Disclaimer: If I owned it, then they would have had all the time in the world, together. Alas, anything you recognize belonge to Joss.
A.N repost of my story from over on the forum.
He rocked forward, unable to hold back any more. A few small tears ran down his cheeks. A few small tears ran down his cheeks. Tears which were torn from his soul, and as overwhelming as those which a vampire may have wept, because they’d come from that place in his heart that he almost never looked into any more, which was ruled by magick. That place, which, with Ripper’s death, was finally gone.
He’d once thought that it would be easier without his heart, but now that it was truly gone, he didn’t know what to do.
The words were surprising, and the sympathetic tone of voice, directed to him, was even more so.
Slowly he rose his head, and met her gaze with a black stare, that made her shiver and glance away.
“Tell me, Slayer. What’s the point in living, when the final thing in the world that you care about in the world is gone? What’s the point in waking up in the morning, when there is nothing and no-one waiting for you, and there is never going to be again?”
Again, she repeated the words, and this time he felt the tearing bite of rage rising up in his chest.
It was bitter-sweet, that rage, because at least it was something, and for a few moments, he wanted to lung at her, lashing out with fists, and feet, and magick, until it was her lying in the cold earth instead of his Ripper.
Instead he bit back on it. The last thing he wanted was to turn against the one that Ripper had, in the end, given his life to save. Besides, it wouldn’t actually do anything to change the facts.
A hand rested briefly on his shoulder, squeezing.
So, the sympathy was real. Not an act.
He dropped suddenly, into a crouch, tearing himself out of the Slayers grasp, to be closer to the earth in which Ripper rested.
Buffy looked at him for a few moments, trying to think of anything, which would be a comfort to the Old Mage.
“In the end it was you. It was all for you, really.”
“I loved him, Slayer. For over thirty years, I loved him.”
“I know. He told me a couple of months ago.”
He reached out a hand towards the cold, lifeless marble, the opposite of the Ripper which dominated his memories, so full of life and loving that it was a wonder that he managed to stay in one piece at times.
As he grasped at it desperately, holding onto it so tightly that it hurt his hand, the Slayer spoke again.
“But I worked it out a few years ago, for myself.”
He didn’t answer, so she carried on, apparently finding some comfort for herself, in talking to him.
“Because, I figured, how else is it possible to hate so deeply, without having had love to back it up?”
Finally, to his relief, she moved away. He wasn’t in any frame of mind to give her solace. He was barely holding himself together.
Another lone tear ran down his cheek.
And he still didn’t think that it had hit him properly.
There would be no more bitter struggles. No more deadly games. No more turning to him in desperation, only to find the other man also desperately looking for comfort. No more cold comfort in the dark.
No more wan smiles, loaded with nostalgia, and a tiny longing for some trace of what had been and gone.
No more chances at reconciliation. No more warm cups of tea waiting for him, in those rare moments when everything fell into place. No one now, to indulge in long conversations with, about the wild days of magick and glory.
He was the only one now, that held the memories.
If the world had been a fair place, then Ripper would have lived to his nineties, and found a hot bird, and had his one-point-five children with her. And he, the evil Ethan would have been dead himself, long ago.
His grasp on the gravestone loosened a little.
“I’m sorry, Ripper.”
His voice was so soft that even he could barely hear it.
“I’m sorry that I never told you that I still loved you.”
He rose, silent, and turned away.
With one hand he swiped angrily at fresh, clean tears, which this time he couldn’t stop.
He had never said farewell to anyone before, and he wasn’t going to change the habits of a lifetime now.
And without another glance back Ethan Rayne finally left Sunnydale behind him.