Chapter 3 – Feelings (Intimations)
“How do you feel? That is the question
But I forget you don’t expect an easy answer.”
- Stone Sour – Through The Glass
Rupert took a couple of steps forward and then paused blinking rapidly until he had adjusted to the fact that he was staring towards the sinking sun, which threw harsh oranges and yellows and a blinding white towards him. It gave the rough-worn stone and dankness of the city an uncharacteristic and most definitely unjustified beauty, painting everything in such rich colours..
The person who had approached him finally decided to have some sympathy towards him, and stepped back towards the shadows.
As the blinding light finally faded he could make out who he was talking to.
“Most call me Ripper, though,” he stated as a matter of fact.
“Fine then, Ripper it is,” she shrugged as though whatever he was called was of little to no consequence to her which was probably true.
She was a reasonably tall young woman, didn’t look much older than sixteen, although her light blue eyes spoke of an age well beyond her years.
Light brown hair stuck straight up from the top of her head, cut down to a number two, which he supposed was more for convenience than anything to do with fashion. She looked nothing if not practical, dressed in a dark, loose-fitting tee-shirt, army-style pants and a pair of heavy, lace-up steel-capped boots that looked as though they could do some serious damage if she set her mind to it. Thin lips were centred in a thin face, and the rest of her features were sharp, with something almost aristocratic about them. She carried a black leather jacket under one arm, and he could see that she was carrying something in buried in the folds of it.
“And who the hell might you be, princess?”
She stepped away from the wall and took a couple of steps in his direction, and he noticed the way that she carried herself, an easy sway to her limbs which told him she was ready to lunge or defend herself at a moments notice.
“Know what, Ripper?” she growled at him, curling her lip around the word and making it sound like an insult, “I’m really not sure I like your attitude. Never did like men who think that they’re better than I am just because they carry a little muscle, and from amongst a bad crowd you seem to be one of the worst. I’ve known you less than five minutes and already you already strike me as a wanker.”
He felt his grin become more genuine. This girl had fire, and fire was something that he knew he would need.
“Pity you feel that way, princess,” he gave the word the same emphasis that she had his nickname, “especially since I already love yours.”
For the briefest of moments she looked startled and he wondered what sort of a reaction it had been that she’d been expecting. Then she laughed, like she’d been shocked into it.
Her expression became a little less frigid, and he could see a decision stirring in the depths of her eyes.
“I’m Paige,” she tilted her head slightly to one side and met his gaze, as though daring him to challenge her very name, then after a heartbeat of tense silence during which she must have decided he passed some form of muster, rounded off, “Deidre Paige.”
She gave up her name as though she were giving him a state secret, extended a hand and he took it. The second he grasped her hand he felt her fingers tightening around his until it was just shy of painful.
“I can also promise you that if you ever conceive to call me princess ever again I will cave your bloody skull in so far that you’ll have to grow eyes in the back of your head just to see what you’re holding in your hands.”
There weren’t many people who would have swung such a threat at him, even jokingly and there were even fewer who would have had the ability to carry it out if they desired, but he had a feeling Paige would be one of the few to try.
With his usual mocking devil-may-care grin tempered a little he pulled his hand free without pulling a face as she dug her nails into the back of his hand as he did and frowned to himself trying to place why that name sounded familiar. As the pieces clicked into place after a ridiculously long amount of time he felt his mocking, self-assured grin turn into something much darker and more serious although no less jovial for all of that.
“Paige, huh?” he let out a low whistle, “well, well, well. Mikey did something right for a change. Tell me, was your great, great etcetera a woman, a Potential named Demelsa?”
“Nah, I’ve a better idea. How about you tell me how the hell you know what a Potential is? What are you? Because if he’s sent me down some dark alleyway at sunset to meet a fucking demon, then after I’ve killed you I’m afraid I’ll have to kill your pet, too.”
“Watcher-born,” he offered by way of an explanation, and apparently he managed to look appropriately apologetic about it.
“Sorry to hear that.”
He shrugged, watching as the setting sun slowly sent her shadow stretching up the wall behind her, “Not as sorry as I am to be saying it. So, I assume your family don’t keep the legend of Demelsa around for the sake of it.”
“You’d be about right there, Ripper, and surely, being Watcher-born you’d know that being a Potential can run in too, like the disease that it is.”
”Now that’s something to be sorry about.”
“You live, you dump your Watcher, you move on,” she said it like it was of no real consequence to her, “you know how it is. Not like there aren’t hundreds of us in the world as it is. Only one gets to be the Slayer, has the honour of an early death, and I doubt it’ll be me. What do the rest of us get, Ripper? A shove off, and told to live out our lives after being introduced to the world that lives beneath us. Could you sleep easily after knowing exactly what’s out there?”
He found himself laughing again, “Could have always put that knowledge into practise and become a Watcher yourself.”
She simply looked at him and didn’t deign to answer. He supposed that was probably all the response that it deserved, too. In all honesty he couldn’t really picture a Watcher-raised Potential with Deidre’s attitude ever feeling comfortable in teaching a Potential herself. It did happen and rather often, for that matter but that was usually with the more studious types.
“So do you have any idea why he thought that we should meet up, other than amusement?”
She finally turned away from him and started walking, and he ran a few steps to catch her before he fell into step beside her.
“I might have one or two ideas. So, how long have you been living wild anyway?”
“Just shy of a year,” she casually scratched at an arm and pointedly didn’t look at him.
He was impressed. It was extremely rare for a Watcher-trained Potential who was still of age to leave, or go wild as the more common term was, and live for any longer than a month or two at the most. Usually when it happened, then every deadly thing within reach heard of it and the only sure thing to bet on was whether the body would be identifiable. It was rumoured that the only thing sweeter than a Potential’s blood was that of the Slayer herself. For her to have survived for as long as she had, it showed an incredible resourcefulness, which was another thing that could be useful to him.
“You know not all demons are bastards,” he took a couple of quick steps because she was ahead of him again.
She turned her head, “Sorry, didn’t catch that.”
“I said not all demons are bastards.”
“Yes, I do know that,” she sounded like she was talking to a stupid child, “but the ones that arrange for you to be lured down a dark alleyway usually aren’t after a quick snog and a declaration of close friendship.”
Memories of Ethan and dark alleyways ran together and for he smirked before catching himself. What better example did he need of the fact that he had to get away from Ethan while he still could? If he still could.
She sped up a little more and then settled into what looked like her natural gait, “So, what were these ideas of yours, Ripper? Come on, spill.”
“If you can help me out with something then I might be able to get you to Rayne.”
She froze in mid-step in a way that looked almost comical then spun towards him. The lingering pink clouds painted her eyes a deep red colour.
“You know where to find Rayne?”
“I said maybe. What’s more is if you help me with mine, then I’ll help you take it out when the time comes. If you want a hand.”
She looked at him, and he felt a little unnerved. She was unflinching, unwavering, much how he imagined the true Slayer would be. Usually most people wouldn’t even meet his eye, but here she was meeting it and challenging him.
“You really hate vampires, huh? Your expression has just turned to ice.”
Rupert cleared his throat, “I suppose I do.”
He told himself that he was telling the truth, that he had to believe everything that he was saying. He wasn’t going to become another one of Ethan’s countless victims.
Rupert had gone to the library after leaving the cemetery in order to start investigating the spell that he suspected the ingredients were being gathered for. Buffy might have to face it alone, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t tell her what to look out for. If she listened to him, that was.
Willow and Xander had insisted on coming and had stayed until he had insisted that they finally go home to get some rest, because there was still a full day of school ahead of them later.
His eyelids were heavy as he walked up the path to the house and began to try and work the key into the lock. Eventually he managed, and let himself in.
At first he thought the place was empty until he noticed a faint flicker from the doorway that lead into the lounge. Spurned by curiosity he crossed the hall and peered into the room, to see several candles arranged in a circle and Ethan sitting in the middle of them, eyes closed, muttering under its breath.
He ignored the way that the candlelight picked out individual strands of chest hair, threw darkened rings around its nipples and cast flickering shadows over its flaccid cock. It was easier, less confusing to focus on the face instead, watch what the dancing yellow light did to the lines on its forehead and the hollows of its cheeks and as it glistened wetly off its lips, and darkened them. Okay, so maybe not.
He shook his head sharply. He well knew Ethan’s preference for stripping off, eliminating every distraction when it was casting. Yet there were still times, just like this when it caught him off guard.
He knew that moving wouldn’t break its concentration, not when it was as deep in the trance as it was. Still, he didn’t say a word as he took a few steps into the lounge and lowered himself into one of the chairs to wait.
He didn’t have to wait long. Ten minutes later it fell silent; head cocked slightly to one side as though listening for something, then it opened its eyes and leaned forward to blow out the candle that was directly in front of it. The rest of the candles were blown out in turn.
Enough light was still cast into the room by the half-full moon that he could see it shifting positions, and rose smoothly from the floor stretching in a languid, easy movement, both arms above its head and back arching. It growled softly, as it rolled its shoulders.
“You can turn the light on if you want,” it said without turning to him.
“I’d rather not, thanks,” he answered, keeping his voice steady, “so, what were you casting? It…ah…it looked like you were fairly well under.”
He saw the moonlight glint off of teeth as it smiled at him, “I was whispering a dream in a little birdie’s ear. I couldn’t do it before now, because the timing wasn’t right.”
“You…you sent Buffy a dream. Why?” You said yourself that interference wasn’t advisable.”
“It’s not. I was showing her the way things would have happened without your interference, and reminding her of what was important.”
He was surprised at the calmness in Ethan’s tone. Whenever it had spoken before of the fight with Nest it had always been with traces of resentment and rage in its tone. Anger at Rupert’s disobedience, anger at the fact that it was forced to step in to save its own hide, but now there was none of that
“How do you know what should have happened?”
“Because I tripped the part of her brain which reacts to portents and hung around to watch the show.”
So Ethan hadn’t been dictating her dream, but walking in it. No wonder it had been in such a deep trance.
It took a step towards him, and he watched as it lowered its head towards his shoulder, nostrils flaring as it sniffed at him, “You’ve been spending more time with the sub and the witch. You still haven’t worked it out. Or have you?”
“Haven’t worked what out?”
“If you knew you wouldn’t have to ask, and I’m not going to spell everything out for you.”
“You could give me some bloody clue.”
“You want me to give it away? Why would I want to do that? Besides unless something drastic happens…” it trailed off, shrugged, and raised an eyebrow, “it will be interesting.”
While its words were soft and easy the hand that it had grasped his shoulder with was possessive and controlling. But that was the story of his relationship with Ethan. Something shrouded in violence.
“What will be, Ethan?” Rupert was on his feet without even remembering having stood up, tiredness and anger becoming rage, “I’m sick of your fucking hints. I’m meant to have noticed something what the hell is it?”
Ethan’s grasp tightened, fingers digging painfully into his upper arm; hard enough that he knew there would be bruises tomorrow. With a growl its other hand raised and its fingers tangled through his hair, tugging sharply as it drew him flush against its cool body. Forced to meet its gaze he could see the anger there.
Its voice was low and deadly, a tone that was far more familiar.
It shivered, and slipped into the half-morph that preferred, teeth lengthening and eyes turning amber as it tugged up sharply, forcing his head to one side before sinking its teeth deep into the side of his throat, well above the jugular. It growled, low in its throat and for a few worrying moments Rupert had the idea that it wanted to shake him back and forth, like a dog might do to a rabbit.
Freezing, knowing that he didn’t want to push his luck any further, he closed his eyes and forced his body to relax in its grasp. The second time it growled, it pushed its teeth deeper into his flesh, until he could feel each individual tooth against his skin, but the growl didn’t have the same note of threat.
He forced himself not to react or tense, and a couple of minutes later he felt a flash of pain as it pulled back. The bite was deep, but no threat to his health, and would probably become another scar. As the teeth slipped out the hands that were holding him relaxed too, and it released him.
Well, the one good thing about having his heart jump into his throat was that he’d forgotten how tired he had been.
“Good boy,” it whispered, voice soft as it stepped back a little. He could feel its amber gaze tracing over his body.
The relaxation fled as his heart sped up, and it smiled at him, its intent obvious in its expression. To be wanted on that sort of level, well, there was something in it. He thought he even understood something of what Buffy found in being with Angelus. It didn’t lessen his hatred, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t understand a little of why she wanted it.
Ethan stepped forward and brought one hand up to his shoulder, tilting its head to draw its tongue through the blood that was trickling down his neck to pool at the hollow of his shoulder. The only sound was its tongue rasping over his flesh as it licked every trace of blood from his skin. By the time that it was done the twin wounds had stopped leaking and Rupert was shivering.
It would have been almost lulling, if Ethan’s cock wasn’t already hard and digging into his hip. That cool tongue drew over the split flesh and he gasped as a silver of pain shot through him from his neck to his cock. It used the hand on his shoulder to push him around so that he was facing the wall.
Closing his eyes he leaned back against it and its free hand slipped around his side and moved down his chest. It unbuttoned his jeans, and the sound of the zip was shockingly loud in the silence of the early morning.
Cool fingers brushed over his skin, nails etching little trails of chill as it guided his jeans off his hips and let them fall, then did the same with his boxers. It pushed against his shoulders, leaning him forward against the wall and then it pressed against him, its knees pushing his forward. Its cool hands left his shoulders and grasped at his hips.
Keeping his eyes closed he turned his head so that his cheek came to rest flush against the wall, as he felt its cool cock resting against his arse. Nudging him slightly to change his position, it resettled itself and then leaned against him more heavily.
Rupert’s breathing sped a little as it pushed the tip of its cock inside him. With no preparation there was a little pain, but that was something he was well used to. It paused, lips seeking the bite that it had just given him and its tongue ran over one of the tooth marks, opening it again.
It lowered its hand to his cock and the thumb ghosted along the length of it and over the head.
He felt helpless, powerless, as it began to push deeper moving its hips back and forth setting a rhythm that sent sparks of pain and ecstasy through him until it was as deep as it could go. It was almost pulling out of him before pushing back in, and stroking his cock to the same beat. His knees were going weak, and he’d sure as hell experienced worse throughout his life.
Then it changed its angle, and sucked a little harder at his throat. He gasped as its cock rubbed along the length of his prostate and his knees went weak. He felt its chuckle against him more than he heard it. It increased its pace, which already felt relentless, every thrust on target.
Rupert’s breathing grew rougher, harsher, more ragged. Between its cock pounding into him, and its hand moving over his cock he was shivering, right on the edge a fresh revelation. Or maybe just coming.
“Shh, shh, shh,” it made the sound under its breath, and his cock jerked in its hand as he came hard, the contrast between his warmth and its chill more obvious than ever.
With a drawn-out groan he felt every muscle give way, and it was only Ethan’s strength holding him up, as it thrust into him a few more times while every muscle was tensed from his orgasm before stiffening and shooting its cool seed into him with a slight gasp. Rupert moaned as he felt it flooding him, and shivered as it pulled out, hands moving from his hips to his shoulders, keeping him upright.
That slight sting inside him was soothed by the chill, which was distracting enough until he felt its mouth moving against his neck and a sudden sharp sting which told him that it had bitten its own tongue and washed its own blood into the wound.
Then it pressed a gentle kiss to the other side of his neck.
“Go and get some rest. I’ll wake you in a few hours when it’s time for you to get up.”
“Sure,” he muttered, feeling dazed. He almost fell back as it let go of him. He stepped out of his jeans and boxers and headed upstairs towards the main bedroom, stripping off his shirt and singlet as he went, then collapsing on the bed in a tired heap.
Buffy was outside the school a full hour before it opened, feeling more apprehensive than she had in a long time. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, far fewer than she had though there would be.
Dew glittered along the threads of a single spider web that was strung between tree branches and the steam rising from the ground made the morning sticky and gave it a ethereal feeling that she didn’t think it deserved. Not with how badly things might go today. She knew that she’d fucked up, no doubts there. She had dumped her responsibilities onto other people, and done everything within her power to avoid human contact. She just hoped that what she’d done wasn’t so bad that it couldn’t be fixed with a little effort. She also knew that she had been alienating her friends. She told herself that she wouldn’t blame them if they had decided that it wasn’t worth the effort, when they had kept trying to get through to her earlier and she’d just kept on pushing them away.
She wasn’t sure of her welcome, or even if she still had one.
The roar of a familiar engine cut through the birdsong and she found herself tensing as she turned her head to watch as bike and rider turned the corner and slowed as he approached the driveway to the school car park. The sun reflected off the black paintwork and Giles’s helmet, painfully bright, as he turned the corner and brought the bike to a stop, planting a foot on the ground.
She crossed her arms over her chest and watched as he kicked down the stand and swung off the bike, lifting his helmet off his head and tucking it under one arm. Then he tugged the key from the ignition, and turned, spotting her. He raised an eyebrow in that familiar look what we have here way.
“The cat drag you in, did it?” he asked, casually with none of the coldness that she’d expected. Of course whether that was because he wasn’t actually feeling cold towards her, or whether he had no choice in interacting with her, she had no idea. But she was probably about to find out.
“Yeah, something like that,” she looked at the ground behind him, wondering how exactly she was meant to do this, “look, I’m…”
“Do us both a favour and wait until we’re inside.”
Again, his voice was completely emotionless, if coolness wasn’t counted as an emotion. Not cold, just indifferent. She wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not.
“Sure,” she looked past his shoulder and matched his stride as he mounted the steps to the door and used his key to unlock the door, holding it open for her to go through before he shut it and flicked the lock behind him.
She hung back, letting him lead the way to the library. Inside she stopped, reluctant to go any further than his desk as he circled to the other side of it, unbuckling and unzipping his leather jacket as he entered his office.
Ten minutes later he stuck his head back out, “So were you coming through?”
Feeling younger than she had in years she almost crept around and through the door, just in time to see him tugging off his second boot and the leather pants that he was wearing over jeans and stepping into a normal pair of shoes, before he turned and tucked the bike gear into his cupboard.
For a few seconds after he turned to face her he looked like nothing more than a regular guy.
“So,” he raised an eyebrow and leaned back against the cupboard, arms crossing and that glint of steel in his gaze was a sold reminder, if she’d ever needed one, of who and what he was. Normal guys didn’t need the sort of backbone that he had, to function. He wasn’t a person to be messed with.
“So…” she muttered.
“Echo,” he smirked, and a little of the steel in his expression softened.
“Echo?” she asked, before realising.
He laughed, a sudden bark of a sound that seemed to come from nowhere, and the smirk turned into a genuine smile, “Anyway, correct me if I’m wrong but I think there was something you were planning on saying?”
“Yeah, there was,” she stared just past him, “look, I’m sorry for bailing on you last night.”
“No, bailing is what happens when you take off after actually showing up. What you did… I believe the colloquial term is flaking, no? You haven’t apologised for it before now either. Can you tell me what makes this time so different?”
“I…just…I’m sorry. I… I’ve been caught up in my own thing. You were there for me when I…I needed it, and I haven’t been doing the same for you and the others, and I know I should have been and I....”
He took pity on her, cutting her off with a raised hand. He wasn’t really surprised at how well Ethan could manipulate people, having seen it before, and it didn’t feel wrong to admire it, not when it got results like this. “You’re right, of course. You should have been taking responsibility for what is essentially your duty. I know that you’ve had a lot on your mind, as well, so I’m willing to give you a pass this time. I think I’ve told you before that I can understand what makes a person want to shirk duty and responsibility?”
He left it open as a question, although he could easily recall the conversation that had swung that way.
“Yeah, you did.”
He nodded, “I did. I also recall telling you at a later stage that there comes a time when you have to accept life for what it is, and deal with the current circumstances.”
“You might have,” still, she focused on that tiny piece of dust which was floating just over his shoulder, “so I guess this that, huh?”
He looked at her, waiting until she finally dragged her gaze sideways to meet his. He didn’t flinch, didn’t break away. He could give her that much at least.
“You know that if I could smooth your path, and carry you then I would, but such a thing isn’t practical or possible. You think you’ve messed up, but you didn’t, not really. I did again, but that’s neither here nor there, not any more.”
“You messed up?”
Gods, but he did not want to have to explain that one; that he was meant to have stood back and watched her face her death alone.
“Like I said, that doesn’t matter any more. The time where that mattered has passed and yes, it is time for you to step up again.”
“I… I meant it when I said I was sorry, you know?”
“I do. As am I. I do understand, truly. Unfortunately, life doesn’t cater to servants of fate. But I am here for you, in any way that I can be.”
“Thanks.” She gave him a half-smile, surprised that half of what she’d been dreading was over and done just like that. Then again, she could understand Giles not holding a grudge, with the hand that he’d been dealt by life.
“Yes, I believe so. Now, I think that I’m not the only one you owe something to?” he looked at her, and she felt her heart drop a little.
She swallowed, “So, you’re like, genius-smart. How do you think this will go?”
“I think you won’t know unless you try. I also think that you were extremely lucky in your choice of friends, and that they are both very forgiving people.”
“Yeah, there is that,” she felt a little of her apprehension settle. Maybe everything would actually turn out alright.
Looking up she glanced at the time. Okay, so she had a half-hour before class, which should be enough time to get things started, at least.
“I’ll see you here after class. There are other things that we need to discuss as well.”
“Sure,” she glanced back at him as she pushed the door open and headed out into the steadily swelling crowd of students who were lingering, or moving through the hallways talking to one another. Some were heading to lockers, and others, the fringe element looked like they had no intention of going to class at all.
Passing the outsides she watched them. What sort of problems they might have, and how serious were they? She wondered how their problems might compare to hers and how many people here had missing family or friends.
So was Xander’s locker or Willow’s the better bet? That was the question. Or if it wasn’t, then the question was whether they would see her waiting there and avoid her, which she wouldn’t actually blame them for. She hadn’t exactly been Miss Approachable lately.
In the end she decided on Xander’s locker, because it was closer to their first class. He had to come by some time.
Swinging her bag off one shoulder so that she could lean comfortably, she looked down the hall towards the entrance, drumming her fingers against one arm. Five minutes dragged past the slowest of Buffy’s life, before she spotted Xander and Willow heading in her direction. The moment that they spotted her was obvious, because Willow’s mouth fell open in what would have been a comical ‘o’ if she weren’t so tense, and Xander glanced back to her immediately. Still, they didn’t divert their course.
“Hey,” she said to them cautiously, as they got within range of hearing.
Willow and Xander shared a glance, before Xander spoke, “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if it isn’t the Buffster herself. We were kinda just talking about you. And by talking of course I mean making plans to get you to include us in you plan for world domination. That is what all the secrecy is about, right? Anyway, to what do we own the honour? Have you decided that I can be your chief advisor of secrecy?”
The words were plain old Xander, but the tone in which they were delivered wasn’t quite what it should have been. So he was angry. Like she’d thought before, she couldn’t exactly blame him. But he was also willing to talk to her which was a bonus.
Willow didn’t say anything. The silence stretched just long enough to be uncomfortable as Buffy thought through the possibilities, even thought there was only one way to go.
“Actually, I’m here to apologise for the way that I’ve been lately; so not really such a secret agenda. I might also be here to grovel, if that’s what it takes.”
“Grovel, huh? I’m not sure you need to go quite that far. You’ve only avoided us and excluded us for the last couple of months. I think grovel territory only comes in at the three month period.” Xander gave her a tight-lipped smile.
“Okay, maybe not grovel, then. But I really am sorry. I… I’d like to try and make things a little more normal if that’s at all possible. I… I’m just not quite sure where to start.”
“I’ve heard that starting at the start is usually a good idea,” Willow gave her a tentative smile, and Buffy smiled back, trying to keep any tension out of it.
“That makes a lot of sense,” she paused for a few moments wondering whether to follow it up, before deciding that she might as well try to start off on the right foot, “look, I’m meant to be meeting Giles at the library after school today. He said he had something to discuss with me. If the two of you wanted to come along, then I’d like that.”
“We’ll be there,” Willow’s smile became a little more real, as though Buffy was already starting to prove her words.
“Thanks,” Buffy said, in a soft tone and her word was half-obscured by the bell.
Things already felt a little more normal as Xander grumbled something that she didn’t quite catch and opened his locker, diving into it for the books that he needed.