Requiem to Better Days
Never had a task seemed so daunting. Ethan had cut his hair, and tidied himself up. The fracture in his hand was well on the way to mending, and he was even wearing a suit. Admittedly, he’d nicked the suit, but it wasn’t like people could tell that by looking at him. Besides, nine out of ten wasn’t bad.
Now all he had to do was bring himself to actually use that brushed silver door knocker. All he had to do was pick it up, and strike it against the wood. The patterned glass window meant that he couldn’t see anything inside the entrance, aside from the odd blurred shape. Wasn’t like it was for lack of trying, either. He’d been standing out here for the last thirty minutes or so.
He had sent at least a dozen letters to this address for Ripper, over the four months and hadn’t received a reply back to any of them. He knew that he was probably best to let it go, but he was worried that something was wrong.
So, at ten thirty on a Saturday morning, when he would usually have been sleeping off the night before, instead he was standing on the front doorstep of the Giles family home. He had been sure that someone would have become aware of his presence by now, but no-one had shown up to drag him off the doorstep, so he supposed that he must have some luck still on his side.
Finally, he took a deep breath, and did it. He could hear the sound echoing through the house, as he took half a step back. He was debating whether to try again, or turn around and leave when the door was opened. He braced himself for a meeting with Ripper’s fist, and when the blow didn’t land he finally looked up to see who it was.
Ripper’s father looked a lot older than he had the last time that he had seen him. The lines in his face were a lot deeper, and the grey hair on his head was a lot more pronounced. He looked worn out, like there was nothing to give him energy.
“Rayne,” he was surprised by the coolness in his tone, “I suppose you’d best come in. I was wondering how long you were going to stand there.”
He couldn’t order away the tension that rushed into his muscles, as he stepped over the threshold, eyes darting from side to side. His heart fell, as he spotted a bundle of letters bound together, and his own cursive scrawl on the one on top.
“You’re keeping my letters?”
Adrian ignored him, “Can I offer you tea, or something a little stronger?”
“With all due respect, sir, I just came to check on Rip…Rupert.”
He tried to clamp down on his imagination, which was offering him about a hundred possible scenarios, in the best of which Ripper had cooled his heels for a little while, and then simply walked out again.
“If you’re offering, then I suspect I’ll need something stronger.”
He nodded,” You remember where the study is?”
“Wait in there. I’ll be through shortly.”
Ethan headed down the hallway, around a corner, down another hallway, and then into a room off that, and after a few minutes sat down in front of the old mahogany desk that was in there, looking around. A brown manila folder sat to one side, several books were stacked almost in the middle, and what looked like a journal was to the other side. Ethan leaned forward and looked at the book on the top of the pile. There was no title on the handsome leather cover, but he recognized the multi-pointed star that was on the spine of it.
Adrian cleared his throat behind him, and Ethan looked over his shoulder, keeping his face blank. “Would you be more comfortable on the couch?” He nodded towards the old, comfortable couch that had been there for as long as Ethan could remember.
He slowly shook his head, “I’m fine, thanks.”
“Very well then,” Adrian made his way around to the other side of the desk, and poured both of them out a generous measure of single malt.
Ethan stared at his glass, without making a move for it, as Adrian took a sip.
“Where is Rupert?” he had never been one to beat around the bush, and he didn’t see why he should start now, no matter how much he knew that he might not actually want to hear the answer to his question.
Adrian looked at him, and Ethan could see just how upset he was. In reply, Adrian flipped open the manila folder and pushed it over to him. He refused to look at it.
“He’s in a room at Lords, Ethan.”
“No,” Ethan said the word, as though denial could make it true, “No. I know he was pretty bad, but he wasn’t that far gone. I…I…I never would have let it get that far.” Lords was expensive, and flash and exclusive, and none of that changed the fact that it was an institution. A mental institution. “Why? H…how bad is he?”
The exhaustion in Adrian’s expression made a lot of sense, with this fresh revelation.
“Not well at all, Ethan. He was quiet, but I thought he was doing well enough, until I came back home from a meeting and found that he’d taken an overdose.”
“Fuck,” Ethan froze, with his glass half-way to his lips, and slowly lowered it again, struggling to process what he’d been told.
“I found this in his room,” Adrian pushed over the journal, beside the folder and waited for Ethan to open it.
It took even more effort to open that little book than it had, to knock on the door in the first place. Ripper’s distinctive, tidy handwriting was crammed into the first twenty pages, and then it became more spaced out and ragged. A story of fear, and depression and desperation rose from the paged to greet him, and near the end he discovered what Adrian had obviously expected him to find.
He opens door and closes them, and watches over everything from the future.
I can’t do this any more, not like this. I’m sick, and afraid, and no-one gets it. No one knows why, because no one gets what I lost.
I need to be able to close the door to my past, if I ever want to be able to look towards a future that isn’t black.
Or maybe he’ll be given back to me. I know that I could have kept my word. Maybe that will be enough.
If I have something to offer to the most primal force in the world, then I should be able to get something back, for myself.
In Chaos, anything is possible.”
Adrian gave him time to read to the bottom of the page. It didn’t take much for him to understand the implications of it.
“I suspect that He found something He wanted in return.”
Ethan stared at his untouched glass, “It’s all my fault, then.”
He was shocked to see that there was no accusation in Adrian’s gaze. There was only pain. Adrian leaned forward, and grasped his upper arms with a grip that was painfully tight, as though he was holding on for his very life.
“It’s. Not. Your. Fault. It’s not your fault, Ethan, do, you hear me? You didn’t hold a gun to his head and force him to make the choice that he did.”
“But, if I’d never made the choice that I did…”
“If you hadn’t made that call, then there’s every chance that he would be dead now instead.”
Ethan swallowed at a lump in his throat which felt impossibly large, “Is there any way that I can… see him?”
He could have cut the silence with a knife.
“He’s a little better than he was, but I’m afraid the answer is no. There’s every chance that seeing you would set him back. For now, you’re best to put him out of your mind.”
Ethan was shivering. It wasn’t often that he was honest, but he had nothing to lose by telling the truth. He’d already lost one of the most important things in his life already. He waited until Adrian met his gaze again.
“I… I’m drowning. Without him in my life, I can feel myself going under.”
If anything, Adrian looked even more upset.
“I’m sorry, son. But I have to keep Rupert’s best interests in mind.”
“I know I’m not much more than a waste of space, but I love him.”
“You’re not a waste of space, Ethan. I wish your mother had told you that more often, but you’re not a waste of space. I know that you love him, too. I always knew. It…,” Adrian took a deep breath, “it probably doesn’t mean much to you, but I always thought that you were good for him. That’s something that you’ve only proven to me, by putting his interests before your own.”
“No,” Ethan slowly shook his head, “you never liked me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Ethan. If you hadn’t stepped in, then I doubt that he’d have made it through that term, let alone the rest of that year.”
Ethan knew what year that one was. Rupert had stopped working, stopped studying and started to avoid everyone. He hadn’t snapped out of it until Ethan had pressed him to find out what was wrong, and been told that his mother only had a couple of weeks to live. He had distracted Rupert in the only way that he could think of, and things had taken their own course from there.
He hadn’t even thought Adrian had known, but clearly he had been wrong.
“I know about the demon, too.”
Ethan schooled his expression, so that it was blank, “I’m sorry, but I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about.”
That got him a flash of frustration.
“Stop trying to play me. I have no patience for it, and I’m no fool. I know about that thing that you and that group of idiots, my son included, summoned, and I heard what happened when it went wrong.”
It was a struggle to keep his expression blank, “I try not to think about it, and I certainly have no desire to talk about it.”
“I understand that, although if you ever do want to talk, then I’m here. I have no desire to shut you out, Ethan. When Rupert comes out, then you’ll be the first person to know, too,” Adrian frowned, “if you let me know your address, that is. You’re not an easy person to track down, when you don’t want to be found.”
“If he comes out, you mean.”
“I have to believe that he will,” Adrian said, softly.
Ethan stood, “Gods don’t often take back deals that they make, and unfortunately I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Ethan, sit back down.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Ethan tossed back his drink, and put the empty glass back down, “I’m going to take my leave,” he hesitated, thinking, “if you send anything to the old address, then I’ll be sure to get it.”
He left the study without looking back, thoughts churning in his mind.
Gods made deals for keeps. But he was more powerful than Ripper, always had been. If he offered a lifetime of service, then maybe he could get Ripper what he needed. After all, Rupert had always been the better man than him.
The world needed people like Rupert far more than it needed deviants like him.