you?" Ethan assumed a thoughtful pose. "He settled for you. He accepted you as a destiny he can’t escape. They drilled it into him like some righteous religion since he was just a young lad. ‘You are a Watcher, Rupert. You’ll guide the Slayer, Rupert.’ That he was also a man was of no consequence." He waved his arms about the room. "But he hated it. The man he truly was wanted nothing more than to get away… from them, from you," he sneered. "He tried to leave and what glorious times those were. He was happy, you know. Without them, without anyone telling him what he must or mustn’t do. Without a Slayer. He was happy when he was with me, when he was Ripper." He looked at Buffy, but she didn’t react. "But then… he couldn’t deal with Randall’s death."
"And that just proves he’s different from you."
"He ran away from me as he ran away from the Council. You want to know what he feels for you? Safety." Ethan punctuated his statement with a pointed finger at Buffy. She glared at him and he began to wave it in front of her face. "He loves the Slayer and what that institution represents and that makes everything all right. He can be with you, with his Slayer, until you get tired of him and then he can become a bitter old man, believing his life was ruined by his destiny to be your Watcher. It’s perfect deniability, he has no responsibility in it. It was all just something that he couldn’t escape, when in fact he was just a coward unable to be true to himself." Ethan turned away concluding bitterly. "You’re not love to him, you’re his excuse."
"Interesting story you got there. Are you gonna sell the rights to this piece of fiction?"
"I remember the last night before I was incarcerated. I’ve been playing it in my head over and over, my final happy moment of freedom. We went drinking and it was like old times." Ethan shrugged and laughed. "As is his usual form, the first thing he did was threaten me. But then…," he paused thoughtfully, "I needed to do only one thing to win him over. I listened. I didn’t have to do anything else. He simply wanted to talk to someone who would listen to him and who would understand him." He pointed at Buffy again. "Because I’m afraid, my dear Buffy, you are not such a person and never will be."
"Things have changed since then."
"I should hope so. Not even ‘Giles’ could pretend to love someone who disrespects him out of principal."
"What do you know about respect?"
"I always respected Ripper and who he was. Who he still is. Sadly, I think he needs to be reminded of that himself. You never saw the look of rapture on his face when he does magic." He looked Buffy up and down and leered. "I think you probably never saw a look of rapture on his face... period."
"He doesn’t get off on magic anymore."
"But he gets off on you, I suppose. Tell me what you do in bed… or out of bed as the case may be. Have you ever gone down on him in public?" He looked searchingly at her. "Or perhaps not at all?"
Buffy glared at him. "You’re a pig. It’s none of your business, what Giles and I do."
"What on earth do you do in bed, if not even that?" Buffy blushed slightly red and looked away. "How many times have you actually had sex? I don’t see you as the frigid type, but I suppose this could be only an every other Tuesday kind of thing, scheduling it out like a business meeting. All formality and dull. If it is, it wasn’t Ripper’s idea, because I know he craves... he needs much more than that."
"I told you it’s none of your business and I don’t care what Giles did before."
"You mean you don’t want to know. What exactly is it that you don’t want to know? Would it shatter the proper little impression that you have of your Giles if I told you about the mind-blowing orgies we shared in?" She didn’t show a reaction. "Promiscuous sex with dangerous women… and pretty-faced men?" She only blinked. "Tell me, have you ever fucked him in the…"
"I should have killed you when I had the chance."
"You mean he should have killed me. But he can't, luv. And I think you know why."
"But why? You claim you are the one who truly knows him while I’m just a lying bastard. That's what you tell yourself so you can ignore it all. So if I told you that being deep inside Ripper is a glorious feeling you’ll never be blessed with, you could easily write it off because it would only be my attempt to mess with your mind. And I’m such a messy person." He leered again. "Although Ripper can be messy, too, but I suppose you know that, since you are his true love." He looked hopefully at her. "Or maybe true love is just another word for bad sex. You really don’t want to share any details with me?"
"Actually not particularly, I’m just interested to know if you’ve castrated that side of Ripper along with his spirit."
"He’s with me out of his own free will, because he loves me."
"Oh yes, he loves you so very much, his Slayer." Ethan shrugged. "But I’m afraid not for long. Do you remember how he looks at you with that apparent ‘love’ in his eyes? Do you? Then try to picture it in your mind." His voice turned cold. "Because you’ll never see it again. Tick-tock, time’s up. Thanks for the chat, let’s get to the business."