Chapter 11 – Truth (And Planning)
“Can’t blame anyone
For anything I’ve done”
- Anthony Stewart Head – Owning My Mistakes
“I’m fairly sure that I’ve got everything sorted,” Rupert’s voice was low, hushed, and he leaned in so that he was basically whispering into Deidre’s ear, as though there was some risk of being overheard, out here in the centre of a crowded park, in the middle of the afternoon. There was no chance of it, but ever since he’d started working out those damned calculations he hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that there was something watching him.
Even now, knowing that he wouldn’t see anything there, it was hard not to look over his shoulder for some shadow that would seem out of place to him, but glaringly normal to everyone else. He knew he wouldn’t see anything of the sort, because he had already looked, and had since been keeping watch out of the corner of his eye.
Even as he told himself that he was being ridiculous he couldn’t stop.
It was four days since he had last caught up with her, and he hadn’t so much snuck out of the house today as he had simply stood up and told Ethan that he was going out to get some fresh air and sunlight, and that he would be back later. He had barely hung around long enough to see it nod in response before he had been out the door.
There was no way that it would have let him out of its sight for five minutes, if it’d had any idea of what he was doing, which was why he was sure that his paranoia was just that; paranoia. Unless it was giving him just enough rope to hang himself with, but somehow he didn’t think that was the case.
Deidre watched the way that he glanced around himself.
“Are you sure enough to stake our live and your freedom on it, Ripper? You know that is what you’ll be doing, right? It isn’t enough to just take blind guesses.”
“I’m not a bloody drooling idiot, Deidre. I know what I’m doing. If you don’t trust me though, then fine. I’m sure I can convince other people to work with me, for the return fare of power that will be granted until we lock our critter back in its box.”
“I didn’t say that I don’t trust you, Ripper. I just want to be sure.”
He grinned at her, making it the most mocking expression that he could muster, “Scared, Princess?”
He only just avoided the blow that she aimed at him, ducking under her fist when she swung.
She took a breath, “We’re playing with fire and gasoline, Ripper. Or maybe it’s closer to fire and dynamite. Either way, only a fool wouldn’t be.”
“More the fool I am, then,” he laughed, “but I fail to see how my life could get much worse than it already is. If I wind up dead, then at least I won’t have to put up with this shite any more. Besides, just because I’m not shaking in my fucking booties, doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the power we’ll be tapping. I maintain, if nothing else, a very healthy respect towards it.”
“You may not care about your own life, but I sure as hell haven’t spent the last year setting myself up for the effort to go to waste.”
“It won’t, Dee. I know what I’m doing.”
“Fine. So what did we need, and when do we need it by?”
Deidre tilted her head up towards the sun, and closed her eyes, arms crossed over her chest. The only thing that betrayed the fact that she was still paying attention was the slight tension that was still there even in her repose, as casual as she may have looked to the average observer. Rupert held up a hand, so that he could tick what he needed to off on his fingers.
“First we need more people, if we want to succeed in getting Eyghon’s attention,” he shifted slightly, leaning forward and staring at the trees on the other side of the park, before quoting, “The master of Death can only be drawn into this world through commitment of the act of life anew.”
She opened her eyes and twisted her head to stare at him with an expression on her face that he couldn’t read. A pair of ducks left the small pond to waddle over, quacking and looking for food, sun glinting off feathers and giving them an iridescent quality. He was glad for the distraction as the silence between them stretched out.
Finally, she cleared her throat, trying to hide her amusement, “So, it’s a sex-based ritual, then? I suppose that makes some sense.”
Rupert let out a slow breath, “It is. One person to draw the demon into, and one to act as the anchor. The… the anchor holds the power to tie the demon to this reality or not, and so by definition would hold the power over it. Then, for the act to gain the potency that it needs, at least four, five others. A blood sacrifice, to feed deaths hunger, the circle needs to be cast with dust from a gravestone, a vampire’s ashes mixed with the blood of the host and the anchor and the yolk and white of a Marsixan’s egg, four dragon’s teeth to set as foci, the basic set of an elemental blessing, and a marker of werewolf’s blood, to signify the change that comes with death.”
She whistled, “Is that all?” She asked in a shocked tone. Rupert was already right there with her on that, as he had mentally added the minimum cost up the other day.
“Not quite. The host has to carry demonic blood, to make the possession easier. Participants also have to ingest a brew of belladonna, herbane, mandrake, dragon venom and Wine of the Mother, which is risky in itself. The outside circle has to wear a mark etched with dragon’s blood and charcoal and the ritual itself has to be cast to tie in with the Etruscan New Year, because that’s a significant time of change.”
“So that’s when, exactly?”
“March the fifteenth.”
“Well, that’s something, I suppose,” she allowed, “It will probably take that long to get everything anyway.”
Again he tried to read those blue eyes of hers, and failed.
“If you’re not into this, then let me know. I probably can find someone else, Deidre.”
“And let you gain the reward? Not bloody likely, Ripper. Besides, Like you said, what do we have to lose, aside from our lives?”
“You said yourself that yours means more to you than mine does to me, and I can understand that.”
“Yes, but you have another incentive,” she stated.
“There is that.”
“I’m also guessing that you don’t want to step up and be our host.”
“There’s the small matter of demonic blood, sweetheart,” Rupert said mockingly.
“If you’re trying to tell me that a vampire who claimed you has never blooded you, then I know you’re telling me shit, Rupert. For the bond to hold, it takes a hell of a lot more than just tab ‘A’ slotting into point ‘B’.”
“I doubt I carry enough of its blood for that, though. Besides, I’d rather act as anchor, ff that’s who holds the power over it then that’s the power that I need to make it do what I want.”
“I knew you were going to say that,” she smiled at him slightly.
“Yes, well there’s also the chance that with Ethan’s blood in my veins the possession would kill me,” Rupert stood up from the seat, “Let’s walk. I’m getting restless.”
“You’re not getting restless, Rupert. You’ve been jumpy ever since you got here.”
Rupert set the pace; led the way around the pond and past the swing-set and slide, then into the small belt of bushes that separated the park from the next block over. Stepping into the trees was a little like stepping into another world. Green light filtered down through the leaves and branches, giving Deidre’s eyes a timeless depth and painting her skin a different shade of colour, something kind of otherworldly and almost far enough off to be unsettling.
She was wearing the usual black tee-shirt, camo pants and steel-cap boots, which Rupert had come to realize she wore like a uniform.
“You know, it’s not paranoia if someone is actually following you.”
“So, which is it then; paranoia or justifiable concern?”
The sound of leaves crunching underfoot was soothing.
“I honestly have no fucking clue,” he finally admitted, “It just… It just feels like there’s a pair of eyes trained on my back.”
“It wouldn’t stoop to having you followed, would it?”
He shook his head, “That’s about the only thing I do know. If it were having me followed then it would have hauled me in for questioning weeks ago. Come the end of things, I wouldn’t have been lying to it. In fact, I may not have lied in the first place. It can probably even smell you on me, yet it still hasn’t said anything.”
“If it can smell that you’ve been hanging out with a Potential, then why wouldn’t it say anything?”
Rupert stopped walking, and she carried on a few steps before turning to face him.
“You might say we have an understanding,” he cleared his throat, “It gets the fact that there are times when I need some space of my own. Doesn’t usually mind me going out during the day when I need time, as long as I can still handle anything that it might throw at me that night. I need something that I can still call my own life.”
“Sounds like a pretty farfetched concept, for a mindless demon,” he heard the scathing tone in her voice.
“But Ethan’s not mindless. Savage, yes, and while it may not think in the same way as a human, it has spent long enough around us to form some understanding. Just look at the length of time that it’s survived for.”
A bird cawed above his head, and something sounded threatening about it.
“Intelligence in a vampire. Go figure. How rare is that fucking concept?”
“Serious question?” Rupert raised an eyebrow.
“It is a debatable one, to be sure. What did your Watcher teach you of the theory behind it?”
“I never went much for the theory behind anything. So long as I knew what it was and how to kill it, that was all that really mattered.”
Rupert leaned back against a trunk, trying to look like he didn’t care about what he was saying and Deidre sat on a fallen tree. In spite of his coarse attitude, or maybe because of it, she could see a good teacher in him. He was the type of person that would make people sit up and pay attention.
“There are several factors that it depends on. When a vampire’s blood first supersedes a human’s the first thing that it does stop the heart. First thing that makes a difference is how quickly after that it hits the brain after that; a few minutes either side makes a difference between a working mind and a half-dead one. The second factor is how well, how readily the demon mind can integrate with the human brain left behind. Any demon has the ability to touch the memories that are already held in the brain, but the precision of the integration affects how readily the brain responds and the body reacts. The third is how clever the human was in the first place; the higher the base level of intelligence, the easier it is for the demon to learn. Then lastly we have how attuned to magic the person was; that, too, makes a difference in how rapidly the demon can learn, respond and react to external stimuli. The more powerful the human, the easier the demon can adjust to the flow, so to speak.”
She slowly blinked, as she stared up at him, “Shit, Ripper. You sound like a fucking walking text-book,” she looked at him guiltily for a moment, “You probably would make a good Watcher for some girl, you know,” she picked up a dead leaf and began to shred it, letting it float back down to the ground piece by piece.
“If you had been mine, I might not have not have even dumped the Council.”
“Blame Ethan. It has high standards,” he laughed, although nothing about the sound was real, “Yet I doubt they’ll let me near the Slayer that’s meant to be mine after I’ve pulled this stunt. Not without twenty four-seven supervision. Or they’ll kill her as soon as she’s born.”
He wasn’t sure whether Deidre looked shocked or appalled.
“They wouldn’t. The Council wouldn’t endorse the murder of a… an infant.”
“They would, and they have done so before. If they feel that the end justifies the means…”
“Jesus,” she breathed, “well, that’s one of the things they don’t tell you.”
“One more thing,” he almost felt bad about intruding on her thoughts.
“After today, it’s best if I keep my head down, which means that I’ll be leaving things to you. If you need any bread, then I’ll check in with Thomas once a fortnight, so you’ll be able to leave a message with him. Reckon you can handle it?”
“Ripper, I was born to handle it.”
He grinned at her.
Friday night in Sunnydale didn’t often have much going for it, aside from the Bronze and the occasional ritual killing, but this was one of those rare nights that was an exception. Tonight a party was being held for the exchange students and their Sunnydale counterparts.
Rupert hadn’t been back since the end of the school day, and although Ethan understood his need for space, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t irritating at times. Still, it was a mild irritation, and he had put up with far worse over the years. There hadn’t been much of a debate, before he decided to have an easy evening at home.
He had just settled down with a newly acquired book on skin walkers in one hand and a glass of wine in the other when the phone rung.
Ethan flicked a single eye toward it, wondering whether to bother answering. But then, he could count the number of people who had this phone number on seven fingers. It was too late for the school to be ringing, and when Rupert took off without a word like he had today then he wouldn’t call unless he was hanging by one hand from the top ledge of an eighteen- storey building. He may have softened a little in his attitude, but it wasn’t by any means a consistent thing. Nor could he think of anything the Council would be calling about, not that they were ever particularly generous with their warnings.
Which left one of Rupert’s flock of children. Closing his book and setting it to the side he picked up the phone, to hear Willow’s voice on the other end.
“Is out, I’m afraid. You’ll have to make do with me.”
“You don’t know when he’ll be back?”
“No,” his voice was curt.
“Look, we’ve got a problem at the museum. There was this Incan Mummy Princess, and she was on a date with Xander, and she’s halfway to dust now, after she tried to kiss me when she didn’t want to kiss Xander, and he’s been knocked out somehow, and Buffy’s running interference with the staff, and I don’t know how much longer she can hold them off for.”
“Think about what you’ve just said. Would you care to turn it into a coherent sentence?”
He could just hear a scuffle on the other end of the line, and then the Slayer’s voice spoke to him, “Look, just get here, please. We need a safe place where Xander can come to, and that obviously isn’t here.”
“Fine. Out the front, ten minutes.”
The phone was slammed down at the other end of the line, and Ethan cast his eyes towards the ceiling, before laughing. Ah, Sunnydale, there really was no place like it. He’d had three millennia of actively serving chaos, when maybe he should have simply moved onto a Hellmouth and drawn from its potent energies instead.
But where was the fun in that?
He grabbed the car keys, locked the place behind him, and went out to start to car. This would give him a chance to check on something else, too. It was the perfect opportunity, really, especially without Rupert constantly watching over his shoulder.
It was a nice surprise to discover that the children had followed his instruction and were waiting outside. Xander was stretched out on the bench-chair and looked as though he were simply asleep. Buffy was pacing, and Willow was sitting with Xander, his head pulled onto her knee, stroking the top of his forehead.
Willow looked up as Ethan pulled up, and got out of the car.
“Now,” he cleared its throat, “would you care to give me the breakdown in English? All I gathered from that phone-call was that Xander’s princess girlfriend tried to pash you, Willow.”
Willow giggled slightly; then looked like she was angry with herself.
Buffy stopped pacing and looked at him, “I had an exchange student staying at my place, name of Ampata. Only she wasn’t an exchange student, turned out to be this way-old Incan mummy princess, who was released because the seal that she was holding got broken. We didn’t know until tonight, when we found a mummified male body in her trunk. By then Xander was already at the dance with her. By the time we got here she and Xander were arguing, and Xander told her that if she was going to kill someone then it would have to be him. She turned to Willow and tried to kiss her instead, and things went all up the kablooy. I stopped her from kissing Willow, and she fought back, but things were happening pretty quickly. I’m guessing that somewhere in the struggle Xander got hit in the head.”
Ethan moved over to the bench and pressed a pair of fingers to the side of Xander’s neck, focusing on the rhythm and depth of his breathing as it felt his pulse. It was a little sluggish but to really be concerned about, and his breathing was deep and strong. Pulling open an eyelid he stared into it, moving a finger in front of his pupil and watched the flicker of reaction.
With a deft touch he ran fingers over the top of his head, quickly finding a point that was slightly warmer than the rest of it. No broken skin but it was a point of impact, there was no doubt about that.
“How long has he been out already?”
“It’s bad isn’t it?” Willow was pale, and her lip was trembling, “I just know it’s bad.”
“He went down probably ten minutes before we called you, so about fifteen.”
“It’s not actually that bad. He has taken a wack, but it shouldn’t be enough to do more than disorient him for a while, and leave him with a headache once he comes too. There’s no broken skin, no internal bleeding, his pulse is a little weaker than normal but there’s nothing thready about it, and his breathing is deep and even. He will be fine.”
He watched as relief flooded Willow’s face, and although it was less pronounced, Buffy’s as well.
“How long until he comes around?” Buffy asked, practical as ever, “We can’t exactly leave him here, and it would be a hard road explaining to his parents how he happened to get knocked out. That’s if they’re even bothered with…” she bit her lip.
“He’ll be out for quite a while yet, I’d say.”
“I’ll take him back to our place,” Ethan cut Buffy off, as he made up his mind. “It will give him time to recover, and I can keep an eye on him for any complications.”
“You’d be willing to do that?” Willow looked extremely grateful.
“I would. Besides, I wasn’t offering, I was telling the pair of you.”
He easily picked Xander up, and carried him over to the car then laid him out across the back seat.
“I’m assuming the pair of you can make your own way back home?”
Buffy nodded, “This thing ends in another hour, so ample rides. Maybe that will give me time to come up with something to tell my mom about where out exchange student has gone, too.”
Ethan smirked, “Yes, I’m sure that will be an interesting conversation, Rupert will be in touch with you tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks for this,” Willow said, and Buffy nodded as he started the car.
He’d had a lot of practise at carrying unconscious humans, so this was no more difficult than anything else. He held the boy to his body with one arm and unlocked the door with his other hand, then locked the door behind him. Dropping the keys on the counter he shifted the boy to a two-handed grip, and climbed the stairs to settle him, so that he would be comfortable. Then he went about an old routine.
Finally, satisfied, he headed back down the stairs and rung Rupert, who answered on the third ring.
“What did you want?” Rupert’s voice wasn’t as guarded as usual, but it wasn’t welcoming.
“I want you back home.”
He could practically feel Rupert struggling with the question ‘why?’
“I’m at Harold’s. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes; is that soon enough for you?”
Ethan settled down to wait, picked up the book again, and read until it heard the sound of Rupert’s key in the lock.
“Ethan,” he nodded coolly.
“Rupert,” Ethan stood up, and then gestured towards the seat.
It wasn’t surprising when Rupert crossed his arms and remained standing, “So, Ethan. What was so essential that I had to come back as soon as you called?”
“Your flock had a problem tonight.”
The expression on Rupert’s face changed from anger to anxiety
“They overcame it, with their usual style. Your Xander took a blow to the head, though, and he’s upstairs sleeping it off. “
Rupert climbed the stairs three at a time to check on him and Ethan followed close behind. In the doorway he froze, staring, and then slowly turned so they were face to face.
“What the fuck is going through your head?” he snarled.
“Come and sit down, Rupert. It’s well past time we talked about that submissive pup of yours.”
“Stop fucking calling him mine. Besides, I’m not moving until you tell me what the devil you think you’re doing.”
“It wasn’t a request, Rupert. Come and sit down.”
“I don’t care whether it was a fucking request or not. You’ll tell me, and you’ll do so now.”
Ethan’s eyes flashed, and as it stalked towards him it seemed to grow to fill the tiny space in the hallway.
“You will do as I say, and you will do so now. I don’t want to have to tell you again.”
He still crossed his arms. He looked like it would take an act of apocalyptic proportion to shift him.
“You get rid of that and I will.”
“You are in no position to make demands of me. If you are concerned about him, then check him over. If you can hold yourself in check for ten minutes, then come and sit down.”
With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and one last glance toward the boy secured loosely to the headboard, he followed down the stairs and into the lounge. He still wasn’t going to sit down and pretend to be calm, though.
“You can’t do this,” Rupert’s voice was a choked whisper.
“I’m not going to do anything, Rupert, aside from talk to you.”
“Go ahead, then. Talk,” he spat, “Give me one fucking reason to be rational. Tell me that isn’t what I think it looks like. Please,” the last word was a whisper, again.
“It isn’t. Tell me, how did he smell to you under the stars?”
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“Just answer the question, Rupert.”
“Good. He… He’d have smelt good to anything, though. Part and parcel of the ‘enhanced senses’ thing.” He couldn’t keep a note of uncertainty out of his voice.
“Not for the last few weeks. Been spending a lot of time around him too, haven’t you?”
“Again, your point is?”
“He won’t smell like much of anything for the next few weeks, either. He’s in the last stages of youth already.”
Ethan looked at him, at the struggle playing across his face. He wasn’t stupid, but his reasoning could be very selective when he chose.
“If he were in the last stages of youth, then he would smell neutral to anyone. Besides, it takes a few months for the final transition.”
“Under normal circumstances that’s true. But he’s accepted your protection, and did so some time ago. With the time you’ve spent with him, he’s probably been carrying your scent for almost as long. You’ve been carrying his, I couldn’t help but notice. It’s enhanced the rate of his maturity. Your rejection of the other week has enhanced it further.”
“I didn’t reject…”
“Do you think a body knows a difference? He’s been avoiding you, so the body ages a little faster, smells a little better, to lure you back. For the next few weeks at the most you are the only thing that he will physically respond to, the only thing that he will be attractive to.”
“But I’m not a demon. I was careful, so careful,” that uncertainty had been replaced by fear and anger.
“It doesn’t matter, and you carry more than enough of my blood to trigger the reaction.”
“No. No. No!” his voice rose with each words, “It…it…it… no, it…it should be Willow.”
“No demonic blood, Rupert.”
“Or even… even Buffy,” He was desperately grasping at straws now.
“You’d wish this on her, when she would have no knowledge of what she was doing? Please, I know you better than that.”
“I don’t care. It should be someone of his…his own age, his own choice.”
“He may not have known what he was choosing, but he did make his own choice.”
“Why the hell didn’t you say something?!”
“Would it have made a difference?” Ethan challenged in that same calm tone.
Rupert chose to ignore the question, “You still should have said something.”
“I’m saying something now, Rupert. You already know what I’m getting at. If you do it now, while you are the only thing he’ll respond to, then it will mask his own scent a little later. Perhaps that would make his life a little easier.”
The fact that Ethan was showing some tact didn’t matter. Rupert was shaking as he spun to face the vampire again, “Even the thought of it makes me feel sick. I… I…I… I couldn’t. I can’t. Not that.”
“Fine then. It’s not my problem. We’ll say no more of it.”
It watched as his face went from rage, to fear, to suspicion, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, go back upstairs and let him free. Send him out that door as soon as he wakes up, and we won’t say another thing about this. In another few weeks when he hits full maturity, or sooner perhaps if you plan to go back to avoiding him, then it will be out of your hands.”
It didn’t take long to process that, “You’re telling me to deliver a…a death sentence to someone who’s scarcely more than a child.”
“I said he’s not my problem, Rupert. I already have one human,” it said the word like it was a dirty thing, “to watch out for. I only offered you the choice because I felt that you might appreciate it. Your boy doesn’t mean a thing to me, outside of the chaotic potential that he represents. Of course, there’s always the possibility that whatever does claim him won’t kill him. Or that if something else does then it will be able to protect him from others, and put him to the purpose that he is meant to be used for.”
He knew exact what Ethan was doing. It had always been skilled at manipulation.
“Christ on a bike,” Rupert finally slumped back into a chair, head in his hands, “I…I honestly don’t know which would be worse.”
“Then give him a third option. I’m not going to offer you the chance again. You do this, and you take care of him.”
Rupert’s first thought was you’d let me? His second was do you honestly think I would be capable of that? He felt sick, and torn in himself. He felt like he had failed him.
“You never told him what he was, did you? If you feel the way you do when the shit hits the fan then why didn’t you give him the knowledge to make his own choices?”
He could say that he hadn’t considered what simply spending time with the boy might have done to him, but the truth was that if he had paid attention to his instinct then there was every chance that he would have realised.
“Why not talk to him? You may find him more reasonable than you ever were,” Ethan’s voice was still so fucking reasonable, and that didn’t seem fair, not when he wanted to make it scream, and yell at him. Not when he wanted to give himself an excuse to swing out at it, for what it had let him do.
His choice? Oh, sure, it was his choice between going upstairs to tell the boy exactly what he had done, and doing so to set him free before he nudged him awake and sent him out of the house. He could stand back and look sympathetically at the rest of the children as Buffy told them how she had found Xander’s body. She wouldn’t go into any detail about the state that he was in, of course, but she would be shocked and horrified, and adamant that he wasn’t going to rise again. She would also be determined to make sure that no-one else saw the body.
Or maybe the boy would simply vanish, never to be heard from again, until the demonic found a new leader amongst offspring born of his blood. Demonic inbreeding had a lot to answer for. The denizens of hell that walked the earth didn’t only get stronger and faster, they also got dumber. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had simply vanished in Sothern California, or even the first time that someone had vanished from Sunnydale.
“Make your choice, Rupert.”
He didn’t have the strength or desire to take a swing at it any more, not when he was the one felt disgusted with. The minutes dragged past, as he played through every possible scenario in his mind, before he hauled himself to his feet, and slowly made his way up the stairs.
The boy was just beginning to stir, eyelids fluttering. He could ask Ethan to cut him off from his own sense of morals, so that he just saw Xander as a piece of meat, a sweet little body to manipulate to his will. It would have been willing to do so. There was no doubt about that. But then he would still have to live with himself afterwards, and that was where that theory fell apart.
He gave the boy a tiny brush of magic, nudging him over that line between states of consciousness. All of the caution that he’d shown didn’t matter now, not with the boy in the last stages of adolescence and the decision already made for both of them.
He stood at the bedside watching, as his eyelids flickered and opened, and he lay there. It would be so much easier if he simply said to hell with morals’ and did it without offering the choice, but he had hated Ethan for years after what it had done. If he did this, then it would be a lot simpler if he were resented, rather than hated outright.
The boy’s eyes darted around the room as he tried to work out where he was, then settled on Rupert. He didn’t particularly like that flash of wariness in them.
“Hey, Giles,” Xander’s voice sounded a little rough, “my head feels like the school marching band had a practise session on top of it. I’m guessing this is your place?”
Rupert placed a pair of fingers at Xander’s left temple and soothed the nerve endings and muscle a little.
“Nice. Instant headache cure,” Xander said, “you should market it. You could make a fortune.”
He smiled grimly back, “Make yourself comfortable Xander. There’s something that we rather need to talk about.”
The boy sat up. There was more than enough give from the chain to allow it, but he still realized that something was there. As he watched the boy twisted around to see the chain running back to the headboard, and running through the frame.
“Okay, don’t suppose you’d like to tell me what the hell is going on here? Maybe even get rid of this thing?” he raised a hand to gesture towards the collar and chain, but stopped just short of touching it. There was a note of fear in his voice, but he was working hard to keep it suppressed, “Radical idea, I know, but most conversations tend to go better without the whole ‘being tied back’ deal.”
“I can’t loosen it.”
Actually, he could. This particular chain wasn’t enchanted against him, he could feel that much, but there was no point in letting him up, at least not right at this moment.
“I… Ethan’s had that precaution in place for years. Only it can do so.”
“So, kinda hoping this is a strange way of stopping me from rolling off the bed, then?”
“Not exactly,” Rupert closed his eyes, trying to work out how exactly he was going to say this, or do it, “The…well, the truth of the matter is that you aren’t quite human.”
“Strange, considering I feel and look pretty fucking human,” fear was giving way to anger, which was a natural response.
“For… for the most part you are. It’s… what is different with you is more on a molecular level. You look, think, feel and act like a human. The only difference that it makes is that it… it’s possible for you, or someone like you to breed with those that are compatible and of demonic bloodline. It… It’s caused by a…”
“I don’t care what the fuck it’s caused by. You have got to be kidding me.”
Rupert shook his head, “I’m not. A sub…what you are is rather rare. Most demonic are weakened by inbreeding. A fresh influx of blood would make all the difference to some of them, which means there are quite a few out there that you will soon smell extremely attractive to, and a few such as your bug lady that could already smell it. There is a high chance that whatever tries to use you, will also try to kill you. The… craving towards sex and feeding are quite closely interwoven for a lot of the demonic.”
“Soon smell, you say?” he was looking pale, but he still tried to joke, “So I’m going to be walking around wearing Eu’De Demon? Isn’t there like an aftershave or something that I could use instead?”
“I… I…I’m afraid the only thing that would settle your body a little, and help mask some of the…the pheromones that it will produce, is by allowing nature to have its way. You are in the last weeks of your youth, and if… if you slept with someone… something now, then your body would react in a certain way to the presence of that one, and would respond less readily to other demons. I… I… and with the amount of time you’ve already spent with me your body is already responding on a basic level to mine.”
He’d thought that the boy couldn’t go any paler, but he was being proven wrong, “So, it’s pretty much a ‘sleep with me or find yourself dead’ deal, then?”
Rupert could recognize shock, He wondered how long it would take for it shock to break.
“I… If you want to know the truth, then I would have chosen to die,” Rupert forced himself to meet the boy’s gaze, “and if that… if that’s what you would prefer, then I’m prepared to grant it to you.”
“I’m seventeen, and you’re asking me if I want to die?! Fucking hell, Giles. Is this some great big cosmic joke to someone up there? Is it like, he thinks his life can’t get any fucking worse, so let’s prove him wrong?” There was that hysteria that he had been expecting before, “My life may have sucked big time, but that doesn’t mean I want to…to throw it away. In fact, right about now I want you to get out of my sight!”
Rupert could see the sense in that; it would give him the time to get into the mind-frame that he would need for this. He reached forward to brush the boy’s hair back, and hated the way that he drew away from him. He was still a boy, yes, but he wouldn’t be a child for much longer.