It was early. Too early. Xander rubbed his eyes and decided right then and there that he hated hospitals. He hated the smell, the lights, the sounds, the…hello Nurse! His eyes followed the movements of the woman clad only in white as she disappeared down the darkened hallway.
Oz elbowed him in the ribs. "Stop drooling."
Ethan sighed. He had to be stuck with these two. He'd much rather be with Ripper and the Slayer. He hated waiting when he knew he would get nothing out of it. He looked into the room where Ripper's girl lay. The dark haired girl was sitting beside the bed whispering quietly. Ethan wondered if she was praying.
Cordelia looked up when she felt his eyes on her. She blushed. "I was apologizing. I used to be terribly mean to her."
"I'm sure she forgives you. Why don't you be a love and go get us all something to drink?" He rifled a twenty out of his wallet and handed it to her. He loved having an expense account. "We'll need it."
"Okay." Cordelia took the money. "What do you want?"
"Coffee." He watched her leave and took her vacated seat. There was an IV running, along with a blood transfusion. She'd lost more blood than even he'd imagined. He wondered absently if she'd pull through. And if she didn't, what exactly it would do to Ripper. A slow smile spread across his face.
"I wouldn't, if I were you."
He looked up, surprised. Her green eyes met his. "What's that?"
"He's mine now. Not yours. You think you still have some hold on him, because you know how to push his buttons. But I know how to combat you. He has me now and he knows that I know you. You only work when someone believes you have power, Ethan."
"You think you're quite smart, don't you?"
"I am. That's why he loves me."
"No, I think he loves you because you shag like a minx."
Willow chuckled. "Well, that doesn't hurt. But he's not bound to you anymore. I've severed those bonds. He doesn't owe you for this, I do."
"And what makes you think I won't collect?" He smiled knowingly.
"I think you will. I think you'll go to him and try to convince him that you deserve some compensation for what you've done. And I'll ever so politely remind him that you watched us with the express purpose of informing the Watcher's Council on our activities. And then I'll rip your heart out."
He quirked an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Didn't the Council tell you I'm a witch? I could do much worse."
This time, Ethan laughed. "Love, I'm afraid when it comes to magic, I've got years of experience on you."
"Magic needs to be pure. What's more pure than love?" Her argument was simple, but judging from his reaction, effective.
"Who's to say I don't love him?" Ethan asked seriously, his earlier humor gone. "I've known him half his life, Willow. I've guided him, loved him, comforted him…"
"Abused him, hurt him, betrayed him…" She smiled. "Ethan, you won't win. So either play nice or go away. I won't let you have him again."
He regarded her silently. "You surprise me. I should have guessed though."
"Well, I used to think Giles would go for the Slayer. She was strong and commanding. He likes that. But she's still immature, despite her job. She wants so much to be a regular girl that she's trying desperately not to grow up. Ripper would want someone strong enough with herself. He doesn't want power so much as strength. I should have seen it was you from the start."
Her eyes fluttered closed and he reached out to touch her cheek. "You can't have him."
"I don't want him, Love. I want something more." He scooted the chair closer and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. "I want you."
Angel touched Buffy's arm and pointed at a small alcove. She nodded and began strolling casually in that direction. The vampire burst out as she passed, finding himself face to face with Angel. Fighting ensued until Angel slammed the creature back against the wall and Buffy embedded a stake in its heart.
"We make a good team."
"We make a dangerous team." Angel smiled sadly. "In more ways than one."
"We should find Giles. The sun's going to rise soon."
"I should be getting back to the van. I'll meet you all at the hospital after sundown." He kissed her quickly before disappearing into the shadows.
Buffy sighed and headed back to the library. She glanced at her watch and quickened her steps. They were supposed to meet five minutes ago. She walked in, not surprised to find him pacing. "Hey. Sorry. Found another one."
"We should go. Is Angel all right?"
"Well, I think so. I figure once we get to the hospital, we can send Cordelia back to take care of him."
Giles noticed the pain the simple statement carried. How horrible it must be to love the one person you couldn't have. "Would you like to drive?"
Xander slammed back against the wall and collapsed into a heap at the base of it. Oz lay across the hall in a similar position. Three vampires surrounded the two men standing outside of Willow's room. Cordelia rounded the corner, her arms full of drinks. She stopped short.
Dropping the drinks, she headed for the main entrance, determined to find Buffy. Her relief was palatable when she literally ran into Giles. "Oh God! Thank God you're here! There are men…outside Willow's door." She gasped.
Giles ran. His heart was pounding, his mind working feverishly. He could hear Cordelia and Buffy following him, her explanations barely registering. Oz and Xander down. Ethan? Willow? What about them?
"Cordy, were they in the room?"
"No," she panted as she ran. "Three vamps, two humans. I think. They looked human."
Buffy jogged ahead to catch Giles. "Stop." She applied her strength and held him still. "You go rushing in there half-cocked, you're going to get everybody killed. Chances are Ethan is there with her and he's not going to risk your wrath if something were to happen to Willow. Now, think Giles. That's your job."
He regarded her for a moment before she saw him come back into his eyes. The murderous rage was gone. "You're right, of course. If Xander and Oz are down, Cordelia should help me clear them out of the line of fire. You have weapons?"
"Stakes, crosses, holy water. Don't leave home without 'em." She cast a quick glance at him and knew that he wasn't going to follow the plan. "Giles. You have to trust me on this. I won't let anything happen to her. She's my best friend. And in a freaky way, she's sorta gonna be my mom. So let me handle it, okay?"
He swallowed hard. "Okay."
"No big flaming bats?"
"No. Not if she's alive."
"We really have to get you into a primal scream class." Buffy grinned as they walked closer, "Although from what Ethan was saying…"
"Shut up, Buffy." His voice was dangerous, but she could tell he was trying not to laugh.
She grinned as they turned the corner. The grinning stopped.
Xander was awake and at Oz's side. From the trail of blood, it appeared he had dragged himself across the hall to help him. Buffy flinched at the sight of all the blood pooled around Oz's head. She hoped the rumor, that head wounds always looked worse than they were, was true. Obviously the bad guys hadn't wanted to deal with a pissed off werewolf. One vampire stood outside Willow's door and stared at the two boys, licking his lips.
"Cordelia? Go get a doctor and get back here quick. Xander and Oz are going to need one."
She disappeared without comment, her work with Angel having tempered her questioning and defiance. Giles looked at his Slayer. "What do we do?"
"We need the crossbow."
"And wouldn't you know, I left it in my other pants."
Rolling her eyes, Buffy balanced the stake in her hand and tossed it a couple of times, testing it's weight. Just right. "Hey, ugly!"
The vampire turned away from the boys to face the Slayer. "Oh goody. I like girls so much better than boys." The stake hit him in the chest and he looked down as he exploded. "I don't like y…"
"I'm hurt." She moved forward, her eyes constantly scanning the area. "Okay, Giles, the rest of them must be in her room. You get Xander and Oz out of here…"
Quentin stood in the doorway of Willow's room and smiled. "We've been waiting for you. Both of you, as a matter of fact. Come in, won't you?"
Giles stopped in the doorway, his fears shining in his eyes. She was alive. He could see the monitors working and her chest rising and falling with each breath. He could also see that Ethan was sitting on the bed behind her, her head lying on his chest, her body tucked securely between his legs.
"Get rid of the vampires." He demanded.
The other human opened the shades of Willow's window to let the soft rays of sunrise fill the room. Both of the vampires screamed as their bodies caught fire before exploding to dust. Buffy glanced out into the hall quickly; glad to see the noise was covering Cordelia and the Doctor's quiet movements. She hoped Xander and Oz were going to be okay.
Quentin sat in the lone chair in the room. "Well now, Mr. Giles, Miss Summers, we have much to discuss."
"We don't have anything to discuss." Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "We're not having sex just so a few old Watchers can get their rocks off. Sorry."
"You are an insolent child. We are the Watchers. We keep you alive, night after night. We have given you your training…"
"You have tried to get me killed on so many occasions, it's not even funny!" Buffy snarled. "About the only thing you've done right is pick my Watcher!"
Giles watched Ethan through narrowed eyes. He was stroking Willow's hair as he held her, but his eyes were fixed on Giles. Images of his youth flooded Giles' mind. Ethan, Deirdre, himself, all the others. There was something animalistic in Ethan's sexuality and it seemed to be oozing out of him as he tried deliberately to provoke Giles.
Several things became clear all at once.
"Quentin," Giles said softly, interrupting Buffy's tirade.
"Yes, Mr. Giles?"
"As my father's lapdog, I'm giving you this message. Sod the Council. If they don't get their fingers out of my life in every aspect other than the monthly reports, I'll take their Slayer and disappear with her."
"She is the…"
"I don't give a fuck who she is or what her job is. Stop it all now or we go our own way. Then you and my father and the rest of the Council can worry about the Hellmouth. Do I make myself clear?" When he got no response, Giles continued. "As for the Ritual, I'm not about to be entertainment fodder for all of you. It's bad enough how debauched you've all become stooping to hiring vampires to keep your charges in line, but this is another level of depravity altogether."
"You mean I was right?" Buffy's face was a mask of disgust. "They were gonna watch?"
"I would imagine with Ethan's help, they've been watching me for some time." He glanced at the man in question. "You brought it up, started me thinking. I've never known you to just watch if you could record it for posterity."
"You've got me dead to rights, old man." Ethan ran a finger down Willow's cheek. Her complete lack of response triggered something else in Giles. She was drugged or under the effects of a spell.
"So, I think that the Council should go, before nightfall and get the hell out of Sunnydale and my life. Personal or professional, except in the most minute context." Giles took off his glasses, his green eyes like angry fire. "And, for that matter…"
"Mr. Giles, I don't think you understand. We're not going anywhere." The man next to Quentin spoke. Giles could only assume it was Rothach. "We have an opportunity that has never presented itself before and you're the only person who can take advantage of it."
"An opportunity?" Giles was disgusted with himself. Why the hell wasn't he just throwing them out of the room?
"We have two active Slayers. That's only happened once before, but with Kendra, it was a moot point. However, with Faith, there are myriad possibilities. Can you imagine what it would be like?"
Buffy raised her eyebrow, "You want to stop waxing poetic and explain?"
"We want to create the most powerful force for good imaginable. There are two active Slayers, both over the age of consent. There has never been a child of a Watcher and a Slayer. It was attempted before, but because the Slayer was the only one, she was killed before she could give birth. With Faith guarding against the Hellmouth, you could have his child."
Quentin raised his hand to quell their protests. "Listen to me, Mr. Giles. I'll make this clear. You don't have any choice in the matter. It's been decided. If you refuse to have intimate contact with your Slayer…" he looked at Ethan. "We'll take matters into our own hands."
He didn't want to look. He knew, deep down, what he would see, but his eyes betrayed him and turned to his oldest friend and enemy.
Ethan held the knife casually against Willow's throat. It was a wooden blade, an elemental blade, but it was burnished to a high silver color. "I don't want to have to hurt her, Ripper, but I will. That's what they pay me for."
"What happens to her?"
"We don't care about your little witch, either way. However, since you'll have much more to take care of, we feel she is an unnecessary interruption. She'll be going with Mr. Rayne."
Ethan couldn't help but smile. His eyes lit with a merry glint as he watched Ripper's anger overtake him.
"All right, I've listened to what you've had to say, now you'll do the same. I am not sleeping with my Slayer. I will not father a child except by my wife."
"That can be…"
"Shut the bloody fuck up." Giles approached both men, dangerously calm. "You will leave Sunnydale. You will get out of my life. You will take you perversions and your insinuations and get the hell out. If you're not out by sundown, I swear I'll feed you to the vampires myself."
Buffy watched with a mixture of fear and awe. The only other time she'd seen Giles this angry was when he'd attacked Angelus after Miss Calendar's death. She felt a slight tugging in her mind and looked up at Willow. The younger girl was smiling ever so slightly. Buffy was puzzled as she mouthed the word "Pencils."
Comprehension dawned. Willow needed wood. Buffy pulled several stakes out of her bag and held them up for inspection. A smile lit the other girl's eyes. Setting the stakes on the counter, Buffy backed away.
"And you, Ethan. Don't think I don't know what you're up to."
"Why Ripper, you wound me. I don't want her."
"You want her blood. You want a witch's blood filled with pure love. You need it, don't you?"
He actually had the decency to look abashed. "I don't have to take her for that. If that was all I wanted I could simply take that right here." He pressed the knife a little closer to her skin.
"If that blade pierces her skin, Ethan, I won't rest until I've bathed my hands in your blood. Am I making myself clear?"
Ethan smiled and pulled the knife a little further from her neck. He was about to respond when his whole body flooded with warmth. Willow was doing magic.
The knife and the stakes started spinning rapidly before flying with deadly accuracy toward the two men by the window. The stakes pierced their clothes, trapping them, while the knife hovered near Quentin's throat. One stake stalled inches from Rothach's chest. Willow opened her eyes fully and smiled.
"I don't think that you'll be doing anything as far as my family is concerned. Buffy, would you call the police? I'm sure they'd be interested to know that the men who attacked me at the library are here now and we've got them…trapped?" She hid her tiredness; alive with the feeling magic gave her. "There should actually be someone stationed in the hospital."
Giles moved over to her, careful not to break her concentration. Both men were eyeing the weapons with more than a casual interest. "Are you all right?"
"Yes." Her eyes shone with feeling. "She was right, you know. I was the one who had to stop it. I had the strength."
"Who was right, Willow?"
"Jenny…" She slipped into unconsciousness. Buffy quickly looked over at the two men and started in surprise. The knife and the stake still hovered.
"Wow, Wills. I'm impressed."
The police led Quentin and Rothach, both handcuffed, out of the room. His smile quirking at their protests of innocence, Giles waited until they were gone to turn to Buffy. "You should go check on Xander, Oz and Cordelia. And send someone to check on Angel."
She started to protest, stopping when she saw the look in his eyes. She remembered the fear she had felt so long ago when Ethan had first come to town. The fear was gone now. She knew that whatever had gone on between them was far inferior to what he now had with Willow. "Be good." She stated before leaning in to whisper, "Be careful."
Giles waited until she was gone before turning to Ethan. He still sat behind Willow, her body draped on his. Moving to lift her up, he motioned for Ethan to get off the bed.
"Quite a woman you've got there, Ripper. And I don't just mean your Slayer."
"It's over. Take you fun and games and go away."
"Let me have her, Ripper. I could teach her things you never will. I could help her realize the full extent of her power. I mean, throwing stakes with her mind is nice and, in this case, handy, but she could do so much more if you'd let her."
"You've done enough." Giles looked the other man over and noticed that he was aroused. "Christ, Ethan."
"She was doing magic practically in my lap. It was bound to have some effect." He walked forward and touched Giles' cheek. "And you know what magic does to me."
He closed his eyes, ignoring for a moment the voice in his head that said it was a very bad idea. "You need to leave."
His voice was warm against his ear. "The three of us, we'd make an interesting combination, Ripper." His hand ventured to Giles' thigh, noting he was obviously paying attention. "Shall we ask the little girl?"
"Ethan?" Willow's voice was quiet but strong.
"Get your hands off of him. He's mine now."
"What if he doesn't want me to?" He turned so that he and Giles were cheek to cheek, both looking in Willow's direction. Well, would be if Ripper would open his eyes. "From the feel of things, he's quite happy with me where I am."
"Well, that's because he responds to magic very much like you do. I heard you whispering while you held me. He's thinking about me, but responding to you."
An eyebrow raised. "You think so?"
"Who do you want, Rupert?"
Smiling, he opened his eyes, "I love you, Willow."
Triumph lit her features. "Go away now Ethan. You have no hold on him anymore." As his hand fell away, she smiled. "And the way I see it, our debts are paid in full."
"I saved your life. I saved you from those vampires."
"And I just saved you from Ripper."
Ethan looked into Giles' eyes and saw the fire still burning there. "I see you're right. Well then, I'll be on my way."
"Yes, Ripper?" He tried to hide the hope in his voice.
"Be sure to take all your equipment with you. I'll let you keep whatever photos or tapes you've got as a reminder."
"I don't need anymore memories."
"Really? Even now that they're all you have left?"
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