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The Doors Through Which We Slip

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Summary: The dreaded 'A New Man' based fic. This is Giles thoughts and memories on his past relationship with Ethan Rayne. Rating for explicit languge, and minor m/m content

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralRuthlessFR15112,2620135623 Mar 1023 Mar 10Yes
Disclaimer: Not mine, never was, never will be. What a shame...

A.N -Dites moi s`il vous plait = Tell me, if you please.

And if any of this seems a little familiar, then you probably read it in the 1,750 word 'He Remembers." But it has grown and improved ten-fold since that. And I added a little to the end of the episode, too.

The Doors Through Which We Slip

The last thing that Giles expects, when he hears a voice muttering in the crypt with he’s just left, is to turn around and find Ethan Rayne standing there, looking for all the world as though he’d just stepped out of the shadows, which, knowing him as well as he did, he’d say that he had.

He’s been feeling frustrated, and hurt, and entirely out of the loop as of late, so he doesn’t react as he usually would to this person who is usually nothing more than a threat to his sanity these days.

In fact, a part of him is actually glad to Ethan –although he’ll never admit it to him-self these days, especially not with a Slayer under wing, and all of her friends looking up to him like he’s the responsible father-figure in her life –Which is what he supposes, in a way, that he is.

The gods know that he’s more responsible; more grown up then he was once upon a time. In fact, sobering though that it is, he’s not all that different to how his father was at this age in some ways.

He would have laid everything on the line for his own Slayer, too.

To a point –He never would have stepped in and interfered with the Tento di Cruciamentum. He’d have never been fired for caring too much, because he’d always had some ability to find a balance within his life, which is an ability that Giles has sorely lacked.

He’s always been a person of extremes.

Ethan is instantly on the defensive, and although no-one else would know him well enough to be able to spot it, he can also see a hint of loneliness in his eyes, in his expression.

It’s the same kind of loneliness that Rupert has been dealing with for the better part of two years now –ever since Jenny had been torn from him.

It is purely for forms sake that he says what he does, allowing his actions to speak for a non-existent audience, his words touched by an anger that isn’t really there, because he can’t find it in himself –not tonight, not after looking at his life and seeing where it’s lead him to so far.

His words are an attempt to keep Ethan at a safe distance, safe for both of them, safer all round.

And as Ethan talks to him, words so hurried that they’re almost tripping over themselves, he wishes for a few seconds that he could have all of this sodding crap over and done with, that he could be done with all of this, and simply have what it is that he wants.

Not that he’s entirely sure what it is that he wants –although, he’s certain that if he allows himself to dwell on it then it’s no real mystery.

This is a thought that he quickly crushes back, though.

“No, no, no. Listen. You have to listen! You're going to need time to prepare,” Ethan’s words quickly cut into his thoughts, and he feels a tiny flash of guilt, even though no-one can see into the inside of his mind.

“Prepare? Prepare for what?” He asks, keeping things professional.

And Ethan raises an eyebrow, seeing the opportunity that no one else would have noticed, “Why not come for a drink with me, and I’ll tell all?”

For a few seconds it’s on the tip of his tongue to refuse. It’s going against everything that he’s stood for, to go out and have a drink with Ethan Rayne.

But it wouldn’t be the first time, even since his much-talked-about ‘return to the fold.’

For a few seconds he simply stands there, looking at the half-hopeful, half-tense expression on Ethan’s face. He’s ready to defend himself if he needs to, but he isn’t going to give any ground until it becomes a thing of certainty. And for once, he decides that putting himself first isn’t going to mean the end of the world. Again.

There are several times where he has and everything has turned out fine. Finally he nods, and the relief on Ethan’s face is almost tangible.

No beatings – no fighting –no arguments. Not tonight.

The door that allows Ethan to slip a little closer to his old friends’ –old lovers’ –life is one that is marked as nostalgia.

Ethan allows him to lead the way for once, to a place that looks –well, garish is the only possible word for it –but does actually serve a reasonably good brew.

And as Giles goes to step inside, he hesitates, remembering another bar, on another night, so long ago in his past that he almost could have said ‘Once Upon A Time’, had anyone ever asked him about it.

>>>

The door leading into the smoky, dimly lit bar is one of those solid wood basement doors. One of those ones with four separate quarters, divided by thicker wood in between, and plastered with old and new fliers for bands and artists. At the bottom he can see the fragments of a poster for a Ziggy Stardust show, although they certainly never played here. The rest are obscure small-town groups that not even he has ever heard of.

It is this door that introduces him to Ethan Rayne for the first time, as he is thrown out into the street, just as Rupert Giles goes to slip inside, with the snarled comment of, “We don’t want your kind in here.”

The door is held open for him as the guy –bouncer, manager, whomever he is turns to go back inside, but he hesitates. He’s more interested, now, in finding out exactly what kind this other man is, to get himself thrown out in such spectacular style.

The guy gives him on of those ‘suit yourself’ looks, as he turns, closing the door behind him.

Two quick steps bring him over to the other mans side, and he looks up, one hand pressing against the back of his head as though his brain is threatening to make a run for it, and can only be held into place by brute force.

Although now, in the harsh yellow light of the street lamp he can see that the other isn’t so much a man as a boy. He doubts that he’s any older than he, him-self is.

As he catches Rupert’s eye he finds himself falling through another door –or not so much through a door, as into a passageway. One that he’s tried so desperately to avoid, but right now, can’t help peering into the depths of.

He raises an eyebrow towards the boy on the ground, and inquires, struggling to keep his tone of voice light, trying desperately not to show the other how much he already effects him, “Your kind?”

The boy –young man –grins up at him, in spite of a rapidly darkening black eye, and reaches a hand up towards him, “Give us a hand will ya luv?”

At that point he knows that there’s no point in trying to fool himself any longer, about the type of person that he is. He knew it before, and he knows it even more fully now.

As he reaches down, and the young mans fingers wrap around his own, he slips through what was once the carefully guarded door, into his heart.

>>>

He holds the door to the bar open for Ethan, and chooses an out of the way booth, at the very back, like a child who knows that he will be chastised if he’s to be caught out.

He conveys by his pose that he isn’t moving, and that Ethan can either like it or lump it. He knows, however, which option the other will choose.

He’d never turn down an opportunity such as this. Ethan was, and always had been, an opportunist, even if he were nothing else.

But sometimes, to get by in life, that was all that one had to be.

As Ethan sits down, he finds another memory ready and waiting for him; this time of the first ‘opportunity’ that Ethan ever took advantage of, as far as he went, at least.

>>>

The door leading into his rough apartment building is distinguishable from numerous others like it, because it’s been painted jet black.

And Ethan, whose name he’s only just learned, has him down so fast that it has his head spinning.

Hands which are quite obviously practiced at this sort of art –for there is an art to it –loosen his buckle and drop his zip, and seconds later he’s being bent forward, a surprisingly strong hand pushing against his shoulder, over the back of the couch.

Being fucked is the most intense thing that he’s ever experienced.

There are no gentle hearts, or soft hands, or warm smiles. No ‘Moonlight Serenade’ playing on the battered-looking hi-fi. Nothing that there should be, if any of his mother’s romance novels are to be believed. Then again, the books never mentioned this sort of relationship, anyway.

Ethan takes him hard and fast, even as he growls into his ear, “Never done this before, have you? You feel like a virgin.”

Each new thrust sets him on fire, and drives away his common sense, and causes his brain to leak out of his ears that little bit more. His heart is pounding, he can’t catch his breath, and every muscle is tense and locked, even though he knows that if he relaxes then it’ll be so much easier for him –on him. He sends the commands to his various muscles, but they get lost along the way. He can’t relax, there’s no way that he can, and the thought –that oh shit, he’s being…and as Ethan rocks forward again any trace of coherent thought that had still remained vanishes.

He knows that this is right, that this is the way that life is meant to be for him, that this is the only way that it can ever be again.

What he isn’t expecting, is for Ethan to show him to the door only minutes after he’s finished, leaving him with the words, “We’ll have to do this again some time.”

He stands and watches as the door is slammed shut millimeters away from his face, hardly able to process what’s going on here, this sudden abandonment –even though he knows, now, that for Ethan sex meant next to nothing, because he always kept his heart armored.

>>>

Ethan signals the waitress, and slips out of his coat, and for a fraction of a second Giles can’t help but look, taking in the surface changes, to the person that he once knew so well. The waitress comes back with the beer –draft, another thing that’s just like old times, and he nods his thanks.

Ethan gives him a quick grin; an expression that Giles remembers very well, with the accompanying words of, “Brilliant. Now isn't this more fun than kicking my ass?”

“No,” Giles growls, although they can both tell that he doesn’t really mean it. Not yet, anyway.

Ethan still plays his role out though, always the actor. Whenever he did something in the past he always gave it one hundred percent, and it seems quiet clear that he still does, “Oh,” a hint of mock-pain sounds in his voice, then he smiles again, “Well, it’s more fun for me.”

The waitress moves away, to serve someone else, and Giles takes a small sip of his drink, watching Ethan over the rim of his glass.

>>>

He remembers nights, drunk, and crashed out in the dingy, grimy alley-way which separates the apartment that Ethan lives in from the next one over, or sober, curled up on the grotty carpet outside Ethan’s door, a door which seems to change colour every fortnight, either out of hope that he’ll be invited in for a half-hour or so, or after Ethan has finished with him.

This time the doorway he stumbles through, dragging his feet as he goes, is marked as despair.

Words, such as love you, and you’re mine and I care for you are countered by actions. A cold hand, a quick shove, and he’s out the door again, more often then not landing in such a way that he finds his face plastered to the carpet, which is covered with stains that he doesn’t want to consider.

His arm twisted up behind his back, a strong yet slim hand grasping at his shivering hip, or tearing at his hair, bent over the nearest available surface –Anywhere but the bed, on which the blankets are always tangled, the pillow always on the floor.

He knows that it would be wiser to walk away, to forget about what ever it is that’s happening. Whatever it is, because it certainly isn’t love, or affection, or anything of the sort. Love doesn’t hold people together with so much savagery, and Giles feels, even knows, that he’s being used, has been ever since that first night, but he’s powerless to do anything about it.

And he doesn’t really care (or so he tries to tell himself), as long as Ethan Rayne, this contradictory and charming, cold yet passionate, wildcat of a man, whom intrigues him so, always comes back to get him again.

>>>

He still has business to deal with. Business, he sharply reminds himself. He has to get the work out of the way so that he can actually relax.

“Just tell me what you want to tell me,” he says, knowing that he doesn’t have to say anything else in order to make his point.

Tell me what you have to, and then we can enjoy the night.

“Oh, so crass,” he raises an eyebrow, “We used to be friends, Ripper. When did all that fall apart?”

It’s far too early in the evening to be thinking about that. But still, he answers in a terse, clipped tone of voice, “The same time you started to worship chaos.”

“Oh, religious intolerance. Sad, there.”

Ethan, at this point, realizes that he’s started to overstep the finely drawn line a little, and, for one the first –and last –times in his life, shows a little tact, by falling silent for the moment. Then, he tries to lighten things a little again.

“I mean, just look at the Irish troubles.”



Tact is something that Giles desperately wishes Ethan had learned a lot earlier on.

Still, there’s more of the Watcher in him then the person that Ethan wants to be interacting with at the moment. And that’s a point that he decides it’s time he drives home, as he flashes Ethan a quick glower, and starts to rise.

Ethan ‘tuts’ at him, and Giles can picture him waggling his finger at him, before he responds to the seriousness, the fact that, for this second, this isn’t a game at all, and speaks quickly, in order to placate the Watcher, and bring the man back out.

“Oh, hang on, I'll tell ya,”

At that, Giles allows himself a tiny smile as he settles back down again. That’s one round to him, and he is keeping score. He always has, with Ethan.

“Something happening in the darkworlds. It's always been rumors out there but…only one thing's coming through clear. That somethings harming demons and it's not the Slayer. Know anything about it?” Ethan finishes his sentence with a question that he asks with a flourish, and his usual indolent grin –the one that has, so many times before, made Giles want to lean across and ravage his thin, dark, almost intoxicating lips.

He resists the urge to say that if he’d known anything then he wouldn’t be here –and besides, he’s not entirely sure that this is true. And as he bites this comment back, Giles has to admit that he feels a little better already. From the way Ethan is talking, he doesn’t know all that much about the Initiative, either. But either way, any source…

“What are they saying?”

“Heh, you know demons,” Ethan gives him a look, designed to take any sting which might have bee there out of the words, before continuing, “It's all exaggeration and blank verse. ‘Pain as bright as steel’ things like that. They're scared. There's something called "314" that's got them scared most of all. The kind of scared, that turns to angry. I know we're not particularly fond of each other,” at which Giles chuckles, and comes as close as he ever has to scoffing, because they both know that while the statement is –mostly –true now, there was a time in their mutual lives when it wasn’t.

With another mouthful of his beer, he allows himself to remember yet another time and place.

>>>

He remembers the night, almost seven months after that first, almost desperate screw that Ethan changes, finding a door that lead him to an epiphany. He leans Rupert, who he’s now dubbed Ripper, due to his violent possessive streak which he shows whenever anyone is in a position to threaten him or his own, back against the bed, which until now has been off-limits, and when Giles goes to roll over onto his hands and knees, he stops him with a hand on his shoulder, and a kiss to his lips.

He closes his eyes, wishing that the moment could go on forever.

This gesture, which Ethan has never offered him before, is almost as intense as the fucking is because of how personal and intimate it seems –Almost too intimate.

Giles has never been kissed before. Not like this, all depth and affection, and tenderness, and heat and fire.

“Like this,” the other says finally backing up the words which he’s been saying for the last six months; all of his ‘I love you’s’, all of his ‘I care’s’ finally followed through by his actions.

And Ethan’s looking down at the face of the man that he’s with as though actually seeing him for the first time –Again, almost too intense, too personal. It’s not at all what Giles has come to expect out of his various one-night stands with the same person. There is nothing cold, nothing distant about him now.

Again, Ethan becomes a new enigma, and Giles finds himself falling through that slippery doorway, and into love all over again.

And as Ethan moves with him, within him, there’s a feeling in the pit of his stomach, that when this is over it will be so much more than a simple orgasm. That it will be something that’s going to open a doorway to other worlds –other universes, all unknown and unseen –that it will reveal to him the answer to life, the universe and everything, an answer which is bound to be something far more earth-shattering then ‘42’.

It doesn’t really, but it is a bloody good lay. Good enough that he simply spends a few moments lying there, with his head spinning, reveling in the feeling and sensation washing through him.

And when Giles goes to rise from the bed, and leave before Ethan can hurt him all over again, make him even more confused than he already is, a thin, yet muscular arm wraps around his neck, holding him, as Ethan settles behind him, spooning with him, and drops a gentle kiss on the back of Giles’ neck, and says the word that Giles feels like he has been waiting for what seems like forever, to hear.

“Stay.”

>>>

Giles realizes that Ethan is still talking, just in time to catch the tail end of his sentence. But from what he’s heard earlier, it only confirms that Ethan knows about as much as he does, “…old mystics. This new outfit, it's blundering into new places it doesn't belong. It's throwing the worlds out of balance. And that's way beyond chaos, mate. We're headed quite literally for one hell of a fight.”

Giles pauses for a heartbeat. Now that he’s getting somewhere, it’s finally safe to ask Ethan, although nothing is really safe, not where he’s involved, “Where you staying?”

“At the Sunnydale Motor Inn,” he catches Ethan’s wince as he says it, “The room service is crap, the food is even worse, and the walls are paper-thin, but it’s cheap and out of the way, and I wasn’t hoping for much more than that.”

Not out of the motel anyway, he thinks, but doesn’t voice.

>>>

Having finally been asked, or rather, told, to stay Rupert a sleepy and relaxed, and gods, so happy, finally next to the one person that he’s ever cared for. Content and comfortable, and sure he’s a little sore, but that comes with the territory. And he feels good –this, this here, this was worth waiting for.

Everything is right. Everything is going to be okay.

And as Giles drifts off into a daze of contentment, he doesn’t see Ethan looking at him, doesn’t read the questions burning in his dark brown eyes, as he wonders when this stopped being just a little fun on the side and became ‘oh shit, I’m falling for him.’

>>>

The first beers go down easily, and Giles calls the waitress over again, for this round going for the whiskey. He knows that teenagers these days think they can drink, but none of them would ever stand the slightest chance of staying on their feet, or in their seats, if they ever came up against the likes of Rupert Giles or Ethan Rayne.

With a slight nod to Ethan, barely anything more than a lift of his chin, he downs the shot in one go. And with no hesitation at all Ethan follows suit.

Ethan signals again, only seconds later, going back to the beer, and already, mixing the drinks like this, Giles can see that there’s going to be hell to pay come tomorrow morning.

Ethan grins at him, and picks up the glass, sculling back the contents of it, and for a few seconds Giles finds himself captivated as he watches the way the muscles move in Ethan’s throat as he swallows.

Damn it Giles thinks to himself, as he picks up his own glass, copying. As he puts it down already the room is threatening to spin a little. And that really isn’t a good thing. He hasn’t drunken like this in a fair while, but there’s no way that he can let Ethan know that.

Because this, this has always been a part of the rivalry between them as well.

Ethan begins to talk again, as Giles orders another couple of beers, going off on any old tangent. Ethan has always been difficult to keep up with, even at the best of times, exhausting one topic of conversation before anyone had even figured out what the actual topic is, then starting up about something entirely different and unrelated, and then darting back to something that he may have been talking about three days ago.

Giles is grateful that he hasn’t been in contact with Ethan for quite that long, or he wouldn’t stand a chance of keeping up tonight.

Another two glasses of beer are brought out and this time Ethan raises his glass, and says, “To what’s probably the best brew you can find in Southern California.”

For once he isn’t sure if Ethan is being serious or sarcastic, and that startles him a little, and saddens him in a way that it shouldn’t –because there had once been a time when he’d always known, when he’d been able to tell everything about Ethan.

>>>

Ethan’s said many times before, to a multitude of other people that he loves them, but he’s never really meant the words. Now though, now he knows what love really feels like.

Every time he asks, no matter how inconvenient it is, whether it’s raining or hailing, or whether he’s meant to be over the other side of the city, Rupert is always there. He’s not once let him down, unlike…

But, no worry. That’s over and done with. There’s only going to be one man in his life from now on. No more sleeping around, no more twenty minute stands in badly lit alleyways, because the person that he’s meant to be with has left him for fresher pickings.

He knows that his Rupert –his Ripper –isn’t going to let him down like that.

>>>

Several more rounds go the same way as the first did, and Giles discovers that he’s finding his stride again.

Ethan tips his head, expression sincere and unguarded, “You know how that always worked out for me, Ripper. I always made the attempt to do what I was meant to –at least at far as my god went, but that’s pretty much the story of my life, you know,” then he frowns, “So, what exactly was it that you’d asked me?”

“If there was anyone that played a leading roll in you life these days.”

“Oh,” Ethan frowned, “So that’s what led to that. Always Janus. Only ever her, since –well, since. You know what I’m saying.”

Giles nods, although the gesture is sloppy.

“So, what abou’ you?”

He notices, with more than a little glee, that Ethan is having trouble forming constants now.

“Nothing more, and nothing less, than a pest.”

“Don’t suppose that you’d care to elaborate would you, Ripper?”

“No, not at all,” because why should he do so when it isn’t necessary? He isn’t talking about Buffy, as he’s sure that Ethan hopes he may be.

He knocks back another shot, and tries to remember whether it was he or Ethan who ordered it, and then decides that it doesn’t really matter, as long as there’s more where that came from. And a quick glance towards Ethan’s steadily increasing pile of empties confirms that he’s in the same situation, so he waves the waitress over again.

As another shot chases down the last one, he thinks back again –to the first time that he’d looked through the door which allowed him to realize that other people came and went from Ethan’s life, and that he wasn’t the first one at that present time, to be sharing in Ethan’s bed. Or even the only one.

Although there was one thing that could be said for Ethan, even back then –and that was that once he’s made his mind up about something, there was no dissuading him what so ever.

Giles rises to his feet, a trifle unsteady, and makes his way towards to bathroom. Once he’s safely inside Ethan glances about him quickly, his eyes flashing over the other patrons, and slips a hand into his pocket.

In his pocket he unscrews the tiny bottle and shakes out what’s inside, before reaching across the table under the pretense of grabbing Rupert’s beer and having a mouthful of in, just in case anyone else is watching.

His hand hovers over the glass, and for a few moments he hesitates, wondering if this is a wise thing to do, given the Hellmouth’s history of twisting his spells, and bolstering them for what seems to be it’s own purpose.

Any spell that he’s ever worked here has come across far more powerful then the intention, and with the effects far wider reaching. The ritual that he’d performed on Halloween shouldn’t have affected anyone that was pre-pubescent –because the younger children are closer to natural chaos then anything else in this world. And the candy bars had been far more effective then he’d planned for, too. Even immature adolescents should still watch out for, and take care of babies.

But there’s really not all that much that can go wrong with this one.

>>>

The next morning the sound of a key turning in a lock wakes them, along with a door opening and slamming, footsteps storming closer, and a voice filled with fury.

“What the hell are you doing with your little whore in my side of the bed, Rayne?”

Ethan rises instantly to his feet, anger and defensiveness and a black rage, in his usually unreadable face.

“I told you not to come back, David. This is my apartment, and you’re not welcome here any more.”

“You said that you loved me, you little bastard.”

David has at least six inches on Ethan, but this does nothing to deter the wiry youth, even as a hand curls into a fist and draws back to strike, a snarl, part of a mask of bitterness, and betrayal, and unadulterated, undeterred rage, seeping into view, given rise by the grim smile at the side of his mouth. Teeth bared, eyes narrowed, stepping towards Ethan even as the youth steps towards him.

“I don’t love you. I never loved you,” Of course he doesn’t say ‘I didn’t know what love was’ but he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t owe David anything any more. And then his eyes flash back towards Rupert, who’s only just coming to his senses, “I do love him.”

And if Rupert hadn’t still been half-cut and drowsy, and weak-limbed from the night before, then at that moment he would have stepped between the two. But he can’t even find the energy within himself to rise, let alone brawl.

>>>

Finally, Giles speaks openly, and Ethan knows him well enough to listen –or at least, to act as though he is, “You know what gets me? This is what gets me. Twenty years I've been fighting demons. Maggie Walsh and her Nancy-ninja boys come in and six months later, demons are pissing themselves with fear. They never even noticed me.”

He catches a flash of anger in Ethan’s eyes, and for once it isn’t directed towards him. That’s something that he’s glad for.

Then Ethan frowns to himself, and asks, sounding rather intoxicated, “Who’s Maggie Walsh?”

>>>

For the first time he sees a glimpse of what lurks under Ethan’s pleasant face, behind the always-smiling facade which he’s woven together so well that even he, at times, seems to believe in it.

With a simple, single gesture, Ethan proves that he can adequately defend himself, and David goes flying backward without a single hand having been laid on him, Ethan’s magick, which Giles doesn’t know how he didn’t pick up on before, doing the job that he asks of it. Another simple gesture turns David’s key into a pool of molten lead, and slams the door after him.

He still has to cross the room the lock the door again, however, which puts a little bit of a damper on his style.

He turns back to him, a half-wan smile on his lips, and Giles knows that he should get out now gods-damn it, right now before he falls any further into the others grasp, any further under his spell, but he can’t because he has nothing left of him self to give up, he’s already given it all to Ethan.

Ethan who he fell for, and hard, on the night they met, some seven months earlier –Ethan, who so easily slipped through the door to his heart, because he hadn’t been on his guard, hadn’t known that he would have to be.

As Ethan sits back down on the side of the bed he reaches out and gently runs splayed fingers through his hair –too long for the last three months, but it’s the way Ethan likes it, so it’s the way he wears it now –pushing it back, away from his eyes.

“Well, so much for a sleep-in, ehh, love?”

>>>

Again Ethan sees that his old friend has slipped of to some odd moment in the past, and he allows it to sit, until he’s finally had enough of the silence to reach out and nudge Rupert with a foot under the table.

Instantly Giles is back with him, “Oh, she's awful. She said I was an absent male role model. Absent my ass –I'm twice the man she is.”

At that, Ethan cocks an eyebrow and smirks, and Giles simply glares at him, as though daring him to make a contradiction.

There is silence again, but this time it’s a comfortable one.

Comfortable enough for Ethan to decide to have a little fun, as the waitress come by yet again. He’s looking at her, but he’s talking to Rupert, and what makes it fun is that Rupert knows it, too.

“You know you're really very attractive.”

“Hmm,” the noise that Giles makes is one of consideration, and he’s glad that he can brush the comment off, as Ethan, writing it down so that he can see it –and if it’s not a fake one, then it’s probably his home phone number, too –hands the waitress over a scrap of paper. He knows how good Rupert’s memory is, especially for numbers.

Although how reliable it is, is probably a debatable point tonight.

Another shot of whiskey is all that it takes to send him well into the ‘miserable, broody drunk’ stage of things. He hadn’t realized that he’d had quite that much to drink already.

As the waitress walks off, looking reasonably unimpressed Giles heaves a sigh, before kicking Ethan –none to gently, under the table. Not even he’s sure why he does it, unless it comes down to habit, or some inbuilt instinct. He knows that Ethan isn’t really hitting on the waitress. He wouldn’t not when there’s far richer taking to be had later on, and a person who he knows needs the presence of someone that he can –well, if not trust, then at least feel reasonably safe around.

"Hey," Ethan says, attempting to look hurt, and failing miserably.

“We gotta face it, we've changed. We'll not you… you're still sadistic and self-centered,” –and Ethan’s sadistic streak had been one of the things that he’d found endlessly fascinating when they had been together –Sadistic, and perhaps even with a hint of a pathological mind-set.

“Here’s to me,” Ethan cuts in quickly, earning him an almost-smile, before Rupert’s serious face is back in place.

And Giles continues talking, “The world has past us by. Someone snuck in and left us a couple of has-beens in our place. This Initiative, I mean, their methods may be causing problems, but they're getting the job done. Where am I? I'm an unemployed librarian with a tendency to get knocked on the head.”

The look that Ethan gives him at that moment –dark-eyed and dangerous and hungering –says what Ethan is thinking very clearly.

You’re a hell of a lot more than that to me, my old mate. Although he’ll be damned before he says it out loud –and possibly if he does, too. There’s far too much water under that bridge to consider such things, and besides, this is Ripper’s territory and if he goes overboard –if he’s too much himself –then he knows exactly what it’ll lead to. He’ll be out of town without so much as a second thought sent in his direction.

For the moment, anyway –Perhaps…no…Ethan quickly crushes back that thought before it can sink its teeth into his mind and really take a hold. Before a hint of hope can slip through.

Being with Ethan, talking to him openly in a way that he would never even consider with Buffy or any of the others, the shots and beers are going down far too easily.

As Ethan starts off on another tangent he finds some of the darker memories, the ones that he’s been trying to keep at bay crawling out of their dark corners.

>>>

After Randal’s death he finds himself looking back at his life and realizing how far he’s fallen. He’s moved through doorway after doorway with nary a though for the fact that each new path has been leading his further and further into the darkness.

And finally, something has to give. And the thing that does is Rupert’s determination to rebel. What he’s been doing has been, and is hurting Ethan, as much as it’s hurting himself.

In his determination to make a clean break, he finds himself saying a lot of things that he wouldn’t normally even consider.

There’s only one way out from here, and that’s through the truth.

>>>

“Well, we won't have to worry about that anymore now, mate,” Ethan’s tone of voice is serious, and Giles looks at him, wondering what’s going to follow next.

He’s not in the least prepared for it, as Ethan keeps that serious tone, his eyes glinting with their usual dark cruel humor, “When you went to the loo I slipped a small pellet of poison in your drink. You'll be dead in an hour.”

For a few moments he wonders if Ethan really has. There have been occasions in the past when Ethan has been so pissed of with him that he wouldn’t put it past the wanker. But then Ethan’s lips quirk, and Giles can almost swear that he feels his heart starting back up again.

“Burk,” he growls, hiding the pang of unease that had jumped through him, as he forces himself to relax again, and take another sip of his drink –perhaps not the wisest thing under the circumstances, but he’s still determined not to show Ethan weakness –not here anyway.

>>>

“I can’t fucking do this any more, Ethan. I keep trying, and trying, but it’s killing me. Can’t you fucking see that? Or is your vision so limited that all you can see is your self?”

Words, aimed to hit, aimed to hurt, aimed to cut through Ethan’s shell, stone hard from the outside, and yet eggshell soft from the inside.

“I can give any of it up, Rupert,” pleading; he’s never heard Ethan plead before, “I can give it all up –The drugs, the magick, the alcohol. I can change, I swear, just please give me a chance. Let me prove it.”

Now it’s Ethan, begging him for another chance –a chance to be able to stay. So different from his words uttered in mock surrender –the begging when they play, or fuck. An entirely different type of begging, and it’s one which cuts him to the quick.

“Don’t you see that I can’t?”

“But…”

“It’s not about you, Ethan. It’s about me; I have to go back –to where I’m meant to be,” –not that he’s ever told Ethan exactly where it is that he ran from –not worth the hassle, and that seems to be a good thing now, now that he’s going back there, “I can’t handle loosing someone else I care for. If I lost you, if you died because of more of my stupidity, then I could never forgive myself.”

“Then why not let me come?”

“There’s no way they could fucking deal, and then we’d be apart, anyway. By leaving now, then I’m saving you pain in the future.”

“You save me fucking nothing! Don’t you see I couldn’t care about you any more than I already do?”

“That’s why I have to do this –for you! I need to make my amends –for the path I set you and the rest of them on, for what happened to Randal. Or do you want to see what happens if I keep this up, if I keep tearing myself apart, if I keep denying what I know to be right?”

“So fucking noble, Ripper,” Ethan’s eyes flash black, dark magick called by his anger, by his pain, to the forefront. That dark rage, which he’s fought with every day, to hide from the other man, out now and in plain view.

“Ethan…”

“I love you…”

“…Please…”

“I though you loved me too.”

“…Don’t…”

Ethan laughs; a bitter sound, one that caresses the edge of madness, “Did you actually believe that I cared for you? Fuck you Rupert! I fucking hate you! I always fucking hated you. All that I was ever doing was screwing with a good little nancy-boy –in both senses of the word. I never want to see you again!”

Even though this is, in a way what he wanted, he feels a piece of him self dying inside, as he hears those words, and he wants to tell Ethan to forget everything, that it doesn’t matter, that nothing else matters aside from him, and his heart. Wants to take him to the bed, push him down on top of the still tangled sheets and blankets, which Giles has shared with him for the last two years, the best two years of Giles’ life, even in spite of Earth-shaking, mind-screwing arguments, and body-bruising punch-ups, and push his head down against the flattened, worn mattress, because the pillow is still on the floor, where it feel last night, and fuck, and fuck, or let Ethan have him in repayment for all that he’s said, until they find that place where nothing is remembered, and nothing matters. Until there’s nothing, nothing, which can come between them.

It’s too late, though.

Spinning and storming out, the door slamming behind him as it has done so frequently in the past, but this time different, hard enough to crack the glass in the window which is clear across the room.

He’s going back through a door that he’d thought himself well clear of –the one that leads back to devastation.

There’s a pain, scaring at his heart, which he is certain, will never pass, which he will never be free from.

He breaks down, sobbing, his breath coming in bitter, harsh gulps.

Been and gone, through and done with, all of it’s over –the joy, the love, the magick, all of it.

It’s all over.

He’s on the other side of the door now, Ethan’s side, but the door’s shut.

And he’s alone.

Alone -all alone –And at that thought, he breaks into a wild, almost insane, bitter laugh. A laugh that’s as bitter as the flavor of Ethan’s magick –tainted, as it is by the dark Chaos, which Ethan stands for –as twisted as the dark God that he had sworn his servitude to.

>>>

“Rupert, get back here. Time to snap back to the present, now,” Ethan’s voice holds a hint of his frustration, “Stop dredging up the bad times.”

“Huh? I’m…I’m no…”

“Don’t even try denying it, Rupert. Or did you forget how well I know you, in spite of your denial of what we once had?”

“No, no. I just…” then he looks at Ethan again, seeming to forget what he has been about to say.

Ethan, however, has not, “Look, love, forget about the has-beens, and could-have-beens, and gone-before’s.”

Giles looks at him, giving him the time that he needs in order to finish, so he carries on, “Relax. Enjoy the night. We're just a couple of sorcerers. The night is still our time –Time of magic.”

This time Ethan knows he’s said the right think, as Giles raises a glass, and speaks his own toast of, “To magick.”

Finally, Giles gives up on trying to control the flow of the conversation. It will happen as it happens, and it does, as Ethan takes a mouthful of his latest beer and asks, “You remember, mate…” he frowns, trying to remember what he had been about to say, and then grins in triumph, “the firs’ time I tr…tracked you down ‘gain?”

His voice is slowly becoming ever more slurred.

“ ‘Course,” Giles says, taking another mouthful of his own brew. He’s feeling better now; the alcohol is doing its job –lifting him above his troubles, instead of into direct proximity with them.

And as Ethan stretches back, and rolls his shoulders Giles can’t help but stare openly. In this state of intoxication, his inhibitions so far behind him, he doesn’t give a crap about the speculation of anyone else.

Let them whisper, and stare he thinks, with a hint of unfamiliar vindictiveness. It’s not as though he’s got a job to be fired from, or anything like that any more. And even if words gets back to Buffy –well, she can’t really say anything, not with her own past history…and down that road lies events that he’d really rather not consider.

>>>

It’s a brand-new door in front of him. One that he’s known for less than a week, because he only just moved in to this apartment after his delayed graduation from Oxford.

Huh –Delayed. That thought runs through his mind with perhaps a little more scorn then it deserved.

He’s surprised that they let him finish his courses at all, what with the way that he’d dropped out, mid-term and with no warning to anyone, and been gone for almost three years.

More than likely it was the Council behind that, pulling strings for him at the insistence of his father, because he was back to being their good little boy again. Returned to the mantel of Rupert Giles, rather then that of the Ripper –dark and deadly, and violent, and in Ethan’s eyes at least –glorious; a mantel that’s so stifling at times that he wants to scream.

Even the thought of that –the thought that he’s working with, and for the Council again –makes him want to cringe. He’d never liked the idea of sending some teenaged girl out to her death, and he likes it even less, now.

The apartment is far too quiet for his likening. If only the neighbors would break the sound restrictions, have a swinging party or some such shit like that. Not bloody likely that that’d happen, though. Otherwise the Council wouldn’t have let him move into this place.

He’s almost certain that he feels a familiar stir of magick, as he wanders through the far too silent apartment.

But he knows that it can’t be anything more than wistful thinking.

Because Ethan’s well and truly gone, totally out of his life, and with the way that they split up there’s no way he’ll ever come back. No reason for him to.

Better that way, because at least he’s safe.

And besides, with his longing for some noise and some life in this place there’s really no wonder that he’s imagining things.

Still, he can’t help but go over and unbolt the door, to peer out into the hallway. Just in time to see the tail of a coat swinging around the corner.

“Ethan?” he calls out, not giving a damn about who hears him, as he runs out into the hallway, wanting so desperately for a chance to beg his forgiveness, and bid that he stay.

He reaches the end of the hallway and looks around desperately; but his only reply is the sound of a snapping crash –the sound of someone teleporting.

To him, it’s the same sound that he’s heard before –The sound of a door slamming shut once again.

>>>

“I felt you the first time you came ‘round, you know –A couple a weeks before I actually caught you. Surprised me.”

“I surprised you?”

“Yeah, you did,” Giles nods emphatically, “Never expected to see you again. And that soon after…”

“You call three years soon?”

“Sooner ‘n I expected,” –and that went for both how long it had taken him to pick up all his old courses and classes, as well as for Ethan’s re-entry into –well, if not his life proper, then at least a tiny part of it.

“I’ll give you that. An’ I’ll have you know that you surprised me. All I’d wanted t’ do was talk.”

“Nah, not you. Always an ulterior motive, you.”

“Can’t ‘ve been that well hidden if you could see right through t’ it.”

>>>

This time he was ready and waiting when he felt the flair of magick –a power that he would recognize anywhere, even blindfolded in the middle of a room of professionally trained Sorcerers. Ethan had always carried his own unique tang –one of jagged edges, and dark, bittersweet power –one that spoke quite clearly of the Chaos to which he belonged.

He was out of the room in seconds, as though responding to some private signal that he’d been waiting for, and that only he would have been able to recognize. Two steps brought him within reach of Ethan, who this time didn’t have the time to retreat, or tap into the power that would send him off hurtling through space, back to wherever it was that he’d come from.

Giles grabbed him by the shoulders, and only then did he pause to take into consideration what he was going to do.

Having Ethan right there, his thin yet beautifully muscled shoulders in his grasp, it eased some of the pain that he’d been wallowing in, soothed the desperation in his soul.

One look into Ethan’s dark, intense gaze was all that it took in order to make his mind up.

He let go and stood back, glancing around quickly. If the wrong person saw this, then he’d be in a shit-load of trouble with the Council. Even more so than anyone else caught in a meeting with a Chaos Mage, because of his history with said Mage.

He gestured with his head, towards the open door to his room, “Come in.”

Ethan did so with only the smallest hesitation.

>>>

Ethan stands, and holds on to the table until the room stops spinning. Giles watches with an impish grin as he wavers first one way, and then back the other. And then sits back down quickly, as though his legs have suddenly refused to hold him up. Probably not all that far from the truth, Giles muses.

“Ethan?”

“Hm?” the Mage looks back towards him, and then stands again, “What say we get out of here, Ripper?”

Giles raises an eyebrow, “We?”

“Yes. We –as in you an’ me.”

With a quick tilt of his head Giles skulls back the rest of his beer, and follows suit, “Sounds like an idea.”

Out in the parking lot Ethan takes a couple of steps in what he thinks the general direction of the car is, but Giles still has enough sense to catch his elbow and tug him back, “No, Ethan,” he says as the other man stumbles back towards him, “I can come back for the damn car tomorrow. I really don’t want a ticket, and I sincerely doubt that you have the co-ordination to even put the key in the lock let alone drive.”

At that Ethan laughs, “Never let it stop you in the old days.”

“Yes, well in the old days I didn’t have a bunch of adolescents hanging off my every word,” then he frowns as he thinks about it, “Well, actually, I did. But none of them expected me to set a good example.”

“Although you did, anyway,” Ethan finishes off his sentence, “You were very good at whatever you were doing.”

Giles notes the distinct hint of the purr in Ethan’s tone, and smirks in response to it, “Flattery will not convince me to risk driving,” he says, crossing his arms.

“You think I’m that devious?”

“No. I know you are.”

Giles starts walking in the direction of his home, pausing only to look back over his shoulder, “You coming or what?”

Ethan has a few quick thoughts about how could twist that sentence in ways that would make Ripper blush and either kiss him or kick him right here, and right now, but he doesn’t have the time to actually say anything, as he has to hurry in order to catch up to his rapidly moving friend.

Even off his face, his training as a Watcher shows through. Men as intoxicated as he, were rarely so steady on their feet.

Seconds later Ethan catches up, and falls into step beside him.

>>>

He’s not sure of what to say. It’s been three years since he last saw Ethan, and back then he’d said everything that he could in order to drive him out of his life, and keep him alive.

And in those three years, he’d regretted what he’d said every single day.

So, there’s only one thing that he can do with any ease. As Ethan sat down on his couch as if he owned the damn thing Giles glanced at him over his shoulder, as he made his way to the kitchen area, “Tea?” he offered, in the smoothest voice that he could muster.

“Yes please,” the other replied.

>>>

“So, how long has it been since we last did this?” Ethan asks, as Giles fishes in his pocket for his keys, one hand resting on Ethan’s shoulder for balance, even though the door would be a far more certain bet.

“Bath. 1988,” Ripper’s reply is almost curt.

“Ahh, yes, I remember now. That was when I had the art show at the Ruthford Gallery. We had a bite to eat, and a few drinks, and next thing I know I’m waking up, it’s the morning...”

“And you’re right where you landed on the floor, after tripping over and knocking yourself out for the night. And I wasn’t that much better off,” at the memory, Giles almost rolls his eyes.

Then he manages to find the key and slip it into the lock, turning it.

>>>

He turned away, busying himself as much as he could, and seconds later there was a very distinct presence at his back. He tensed and froze as warm breath stirred the hairs on the back of his neck.

“I’ve been wondering,” Ethan’s voice was soft and low, “why I ever listened to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, don’t be obtuse. It really doesn’t become you,” Ethan, with anger coloring his tone snapped, “You know full well what I’m talking about.”

Giles turned and stepped towards the stove, placing the now-full teapot onto the burner, hoping as he did so that Ethan didn’t notice the tremble that ran through his hands.

If Ethan saw it, and took it as a sign of weakness then he was screwed. He could remember from the past how easily Ethan could destroy someone, cutting them down to size in less than a minute.

Finally he got himself back under control and turned, finding himself face to face with Ethan, whom had followed him across to the tiny kitchen area step for bloody step.

Moving forward drove Ethan into an extremely reluctant retreat, one that didn’t stop until he heard the sound of Ethan’s heel strike the base of the couch. Then, knowing that Ethan could retreat no further he crossed his arms over his chest, “Now, Ethan. I’d like you to explain yourself. Only a select few are meant to know this place, so how the hell did you find me? And more importantly –why?”

He couldn’t risk allowing Ethan to see that he really was glad to see him, either. That’s another thing that’d spell ‘game over’. Anyone that saw him with Ethan would be able to see what he’d once felt –and still did –towards this man. And that would mean the end of his career, his destiny -a destiny that he needed, even if he didn't want it -before it had even really begun.

As nonchalantly as he could Ethan shrugged.

“I was bored.”

“And?” Giles raised an eyebrow. He’s certain that there’s far more to it really than simply I was bored.

Bored people don’t go out and track down the locations of Council safe houses.

Ethan laughed bitterly, the same sound that he’d made when they last saw each other. And, as he swallowed down a particularly stubborn lump in his throat, he finally offered a truth that Giles could accept, “Because, Ripper, I don’t hate you. I tried for the longest damn time, but I miss you too much to be able to hate you effectively.”

The teapot started to whistle, and Giles crossed the room once again, this time to turn it off. Again Ethan was only one step behind.

A right hand rested on his upper shoulder, and a thumb traced gently up the harsh ridge of his spine in the back of his neck.

“So, Watcher,” his voice alone is still enough to make Giles’s breath catch in his throat, and Giles wasn’t at all surprised that Ethan had worked out the only major thing that he’d never told him, “what are you going to do with me, now that I know what you are, and where you are?”

Giles doesn’t go to pour the drink into cups. Instead, he forced himself to wait a few seconds, as he gathered himself again, before spinning as fast as he could, and growling the words, “Gonna shut you up,” grabbed the back of Ethan’s head, and tugged him into a fierce kiss, open-mouthed and sloppy, and there was too much tongue in it really, but that didn’t bother either one of them.

>>>

Giles grins triumphantly, as he pulls the door open, “Come on in,” he grins over his shoulder, and Ethan doesn’t need to be asked –or told –twice.

He does so, slipping inside and pulling the door shut behind him, locking it again, and sliding the deadbolt across, because one can never be too cautious in Sunnydale.

And seconds later Ethan is tugging his own shirt off over his head, too impatient to bother with the buttons. As Giles watches him, his breath quickens a little, and then just after that Ethan steps towards him, tearing his shirt down the middle in his quiet desperation to feel Rupert’s skin against his own.

And as he does so, Rupert stiffens, and Ethan freezes for a few moments. When nothing is forthcoming, Ethan raises a hand and cups it, holding Rupert’s chin.

“Rupert, what’s wrong? Dites moi s`il vous plait.”

Rupert shakes his head, looking more scared than Ethan can ever remember, and there is a tiny glisten in his eyes, “I’d really rather not.”

“Rupert, please.”

He looks into Ethan’s eyes, the eyes of this man that he’s known for the majority of his life, and heaves a sigh, even as he closes his own eyes. If he can’t tell, and trust Ethan, then there really is no one that he can turn to.

“Rupert?” Ethan prompts, gently.

And finally, he speaks.

“The…the last time I was with someone it was under the influence of your damn candy –it… it made me forget everything but that exact second, drove away every thought and memory. And I thought –tried to tell myself –that I’d be able to do the same thing tonight, if I had enough to drink.”

Ethan nods, quietly, acceptingly, “And… you needed to forget. Why?”

“I’m sure that I’ve told you of Angelus.”

“Yes,” Ethan’s eyes widen, as he looks Rupert up and down, taking in the two slightly crooked fingers on his left hand, and the pain in his eyes, and he knows what Rupert is going to say well before he utters it –Angelus, the Scrouge of Europe. He’s not entirely sure how Rupert fell into the hands of one of the most feared vampires in history, but that hardly matters. And he knows Angelus’s reputation –as a murderer, as a torturer, as a rapist. He’s small fry, and even more so when compared to a monster like that.

In one smooth movement he presses a finger to Rupert’s lips, and then tugs him into his body, holding him tightly, “Shhh. It’ll be okay, love. It’s only me. I won’t, if you don’t want to –if it’s too much for you.”

On hearing those words, however, Giles forces his eyes back open as Ethan’s hands, gentle and far more tender than he ever remembered, run over his back, which is far too tense at the moment –if he keeps this up then he’ll wind up straining himself, Ethan just knows it, knows it just as well as he knows that he’s not entirely sure of where the knowledge came from.

After a couple of hours of simply holding him, and talking to him, as he rocks in Ethan’s arms, shivering the other man leaves in order to get back to his motel room and pack his gear into his bags, because he’s planning on moving into Ripper’s, at least for the next couple of days until his friend is more his old self, and he falls asleep at the motel.

And as Ripper bursts in, wearing the horns, face, hide and tail of a Fyarl demon, Ethan wonders how on earth the Hellmouth managed to pull this one off.

He’s face to face with an entirely unfamiliar door here, one that looks to be leading him towards actual serious bodily harm, of the kind which not even subjugation to Janus and chaos will fix.

And for another thing, he’s not entirely sure of what, exactly Rupert has told his Slayer, and he knows that if he hasn’t told her then he’ll be even less impressed with Ethan for ‘outing’ him.

So he spins the story that will throw her off, even if he does have the opportunity to work a quick reversal.

Rupert follows him out to the Humvee under the pretext of, “If you don't mind, I'm just gonna… go and watch them manhandle him into a vehicle,” and with a grin that shows a depth of pain that the Slayer doesn’t even notice.

Ethan can feel a bitter disappointment. This is something that he knows Rupert will never let go of, even though it isn’t something that he actually set out to do –not that he expects to get a chance to explain himself.

Giles watches as the vehicle pulls out, making a quiet promise to himself. He’ll get Ethan out even before it hits the town limits, if only to ask him why he would let him down in such a way.

He knows, from his past experience with the man, that it isn’t Ethan’s style to hurt a friend, especially not when that person is already suffering. Ethan may be sadistic and self-centered, it’s true, but he’s not that point-blank cruel. It just isn’t like him, to do something like that. Not to someone that he knows, anyway.

As soon as Buffy has gone he throws several things that he might potentially need into a rucksack and slips outside, crossing the parking lot in order to hot-wire Ethan’s rental car, which he does with ease, and steps on it.

The sense of Ethan’s magick is something that he would be able to track blind-folded and with both hands cuffed behind his back. He simply knows it that well –knows him that well.

Or at least he’d thought he did.

>>>

Ethan responded instantly, enthusiastically, to the kiss, and ran a strong, smooth palm over Rupert’s shivering back for a few moments before he slipped both hands under the other mans shirt, at his waist.

Rupert closed his eyes, groaning softly as he enjoyed the feeling of Ethan’s tongue moving against his own, teasing it out, as one of those hands holding his waist moved down a little further to squeeze lightly at his arse.

Bugger the Council and their scruples. It’s not worth it, to be separated from Ethan –not in any permanent way, anyway.

And even though they both know that in the morning Ethan will be leaving again, because things really aren’t safe, they both also know that he’ll be coming back again, too.

>>>

True to his prediction Giles catches up to the Humvee just past the outskirts of town, and only then does he realize that his plan is lacking in several major things.

Things, such as a beginning, middle, and an end –He can’t exactly drive a Honda Bermuda into a Humvee –a vehicle which is designed to be able to run over land-mines and survive to tell the tale –in hopes of driving it off the road.

And that means that he's going to have to resort to magick.

For a few moments it seems like a ridiculously high price to pay, and he's not sure if it’s worth it –to tap into his disused power in order to rescue someone whom had… did what he'd did –Someone whom had harmed innocent people with both joy in his eyes and a song in his heart. He'd begun to think, last night, that Ethan had started to mature somewhat, but…

Can't let it go, have to know. If he doesn't then he'll always be wondering.

It takes mere seconds to reach inwards, to where he keeps his power locked down, and turn a tiny controlled burst out, causing the vehicle to spin out of control, and go off the road. It's easy enough that he wonders why Ethan hasn't done it yet himself.

Two solders climb out of the vehicle after a half-dozen unsuccessful attempts to fire it back up again, and it takes another tiny burst of power to send them both to the safe realms of unconsciousness, before he climbs out of Ethan's car.

The first thing that he hears is that of a voice, screaming in what sounds like a primal agony. He wonders how the solders bore with the sound, when it's one that makes his gut clench, and sets all of his hair on end. He covers the short distance at a run, and after trying the handle, which is unsurprisingly, locked, he blasts the door off.

His eyes cut to Ethan, who has his eyes closed tightly. The scream has turned to an almost pathetic whimper, and Giles can see what's causing it instantly. Some form of collar has been fastened around Ethan's neck, carved with glyphs and writing which look as though it's one of the upper demon languages.

One hell of a binding, Giles thinks, as he grabs the collar without giving it any thought. Seconds later he lets go of it, dropping his hands back as though it had stung him. They're both throbbing, like he's suffered first-degree burns, and now Giles instantly understands how it has worked. Even if a magician is strong enough to get around the binding that the collar has been infused with, the pain should prove to be more than an adequate distraction.

It's barbaric. It truly is.

Ethan raises his head, shivering, unsure of what he's really seeing –If Rupert has really come to his rescue after what he had seemingly done to him. He's already been sick twice in the brief, yet far-too-long moment since he's been bound with the intensity of the pain triggering nausea.

"Ethan?" even with a tiny hint of concern, that tone of voice still seems to convey a lot of anger.

"Driver," he's not sure if he's actually said the word, or if he simply imagined it, "Driver's pocket. Key."

He shuts his eyes and concentrates on not being sick again on Rupert’s smart shoes, and what is probably only seconds later, but still feels like hours, he feels Rupert's hands rolling him, and then, as the key slips into the lock, and is turned, the agony passes. Rupert's hands grasp the collar on either side and pull it cautiously away.

He's glad to see that he was right to be cautious, as several thin, yet ugly looking spikes are tugged free from the delicate flesh of Ethan's throat. Wordlessly, silently, he sets it aside.

He gives his old friend a few minutes to recover, before rolling him back over again, so that he's on his back and looking up.

"Why, Ethan?" It's all that he can ask. It's all that he wants to ask.

"It… it… it wasn't meant to work out like that, I swear. You...you know me, I'd never –Not when you… not when you were… hurting, not like that. I don't know how it happened, why it happened, not the way it did. It was meant to be nothing more than a protection, I swear. The only way that..."

Then Ethan's eyes widen, as he seems to realize what he's saying, and see something in it, "Of course –Damned Watcher bloodline. Shadow Man bloodline. It… it was a potion; it must have crossed with your blood, demonic blood. Between being a descendant of the Shadow Men, and having served the Etruscan, it...it must have bolstered your stronger qualities, and twisted what you were," he looks upwards, towards Rupert, who is regarding him in dead silence, with a blank expression, "You have to believe me, I swear, I'm telling you the truth."

"I don't have to," he says, and Ethan's sure that his heart has stopped, but then he extends a hand downwards, and grasps Ethan's, "But gods know that I want to. And… I think that I do."

He helps Ethan to his feet, and meets his eye, before taking a tiny step towards him. At that moment, one of the solders groans and twitches, and Ethan takes a small step backwards, flinching. The gesture, as instinctual as it is, still stings, and Giles covers it by swallowing, and offering, "What say we get out of here? My...control, at least as far as magick is concerned, isn't quite what it once was, and they," -here he gestures with his head towards one of the prone forms, "could be awake at any moment."

Ethan nods, and gives him a tiny smile, a peace offering, before he looks towards the car and realizes that it's his. He gives Rupert a look, before reaching in and pulling the now unneeded keys out of his pocket.

"I… ah, I hot-wired the bloody thing."

"Well, in that case I can kiss goodbye to my deposit, I think," he's trying to keep his tone of voice light, even as he hesitates, and reaches down to grab the collar, which looks like platinum, and feeds a hint of magick into it, before, with a seemingly casual expression on his face, twists it with enough force to crush the bones in a mans arm. It easily snaps in two, and he hurls both parts off into the distance, in two different directions, with an expression of dark triumphant savagery.

And Giles, has, in the mean time already crossed over to the car, sitting down in the drivers seat and reaching over to open the passenger door. Ethan takes a minute or so, simply standing there and breathing deeply, trying to get his breath, and, to a lesser extent, himself back under control.

Then he, too, sits down.

"Ethan?" he prompts, gently.

"Hmm?" the other man catches his eye.

"Back to your hotel room?"

"Yes," he says, even as he hangs his head, "Yes, I suppose so. Have to...have to grab my things and… and get out of here I suppose."

The rest of the drive is in dead silence, and finally, they pull up outside the building. Ethan turns to him, and says, "Could you keep the car running, stay with it while I grab my bag?"

There is no reply, and he takes it for a yes. He'd been hoping for some protestation, or argument of some kind, but there seems to be none forthcoming. So he slips out of the car and makes his way up to the room that he'd booked for the past couple days. As he drags his bag out from in the closet, almost surprised that it's still there, he senses a presence entering the squalid room, and feels a hand coming forward to rest lightly against his hip.

"Are you in any particular hurry?" Rupert's voice is soft, almost hesitant, and Ethan turns to him, seeing that the door has already been closed, and presumably, locked.

He slowly looks towards him, "Are...are you sure, Rupert? If you...I don't...I..."

Rupert reaches towards him, and raises his free hand, cupping it lightly behind Ethan's neck, "I'm sure. Need… I need this. Need you...Need you to remind me of who I am. It sounds corny; I'm sure, but I… I trust you. Only you. Because you've always known, always been able to see me, in spite of any masks, even when I’m hiding behind the veneer. Or trying to, at least. You’re… You’re Ethan, and I trust you, even though it’d probably be in my best interest not to, sometimes."

Ethan leans forward, and presses a tender kiss against Rupert's lips, a kiss that Rupert stiffens against, and then slowly relaxes in to.

And while they both know that, just like in the days gone by Ethan will be moving on again come the morning at least they have tonight. And just like in days gone by, he'll always come back again, too.

One day.

And maybe, maybe then...

He's finally being offered a fresh door, one that might eventually lead him back to being a part of Rupert's life.

With a quiet word of thanks to his God, a God of doors, and beginnings and endings, he closes his eyes and holds Rupert tightly against his own body.

The End

You have reached the end of "The Doors Through Which We Slip". This story is complete.

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