Chapter 5 - Must Be Tuesday
“I said Oakhurst,” Dawn raised her voice against the mouthpiece of her phone. “No, Buffy… It’s a little town just a few miles outside the entrance to Yosemite Park. We went there today and it was so pretty, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Oh, and the mountains around the valley were tall enough that the sun went behind them long before it got dark. Giles was able to get out and look around with us, and we all walked up to this waterfall, and…” She looked up to grin at the man in question, but all she saw was his back through the closing door. As it clicked shut, the girl’s cheery façade crumbled and she began to weep. “I don’t know what to do anymore. He won’t talk, and he’ll barely even look at me. He’s so unhappy, and it’s all our fault. How could we be evil enough to do this to Giles?”
She stopped to listen, trying to control her sobs.
“Yes, it is my fault! I’m the one that kept him here. I’m the one that locked him in this hell. He’s only here because of me.”
More reassurance was coming over the phone, but Dawn continued to crumble in on herself, curling into a tight ball on the motel bed. Ethan gently slipped the phone from her trembling hand.
“Slayer? Yes, Buffy… you can stop now. I know. If you don’t mind, distant words don’t seem to be helping much. Would you give me a few moments to calm young Dawn? We will ring back soon… for better or worse… Yes,” he smiled, “ice cream. I’ll keep that in mind.”
The sorcerer sat gracefully against the headboard, and Dawn was quickly clutching his shirt, her face buried in his chest. He held her lightly, waiting for her breathing to quiet. As he did, Ethan had time to think about the situation he now found himself in. It was something of a novelty to him. Comforting a young lady, holding her close to him, yet with no ulterior motive. He wasn’t trying to use her for any immediate purpose of his own, and, contrary to what Ripper believed of him, this lovely girl was safe from his sexual advances. Well… except for some harmless flirting. That was just fun. In truth, he held her now with no real gain for himself. The thought frightened him. These were not the actions of Ethan Rayne, a man who would always be out for himself first. What was he doing there? What were these people turning him into? The chaos mage suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to run.
But then she turned her shining, red-rimmed eyes up to him. Trusting him. Needing him. And all urges except for the one to stop her tears faded from his mind. Ethan was trapped… and yet, he smiled.
“None of it’s true, you know,” he whispered gently. “Rupert loves you, dear girl. He loves you so much I’m almost jealous. I’d wager you represent the brightest spot in his world right now.”
“Then why won’t he say anything to me? Why do I always feel like I’m making things worse?”
Ethan chuckled lightly. “Because you care too much for your own good.” He pulled a tissue from the bedside table and dried her face. “Never stop, Luv. There are things on Ripper’s mind right now, dark things that I’d suspect he wants to protect you from. But you’re a rope, a lifeline for him. I know you don’t notice, but every time you reach out to him, he brightens just a bit. I see it when he looks at you. He remembers what he’s fighting for.”
“You really think so?” Dawn sniffled.
“Beautiful goddess, you have managed to wrap a self-proclaimed rapscallion around your delicate finger. How could a mere vampire even hope to have a chance against your charms?”
At that she giggled through her tears. “You’re silly. And thank you, Ethan. For me… but mostly for him. I know this stuff isn’t what your life is really like. But I’m glad you stayed. I don’t know what we’d do without you.”
“Well, for one, you wouldn’t get very far. What with you not driving yet, and Ripper’s aversion to sunlight…” Dawn laughed and slapped his chest playfully. “On the phone, your sister suggested I try taking you for ice cream. I’m starting to think it’s a splendid idea.”
“I concur,” the girl nodded. “But I’d better call Buffy back first. She’ll be worried.”
Giles turned slightly at the tap on his shoulder, only for his jaw to collide with Ethan’s right hook. He could feel the scattered patrons of the bar tense, preparing to get out of the way when this fight broke out. But they could relax. Giles sighed, “Would you like a drink, Ethan?”
His old friend sat on the next stool. “Scotch rocks,” he grunted to the bartender. When the drink came, he downed the liquid quickly and pressed the glass full of ice to his knuckles. “I’ll never understand why you enjoy doing that so much, Ripper. Hurts like balls.”
Giles snorted, bringing his glass to his lips as he stared straight ahead. “Was worth it knowing it hurt you more." He waited a moment as Ethan ordered another drink. “I’m guessing that was on Dawn’s behalf?”
The sorcerer set his glass down hard. “That sweet girl is worrying herself sick over you. I am tired of listening to her cry herself to sleep because you’re being such a bloody pillock.”
“And now I’m getting lectured on my treatment of a lady by Ethan bloody Rayne,” Giles chuckled mirthlessly. “The world really has gone to hell.”
Ethan’s agitation grew as the target of his anger remained perfectly still, never looking over, his only movements to bring more alcohol efficiently to his lips. He followed the vampire’s eye-line and noticed that Giles was staring into the mirror behind the bar. A mirror that reflected nothing of the vampire’s existence. “She’s blaming herself. She keeps having to watch you pull away, wallow in your own self-pity. Why are you putting her through this?”
“Since when did you start caring?” Giles muttered.
“About the time you stopped,” Ethan retorted without skipping a beat.
“You don’t understand…”
“What it’s like to be apart from the world? What it’s like to not be trusted or wanted? What it’s like when everyone would be better off without you, when no one cares? Oh, believe me, Ripper, there is a bad man here, and you don’t even have the qualifications.” The vampire sat in silence. “The problem is, unlike me, you are not alone in the world. The more you run away, the more you hurt the people around you.”
“I don’t belong with them anymore.”
“Why? Because they walk in the light? Because they’re heroes? Oh, but you and I both know you gave up that title long ago. You have always been there to do what they could not. To get your hands dirty so theirs can remain pristine. Nothing has cha--”
“Ethan, I can’t control it. If I go back, I’ll only end up…”
“Dripping in more blood?” The vampire’s shoulders tensed at the piercing question. “Do you really think you’ve been hiding it these last several nights? I’ve been making sure to get up before Dawn every morning, just so I can be in the restroom first. To make sure the blood is rinsed out of the sink. To make sure your ruined clothes are properly disposed of. Sometimes I think you want her to find it, just so she’ll see you as the creature you think you are.”
“Everyone would be safer if they did.”
“Coward!” Ethan growled. “You are nothing but a bloody coward. Do you even know how many people in this bloody world long for what you have? What you’re trying to push away? You are loved, you bastard. A sweet, little girl sheds tears for you. A Slayer went against everything she knew for you. All those bloody children cling to you like they’d be lost without you. And then there’s your little witch. After everything, she still loves you. She wants you, Rupert, in all your dysfunction, though I can’t imagine what she sees.”
Giles smirked. “Yes you can,” he sneered unkindly.
Ethan stood. “Fine. If nothing but a sorry drunk is all you want to be for eternity, so be it. I’m done trying. And I’ve changed my mind. If you do decide you can’t stop hurting Dawn, just inform me, and I’ll have a stake at the ready.”
In the blink of an eye, Giles had Ethan by the front of his shirt. “You think this is easy?” he barked. “You want to come in here and tell me to do what, snap out of it? We are nothing alike, Ethan. You hide in a corner while all the damage and pain you cause happens somewhere else. I feel every bone break, the blood flows through my fingers. I lose myself for a moment and someone ends up dead. I hurt enough people while I was alive. I will not have those I care for subjected to a monster!”
Giles’ head cocked, his concentration suddenly far way. Ethan knew that look, Giles had heard something. And from the desperate fear in his eyes, there was only one thing it could be. Dawn. The vampire was swiftly on the move with the sorcerer hot on his heels.
“Hey, babe. A little past your bedtime, isn’t it.” The young male voice came from a dark corner of the bar’s parking lot. It was accompanied by laughter and cat calls.
“Oh, no…” Dawn tried to shy away. “I-I’m meeting some friends here. They’ll be expecting me.”
Her forward progress was halted as four young men surrounded her. “Why don’t we keep you company until your friends get here? We like to party.”
“I shouldn’t,” she backed away from one only to run into another. “You see, I-I have a boyfriend… A big, jealous one. And if he sees me with other guys, people tend to get hurt.”
“Oh, a jealous boyfriend, huh?” They were herding her back into their corner. “Well, if he shows up to spoil our fun, I think we can handle him.”
“No! Don’t touch me!” Dawn screamed when the apparent leader grabbed her by the arms.
“Come on. Just relax, beautiful. We’re just gonna show you a good time.” His breath was hot as he whispered in her ear. “I bet you’re the type that’ll like it.”
“I’m not.” Dawn struggled in his grasp as another man pressed up behind her. The two others looked on and laughed.
She was sandwiched between them, their grubby hands searching for openings when she looked up to see Giles. The Watcher stood deadly still with Ethan at his shoulder. Both men had the most dangerous looks she’d ever seen on their stony faces.
“Giles, I didn’t mean to… I woke up alone and needed to know where you go all the time.” But the dangerous looks weren’t directed at her. What she saw put a cold lump in her stomach.
“What is this?” The gang had noticed them. “I thought you said he was a boyfriend,” the boy laughed. “I feel like I’m in an episode of ‘my two granddads’.” They began to surround her, standing between her and her friends.
But, at this point, these blustering boys were not Dawn’s biggest concern. “Please, let me go and I’ll take them away. No one will get hurt,” she tried to reason with them. There was no way they could understand, so she called out to the vampire. “Giles, they’re stupid kids. They haven’t hurt me yet. You don’t want to do something you’re going to regret later. I don’t want to see you go through that.”
“It’s all right, Dawn,” Giles’ voice was low and steady. “No one is going to touch you.”
“And what are you gonna do about it?”
“Ethan,” the girl tried again. “They’re human. You have to stop him.”
“I’m sorry, my dear. Right now I’m using all my restraint on myself.”
“You have to the count of one,” Giles growled at the gang.
“Oh yeah?” The boy made the mistake of pulling out a knife and bringing it near Dawn. “Or what?”
On the Watcher’s nod, she brought her foot down hard on the leader’s instep and threw her elbow into the solar plexus of the large man behind her. Launching herself out of the surprised group, she landed hard on the ground a couple feet in front of them. Ethan was there to help her to safety as Giles flew headlong into the gang.
Dawn panted from fear and exertion as they ducked behind a parked car. “Aren’t you going to help him?”
Ethan looked up at the broiling mass of muscle and testosterone. Shaking his head, he answered, “I think Ripper needs this one more than I do.”
Giles backhanded and sent one boy flying. The gang was surprised, first that this one man dared challenge them, and more so when they realized he was a match for all four of them. They came at him together, punching and kicking wildly, trying to knock him to the ground and regain the advantage. But Giles was an immovable column of fury. One boy slammed hard against the stone wall of the building. It was all he could do to get to his feet and run for it. The biggest one came up behind Giles with a block and smashed it over the vampire’s head. He gaped in stunned silence when his target didn’t even stumble, too much in shock to escape the elbow that knocked him cold. The third decided he had made the wrong friends and took off into the darkness.
The leader was now alone, but he was bouncing on the balls of his feet and tossing his knife from hand to hand in false bravado. Giles circled him slowly, like a cat playing with a stupidly confident mouse. When he pounced, forcing the boy to his back on the cold ground, both looked down between them to see the knife sticking out of Giles’ flesh. The vampire met his eyes with a feral grin and shook his head slowly. For the first time, his prey’s face twisted with fear. A yellow glow grew in the vampire’s eyes.
“Giles, no,” Dawn called, “He’s human. And he’s not worth it.”
The vampire glanced up at the on-looking pair with a dark smile. He then retuned his full attention to the young man in his grasp. “It seems you need lessons in the treatment of women,” his voice was a low growl. “If you ever threaten a lady again, I’ll know.” He let his face shift to reveal the demon within. “And the boogie man will come back to get you.” His prey struggled in terror for a few moments before the Watcher released him. Once loose, the boy ran screaming into the night.
Giles stood to watch him go, then turned, still in game face. “What kind of stupid, irresponsible git leaves a child asleep in a motel without as much as a sleep charm or even a note?” he roared at Ethan.
Dawn ran forward and threw her arms around him, paying no heed to his bluster. The sorcerer smirked, “I’m supposed to be irresponsible, remember? You’re the one who left an innocent, young girl in a bedroom with the likes of me.”
“Giles, you did it,” Dawn drew his attention and the demon receded almost immediately upon looking into her eyes.
“I did what?”
“You dispatched a group of reprobates that was threatening someone you care about,” Ethan clarified. “All the while keeping perfect control as you did no more damage than required. Leaving only a few bruises, and one slightly damaged psyche. Which, if I may add my humble opinion, was an inspired touch.”
“You’re a hero, Giles.” Dawn hugged him again. “You’re my hero.”
“Still think they would be better off without you?” Ethan murmured.
Giles looked down at the girl as she let him go. He noticed a ragged gash along the heel of her hand. “You’re hurt,” he held her arm gently.
“I scraped it when I hit the ground,” Dawn explained. “I’ll be okay.”
“Here,” he led her towards the bar. “Let’s go get you cleaned up.”
The two men kept their young charge protectively between them as they bustled her into the bar and to a quiet table in the corner. Dawn might have been annoyed, if she didn’t think they were acting so cute. Her hand was being thoroughly inspected by Giles when the rather large and intimidating woman who had been tending bar walked over.
“You boys know I can get in trouble for having a minor in here at this time of night?”
Ethan flashed his most charming smile. “We don’t mean to cause you any grief, madam. If we could only have a few minutes to tend to the young lady, we’ll be out of your way in no time.”
“Some warm water and a clean towel will do if you have it,” Giles added without looking up. But the soft tenor in his voice and his obvious concern for the young girl erased any rudeness in his distraction.
The woman called over her shoulder, “Hey, Tony! Bring out the first aid kit, will ya? And some warm water.”
“Your kindness becomes you, my dear,” Ethan purred.
“Yeah, I’m a sucker for cute little families. Just as long as you two are finished with that little lover’s tiff you were havin’ earlier. My regulars like some peace and quiet.”
Dawn giggled as Giles shook his head in resignation and sighed, “Why does everyone always…?”
“I assure you,” Ethan grinned. “The issue has become moot. And, please feel free to add any damage we may have inadvertently done to our tab from previously. Sorry for running out like that, but when the little ones are in trouble…”
“The kids always put what’s important in perspective, don’t they?” the woman smiled as Giles began tending Dawn’s wound with the newly arrived medical supplies. “You’re lucky your dads take such good care of you, young lady.”
Dawn’s smile was radiant. “I know I am.”
“So what happened?”
“She encountered a group of ruffians in your parking lot. They were threatening her with some very unpleasant behavior,” Ethan explained. “Fortunately, Rupert here was able to run them off with little fuss.”
“Damn it, those little jackasses. I know the punks you’re talking about. Been hanging out around here, giving my patrons grief. They’re trying to make people think they’re all tough, make a name. And the cops can’t do any more than kick ‘em off the property every now and then because they’re too chicken shit to do anything really serious. If you boys managed to run them off for a few days, I’m in your debt.”
“Well, I dare say they were threatening Dawn very seriously. But Rupert gave them a thrashing they won’t soon forget.”
“I hope so. Someone has to beat the fear of God into those blockheads.” She sighed and turned back to Dawn. “I’m sorry they scared you, Hun. My cook closed up the kitchen hours ago, but I could probably dig up a sandwich or somethin’ if you’re hungry.”
Dawn smiled sweetly. “I really don’t want to be any trouble, but I am a teenager so, always hungry.”
“No trouble at all, Doll.” She winked at Ethan. “Got a sweetheart there. You boys must be so proud.” With that, she headed back to the bar.
Dawn couldn’t contain her laughter at the sneer that curled on Giles’ lips as he muttered to himself. “At least she didn’t think you were ‘my two granddads’,” she pointed out. He looked up into her sparkling eyes and laughed, too.
Finally, Giles was smiling and laughing, and Dawn thought she just might be in heaven. The bar’s owner sorrowfully asked them to leave after she had closed up and cleaned for the night. However, she made it clear that the two charming gentlemen and their lovely girl were always welcome back. Ethan insisted on settling their bill as his companions prepared to move on.
They’d left the bar and were heading toward the empty street when a dark figure stepped into their path. It was the leader from the gang that had accosted Dawn. His eyes were wide to the point of madness and the streetlight glinted off the barrel of a shotgun he held as he cried out, “Monster. It’s a monster!”
Giles step forward, sweeping Dawn and Ethan safely behind him just as the gun went off. He took the full force of the 12 gauge blast square in the chest and it knocked him backwards to the ground.
Ethan strode forward, his hand outstretched and his eyes glowing dangerously. “Volcano clamavi ira. Ignis Deus. Dominus perditionem. Da mihi ultionem tuam!” The metal of the shotgun began to glow red hot, forcing the boy to drop it. Ethan was on him, their noses barely an inch apart as he growled lowly at the man beneath him. “Monsters exist in many forms. They come out in the way hearts seek entertainment and the way tools are chosen and misused. Look at the tool you have chosen.” He forced his enemy to stare at the puddle of melted goo on the ground. “You have shown me your heart tonight and so I choose to destroy the monster. You are cursed, my boy. You know my power is true and so I curse you. If you ever act on a thought of violence to those around you again, your brain will be as your tool is now. The last thing you feel will be that organ you do not use dribbling out of your ears. Now run home, before a less generous monster than I finds you tonight.”
As soon as Ethan let go, the boy scrambled to his feet and ran for his life.
“Ethan,” Dawn cried. “Help me!”
He went to where she knelt beside Giles. The vampire was unconscious, his chest gruesomely gaping open with a hole the size of Ethan’s fist.
“Help me get him up,” he crouched to lift the heavier man. “We need to get him to safety before we draw any more attention.”
Dawn pressed under Giles arm, trying to help with all the strength she had. As they began slowly moving as one, she cautiously asked, “Did you really curse that guy?”
The sorcerer didn’t quite meet her eyes when he answered, “He believes I did. That’s good enough.”
His blood oozed thick and dark. Ethan brought more towels to the bed and ripped Giles’ ruined shirt completely open. As Dawn tried to tend to the gunshot wound, she scanned the rest of his torso. There were cuts and punctures all over him.
“What has he been doing to himself?” she turned frightened eyes up to Ethan.
“Damned self-destructive son of a…” the sorcerer muttered. “I’m not sure, Luv. But the way he looked at you tonight, I am sure it’s at an end now. I believe we finally got through to him before…”
Dawn looked down at Giles’ deathly still face as her tears began to leak out. “It happened again. Last time he stood in front of a blow meant for me, it killed him. And now he saved me again and…”
“Don’t let his appearance right now fool you. We both know his body is already technically dead. But he is not. He’ll start to heal before you know it. You’ll see.”
“I keep telling myself that. It’s just so hard to see him lying there, wounded, and cold, and so still. He needs to be all right, Ethan. I need him to be all right.”
“He will be.” Ethan coxed her away from the heart-rending sight and laid her down on the other bed. He settled next to her and wrapped his comforting arms around her. “You’ll see. By the time morning comes, he’ll be standing just there lecturing me on how inappropriate it is for me to fall asleep with you in my arms like this.”
Even with the reassurances, Dawn cried herself to sleep. Ethan never found rest that night.
The morning brought no joy with it. “Why won’t he wake up? Why isn’t he healing already?” Now it was anger and fear that colored the girl’s voice.
“I… I don’t--”
“You can help him!” she cried in hopeful desperation. “You can do some kind of magick or something.”
“Dawn,” he kept a calm tone. “What do you think is making his body work now? His entire physiology is mystical. Any more I could summon up would be pointless.”
“But there has to be some way… Blood! He needs blood, of course. Like Spike said when he pulled the arrow out. It’s the blood that will help him heal.”
“The cooler Angel gave him is still in the van. I’ll be right back.” Ethan sprang from the room, secretly feeling nearly as frantic as Dawn. There was a dark scowl on his face when he returned and showed her the empty box.
“Did he already drink it all?”
“No,” Ethan growled. “It’s dry and warm. I’m betting he threw it all out when we weren’t watching. The stupid git has been starving himself. Rupert and his bloody martyr complex.” He tossed the cooler angrily aside.
Dawn crossed the room and dug into one of the bags. Finding what she needed, she strode back purposefully. She smoothly unsheathed a dagger and brought the sharp blade to her arm. Ethan caught her hand before she could cut.
“What are you doing?” Dawn yelled as he wrenched the knife from her hand. “He needs blood!”
“Not yours!” Ethan replied just as forcefully.
“I’m gonna give him what he needs. It’s my choice and I don’t care if you like it or not.”
Her attitude was wearing on the older man. “Oh, you could bleed yourself silly for all I care, little girl. But first you’ll think about him.” He pointed at Giles with the dagger. “The man has been beating himself to death with guilt over the blood he’s already taken. What will happen when he wakes up knowing the taste of your blood as well?”
Dawn deflated in fear and shame. “But we need to help him,” she whispered desperately.
Ethan went to sit on the bedside, a new glint of humor brightening his eyes once more. “I said I wouldn’t let him wake up knowing the taste of your blood. Fortunately, Ripper has never had any qualms about extracting blood from me.” He sliced open the meaty part of his arm in one quick motion and held the dripping life-force over the vampire’s opened mouth.
A dark-haired girl ran through the night-clad streets of an ancient city. She looked back as she ran, terror shining in her eyes. There was something chasing her. She ducked in and out of narrow alleyways, but her pursuer remained at her heels. A wrong turn led her to a dead end, and she was trapped as two robed figures closed in. A drain pipe in the corner was her only exit. Climbing as fast as she could, she barely escaped being pulled back, only to be met by a third attacker on the rooftop. He pushed her, and she fell to the ground with a scream. The two robed figures below held her down as she battled for freedom with all her might. The third approached, slowing pulling a long, curved dagger from his robe. He thrust it down into the girl’s heart, killing her. The murderer looked up with a face devoid of eyes, only strange symbols carved into his flesh.
Giles sat bolt upright on the bed, his mind still reeling from the vivid dream. His companions jumped at the sudden movement, but they were quickly rushing to him, radiating relief. The Watcher looked around, catching his bearings as his young friend’s arms wrapped around him. He glanced down to see that all his wounds had healed, his body now strong and healthy again. The bandage on Ethan’s arm told him all he needed to know.
Looking into both of their faces, he finally stated, “It’s time to go back.”
A/N: Approximate translation of Ethan’s spell from the Latin: “I call upon the wrath of Vulcan. God of fire. Lord of destruction. Grant me your vengeance.”... To Chapter 6