A/N: I think this is the longest bit to date. Also, I watched the ep The Modern Prometheus last night. Not only dto I have to read Frankenstein for real now, but the bunnies have bitten mightily. Sometime I think I should just stop watching TV altogether. It only gives me ideas.
Slash ahead. You're warned.
“Come on, Ripper, weekend at the coast. Everyone’s going.”
Ripper shakes his head, holding up the book bag in his left hand while simultaneously trying to dislodge the dead weight of Ethan Rayne on his right shoulder. The man, unfortunately, is used to it and simply shifts with Ripper’s wriggling, laughing roughly in his ear.
“I’ve got to do bloody homework,” Ripper says, shaking the bag for emphasis.
Ethan snorts, “Forget homework. We’re free and young and sexy.” He, too, emphasises his point. With his tongue in Ripper’s ear.
“If I flunk this course again, my old man will stop the money flow.”
“What d'we need money for anyway?” Rayne demands, still clinging to his friend, petulant and sullen.
“Booze,” Ripper suggests mildly, “Cigarettes. Drugs. Magic.”
“Food,” a new voice supplies and the multi limbed beast that is two young men turns to find Benjamin Adam casually leaning against the wall, watching them through the curtain of too long black fringe. It reaches the tip of his Roman nose, hides eyes that sometimes give Rupert the chills. Not that he’d ever admit it. He’s pretty sure Ethan has a healthy dose of respect for the man, too. No-one’s ever made Ethan back down the way Ben does. Not even his lover.
Ethan laughs again and asks, “Where’s your lovely wife, Ben?”
The other man pouts. “I knew you loved Summer more than me.”
“Bloody right. Her cooking’s better.”
An eyebrow rises in the shadow of hair, barely visible but radiating scepticism like few other things in this world. Ripper shifts again, hoping to get rid of his friend while he is distracted but no such luck. Bloody Ethan Rayne and his bloody ivy-genes.
“Summer’s cooking consists of dragging anyone within reach to the nearest restaurant.”
Ethan jabs a finger in Ben’s direction and nods, digging his chin into Rupert’s shoulder. “Exactly. And she pays. Which is why we don’t need money for food. Speaking off, how about lunch?”
Ben shrugs and Ripper sighs long-sufferingly, but lets himself be dragged along by the arm as they make their way out of the building, across campus and into Gold Mike’s, where, Ripper is sure, they own at least half of the tables by now.
Cherry, the waitress, brings their usual without even asking beforehand. She drops their drinks at their table, eyeing Ben as she always does and asks, a bit too obviously, “Your bird not comin’ today?”
Ben looks up at her, blatantly accepting the invitation of a low cleavage and a good angle before meeting her eyes and cocking his head to one side. “Ten,” he says. Cherry blinks. “Nine, eight, seven…”
He’s counting down. Ethan snorts into his beer, shaking his head and rolling his eyes at the desperate waitress and their amused friend. Really, this has been going on for months.
And then the man reaches zero and the door opens, admitting a tiny blonde in a short skirt and high heels. Ben’s gaze settles on her like an old dog coming home and the others follow his example. Cherry falters and Ripper asks, “How the bloody hell do you do that, Adam? It’s like you’re hardwired into each other.”
Ben blinks and, without looking, supplies, “Magic.”
Ripper grunts. It’s not magic. He knows. He checked. Twice. But somehow, those two always know when the other is about to enter a room. Hell’s bells, they wake up from it.
Summer saunters over to them, completely disregarding the sour waitress. Like she doesn’t matter. Like she’s a bug and nothing more. Summer carries arrogance as well as Ben carries his pride, all sway and swagger and damned if it doesn’t turn Ripper and Rayne on like school boys. People think they are the bad seeds of their little group, the ruthless rebels, but they’re not. Ben and Summer look presentable and nice and old school, but underneath they are animals and they don’t bother hiding it.
The slight woman pecks both of them on the cheek before dropping into her husband’s lap with a happy sigh, kissing him hello. They stare at each other for a long moment during which Ripper knows, just knows, that he’s fading and flickering in the periphery of their vision. They see nothing but each other.
Ethan, knowing it too, carefully creeps a hand across the table, trying to snatch Ben’s beer while the man is otherwise occupied. A grin spreads across his face as his hand closes around the bottle and then falls in the same instant, as another hand clamps down on his wrist.
Ben’s eyebrow is up high again as he looks at Ethan intently over Summer’s shoulder. When he gets an apologetic grin he gives the wrist in his grasp one last squeeze, not too kindly, and lets it go. The other man pulls his hand back as if burned.
“So,” Summer asks, “What are you planning for the weekend, boys?”
“We’re going to the coast,” Ethan supplies.
Rupert groans and drops his forehead to the table.
Two days later Rupert finds himself sitting on a dreary, cold beach on the coast, sitting close enough to the camp fire to fry his arse. That is, if it weren’t frozen stiff. The only thing making the whole excursion bearable is the amount of alcohol he has ingested and Summer sitting next to him, cuddling into his side for warmth.
It is probably an entirely harmless heat seeking motion but he’s drunk off his head and she’s warm and close and solid in a way she never is when she’s teasing him and Ethan from Ben’s lap, when she’s telling them off for being reckless idiots, when she’s looking at him like he’s a bug, something to be studied and amused by.
He hates when she looks at him like that but the occurrence has grown more frequent recently. It makes him angry as much as it fascinates him and he finds himself saying, without checking for permission with his brain first, “I wan’ to fuck you.”
“No, you don’t,” she informs him, not even looking at him as she pushes his arm from her shoulders.
“Yes, I do.” He sets his bottle of beer down, wondering idly when Ben and Ethan will be back with more and wondering what they’ll say if they find him and Summer shagging like bunnies. The thought sends the sharp edge of excitement and adrenalin through his system and he roughly pulls the slight form of the blonde closer, trying to kiss her.
She hisses in annoyance and pushes him away, sending him tumbling backwards over the log they’ve been sitting on. “Leave it, Ripper,” she orders him, coldly.
“Bitch,” he snarls, drunk and hurt and angry with her, so bloody pissed off he could spit bullets. How dare she, tiny little thing, always telling him to not do this and not do that. To not try that spell and not drink so much and not be so cruel to Ethan and the list goes on and on and on. And now she’s telling him no again and all he sees is red.
“You bloody bitch. Think you’re better than me, do you?” His voice is low and threatening, even from where he’s sitting with his arse in the sand.
“I’m thinking,” she informs him, entirely undisturbed by the glint of madness in his eyes, “That Ethan is going to crawl into a bottle and not come out for weeks if you hurt him again.”
That godamn, bloody… how dare she bring up Ethan now? How dare she try and guilt Ripper into backing down by bringing up his lover? That little, manipulating, teasing –
“Who’s hurting who?” a sunny voice asks to the left and Rupert almost gives himself whiplash as he turns to look at Ben, who stands there, casually, six pack of beer in each hand. He puts them down and wraps an arm around Summer – like she wouldn’t let Ripper do, like Ben is better than him somehow, like he has a right – and repeats his question.
Summer peeks around her husband’s frame and spots Ethan still a ways off, before saying, “Mr. Giles here has decided that he wants to sleep with me.”
Ripper closes his eyes and waits for the fist to break his nose. What comes instead is a rough hand at the scruff of his neck, hauling him up by the collar of his jacket and pushing him forward roughly. Then Ben’s arm settles around his neck in a deceptively friendly hold and the older man hisses, “You idiot. You’ve got someone who loves you like a drug right there.” He points vaguely at Ethan coming into the circle of fire light and adds, malignant and darkly amused, “Stop chasing things you’ll never have.”
Then he pushes and watches as Ripper collides with Rayne, sending both of them into the sand in an uncoordinated bundle of limbs.
Ripper wants to scream but before he can, Ethan’s kissing him.
“Bloody hell, Rayne, how suicidal are you?” Ripper hisses as he enters the Adams' flat after his friend, the memory of Ben’s deep red hissing still ringing in his ear weeks later. The casual cruelty in his voice as he told Rupert Giles exactly what he will never have. What he is good enough for what he isn’t good enough for.
He always thought neither of the couple is seriously into spell casting, but after that night by the sea, he started to doubt. There was something other
about Ben, there, in the dark.
Which is why it’s probably a rotten idea to break into his flat when he’s not there. Ethan doesn’t seem to think so, though. He simply jingles his lock picks and enters the living room, unconcerned. “Not like we’re stealing anything. Just waiting for them to get back. Not our fault they’re bloody late.”
“Ben’s going to murder you and I’ll help him hide the body,” is the only response Ripper gives as he sinks into the sofa, tired of his lover’s antics already. There are days when just being in the presence of the other man uses up all his - admittedly small to begin with - patience.
“Right,” Ethan confirms happily and starts meandering through the room before, predictably, zeroing in on the one door that’s always closed. The bedroom. Summer quite candidly informed them that, if she ever caught them snooping in there, she’d have their balls for Christmas decorations. The threat itself was not particularly intimidating, mind you, but the bright, maniac grin that came with it spoke volumes. Ripper has always heeded the warning. Ethan on the other hand has the survival instincts of a lemming, happily running head first into certain doom at least three times a week and twice on Sundays.
He throws a grin over his shoulder at the other man, not at all discouraged by the fact that his friend groans loudly, flings and arm over his eyes and lies down on his back, obviously refusing to participate in any way. With a shrug he pushes open the door and steps inside, irreverent of the fact that somehow, Summer will know
and he’ll sing soprano come the holiday season.
He disappears into the windowless room and for a few beats, there is only silence. Then, “Tits and bits, Ripper, get your arse in here!”
“No.” But there is something in Ethan’s voice that says he hasn’t found illicit sex toys and fetish wear but something else entirely. So when the other calls again, Ripper rolls to his feet and obeys.
The room is dim, as can be expected of a place without windows, but cosy. The bed dominates the centre of the room, dark and rich in colour. The rest of the furniture matches it. It looks like the townhouse Ripper fled on his eighteenth birthday, filled with disgust at the pretensions and arrogance of his forefathers. But that is not what has captured Ethan’s attention to the point of staring dumbly.
No, what catches Ripper’s eye upon entering the bedroom is the glint of steel and precious stones resting on the closed lid of a chest at the foot end of the bed. A sword. Son of a long line of watchers, he is in no way unfamiliar with weapons of this kind, but to find one here? In his friends’ bedroom?
He steps closer and finally notices what has Ethan paling. Brown residue clinging to the bottom of the blade, as if whoever used it last has not yet gotten around to cleaning it properly.
Cleaning it of blood.
Why do Summer and Ben have a bloody sword lying in their bedroom?
Of their own volition his fingers move, reaching, tentatively, as if afraid of contact, for the weapon.
“Careful,” a soft voice behind him suddenly warns and he jerks backward in surprise, stumbling, almost crashing into his friend. He whips around as soon as he regains his balance and blanches at the sight of Summer, small and golden and serious, leaning against the doorjamb, watching him detachedly. “It’s sharp.”
Beside Ripper, Ethan has gone pliant and wide eyed, staring stupidly at the blonde. And at the shadow looming over her shoulder, the expression on his face fulfilling every promise his voice made on that beach.
“There’s blood on the blade,” Rupert finds himself saying, his mouth curiously detached from his brain.
“Maybe we’ve taken up animal sacrifice,” Ben suggests, voice smooth and steel-edged.
Summer moves backwards then, taking her husband with her, ordering, “Get out of here, idiots, before I remember my promise.”
Her voice is light again, as it should be, as it always has been in daylight and Ethan finally shakes off his stupor, grabbing his friend by the arm and dragging him toward the door of the flat. They both pretend not to notice the eyes boring into their backs as they walk as fast as they can without breaking into a run.
Down the hall, silently, down the stairs with enormous concentration and they don’t really breathe until they set foot outside the main entrance of the building, blinded by sunlight.
Then they look at each other, feeling silly and paranoid, stupid and childish and the idea of the darkness in Ben's eyes, of the edge to Summer's movements seems ridiculous and idiotic. They smoke too much weed. The entire situation is unreal suddenly and they start laughing. Loudly. Hysterically.
For the next week, Ethan keeps humming the Addams Family theme under his breath whenever either of the Adams is around. They never see the sword again.
“Ripper,” Ethan says as he dumps a stack of loose papers and smudged notes on the table in front of his lover and sits down, waving Cherry over for a beer.
“I think I found a way to solve the problem of Daddy turning off the money flow.”
“Oh?” Rupert leans forward around his bottle, pulling the stack closer to take a look at them. The topmost sheet is a grainy copy of an old original text, the Encyclopaedia Demonica
The title at the top of the page is made up of a single word. Eyghon
Summer and Ben spend long moments looking through the papers, checking and rechecking the notes, comparing them, working out for themselves just what Ripper and Rayne are planning now.
“You need a lot of people for this,” Summer finally says, leaning back in her chair.
“The Coven is going to help. They already agreed.”
“You think you can do this? A bunch of college kids summoning a demon? You’ll get killed faster than you can say shite.” Ben informs them, leaning back as well, wrapping an arm around the blonde at his side.
Ripper snorts angrily. “Don’t sound so bloody conceited, arsehole.”
Summer interrupts before an argument can spring up. “You don’t bind demons, Ripper. Demons bind you. You do this, you’re as good as dead. All of you.”
“Are you scared?”
Ben opens his mouth, about to snarl at them undoubtedly, but his wife’s hand on his arm stops him. “Let’s not fight. It’s time, Ben. Let’s go home.”
It’s not that late, barely two in the morning, but there is a lilt and a tilt to Summer’s words, to the way she says it’s time
. Ben nods and they both get up, grabbing their jackets.
Ben slaps both men on the back while Summer pecks first Ethan and then Rupert on the cheek. Then, in an unfamiliar show of tenderness she cups his jaw in her hand and looks him in the eye for a long moment.
“When you find her, love her. She needs that more than anything else. Love her.”
“Who the hell are you talking about?”
She pulls back, the gentle manner gone from her frame and face as suddenly as it entered and she smirks as she links her arm with Ben’s.
“You’ll know,” she says.
The next day, when Ripper and Rayne go looking for them, they find only an empty flat and no forwarding address.
Twenty years later the man once known as Ripper looks into the face of a young, air headed blonde and he knows.