We would raise Eyghon in an abandoned church that Ethan knew. He was in good spirits naturally high he wanted to be first. So, we let him be first. I didn't tell him that Eyghon stayed the longest with the strongest. I didn't know how mentally strong Ethan was. I suppose he'd have to have been stable to survive an abusive childhood but then he was a victim and Eyghon didn't like victims.
As I said, he was excited. I put him to sleep in the centre of the circle we had made; Dierdre held the herbs and I recited the invocation. Ethan's body glowed with a dark iridescence and rose from the floor. Eyghon had arrived. He looked on us, his new disciples with an evil leer. Thomas shuddered he was going to be next and he wanted so much to be Ethan's favourite as I once was. Eyghon sensed this and took him. I couldn't stop the tableau that unfolded before us; none of us could. We could only watch as Eyghon in Ethan's body systematically beat and violated our friend over two hours.
Ethan was exhausted. He was fighting Eyghon his expression varied from triumph to despair throughout his ordeal. Finally, he came out of his trance when Thomas no longer reacted to the abuse. Eyghon fled to the circle laughing maniacally. Ethan fell to his knees and wept. He gazed mournfully at his friend afraid to go near him in case he should cause him more pain. Dierdre approached him quietly and checked his pulse.
"He's alive." Ethan sighed in relief. He was shaking with cold and shock.
Philip looked to the circle. Eyghon smiled and beckoned him playfully. He shuddered.
"'Ow do we get out of this one Rip? Is 'e going to attack all of us like that?" A good question, that I couldn't answer.
"We need to get him to hospital Ripper. I can't do anything for him here."
I looked at Dierdre and shook my head. Questions would be asked. Ethan had collected himself sufficiently to approach Thomas. As his shadow fell across Thomas's torn and ravaged face he shuffled away in fright. Ethan sobbed anew.
"'Ow do we know 'es safe in the circle?" Philip asked Dierdre asked exactly the same question. It annoyed me. I don't know what happened next. The emotional energy crackled through the church and I pointed to Eyghon in the circle
"The circle IS SAFE!" I announced my voice booming off the church walls as thunder broke overhead jagged blue lightning shot from my fingers to surround Eyghon in the circle. I was as surprised as my companions.
We moved Thomas into the van and drove him to hospital. Then we went back home. In the morning, we found out that Thomas's parents had collected him from the hospital and he had effectively dropped off the face of the Earth. That left us with one short.
Randal arrived in the afternoon, living space and rumours of spare living space were snapped up in Oxford. I didn't want to initiate him but Ethan was insistent he revealed that he was still partially under the Eyghon's influence. He felt compelled to welcome Randal into our circle. It was almost a physical need. It was painful to witness as he fought against Eyghon's will. I relented and Ethan got busy with the tattooist's needle. We had our fifth.
The next night was a full moon we met at the church. Randal was fresh faced and enthusiastic thrilled to be accepted so quickly into our 'secret society'. My heart dropped when I witnessed his zeal. Was I ever like that? I was second. Ethan put me to sleep. The words of the invocation echoed in my head. Ethan was word perfect but there was no intonation, no passion in his voice he was almost like a machine. I felt a terrible darkness creeping through my soul.
We faced each other Eyghon and I. He wanted me to go and when I didn't he just shrugged and ploughed past me to take possession. I found myself at a loss, outside my body looking at Eyghon in my place. He smiled seeming well pleased. I couldn't affect anyone while outside my body. What Eyghon did then chilled me. He stepped out of the circle and laughed in Ethan's face.
"You stupid Wanker, you've cocked up the spell. I'm still here you Pillock!" Ethan was stunned. He looked at Eyghon seeing only me and shook his head. He scurried to the book and re-read the spell.
"When you find the right page old boy call me, I'll be at the cemetery. I'm peckish." Eyghon snapped his teeth together and sauntered off. I followed flowing through Ethan, who was in my way. My body hurried ahead of me but I found it difficult to follow because someone kept pulling me to the side. Finally, I gave in and went the way my spirit wanted.
I found a young girl struggling under the attentions of a much bigger man. I wanted to help her but what could I do? Suddenly the man flew off her straight through me and landed head-butting a gravestone. The girl scrambled to her feet brandishing a stake and followed him. She thrust the stake she was carrying through the man's heart and he fell to dust.
She's a Slayer!
She turned quickly and caught sight of Eyghon in my body. Her stake lifted ready but Eyghon laughed and applauded. Her stake drifted downwards. I was uneasy. Eyghon had said he was hungry. I shouted at her to run but she couldn't hear me! Eyghon paced toward her slowly. She was fascinated, smiling. I tried putting myself between her and the demon but that didn't work either. I slipped inside my body unnoticed, in time to witness the full horror of what Eyghon had planned for this young woman.
She was a Slayer who had just killed a vampire, a fellow demon. So, Eyghon exacted revenge by draining the Slayer.
My hands held her throat feeling the trembling of her vein beneath her skin.
My lips caressed her neck, my tongue licking the tender flesh locating the lie of the vein.
My fangs pierced her skin and my mouth received the first salt-sweet tang of her blood.
I swallowed wanting more becoming desperate in my search for this hot balm to soothe my soul.
She was cold my belly was hot.
She fell from my grasp and I stood silent in the night with her fresh blood dripping from my lips.
Spike shifted uneasily on the sofa. His lips were slightly redder than usual he'd been affected by my story in way's subtly different to the others. Jack sat on the other sofa with his mouth open in shock.
"You killed a Slayer." Oz stated.
"Eyghon killed a Slayer, I lead him to the Slayer. It was like my father said. I knew when one was near. If I hadn't raised him she might have lived another six months or so."
"Was that the life expectancy of a Slayer back then?" Jenny asked. She had squirmed apart from her vampire protector.
"Yes I'm afraid it was, Jenny. This was many years before you were born and I was a very foolish young man. I don't have fangs so how could I have drained her? It was the demon using my body. He made me experience what a vampire experiences just as he made Ethan violate Thomas. It took a vampire to finally defeat Eyghon. I couldn't. Stick close to Spike he'll protect you."
Jenny looked up at the vampire's cool detached features and she curled her hand in his once more. Spike held her hand in a fierce grip and kissed her fingers delicately. He loved her he would wait a lifetime for her.
"Did you ever tell Mum about Eyghon?" Jack asked.
"Oh, yes we didn't have any secrets. Do you want the rest?" He looked at his watch. "You'd better have the rest."
Ethan woke up when I fell into bed next to him. I was very hot but not tired. He switched on the light and saw the dried blood round my mouth. He leapt from the bed and dashed across the landing to Philip's room.
"C'mon Phil, open up!" He shouted. The door opened a crack and Philip blinked in the harsh light.
"Somethin's up with Ripper..." Philip followed him to our room and studied me as I lay on the bed. Not sleeping, not awake.
"He don't look right, God! Is that blood? What's 'e done Ethan?"
Ethan was leafing through the books on my desk.
"Shit! He's the strongest! Eyghon's still in Ripper.... I got the spell right. We've got to get him out. Get the others. Skate's on Phil!"
Within half an hour, we were back at the church. Randal was next but first they had to get me to sleep and Eyghon didn't sleep. Ethan finally managed to put me out by whacking me with a panel ripped from the lectern. Eyghon fled into the circle where Randal lay and he was pissed!
Jack felt his father's forehead he was extremely hot.
"Jack may I have some ice, please?" He closed his eyes while his son fetched a bowl of ice from the kitchen. Giles picked a piece from the bowl and popped it in his mouth. Jack left the bowl.
Eyghon made Randal climb the steps of the church tower. He resisted all attempts to stop him. Ethan tried his best but he couldn't improvise, he knew the spells by rote you see. He learned improvisation much later on. Randal threw himself off the tower Dierdre was nearest to him but even she couldn't prevent him from falling.
"Ethan... Close the circle." I couldn't manage anything more than a whisper and they couldn't hear me; they were all outside with Randal. I got to my feet shakily, lights flashing before my eyes. Eyghon was in the circle smiling at me. I don't know why he hadn't re-entered my body. Perhaps he decided it would be more fun to observe my reaction to the chaos I had caused. We studied each other; finally, he turned away and dissolved.
I would banish him even if it meant tilting the Earth about it's axis!
I walked outside in time to see Randal being zipped into a body bag. Dierdre clung to Philip and the two of them walked away. Ethan looked as though he would leave with them; I stopped him in his tracks.
"We have to banish Eyghon." My voice cracked with emotion. He looked at me as if I were speaking a foreign tongue.
"We can't banish him." He murmured. "He's too strong Rupert, I tried I couldn't banish him. He's homed in on our Tattoo's I mixed the ink with our blood. We're his I'm sorry Ripper, Truly."
My hands were round his throat "You stupid, ignorant bastard!" I snarled in his face. "Do you know what you've done? We'll have to keep initiating people! We'll never be free of him!" I raised Ethan off the ground I realised that Ethan wasn't struggling he wanted me to kill him. I let him fall. It wasn't his fault; it was mine. My responsibility, I had to fix this.
Dad. I have to talk to Dad.
I hammered on the hotel room door. My father answered he looked rough, when he saw me his expression changed to one of dread.
"What have you done?" He asked darkly. My stomach hit the floor as it had always done when he used that tone.
"Eyghon killed a Slayer and my friend, how do I stop him?" My father stared at the floor as he let me in the room. The door closed and he hit me! Lifted me clean off the floor. I'd never seen him so enraged!
"My Slayer." He said his voice raw. "She was seventeen Rupert!" He massaged his knuckles as I checked the location of my jaw.
"I'm sorry." My eyes stung with tears. He rounded on me again and I flinched involuntarily. He helped me to my feet and seemed to shift a gear.
"All the usual banishing hasn't helped? Who's been doing it? That Dimwit flat mate of yours?" I nodded.
"Then there's only one way. You have to give up your life, Rupert..."
"I have to die?" I gasped incredulously.
"You don't have to die, that's what he wants. You have to live but differently. You have to forsake everything and become a Watcher. Then you give Twenty-three years of your allotted life span to Eyghon. He'll leave. He may come back but by then you'll be stronger and will be able to destroy him." My father was looking at me; my shoulder's slumped. I was exhausted. "Do you want me to help?" He offered.
"No, I have someone as back-up." I took a breath and headed for the door.
"Rupert." I hesitated. "You're doing the right thing, sorry I hit you." The door closed behind me. That was the last time I spoke to my father.
Ethan was sitting on the church steps where I had left him an hour before. I stood in front of him and tilted my head back looking up at the stars. Ethan's hand grasped the waistband of my jeans his sorrowful eyes seeking my permission. I slapped his hand away.
"Don't ever touch me again, Ethan!" I warned. I stepped past him and grabbed his shirt collar dragging him protesting up the steps into the church. I let go and he lurched to his feet dusting himself off.
Eyghon waited in the circle. He smiled at my approach, the smile of a crocodile. I walked round the perimeter of the circle murmuring the banishing incantation slowly. His smile faded to be replaced by a look of anguish. He fought back.
There was a terrible storm that night and the highest tides of the year. Hurricane force winds ripped the roof from the church exposing Eyghon to the full force of the elements. His wailing cry as he vanished into the depths of Hell shook the walls of the church. I collapsed in the middle of the ruin and rubble. Ethan was unscathed, if a little dusty. He helped me out of the church and into the rain lashed morning. He was holding me close as a car drew alongside us. The door opened and my father stepped out. He took me from Ethan's embrace without a word of explanation.
I was like a child for three months, then gradually my Watcher instincts took hold and I embraced my destiny.
"Drop a pebble in a well, you create a private Hell..." Giles muttered and let his head fall back on the cushions all the gang save Spike filed out of the room.
"Hey, Giles." Spike shook me gently. "Look, Dawn! Birds are screechin' their 'eads off. You made it!"
I opened my eyes and smiled wanly. Should I be pleased? Spike was impressed. I never thought I'd impress Spike!
"Morning, love. Happy Christmas." I whispered to Willow. She seemed to have turned away from me. "Spike could you turn her slightly please?"
The vampire went over to the painting and adjusted it. He was caught by the spell in the painting, as if he could reach in and pull her out.
"Careful, she bites!" I chuckled.
Spike smiled. "Watcher you're priceless!"
"Thank you." I glanced under the tree Jack had deposited everyone's presents there. "Spike, I need you to deliver the presents when I'm gone. The flat one with the red paper is for Oz he need's it straight away. Go and give it to him now please. I'm going into the conservatory."
Spike gathered the bundles and delivered each present as directed. Oz first. That one was quite heavy. Anya and Xander had a lightweight present, quite flat. Cordelia's was small and bumpy and Jack's was small and square.
Oz came out of his room. He was dressed for the outdoors. He thrust his present into his jacket pocket. Spike followed him downstairs. Oz had put the kettle on.
"I'm looking for coffee." He said as Spike came in the kitchen; Spike pointed to the far cupboard on the right.
"Did a reccy searching for food. I'm goin' to have to get Jack to buy me a fridge for me' own food."
Thundering steps echoed down the hall as Jack shot through he skidded by the kitchen and doubled back. His robe was flying out behind him like a cape.
"Oh, look it's the masked Watcher. What you harin' about for?"
Jack was catching his breath. "Dad?" one word was all he could utter.
"Conservatory." Spike answered leaning back against the counter top. Jack took off again.
He slowed his pace as he approached the back of the chair. He peeked round to look at me.
"Boo!" I smiled as he jumped. Jack smiled with relief and knelt on the floor. "You didn't think I'd go without wishing you Happy Christmas, did you? Open your present." I leaned forward gazing down at him as he ripped the paper. I had given him my ring and hoop earring. He smiled. That was my thanks.
"You'll have to get pierced now, left ear." I sat back. Gradually everyone came down to thank me for their presents. Jack cooked breakfast my favourite, bacon and eggs, sausage and mushrooms. The smell was delicious! I watched them eat gathered on the window seats of the conservatory. Cordelia loved the car she had driven to get the tree. That was her present an E-type Jag. Xander and Anya had the rights to the Spike stories. Oz, I saw Oz by the tree at the farthest part of the garden waiting to use his present. I suggested a snowball fight when everyone had breakfasted. Jack took the plates into the kitchen while everyone changed for the mid-morning chill.
It was a glorious morning the sky was pale blue with wispy high clouds. Ice water melted off the long icicles adorning the conservatory roof; the snow would be gone soon. Snowdrops were just beginning to peek through the earth of the tubs on the patio.
The snowballs were just the right consistency; everyone had an even number. The battle lines were drawn...Battle commenced. Anya pelted snow at Jack he was covered in freezing slush in seconds. Xander couldn't seem to launch his snowball at anyone; he couldn't decide who to aim at. Cordelia caught him a cruel blow to the groin and laughed. Jack aimed and she gagged on a mouthful of snow I giggled she looked so ridiculous!
"Time to go, Ripper."
I turned to look at my old friend. He didn't look the same; he was maybe thirty years old with a merry twinkle in his eye.
"Now?" I asked. "Where's Willow?"
"She's looking after him." Ethan pointed out of the window to where Oz stood poised. "He's coming with us. You painted us together."
I smiled as I stood up, looking at the action through the window. Jack waved at me. I waved back; screams of laughter filled the air then suddenly...
A snowball hit the window directly in front of me and slid gracefully down the pane of glass.
Oz stared at the gun. He loaded the bullet and glanced one last time at the happy, joyful scene enacted before him. Everyone having fun. Giles got up and waved. The signal. He opened his mouth and kissed the cold world goodbye.
Jack saw his father collapse and started to run. He heard the gunshot behind him and stopped. The battle was forgotten Cordelia screamed, the gang headed up the garden and he resumed his perilous slide toward the house. He ripped open the door and struggled out of his gloves. Too late his father was dead.
"He stood up and waved to you. Then dropped, I'm sorry Jack." Spike's voice came from a great distance. "Shall I get the doctor?" Jack nodded mutely. He wept silently for his father he had been dying for years, now death was finally here and he felt a cold emptiness. He was orphaned.
Jack moved away as Xander exploded into the conservatory. He fell at Giles' side and surveyed the spare ravaged body tears blinding him. Cordelia and the others arrived all with similar reactions. It was so cruel losing two on the same day at almost the same time. Who did this? Who made it happen? Useless questions that no one can answer. Both gone at the allotted hour.
The Garden Painting
"Ethan, I can't believe how good I feel. I'm really dead right? How come you look so young?" Ethan blushed.
"Ripper, souls don't age. They reach maturity then that's it. You look the same to me as you did when you were at Oxford. You look like Jack!" He grinned at his friends' shocked features. Ethan looked behind Rupert and saw Willow come into the clearing with Oz.
Willow froze her heart was in her throat. Her love was here she could touch him at last. He had spoken with her every day since her death she had heard every word but couldn't answer him. She had felt him whenever he came near her portrait and had shared every memory of his illness.
"Rupert!" She flew into his arms in an embrace so tender as to make the Angels weep. Tears of happiness squeezed past fast closed lashes, warm lips touched and untouched for over a thousand days found purchase in a lover's first kiss.
Ethan and Oz looked at the couple with bright eyes. Ethan shrugged and walked away. Best not to disturb them now. Not for a couple of years at least!
Willow moved her hands to encompass his strong back. It felt good to hold him again. His tongue swept into her mouth claiming his territory once more. She moaned and melted into his kiss darting her tongue, probing, tasting honey and tea all the things she remembered of her husband.
The years had melted away for him. He remembered vividly how he had kissed her goodbye. She had squeezed his hand in thanks for giving her peace. Willow slipped away in a coma never to wake. He turned off the machines and ended his life.
His wife was here now, warm and vital beneath his fingers. Her supple lithe body pressed to his yearning for the release that only his love would bring her. He gazed upon her with adoration. Her green eyes were dark with passion, radiant with unbidden need and breathless with want.
"Wife." He whispered
"Husband." She replied her hands tracing over his tightly muscled chest. He groaned as familiar sensations raced through his body. Willow swayed before him like a graceful blossom, moving in the May time breeze. He breathed in the scents and followed her lead. The forest glade was sun dappled and warm with soft sweet smelling camomile beneath their feet. She danced hither and yon. Just out of his reach until that sweet moment when he tired of the chase and captured her body. He clasping her tenderly as he knelt on the soft ground cradling her in his arms while he worshipped at the altar of her breast.
He lavished hot kisses on her hard pink nipples making her body throb with desire, stirring her arousal to boiling point causing her weeping pussy to ache to be filled. His fingertips swept through her red curls. Her clit tingled with the white-hot electric sensations that his fingers imparted.
"Rupert..." She breathed and he kissed her deeply stifling a groan of lust as his fingers slickly slid into her molten core. She arched her back, her orgasm crashing in waves about her. Unceasing and building again as slowly he edged up her body to swiftly bury himself in her.
Rupert's face bordered on the divine. He was nearly overcome with the first sweeping movement into Willow. He withdrew carefully to plunge in more deeply. Her contracting walls, clasping wetly on his cock kissing and sucking gently yielding more and more to his speeding thrusts.
He jolted with spasms of lust as Willow screamed his name. He smiled down at her sweet, wanton face as she writhed beneath him. She crossed her legs round his waist forcing his cock further into her. His love blasted into her and he shouted her name as his climax claimed him he continued to move in her and soon she was chasing hard on the heels of his climax.
"Oh! God, Rupert!" She screamed grinding herself further onto his pistoning erection. Slowly, inevitably their bodies relaxed and their breathing returned to normal.
"You look ravishing, Willow"
"That's because I've been ravished!" She laughed.
He kissed her eyelids and tasted the salt of her tears. "No more tears, ever Willow." He admonished with a smile.
"No more tears, I promise." Her smile parted her lips and he kissed her again taking advantage of the eternity of opportunity they now enjoyed.
Jack sat up in bed; his gritty eyes were reluctant to open. He yawned and heard from far away the music that had woken him. He pulled his robe close round him and set out to investigate.
He opened his door and went out onto the landing to meet the remaining Slayerettes similarly attired. They had all heard the guitars. Xander looked uneasily at Jack and Cordelia. Jenny crept forward between them all and peeked down the stairs.
"It's coming from down there." She pointed and went downstairs. Jack followed his Slayer and the gang followed him.
"Anyone else got Déjà vu?" Cordelia asked.
Xander nodded. "Anyone got a stake?" he asked, Jenny held her hand aloft. What you do, sleep with it?"
The music was louder downstairs it drifted from the library. They entered the room warily peering into the darkness. Someone was there.
Cordelia shrieked as lightning briefly lit up the room illuminating Spike's angular face. He stood stock-still staring at the paintings he'd been instructed to move. At Cordelia's shriek, his hand clasped his unbeating heart in fright.
"Gawd, don't do that girl! Nearly shocked some life into me!"
The guitars stopped playing. It was eerily silent. More lightning played about the room and it grew colder. The chill drew the group together for warmth. They were fearful staring at each other.
With a gentle 'Phutt', the fire spluttered into life and they all jumped. Jack heard murmuring voices coming nearer and footsteps echoing hollow round the room. His breath quickened; his heart was in his mouth. They were walking over the bridge in his father's painting.
"Look..." He whispered, pointing.
Everyone focused on the painting. At first, there were just indefinite shapes that moved and shifted under the surface. Oz tumbled out and sprang to his feet smiling at them. Ethan stepped gracefully from the painting holding Buffy by the hand helping her the small step to the floor. All three looked back into the canvas waiting for the late arrivals. Giles and Willow came through together hand in hand.
Cordelia sank down onto one of the chairs breathing hard. Spike couldn't wipe the grin off his face. Xander and Anya also sat down their mouths agape. Jenny looked confused.
"Hello Jack." His parents greeted him warmly. Jack swallowed hard trying not to let new tears fall.
"Jack don't cry Darling, we're fine really." Willow stroked her small hand over his brow curling into his hair that refused to behave. He caught his breath at her familiar gesture and tears fell unashamedly down his cheeks.
Buffy gazed at her friends her own eyes becoming bright. It had been so long since she'd seen them all. She smiled at the young girl clutching the stake.
"Hi, you're the Slayer? I'm Buffy; I was a Slayer. Hey, Spike. "She shifted her gaze to take in the vampire standing behind the girl. He nodded. Curt, no love lost. She went over to Ethan and shared the second arm of the chair he was sitting on.
"Oz." The name was strangled from Xander's lips. He coughed and started again. "Oz, why did you do it? I mean didn't you think what it would do to us. Blowing your brains out like that!" Xander was angry with him.
Giles looked at the were-wolf and saw the pain sweep over his soul. He moved to protect him from further pain.
"Xander...Oz didn't want to kill anymore. I gave him the means to end his life. He was meant to kill me this week. We don't know why. I've given him sanctuary in this house. I won't have him hurt again is that clear?" His voice was calm, his eyes' kind as they bored into Xander's soul.
"Yes sir." Xander replied hanging his head. Giles smiled at him.
"Good. Now, I know I left very suddenly. We just came back to say there's nothing to fear." He looked round to where Willow still cradled Jack's head in her arms. "Willow, wanted to see you again. We're happy, I'm happy. We really don't have long this time round. The paintings are set for Christmas time..."
"Set?" Spike questioned. "What are they Watcher, a bloody alarm clock?"
"Yes, that's exactly what they are Spike. We can come back every Christmas until there isn't a reason to come back."
"When will that be, Dad?" Jack questioned
"When everyone present is in the family crypt, Jack." He smiled at the shocked faces. "That's a long, long time. You're all my family y'know; I couldn't split you up. That's if you want it?" He suddenly realised they might want to be buried with their own families and he was disturbed by his thoughtlessness.
One by one, they nodded. Even Jenny who knew in her heart of hearts she might be the first one to die. Buffy got up and gave her a hug.The slow guitar playing started again. Giles looked back at the painting. Already? He smiled sadly.
"Jack put the paintings in the crypt, come and see us though. Have a chat; we'll hear you. Oh, and the patch of garden up by the tree? Don't come in it's our patch, you might see something your innocent eyes were never meant to see!" He grinned and gave his son a hug. He parted from him reluctantly, his eyes shining.
"Bye. See you next year." Giles took Willow's hand and they went back into the painting in reverse order. The guitar faded as Oz stepped into the canvas.
They all stared at the oil painting. It was flat. Just a painting. Now all they had to do was explain why there were only four people waiting on the bridge because Giles had joined Willow in the garden painting.
Prequel: Seal of Fate
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