Summary: Pleasure and pain are two sides of the same coin, but they may not be worth the price. Set in Giles's "Ripper" days.
Warnings: Violent sex, knifeplay, other potentially disturbing content.
"You great ponce," Thomas said, "you think you're so tough when you're really a great girl --"
Ripper kicked him in the shin, and when Thomas stumbled, he hit him in the ribs, not as hard as he could but hard enough to knock him off balance. Deirdre made a little ooh that might have been interest or alarm, and Ethan smiled.
Thomas took a swing at him, too drunk to think better of it yet, and Ripper blocked easily just like he'd been taught and hit him again, in the face this time, his knuckles stinging as they scraped against Thomas's teeth. Thomas clutched at his face and retreated, swearing.
"Do that again, and I'll start to think you like it," Ripper said.
"That would be Ethan," Philip said from the corner. He gave Ethan a hard smile, and Ethan raised a graceful eyebrow at him. Ripper wondered sometimes how truthful it was to describe the group as Ethan's friends.
Ethan looked at Thomas, his face for a moment beautiful and blank, his eyes very dark.
"Oh," Thomas said, and raised a hand to his face again. He made a noise in the back of his throat. "Bloody hell, what did you do --"
"Nothing you won't enjoy," Ethan said.
Ripper hit him again, because he was well aware that Thomas could throw a solid punch if he could ever actually connect, and he didn't really want to be nursing bruised ribs for the weekend. Thomas shuddered and took a wavering step away.
"I don't -- I won't -- fuck you, I won't," he said, and then he groaned and his hips jerked convulsively, a wet spot spreading across the fly of his jeans. He touched his bleeding lip and his hips jerked again. He had broken into a sweat, and he was shaking.
"Oh, my God," Deirdre said, but she was laughing. Randall was laughing too, although Philip gave Ethan another hard look that made Ripper think they ought to make their exit before anyone went from being amused to being alarmed. Ethan in this sort of mood was reasonably alarming.
"Bastard," Thomas said raggedly, and fled for the toilet with Ethan watching him with interest. Ripper caught Ethan's eye.
"Let's go," he said.
"But we're having so much fun."
"I've had enough," Ripper said, and walked out. He walked down the stinking stairs of the block of flats slowly, and by the time he was out on the pavement, he heard Ethan's footsteps coming up behind him. "You never know when to quit, do you?" he said without turning.
"And you always do," Ethan said.
Ethan came to walk beside him, just a little too close. "Or you'll what?"
Any number of things came to mind. "How did you do that?"
"If you'd been paying attention, you wouldn't have to ask."
He'd been watching, but much of what Ethan did escaped him. He could smell the chaos lingering around Ethan, taste it on Ethan's mouth and feel it crawling over his skin when they touched, but he wasn't able to grasp even with the help of ritual. It felt too close to what he'd always been told his role would be -- to watch, Rupert, to teach and guide, but not to interfere --
"I'll show you," Ethan said, and for once there was something like generosity in his voice, or maybe it was only hunger.
He never could make it last very long when he was the one doing it to Ethan. He'd mutter the words of the spell -- he never could do it without the words, either -- and watch Ethan's eyes go dark and hungry just at the friction of his clothes as Ripper tugged them off him. By the time he first hit him, Ethan would be gazing up at him like he was some kind of angel, if there were any angel who would tug Ethan's head back and slap him again just to watch him shudder.
He always meant to make it last, but Ethan would say more -- no matter how dark the bruise rising on his cheekbone, no matter whether there was blood staining his lips -- and Ripper would take out his pocketknife and press it against the inside of Ethan's thigh, and Ethan would groan and writhe against the blade and come all over Ripper's belly, leaving Ripper sticky with his semen and his blood.
Marked, he always thought later, I'm the one who's marked, but by then he was on his knees with Ethan's nails scraping down his back, hard enough to send a warm heat pulsing through his groin, replaced by gentle strokes that prickled with horrible wrongness against his skin. It went on and on, pain that was pleasure and pleasure that was pain, until finally, raggedly, he heard himself saying please, please --
"Please what?" Ethan asked lightly, straddling his hips, the ache of Ethan's weight on him making his prick throb against Ethan's belly. Ripper dug his nails into the palms of his own hands, but it wasn't enough to release him, and neither was the small cruelty of Ethan's fingers pinching the delicate skin of his scrotum. It felt like nothing was ever going to be enough, and he knew there was only one way to end it.
"More," he said, and shuddered at the light on the silver blade of the knife.
Ripper asked Ethan to do it for him before he did the tattoo, because it looked like it was going to hurt like hell. He got hard the moment the needle touched his skin and came with his right hand punishingly tight on his crotch before Ethan had finished the outline.
"Now will you be still?" Ethan asked, and Ripper was, leaning back with his eyes closed while the pain-pleasure-pain went on and on. It felt like sex and drugs wrapped up into a single package. It felt just like he'd always thought magic ought to feel.
When he finally opened his eyes, Ethan was smiling like he had a secret. "That's nothing to what it'll be like with him inside you."
"This had better be worth it," Ripper said, and ignored the faint voice that said that he ought to have put a better price on what he'd just sold.
"It will be," Ethan said, and rolled up his own left sleeve.
"I'll do you," Ripper said. It was almost like leaving his mark on Ethan, even though he knew the mark wasn't going to be his own.
"The tattoo," Ethan said. "Not the spell. I don't want it for this."
"You're mad," Ripper said. His own arm stung with what was now a very unpleasantly distracting pain. "I can't be quick."
"I know," Ethan said. "There's no hurry." He closed his eyes as the needle touched his skin, and when he opened them again, they were beautiful and blank.
"Ethan --" Ripper said. He could feel the chaos crawling over his hand, burning at every point where their bodies nearly touched. He could feel something gathering, less like an orgasm than like a scream.
"Don't stop," Ethan said, and turned his face up blindly toward Ripper's, as if looking through him at something that Ripper was too afraid to turn and see.