Chapter 10 – Portents (And Facets)
“Hope dangles on a string
Like slow-spinning redemption”
- Dashboard Confessional – Vindicated
It was nearly dawn, and the words on the page in front of him were finally beginning to blur into one another. Leaning forward he planted his elbow on his knee, rested his chin on his fist and closed his heavy, aching eyes. Deidre had nodded off at around four, sitting up in the chair, not as used to staying up all night as he was.
Rupert let his mind wander to the future, after everything had been done, and they had summoned their demon, then successfully put it back in the box again. To the time after Ethan had been taken care of. He honestly wasn’t sure how he felt when he though about that, but it was another one of those things that had to done for his freedom to be an eventuality.
There was no way that it would let him live if so there could be no possibility for its escape. Not that he wanted it to, with what it had taken from him. Choices, plans, and opportunities. In fact it had taken his life from him. Without its interference everything would have been different. He would have had his own life; that was what he had to keep remembering.
How long until he would be able to sleep at night again? How long before he felt normal? To have his life again, even though it would never be what it might have been… well, it would be nice. Yeah, nice. That was it.
He slowly opened his eyes, to see Deidre standing in front him. The sky was grey, with a single patch of blue over to the east. So, it was just past sunrise, then. He hadn’t even heard her stand up.
“Mmm. Morning, princess.”
She let the name pass without comment.
“I didn’t wake you up, did I?”
He slowly shook his head, and stood, shaking his limbs out to return some feeling to them.
“Nah. Just resting my eyes. Thinking. You’ve been out to it for a few hours, though.”
“You’ve been hunched over that thing for the whole night?” She sounded surprised.
“You can’t tell me that your Watcher never had you pull an all-nighter. Besides, it’s not uncommon even for a normal student. That isn’t regular garden-variety Etruscan, either.”
“No, I suppose not. I never actually stayed awake if I could help it, though,” then she frowned, “What do you mean it’s not normal Etruscan? It looks like that strange thing my Watcher tried to get me to learn.”
“Some of it, names and facts and description and the like are straightforward, but the essential things, such as our figures, times, and dates and the instructions in general are written to a code. Even the diagrams and symbols are coded, the key in the way they lie amongst the words. But I think I’ve managed to get the essence of it. The code seems basic enough. It’s just the language it’s written in that makes it tricky.”
“Says the man who said he could read Etruscan with his eyes shut.”
Rupert had the grace to look abashed, “When I said with my eyes shut I meant… I meant… oh, forget it. It’s been a long time since I did anything with that language in particular, and it’s not quite what the translation exercises that my teacher back at school set me were. As for Ethan, it’s more about the things that have a practical application.”
“When you say you think you’ve got everything essential?”
“There are a couple of pieces that don’t make sense no matter what way I look at them. I think there might be another code over the original one. I… I’m not entirely sure that it’s important, though. It may even just be to put people off from attempting the spell in the first place.”
“Someone wrote an entire book of summoning rites, over half it in human blood, and you think they wanted to discourage people from raising demons?”
“It’s actually a fairly common practise. A lot of summoning rites can have hell consequences if you screw them up, anything from the demon you’re trying to raise being set free upon the earth, to disaster on a cataclysmic scale. Someone who writes something like that down might want to make sure that the caster understands the spell well enough to know what is irrelevant.”
“Surely it couldn’t be that bad?”
Rupert gave her a grim smile, “Never walked down the main drag in Alifoine, have you?”
“No, couldn’t say I have.”
“You never will, either. Alifoine is the true name of the island that people these days call Atlantis. That’s what a fucked-up summoning can do. You say the wrong word, make the wrong movement, maybe even invoke the wrong deity and it’s fish-fingers for all, and all are fish-fingers. ”
“I never even liked seafood.”
He laughed, “Hence, all the more reason to avoid a screw-up. Now I’m going to go ho…,” he rubbed his palm over his face, to cover his distraction, “back to the house, and get some sleep, and then there are a shitload of calculations that I have to figure out. I’ll probably get back to you with the results in a few days.”
She looked at him, “You seem dead on your feet. Why not have a kip here?”
“Not that I don’t appreciate the offer, but I can’t give myself away. I have wards to set, and Ethan will know if I don’t do it. The last thing that I need to be doing is causing trouble, when I don’t know exactly what Ethan’s reaction will be if I push it too far.”
“That makes a lot of sense.” She stepped aside to let him out of the sitting room, then closed the book and held it out to him, “Didn’t you need this, Rupert?”
“Best I don’t take any evidence back with me. Besides, I’ve got all that I need up here,” he tapped the side of his head, “I’ve always had a good memory.”
“See you, then.”
He only just bit back a yawn, “Catch you, Deidre.”
“Ah. Sunnydale, sweet Sunnydale.”
Ethan stood by the sign welcoming people to the town, and wondered what number the population had dropped by last week and how much difference the Slayer had made on the night in question. Sniffing at the air he scented it, a slight smile at the corner of his mouth.
Soon he would find out exactly how Rupert had handled himself, or not, too. Whether he had blooded himself, or clung to the concept of his humanity like the cherished jewel that he seemed to think that it was.
“People, place your bets,” he said to the night, before he started walking again, blending into the shadow with a much-practised ease, tongue flicking out to lick his top lip. Rupert was strong-willed. That trait that he had cursed several times over the years would have left him in good standing for the night.
It would also make it that much harder on him when he did finally take a human life the natural way, and there was no doubt that one night he would. The blood in him made it a guaranty.
It had been years since he had last hunted and feasted the way that he had under those stars, since he had last allowed himself to do exactly what he wanted. The last time had been back when he had been nursing Rupert back to health, and he’d had to hunt nightly so that he could keep himself at the top of his game.
It was hard with Rupert around. He had to keep a far tighter leash on himself then he would have chosen to do so, but it was a lot easier for Rupert if he had an excuse that he could give himself.
There was no point in telling him that there were times when three millennia worth of instinct, telling him to hunt, feed and kill, was hard to deny, that there were times when by choice he didn’t resist his nature. He knew Rupert knew, and that he had known for over a decade now.
Life was easier without hunters breathing down his neck, and dogging his every footstep. Feeding in smaller amounts every other day or so meant that he could not just survive, but live in relative comfort.
The few vampires that he knew of which had been around as long as he, or longer, held the same opinion as well. Just because you didn’t see them it didn’t mean that they weren’t there. The older one got the more territory was usually considered his or hers, and one elder very rarely encroached on another’s territory. There were few creatures or demons that were more territorial that a vampire. The younger members of the population weren’t old enough to be considered a threat, but if another elder trespassed without first seeking permission, then it was often the first move in a private war.
His territory included London and a lot of the surrounding area, although he wasn’t as strict with the city as another might have been. He supposed there would probably be a few that would avoid the Hellmouth and it’s surrounding area already too, for fear of being eradicated, although he hadn’t yet been there long enough to stake a claim, and had no desire to, either. Sunnydale or any Hellmouth as far as he was concerned was free game, neutral territory.
Although the elder, known simply as Bao, these days, who held the territory around the Hellmouth in Beijing had a different opinion on the matter from what he’d heard.
The best things about getting back home would be the certain shelter from the sunlight, and a bed to sleep in again. It beat curling up in the middle of a pile of hay by a long shot. That had lost its charm almost before it had a chance to become old. That was one thing that he would grant to humans; as they got more complacent they had made their lives a lot more comfortable.
The occasional body that he did leave behind couldn’t be linked to him by anything other than suspicion. Rupert wouldn’t ask and Ethan wouldn’t tell.
Besides, if things were what he suspected that they were, then soon Rupert would have a lot more to occupy him.
As he neared the town itself he opened himself up to the flow and ebb of power around him, although he didn’t really need to do so in order to find Rupert. He knew that the man would probably be at home, with only a bad mood to keep him company after two weeks alone, unless he was out saving the world. He doubted he would be out socializing with that slowly growing pack of children, for fear of saying something that he couldn’t take back. Rupert always got snarky when he was irritable, and while the children may have noticed some of that, he knew that he tried to keep the more unpleasant aspects of his character to himself.
Catching another scent in the air, he paused and checked it, to make sure of what it was that he could smell and then smiled slightly to himself. It wasn’t a pleasant expression, by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed that distraction he’d been thinking about would be happening even sooner than he’d thought.
“Sunnydale, you never fail to keep things interesting.”
He unlocked the door and let himself in.
“Good evening, Rupert.”
Ethan’s voice was polite, as it walked into the lounge and eyed Rupert where he sat on the couch, muscles tense, a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. It watched as he put the book and drink down, and a ripple passed through him as he made to stand and greet it, then realized what he was doing, and used the movement as an excuse to push himself further back into the couch.
“Good evening,” Ethan could hear the tremble in his voice, no matter how well he masked it. Rupert scratched at his arm almost absent-mindedly, and then crossed his arms looking for some distraction, “I could feel you coming from two damn blocks away. Possibly further.”
Ethan was surprised, after all of that, when Rupert actually stood and crossed the room to stand just in front of it. Well, that made a change. Ethan raised a hand towards his shoulder and was even more surprised when Rupert not only accepted the touch, but leaned in so that they were chest to chest, his face pressing into the cool hollow at the top of Ethan’s shoulder. His left hand trailed down Ethan’s arm, to thread his fingers through its, and it could feel him shivering.
Turning its head slightly, Ethan pressed its nose to his hair and breathed in deeply. It could think of only one reason why Rupert would be acting like this, letting himself do what he wanted to, when in the past even the mere thought of it would have sent him into a raging fury.
“How did you weather the night?” Ethan kept its voice soft and low.
Rupert pulled his head back a little so that he could talk, “I think it’s possible that it could have gone better. You?”
“I hunted. Did you really want to know the details of it?”
Rupert looked as though he were actually considering that.
“I suppose not,” he muttered.
“Did you kill?” Ethan finally asked the question.
The silence stretched out. Ethan raised its free hand, and played its fingertips over the side of Rupert’s neck, then cupped its hand behind his head, fingers splayed out over the back of his skull.
“No, but I…well, I’m not sure that I know myself the way I thought I did. I’ve never known a hunger like it before, and I, I’m fairly certain that I’ve lost Xander’s trust as well as my own. You’re probably thrilled to be proven right, over whether I could handle myself.”
“What did you do?”
The sound of Rupert’s laughter was bitter.
“I treated him like you would have.”
“Vampires attacked the high school, which I can’t actually say was unexpected. He was arguing with me, he wanted to go out and get help, and I didn’t want to risk anything happening. I grabbed him by the neck and pinned him against the wall. I wanted to… I don’t know, I…I… I wanted to tear his throat out, and I wanted to hit him and make him listen, and I wanted to…oh, I don’t know. Stopped arguing, though,” again Ethan felt the faint shaking of bitter laughter, “stopped talking altogether, and he’s been avoiding me ever since.”
“You’re no fool, Rupert,” Ethan tightened its grasp a little on both his head and hand, letting him feel the strength that was there, “You know how much worse it could have been, especially on a night like that, a night that had you on the edge of who you were. So you gave him a fright, made him sit up and pay attention. It’s hardly a crime, when it could have been his blood on your hands, or on the claws of something else. Do you regret it?”
“Of course I do,” Rupert’s voice was muffled.
“I don’t mean now. I mean, in that moment did you?”
Ethan heard him swallow, “No. It was… I had to make him listen. That just makes it even worse.”
Rupert tilted his head back and closed his eyes, offering his throat. Ethan could tell that he was fighting to control every breath, could feel his tremble worsening and hear his heart beginning to speed. He turned them, so that his back was to the wall, and leaned back.
“I don’t want to think about it. About any of it, not right now. Please.”
Even that was different. Rupert had asked before, on those rare occasions when he could beat his pride and tenacity down far enough to allow it, but he’d never done so with such a raw, open need.
“Please,” he whispered again, still not opening his eyes.
Ethan felt him still at the first brush of fangs as it nipped lightly at his throat, before actually biting, wearing the half-morph that he had always preferred. Rupert relaxed, as lips touched the skin around fangs, and Ethan’s grasp tightened around his hand. It lifted his hand above his head and pushed it back against the wall in one smooth movement, then changed its grip so it was holding his wrist instead. Rupert raised his other hand so that was being pinned as well.
Ethan smiled against the skin of his throat, and forced his hands higher until Rupert gasped, a hint of pain in it. Pushing Rupert’s head further to the side it bit harder, then pulled back and ran a cool tongue over the wound without breaking contact, sucking lightly, just enough to draw the flavour of his blood into its mouth.
“I’ll make you stop thinking for now,” Ethan breathed. Rupert shivered at the feeling of its breath, cool against the heated skin, and whined softly, shakily, as it drew its tongue along the underside of his chin, licking the salt from his skin before it trailed several kissed along his jaw-line, then went for his lips.
It kissed with a bruising force, biting his lip hard enough to add blood to the mix. Rupert could taste it on his own tongue, as Ethan invaded his mouth, short strokes against his tongue and flicking upward to the roof of his mouth before it drew back to nip his lip again, making him bleed afresh.
It ground against him hard as it returned its attention to his neck, and he could feel its cock straining in its pants, pushing against his hip as it leaned its weight into him. The hand that had been holding his head still was undoing the buttons of his shirt, shoving the material back onto his shoulders to reveal his chest, and the slight, dark covering of hair that was there.
He tugged at the pressure on his wrists so that he could slip his arms free, and Ethan tightened its grasp, growling and shoving his hands against the wall so that he could feel the pattern of the wood leaving an imprint against his skin.
“Give it up, Rupert. That control that you demand of yourself, give it up.”
It nursed at his neck, and he was straining, trying to push against it, but his feet couldn’t get enough purchase against the ground to do anything, as its hand traced over his chest, circling and pinching at his nipples until he gasped again, running down his body, tickling over his chest hair, to dip just inside the waistband of his jeans, before brushing over the outline of his cock through the rough fabric.
For him to give himself up like this was a rare thing. Rupert was already sweating lightly, trying to push against its hand, but it wouldn’t allow any more than the lightest of maddening brushes.
His breath was coming heavily, a sharp panting as it kissed him on the lips again, a hungry, controlling, dominating gesture, pushing his tongue down, and to the side, making it go where it wanted to, not even allowing Rupert control of such a tiny thing. He was still trying to increase the contact, tugging at the way it was holding him there. With every jerk against its grasp it drew its hand away, only bring it back when he relaxed a little, and it kept its tongue moving in his mouth, short strokes and long, still not giving anything up.
The second that it felt Rupert relax fully, not straining or fighting for control any more, that was the moment when it finally rewarded him, undoing the fly on his jeans, and wrapping a cool hand around him as he sprang free from the restraint, moving its hand over the shaft, ghosting the heel of its hand over the head of his cock, still keeping its touches light. All that Rupert did in response was shiver.
It drew back from his lips, “That’s right, that’s it. That’s what I want, and I know that’s what you want, what you need. Let me give you what you need. Who’s in control here, Rupert?”
He groaned, and tried to push against his hand again, stopping himself halfway through the movement. Ethan still drew its hand back.
“Who’s in control here, Rupert?” Its voice was scarcely more than a breath.
He relaxed again, forced himself to find the words to answer, “You are.”
It rubbed the back of a pair of fingers over the top of his cock, and then twisted its hand at the base to rub lightly at his balls, which were still trapped by his jeans. As he open his eyes again it licked up the other side of his neck and he spread his legs a little wider so that there was more weight on his wrists, and let out a slow exhale.
Ethan undid his jeans the rest of the way, and let then drop to pool around Rupert’s ankles along with the boxers he was wearing. He went to step out of them, but Ethan shook its head, “No, leave them. I like you trapped,” it growled, a familiar, deep sound, “trapped and mine. You are, aren’t you?”
It looked down his body, over the hair which thickened and darkened, to his cock, standing out amongst that dark tangle, stiff and proud with a tiny pearl of dampness already at the tip, like it was drinking him in.
Again, the only warning he got was that growl, before it bit at the other side of his throat, only just hard enough to break the skin, to let a trickle of his blood run down his neck, while it rolled his balls in one hand. This time the noise he made sounded like it had been torn from somewhere within the depths of him, his pitch increased as Ethan moved its hand. It reached further between his legs, reaching around to the top of his arse and slowly ran a finger down.
It drew its hand back, the palm travelling along the underside of his cock, before it grasped him again. A half-dozen firm strokes, and Rupert’s head was dropping further back, the expression on his face a cross between extreme pleasure and relief. Ethan’s eyes were dark with lust as it stopped its ministration and loosened its grasp on his wrists.
He obeyed without hesitation and it tightened its grasp again, pressing his palms flat against wall.
Lowering its head it bit him again, this time down further on his shoulder, a proper, deep bite as it ran a hand down his spine, and pushed the tips of a pair of fingers into him. Rupert’s eyes closed, and his head dropped back toward its shoulder, revealing a large, pale expanse of throat that it couldn’t help but draw its tongue up, before it pressed kisses along the length, interspaced with a hint of fang. It pushed its fingers deeper into him, nipped just under his chin then returned to the bite on his shoulder, sinking its teeth in again. It bit with a bruising force as it twisted and manoeuvred its hand to brush against his prostate, then began to work it fingers back and forth.
Every one of his exhales was marked by a breathy little whimper. With a warning squeeze of his wrists, and a growl it let go of him.
“Leave them there.”
It undid its trousers and pushed them and its underpants down off its thighs without breaking rhythm. The free hand went around to pull on his cock again, proper strokes that Rupert could feel through his entire body. The feel of his heated flesh firmly in its cool hand added an extra dimension to things, the contrast driving him a little wilder.
It took every last piece of self-control that he had not to pull his hands down, and touch himself like Ethan was doing to him. The moment he finally flinched it took its hand off his cock and grabbed his wrists again, taking the possibility away. Then it pulled its fingers out of him and grasped his hip, as it lined up its cock with him and leaned into him, not doing any more than resting it there.
Rupert couldn’t find it in him to tense up, as it slowly pushed the tip of it into him, the cool flesh soothing the already hard-worked flesh. Just like it always did it felt huge inside him, tiny sparks of pain letting him know as it pushed a little deeper into him, then drew back, almost all the way out and push back in to the same depth. Eventually his muscles unlocked a little bit more.
It pushed fully into him, and bit harder to cause real pain. He moaned and tried instinctively to pull away from its teeth, even as he tried to push back against its cock, and its free hand curled around him again. It started to pump him in earnest, timing the movement of its hand to the thrust of its hips, and his entire life, his entire body boiled down to the pleasure of its hand, that cool length inside him reshaping his world, and the pain from where its teeth were in his shoulder, anchoring him.
Wouldn’t be much longer, wouldn’t be able to hold back for much longer, that was all he knew, surely it could smell it, hear it, feel it, feel his impending orgasm, it had to know, it had to, he had to; -he tugged at his wrists, felt the strength holding them there, and that was enough to send him over the edge.
He came hard, muscles clenching tight around it inside him as he cried out, and it lessened the pressure of its bite, pumped into him a couple more times, then drove in deep froze and it was coming too, its cry unstated as it spilled coolness into him.
Its grasp on his wrists fell away, and he moved his hands down the wall until the palms were flat against it, and level with him, supporting him so that he could remain upright, when what he really wanted to do was collapse into an ungainly heap on the floor.
He felt its cock twitch inside him one last time, before its hands pressed lightly over the backs of his, and it drew out of him.
Straightening, it pulled its trousers and underpants back up and refastened them, then began to chuckle as it watched Rupert twist so that his back was to the wall, then slide down it, eyes half closed until he was sitting on the floor “Jesus,” he muttered, drawing his legs up so that he could push his jeans and boxers off the rest of the way.
At its raised eyebrow he shrugged a single shoulder, “Less effort.”
Its chuckle became a brief, proper laugh, as it sat down on the couch to untie its shoes and kick them off.
Rupert joined its laugh with his own chuckle, before sobering and staring at it, meeting its eyes with an intensity that it wasn’t sure it had ever seen outside of hatred. Then he broke away, looking at his hands as though ashamed of himself. With his next words though, Ethan knew that that wasn’t the case. Or it might have been, but only partially.
It was a moment that Ethan impressed into its mind. It had only taken some sixteen years to make a start at getting through to something else after all. Ethan wasn’t sure how long this new ground they were treading on would hold out for. Especially not if things were looking the way they were looking.
“Come here,” it patted the couch and gestured with its head watching as Rupert stood again, on legs that he didn’t seem sure he could trust, and made his way over to sit beside it.
He kept his eyes on Ethan, watching as it leaned in towards him; to lick the bite on the side of his neck clean, then it performed the familiar gesture of biting the side of its own wrist and drawing a mouthful of blood that it worked into the bite with its tongue. It didn’t matter how many times he’d experienced it, he still winced at the sting of its blood seeping into the wound. It would heal cleanly though, that was something, he supposed. Half a minute later it pushed him around so that it could do the same to the bite that it had left on his shoulder, which was still throbbing dully.
It held his chin as it flicked its gaze over the rest of him. It let go of him and didn’t say anything as he closed his eyes, leaning half against its side, and half against the back of the couch, until his breathing began to even out. There, it nudged him with an elbow.
“If I know your habits half as well as I think I do, then you should go and lie down so that you can catch up on some of that sleep you’ve missed while I’ve been away.”
“Probably,” he allowed, but made no attempt to move until Ethan elbowed him again, a little more insistently. He finally pulled away and stood up.
“Coming?” he asked from the doorway.
“For a while,” it stood and followed him up to the room, watching as he stripped off his top without bothering to turn on the light, and then curled up under the blanket naked. It settled beside him, an arm over his side and its body pressed up behind him, “Once you’re asleep I might head out for a few hours.”
It was less then fifteen minutes before Rupert’s heart-rate slowed and his breathing became deep and regular, but Ethan still waited out the hour, before slipping out of the bed and padding quietly down the stairs.
The moon looked huge and bright, and the night was still unquestionably young. He pulled his shoes back on, grabbed the key from the counter where he’d left it, and slipped out into the night to make his own round of Ripper’s scattered group of children, and find out if anything of interest looked like it had happened over the last two weeks.