by Te
December 1999 - May 2002

Disclaimers: No one here is mine.

Spoilers: Dark Age

Fandom: BtVS

Ratings Note: NC-17

Acknowledgments: Much love to the Spike and Dawn Sharon, without
whom this story would not exist.

Feedback keeps the karma police at bay.


Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. Those
who refuse to acknowledge their history are simply doomed.

A bit melodramatic to be sure, but there's a certain air of fatalism
about it that appeals. A sense that even my colossal fuck-up with the
Eyghon business was pre-ordained. Of course it's utter bullshit, and
I know that, I wouldn't be myself if I didn't know that... but it is a

My door is once again bolted against the night, the whiskey is stowed
in my lovely antique cabinet. Olivia helped me to acquire it some
years back, delighted as always in my willingness to be molded into
something new. She calls me Ripper but she never really approved.

I don't know who I am writing this for, since Buffy knows everything
that is important, now, finally, and Jenny... Jenny is taking some time
away from me, away from us. 'Coping' is her word for it. When I'm
feeling petty and inclined to convenient forgetfulness, 'running' is

She has every right to be gone from me.

Brilliant, maddening, exotic, irritating, seductive... I wonder how
much of my old, old life Eyghon left in her mind. Does she know how
many times I tasted blood and shared my own? How many of the
rituals we performed has she condemned in her own time?

I can say that I'm writing this down to have the thoughts clear in
my head when... *if* Jenny chooses to ask me questions. I know
I'll never lie to her again.

Unless she asks me when I knew for sure that it was not her in
her flesh...

I want to pray like I did when I was a child, when my only concept
of sin was academic and I didn't feel as though I was befouling the
holy words simply by speaking them. I wasn't clean enough to turn
to God, and so I turned to the Watchers.

But that wasn't until long, long after, and I'm turning this into a
ridiculous muddle. Life should never be so conveniently metaphorical.

Right. Start at the beginning.

The first thing that happened to me on my grand adventure to London
was getting my bag stolen out from under my legs at an Underground

The second was getting eyed suspiciously by both a cop and a dealer
at precisely the same time.

The third was being offered a fiver for a blowjob from one Randall
Caldwell Billings IV, though at the time, predictably I knew him only
as John. Randall was nearly a head shorter than I, pasty, mouse-haired,
soft at the cheeks and even less native-looking than I. I smirked down
at him and told him a beer might make me consider it.

I noticed the ring on his hand half a beat after that, but was halfway
through my second pint and a surreal battle of wills over who would
blow whom when I recognized the symbol -- Azhmid. Even a novice
Watcher like I had been knew the name, knew the meaning.

Randall watched me recognize it, and gave me his own smirk --
somewhere between condescension and approval. "It's not quite
accurate, of course..."

The second to last curl had an added flaw... "What happens if the
extra bend chips off, then?"

"Come now, we've obviously both read the texts..."

"You're flirting with demons!" I remember it took all I had not to flush at
the sound of my voice, tight with far more fear than rage. The shock of
a true novice.

"Not at all. I'm flirting with *you*. I *court* demons. Tell me little
Watcher, do you disapprove?"

I clenched my glass, belatedly looked around the pub for anyone
who looked too closely at me. There were two near the back, a
couple with eyes for anyone but each other, but at that point I knew
I was more paranoid than alert.

"You're not really *surprised* are you? You've been initiated into one
of the last great... institutions of our age. Word gets around, especially
when an initiate goes missing..."

"What's the pitch, git?"

He pursed his mouth, and the expression made me wonder how he'd
missed his calling as an accountant of some sort, perhaps a clerk to a
secretary to an assistant to an Official and it was all just protective
clutter. If I could keep a good front up perhaps I could get out with
my skin, if not my dignity.

"Do you want to stay missing, Mr. Giles?"

"Are you *threatening* me?"

"On the contrary, I'm making you an offer. You have knowledge...
talents that we appreciate. Aren't you tired of wasting it on dry little
treatises? Thaumaturgic *theory* is about as useful as a whore
without a mouth... Join us, and all those old men will let you be."

"And if I don't?"

"Then we wait for the next baby Watcher with an actual spine to make
his or her way here, though I'd rather not get *that* much older before
we can.... well." Randall stood then, and slapped money on the bar.
"Do consider it, at least."

He hadn't been gone five minutes before I followed. I was... I was

I wish I could even say that it seemed like a good idea at the time, but
it didn't. Randall, when he wasn't making my flesh creep, was making
my knuckles itch. Every once in a while you come across an individual
sorely in need of a good beating, and he was it. Is it wrong to hope
that is purely *my* thought? There must be some continuity between
Ripper and Rupert Giles, or else I surely belong in some cheerfully
bland institution where I'd only get to write with felt-tipped pens.

I stand by the thought. Looking back, I still find Randall to be viscerally
*awful*, though in the midst of all that spoiled upperclass muck
there was a mind. Thaumaturgic theory *is* useless. When I think
about how many times I've had to cast spells I would have only
read about...

I try not to think about what could have happened if Buffy had *only*
a Watcher to rely upon. I would be lying if I did not admit to a touch
of pride in myself. My time in London was stupid, cruel, selfish, and
violent and yet, and *yet* it has been proven that it all had a purpose.

I do, I *do* still look for the world to make sense, and perhaps that
colors my judgment, but sometimes things do happen for a reason. I
have to believe that. Good can come out of anything, as can evil...
I'm babbling. I didn't think it was possible to babble without actually
opening one's mouth, but I suppose we learn something new each
and every day.

A part of me -- no, I won't be coy. *That* part of me, Ripper, longs
for me to get to the point, which would be, for him, where he first
made his appearance in my life...

Ah, my choices of personal pronouns are rather telling, aren't they?
I don't want to do anything *that part of myself* would approve of,
but that's as childish as anything else, isn't it? It is a part of the story,
this record, and I'll get to it when I feel like it.

God, there ought to be an off switch for petulance. Some bit of hex
that keeps adults from sounding like pissy fifteen year olds...

Randall led me to the Kermit Gardens, a modern apartment complex
neither lordly nor particularly green... The 'gardens' were clusters of
privet hedge masquerading as shrubbery. All pretense of stealth had
faded by the time we arrived, and Randall sketched a mocking bow as
he held the door open for me.

Inside apartment 17 ("Thirteen would've been simply too obvious..."),
I was greeted with yet another disappointing tableau. A young man
about my age glued to a football match, dressed as though he wanted
to be there. Blond curly hair and blank eyes for everyone not involved
in the game on the screen. Thomas Sutcliffe.

I never quite understood how he wound up with the rest... he didn't
seem to have quite enough boredom, football focus aside.... but I'm
getting ahead of myself. In one of the two back bedrooms were the
couple from the pub. I had the opportunity to congratulate myself for
my eye -- if belated -- while simultaneously cursing Randall for leading
us a merry chase when there was obviously a more direct route we
could've taken to get to the apartment.

If ever there was a metaphor for the man's brief life, that was it.

The couple were taking hits off an unnecessarily complex-looking
bong and the room was already grey with thick sweet smoke. The
woman had long not-quite-black hair in a messy braid down her
back. She wore a shawl, bellbottom jeans, and a tie-dyed shirt. She
was about ten years too late for everything, and she was Deirdre
Page. She nodded at me, blew a cloud at my face, smiled and
The man had the scraggles of what was probably supposed to be a
goatee, and a small wild cloud of dark hair. Whippet thin, brighter
eyes than the drugs would suggest. Phillip Henry.

I was given the rest of the grand tour -- other bedroom, complete
with cots, moderately frightening bathroom, closets full of occult
paraphernalia both childishly fake and all too real. It was clear how
the money was spent in this place.

We finally wound up back with Deirdre and Phillip -- never, ever
Phil -- smoked, smoked some more, listened to what seemed to
be Deirdre's *entire* collection of 60s psychedelia and waited.

"What the bloody hell are we waiting for, anyway?"

Randall blinked owlishly from where he was shrimp-curled in a corner,
dozed off again. Phil just rolled his eyes. Dee made a 'wait' gesture
and carefully, reverently, placed a Hendrix album on the hi-fi and
settled herself into the music before speaking.



"We're waiting for a who. Ethan."

"Fucking poof." Phillip.

"Our fearless leader, when he feels like it..."

Deirdre had the gift of seeming both amused and terribly bored at
the same time, a trick I was later to learn she performed much better
even than Ethan. But Randall mumbled something from his corner
about the fact that only covens had leaders and they were something
*more* than a simple coven...

I listened, I'm reasonably sure I listened, but it was all just drivel
about a New Age. If there was one thing I'd learned from the Watchers
it was that covens were *always* blathering about New Ages -- from
the pages of old, dusty books only the truly studious (or bored) ever
read. There was an irony I'd like to think I could appreciate even
then, stoned as one of Deirdre’s perfect hippies.

I was nearly sober by the time the man of the hour walked in -- I say
nearly because to this day I still can't believe Ethan would ever wear
*teal* eyeshadow, but my memory insists he was. He was also
encased entirely in leather, pants, jacket, vest, and boots. The only
thing that didn't come from a cow was the -- real, mind you -- feather
boa draped artistically over his shoulders.

Ethan used to believe in the concept of The Entrance the way most
people think they believe in God.

I remember putting on my best sneer -- at that age, pot hazing the
memory of Randall's ring, it was quite a good one -- and waited for
him to give me an opening to shove in. He did nothing but stare at
me, one eyebrow -- thicker than I'd expected, somehow -- cocked
before giving me the slowest and most suggestive once-over I'd ever
been subjected to.

"Ethan, darling, meet our new friend." Deirdre.

"Tommy mentioned him. Ru-pert, is it?"

He'd never stopped looking. I nodded in response, and probably tried
to come up with something better to say, suitably -- if hypocritically --
homophobic. Pissing about his eyeshadow would rather defeat the
purpose. I settled for shifting in what I can remember hoping was an
insolent manner.... God, I was *young*.

I was young and he made no bones about wanting me and the surge
of power was... I knew I wouldn't be leaving.

Looking back over what I've written I realize that I've given the most
attention to Ethan, and it's not true. That is, he *wasn't* the center
of my life. Deirdre became quite a close friend, and many of my
albums were gifts from her... I like to think she and Olivia would've
gotten on well together, they both had that drive to enculturate me...
She's probably the only reason I didn't go mad after... well.

Tommy was always on the periphery, it's true, but he had... something
like a *nose* for sorcery. Well, that and a pitch. So long as someone
translated the Latin, the Greek, the Sumerian or what-have-you for him
he could always pick out the bit of falsehood, the... I'm not sure how
to describe it.

Before civilization jaded us all the old scribes would purposely mis-write
certain spells to keep all but the truly initiated from using them
improperly. Tommy would have recognized Randall's ring as
something of power immediately, and would not have taken much
longer to find the flaw, however artfully integrated. I don't know how
many times we dragged him off the sidelines.

Phillip and I fought like relatives. Neither of us ever did anything to
the other, but we were both solidly *convinced* that the situation
could change at any given moment. Phillip was the only one of us
with a full, real, old-fashioned family waiting back home, and he
made us all proud to be bastards, even if only symbolically. Phillip
was in it for the money and the power, and counted me as just
another of the dilettantes.

Randall got the money from his trust fund, and... hovered, mostly
I suppose. He had little natural gift for the craft, and for all his big
talk, even less ambition. He had ambition for *us*, you see. I think
he saw himself as a cross between magnanimous benefactor and
Master Puppeteer. It kept us in beer and grimoires, to be sure.

And other things, too. There is a temptation within me to make
Randall out to be nothing more than a smug little worm, and while
he certainly had that within him... He was also the one who made
sure Dee got to the hospital when she accidentally overdosed, and
got Tommy's old, disreputable, beloved spikes repaired so the coach
wouldn't make him get new ones, and, let's face it, the one who gave
us the chance to *live* that life.

God help me, he remembered our bloody *birthdays*. I'm angry at
him. I've been angry at him for the better part of two decades because
he *didn't* have that bookkeeper life he was supposed to. The one
with a wife and a receding hairline and a paunch and two kids who
hated him right up until he died of a massive heart attack. Something.
*Something* like that.

It isn't really the fact that Randall died that soured the whole life for
me, not really. It's the fact he helped make it all happen. Part of the
orchestra for all the sordid horror. It's the fact that the only way I've
been able to push the memories down all these years was by telling
myself I hated him, and picking out every flaw I could find.

Ethan *wasn't* the center of my life, then, no, but I think I believed
he was, and it's somehow easier to think of him that way even now.
If I ball them all up with Ripper perhaps I can forget the dead. Write
it once and be done, yes?

Christ, what a joke.

Ethan crouched down so we were at eye level. It was at this point
that I realized I'd been staring the entire time as well. Looking away
just gave me views of long thighs wrapped in black, glimpses of pale
skin flashing... Made me feel vulnerable, too. I made eye contact again,
and he... didn't so much smile as radiate a sort of visceral approval
that managed to make me feel overjoyed and filthy at the same time.

Believe it or not, I had no idea I was hooked. I... feel like I should
mention how he looked then. Age and time have left him as ravaged
as myself, and I don't think they really can see... It's almost offensive
to me that I saw no signs of attraction toward Ethan from my charges,
even with all he had done, all they *knew* of what he'd done, it seems
wrong somehow that there were no speculative glances...

That's terribly sick, and I know it.

Back then, he was beautiful in the pretty way. Wide eyes, full lashes,
lean, muscled frame. Everything where it should be. His nose was
perhaps too broad at its bridge, but Ethan gave the impression that the
breadth was as intentional as a false beauty mark.

He's nowhere near as flamboyant as he used to be, and it saddens me.
Sometimes, perhaps more of the time than I want to admit, I could look
at Ethan and see nothing more than a beautiful thing, a confection of
contradictions, trouble and sex. I have no keepsakes of our time
together, nothing remotely permanent that I could hate myself for

We're both getting older. Old. I think it would be easier to distance
myself if he had remained as he was.

I think it would be easier to distance myself if Insert Anything That
Could Never, Ever Happen. Ah, Jenny, I hope you never see this...

He welcomed me from his crouch, brushed aside Randall's protests
about an initiation rite -- sorry, Rite of Initiation -- and offered his
hand. I shook it, he smirked at me, and then walked back out into the

And so it started.

I crashed there that night, and for weeks after that. I would wake up
some time around noon, eat whatever didn't look poisonous, and tear
into some questionably obtained text. Ethan would walk in sometime
after that, or perhaps appear from whatever bedroom I wasn't
sleeping in and spend some time gazing broodingly out the window.

Randall would appear over my shoulder, bright-eyed and pestering.
Deirdre would join us all just before sundown, Phillip and Tommy
came and went as they did. Sometimes Phillip would share whatever
knowledge he'd picked up from wherever he'd wandered to, sometimes
he'd just look vaguely contemptuous until I picked a fight.

Ethan buzzed at the back of my mind. He walked in on my beating
off one night, stayed to watch, then left without a word. He nixed
every spell I suggested. He mocked my clothes, my accent, my
education and my lack thereof. He came home reeking of sex
sometimes. He let food and milk go over in the refrigerator.

We... we didn't fight. We sniped quietly. Or rather, he sniped quietly
and I responded and I wound up fucking Dee a few times just to
keep myself from raping him.

It was two months before we found a spell 'worthy' enough to call
in the full coven. A spell of opening, in which the parties involved
leave themselves spiritually vulnerable. Almost, but not quite an
invitation to possession, but there were demons strong enough to
batter their way past the semantic quibble -- hence, the necessity
of the full coven.

This spell was the first step in the procuring of animal familiars.
Deirdre was convinced hers would turn out to be a newly extinct
species, Tommy thought we should all just go out and adopt puppies
or something, Randall positively glowed, Phillip gathered the
necessary equipment with silent, grim efficiency.

We stared each other down even more than usual... it didn't surprise
me at all that Phillip was the one to survive long enough to track me
down, to get nearly to my doorstep before falling prey to Eyghon.
There were times when I was sure he'd carry a failing spell through
by sheer force of will...

Ethan was late, again. Gave me an odder look than usual to which I
responded with nothing but my usual desperate arousal. I knew he
was playing games with me, wanting me to be the one who jumped
first, and so my only possible option was to grit my teeth and wait for
him to break. Deirdre... Deirdre was nice enough to play into the idea
that it really was *her* ass I kneaded, bit, kissed, slapped every time
I flipped her over.

It's too easy to feel this, even after all this time. Deirdre's scent and
taste tended to change with her fluctuating -- if always appalling --
eating habits, but underlying it all was the sense of dark hot green.
Tasting her was like tasting jungle... I like to believe that back then I
had sense enough to hate myself for wasting her affections. She never
let me apologize after it was all said and done, just gave me a smile
with the slightest hint of an edge and shook her head.

Told me to look her up when I was done 'pissing around' with Ethan.
Of course I protested -- this was well after the coven had disintegrated,
and I had refused to see Ethan at all -- but Deirdre practically snorted
at me. Sometimes I'm angry at her for never properly *warning* me,
and again I start to wish for that damned missing petulance switch.

So there we all were, in the second bedroom where I'd pretty much
made my home. Dee and I were on my mattress, and I made perhaps
my seventeenth useless mental note about acquiring actual sheets.
Tommy's never-used bedroll had been tugged a little closer, giving
the others somewhere to sit.

That... looks strange as I write it. There we were, on the 'cutting edge'
of sorcery (with books older than all of us put together, of course),
and we never *once* considered standing or kneeling on the bare
floor. Though Phillip always did... and would mutter darkly about
coming to The Powers as equals as opposed to supplicants...

There are a lot of things about Phillip that make far more sense now
than I ever let them do at the time. I see him then, angry and so
terribly ambitious, but overlaid on that is his corpse, bruised and
livid, shambling... Phillip's spirit is undoubtedly muttering the darkest
imprecations wherever it's supposed to be taking its rest. There's
something... uniquely obscene about nonconsensual possession.

Giving ourselves, *my* self to Eyghon was a powerful rush, a high
beyond all human comprehension. It was like swimming in flame, or
being fucked by the very air... I thank every god whose name I've
learned that I've never had to discover what it's like to be simply
taken by a demon.

'Well, there's always Ethan,' my mind provides, but he *is* just a
man, flesh and blood and vulnerability. I could undoubtedly murder
him with this pen if I ever put my mind to it, and that, too, is an
obscenity. The best platitude I've ever heard about death is 'no man
ever truly dies until the last one who remembers him is dead as well.'

The illusion of permanence is a welcome one. I feel... I feel as though
I ought to have put this all to rights years and years ago, and strictly
speaking I *should* have, and yet... it's not fair. Dee, Randall, Phillip,
Tommy... all gone. All gone long before I even gave myself the chance
to figure out where the hell they belonged in my mind. The dearly
departed, painfully to their eternal rest.

I'm still alive though, and I keep all of them alive, too. And those
people they were keeping alive as well, I suppose... Dee's three-legged
cat from when she was a child, Randall's father, Tommy's favorite
pub... what was it? The Luce. Whatever that meant. How much may I
allow myself to forget before they begin to die again?

Randall would have been better for this position.

In my more maudlin moments, I am tempted to believe that this record
is my punishment for being the one left alive. And then I imagine one
of them -- Dee, I hope -- sweeping down from on high to punish me
properly for my whingeing, and then I wouldn't have to do this after

It would be Ethan, then... I want to know how he'd write this all down.
What quiet little mockeries about me would fill these pages, or if I
would be merely a footnote. I want the detachment to be amused at
my anger for that last thought. I want to be *done* with this.

Lord help me if anyone reads this... my father would've disowned me
for all this... puling. Another joke -- *I* would've disowned me for all
this puling. Fuck that, I would've *shot* myself for it. Have I
mentioned my value to the coven yet? Not that anyone reading this
would believe, but I was the enforcer.

It was up to me to accompany people to the dark little shops in the
nasty bits of town and be nastier. To start bar fights, and collect the
bits of bloody tooth. *I* was the fresh blood, really. Young and
stupid and wishing for brutality to make up for all my failings, real
and imagined. It... worked so well.

And it started with the Opening rite, and my breezy irreverent Ethan.

"Aren't there any more *interesting* ways to invite our respective
familiars in? Leave some scraps at the window, maybe?"

"Don't be flip, Ethan. You'll wind up with a pigeon as your familiar,
and then what'll you do?" Deirdre, already smiling in anticipation of
a response.

"Do you mock the power of my brethren?" He made as if to sweep
grandly to his feet, pointed an accusing finger. "The sky-rats are
proud, noble creatures. Be wary, lest a rain of dribbly shit falleth
upon your heads!"

Another flourish before he settled again. Randall had pursed his lips
into that arsehole pucker that always marked the beginning of a truly
pissy evening. Phillip was trying to set fire to Ethan with his eyes.
Tommy lost his focus on the game on the radio long enough to snort,
and Deirdre was... delighted.

The only word for it. I knew the two of them had had some sort of
past, and Dee seemed to view Ethan as some form of beloved, wayward
pet. An aging Tom perhaps, trailing scandals and hideous brindle
kittens. I was jealous, of course. Even fully aware of the fact that he
*was* just a pet, and that I didn't particularly aspire to the position...

It was anger, lust, fear of my own pathetic or possibly soulless -- they
looked alike then, you see -- future. Jealousy was the closest thing to
what I felt like acknowledging. I knew it had to be *that* night,
whatever it turned out to be.

The Opening needed blood, of course, and also salt and sweat. The
flat was way too cold for the last, but Randall had come through
again -- fire in the trashcan I'd nicked from out back, real ash wood
from God knew where. Sweat in the bowl, gelatin, a scale, the eye of
a crow.

Mescaline. Philip had argued for meditation instead, but the rest of
us shouted him down. Randall had argued that the blood be spilled
before we began to trip, but Ethan had gobbled his right away -- forcing
us to do the same to provide the largest possible window of mutual
trance. I knew he did it on purpose, but it seemed all right. Right,

For a moment it seemed the universe had shaped itself to create the
little bastard purely to set in motion something I think we all knew
would probably turn out disastrous. There were no back-outs. Never
mind the idea of losing face, I think we all just wanted to *do*

Randall began the recitation, and we found our responses within
ourselves... Of course we had all studied, but there was the power of
a convergence about it, anyway, as though reading the words had
simply blown some of the dust out of our souls. The winter sun went
down and we were still chanting. The fire crackled and burned down to
a bit of glowing just behind Phillip. He gained a corona of red for a

Thinking about him now... it's almost as though the dark powers left
us each a distraction. Something to make us even more foolish in the
face of our seeking. My unreasoning rage at the world, Ethan's gleefully
shallow cuts at life, Dee's drugs, Tommy's distraction, Randall's...
Randall's perpetual second-son routine. He would never be a soldier,
and he harbored too many hopes for love to be a priest... and so
there was this.

We had more sweat than we could use by the beginning of the Third
Stage -- and it was finally propitious again to gather the blood. The
knife was true, honed by someone Randall would only describe as a
'professional'. There would be no dangerous flaws along the edge.
Phillip went first, cutting just behind his ear. There was a surprising
amount of blood... I, of course, had to go next, and I slashed my own

Christ, when I think now... I didn't damage anything, and Tommy
stitched me up after it was all over. Charmed in foolishness. You see, I
had to bleed more than Phillip. Dee, Randall, and Tommy were next, all
without incident or useless machismo.

Ethan was apparently having too good a trip. He dropped the knife --
hilt first, thankfully -- when Tommy handed it off and started laughing.
Pushed it around a little with his hand before he could pick it up. If he
said any actual words the casting would be lost. The rest of us traded
identical looks of fear and frustration, though I doubt we were all
thinking the same thoughts.

I'm not sure I was thinking at all.

I stepped over the bowl and pinched Ethan's lips shut with one hand
while reaching for the knife with the other. When he felt the point at
his throat his eyes seemed to yank themselves into focus. A perfect
moment of clarity between us, perhaps the very first. I knew he
understood what was at stake, but instead of removing my hand I
simply covered his mouth more gently.

I didn't move the blade at all.

I didn't turn around, either. I didn't want to see the faces.

I remember there being a bit of glitter at the corner of his eye, perhaps
deposited by sweat from his hair -- fashionably a bit too long. It must
have been irritating. I wanted to press it closer to the cornea with my
tongue. He didn't blink so much as he let his eyes fall... Surrender.
I... my cock surged.

I didn't cut him, I just twitched too hard. Ethan didn't move at all, but
I think I could hear his heart beating. I believe I did. Tommy jerked
the bowl under the wound and I crawled back to my spot... the
mattress was cold under me, everyone was much too close, and that's
all I can truly remember before the cats came.

Perhaps four dozen of them. Through the windows, up the stairs,
scratching at the doors, perching on the light fixtures, shedding
everywhere until they settled themselves. Once each cat found a
position it simply sat there, silent and unblinking. They only fought
when we tried to move them.

They stayed, voiding themselves where they sat, ignoring the food we
tried leaving by them, not biting at it when we kept it under their noses.
They didn't follow any of us, or all of us. The nullification spell fizzled
and died in countless ways. Ethan bailed the second night. I did when
I saw dust on their open, unfocused eyes.

Dee stayed until they began to die, one by one. No new cats came to
replace the casualties, thank God, but none of us ever really returned
save to do our bit to... clean. The apartment was spoiled, irrevocably.

We scattered. I found a squalid efficiency flat far too close to Heathrow
and a job as a bouncer. I honestly thought I was done, right up until
the moment Ethan found me.

I got home at three a.m. It was... it had to be late December. I got
home to find tinsel gallantly trying to make my iron bed frame festive
and Ethan walking out of my bathroom, bare to the waist. His hair
was still wet.

"Why the fuck are you using my shower?" It was the only thing I could
come up with.

"Is that any way to greet a coven-mate, Rupert?"

"I could think of a few others I might prefer. What're you doing here?"

"Tell me the other ways."


"Tell me how you want to welcome me."

His voice... and his eyes were fully focused on mine. The trace of
potentially cruel humor was there -- it always is -- but. I can't quite
describe it. It was as though Ethan was there, fully there. And I'd
never seen him that way before. I wasn't tired anymore.

"Is this how you want to play it, Ethan? More talk? 'cause if so, I could
just break your jaw, beat off and be done with it." A few weeks at the
Cully Dragon and my diction was shot to hell. I loved it. I loved it.

"Wouldn't you rather fuck my mouth instead?"

It was over before I'd even walked in the room, really. I stood there
with my mouth hanging open for a moment before rushing him. I
grabbed him by the throat and slammed in against the wall and
then... I waited. I suppose I expected a reply.

If I'd waited another five years or so I might've gotten one. As it
was... we looked at each other. His pulse raced under my palm, but
all he did was lick his lips. He trusted me, and it only made me
angrier. I tightened my hold and the fear was blatant again. Just a
flash in the eyes, but I could *smell* it on him.

It was precisely what I needed. I... devoured him. Right there
against the wall, and then on the floor. He was completely passive
until I bit his nipple too hard. He only fought me for a moment,
though, and then I think we came to a sort of near-silent

I pulled back just enough and he surrendered again. God, no one, *no*
one surrenders like Ethan. He was as pliant in my arms as a whore.
Loud, too. I didn't care, I loved it. I bit and sucked and lapped and
tried not to draw blood too many times and I wound up couching
myself in the cleft of his small, round ass and thrusting until I had to
yell myself.

When it was over I kept him pinned there beneath me, one hand on
the back of his neck. I could almost see us from outside myself, one
man wearing nothing but a shirt straddling another one, nude. Both
panting and sweaty and chilled... I didn't let either of us move until I
was ready to go again.

When I eased up Ethan didn't move. I watched him breathe. I still
remember all the bite marks on his skin, the bit of blood sliding down
under his right arm. I told him to turn over and he did, eyes not quite
squeezed shut, skin scraped here and there by the nap of the cheap

Hard and impossibly dark with blood.

There was this strange doubling in my mind -- along with the ugly
triumph of the sight, along with my rapidly growing hunger was the
simple realization that I hadn't done a thing for Ethan. I had used him
like a whore. But I didn't have enough time to grow sick about that -- I
like to think I would have -- before he spoke.

"Are you going to do something about that or are you just going to
stare, Rupert?"

And I had been. Staring, that is. Staring at his cock and getting harder
and harder. I felt myself flushing and the anger was hard on
embarrassment's heels. "You like being used, eh?"

A flash of something unreadable in his eyes -- I didn't want to know
what, and I still don't -- followed by a hard, cold little smile. "As much
as you enjoy using me."

And then he was up and over me in a movement I might have been
able to stop had there been any blood reaching any useful parts of
my anatomy. Ethan... kissed me. He tasted desperate and bloody, he
tested the sharpness of my teeth and sucked at my tongue. He kept
his eyes locked on mine as he moved down my body, as he took me

Perhaps the first time I wondered if he was a demon. It was the sort
of sex that you know will fill your fantasies for weeks afterward, and it
was over very fast. I watched him use my semen to slick his fist,
watched him take himself with brutal efficiency, all lean muscle and
wet sounds. He gripped my forearm with his free hand and held me
there. I watched him and wanted more.

We had about three weeks together before Randall tracked us down
again -- the Work had to continue. During that time I... still worked.
The first night back at the bar was perfectly normal, the second he
came in. Dressed for the wrong side of town and knowing it. Full glam
and sauntering into a pub full of criminals. He tipped me a wink before
he walked in, but before I could grab him I was accosted by one of the
more amorous barflies -- Lily her name was, or perhaps Lizzie.

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Ethan had paid her for her lousy

By the time I got out of her clutches and inside, Ethan was bent nearly
backwards over the bar by something resembling a pale, hairless ape.
There was a switchblade perhaps a hair away from his nose.

"'owd you like me to fix that pretty face of yours, fairy?"

"Isn't there anything else you'd like me to... fix?" Glance downwards,
lipstick soaked smile... The bartender was making rampantly
unenthusiastic shooing motions at the ape's cronies. Ethan didn't so
much as look in my direction, not even when the blade moved to just
beneath his eye.

"Say that again, eh?"

"Oh, bouncer? I think there might be a problem..."

It wasn't very long afterward when I realized that the brawl that
followed was something of an object lesson, at least in Ethan's point of
view. Lesson one: Violence, when directed at other people, can be fun.
I knew that one already, though.

Lesson two: I will do egregiously stupid things when Ethan becomes
involved, including such acts as breaking a bottle over the head of my
boss, and walking back in the bar in the first place.

Lesson three: Ethan is someone not to be trifled with. No one but me
saw the stilettos he pulled rather too expertly out of his puffed sleeves.
No one but me saw him sink them to the hilt in two of the cronies' legs
as they came to attack me.

Lesson four: It's never enough.

We didn't so much win the fight as make it to the door before things
got uglier. I'd taken a few blows to my ribs, had a cut above my eye.
The worst was a twisted ankle. After the first few streets taken at a
run, Ethan wound up supporting me the rest of the way back to the f
lat. We alternated silence and shared, jittery laughter.

I'd been hard so long I ached.

"That was lovely, Ripper. Truly lovely..." The first time he called me

Ethan only got so far as propping me semi-comfortably against the wall
behind my bed before he stripped off my pants and shorts and
unceremoniously sat on my cock.

I think I must have groaned -- we'd never done this. I'd never done
this to a man, period, for all my fantasies. He was hot inside, I could
almost imagine pain. Hot and -- as I realized when he began to move --
already slick. He'd prepared himself before coming to the Dragon. I think
I would've fainted had I not been so mindlessly intent on burying myself
in his body.

I remember exactly how he looked above me, bracing himself on one
hand, chin tucked to his chest, hair sweaty and wild. Blood from the
stilettos mingled with his sweat to stain the sleeves of his shirt. He was
stroking himself with his other hand. When I joined my hand to his he
moaned once, long and loud, and shot.

I pulled him closer and let myself go, felt his hands clutch at my hair,
knead at my back. Whispers of encouragement and insult, a tongue at
the cut over my eye...

By then... by then I knew I was hooked.

It went on until Randall woke us up one morning sometime far too
close to dawn. I'd picked up smoking by then, mostly the strange
Turkish things Ethan would find in the little holes in the wall we'd pass,
walking at night.

There was one night we were on a bridge... later he told me about the
joys of being the genuine bastard of a peer, and asked for a kiss...

But I was talking about dawn, and Randall.

He took one look at me and took a step back. I became aware of the
cuts and bruises I wore, of the suck marks low on my abdomen and
the ugly torn state of my knuckles at about the same time I became
aware of my fierce pride about it all.

"God, Rupert, finally! Do you have *any* idea how hard it was to
find --"

Hands around my waist, stubbled chin resting on my shoulder. I
could feel Ethan's smile, and his nakedness. "Call him Ripper."

"... you..."

Randall put on his Man of the World face before giving his revised
sales pitch. Newer spells, more fail-safe, outbuildings of his father's
estate, we're needed, great things to come...

I slammed the door in his face and took Ethan back to the rank,
rumpled bed. It was another day or so before Ethan gave me his
own pitch.


"Yeh?" I remember deliberately shortening, sharpening the syllable.

"I've had a few... ideas."

"Have you, then?" I felt myself stirring under the sheet, kept my
face in what I called 'blank' in those days.

"Oh yes. But... we need the others."

"Oh, for fuck's sake. Why?"

"Because I've found something far, far better than mescaline. Torek,
Ahhse, Eltuwe..."

A gesture over my eyes and then... It felt as though my spine
thickened, lengthened into a pole piercing my skull and extending to
the far wall. I was spitted on myself. From a distance I heard Ethan's
voice come to a stop, and then a touch to my breastbone and I
was... gone.

I went from one whole man to countless motes of screaming existence.
The wind in the drafty flat took me everywhere. Occasionally bits of
me would come together close enough, long enough to coalesce. I
saw my still form on the bed and I saw Ethan staring at it curiously
from so many angles at once I...

My body orgasmed viciously, and suddenly there was a whirlwind of
myself and then I was back, coughing and gasping. Ethan had his
arms around me, rocking me slightly, unconsciously. Talking fast.

"... hold it for so long. With more people, we could split ourselves
endlessly, spread over the countryside and see everything we wanted
to --"


"We could learn to control it..." Ethan paused, traced one finger
through the semen on my belly. "And even if we didn't... well, it's not
as though I see you complaining."

It was true enough... I was still trembling.

"And besides, Ripper, I think we can make things a little different
around the coven."

I'd agreed before Ethan had even begun to lick me clean.

We were someplace all done up in green and white. Spanish-tiled roofs
and real, old-fashioned stone matching all the evergreens and snow.
You could only see the red edges of the tile from underneath the
snow. The red didn't register so much as red as a necessary part of the

Tommy built himself a sled out of old planking, Phillip wandered through
the ancestral lands night after night. Deirdre bitched about the cold and
gradually collected a truly impressive set of pillows, which slowly
blackened from fireplace soot.

Randall's presence was spotty -- being this close to his family apparently
gave him obligations.


Ethan bitched less about the cold than about what it did to his wardrobe
choices. I tried not to let how impressed I was by our new surroundings
show, and I failed. While none of us had ever been remotely close to
truly *poor*, the Kermit Gardens were quite a bit closer in luxury level to
my home than this place.

I did my share of wandering, careful to avoid Phillip's direction save
when I was drunk enough to be a belligerent ass, as opposed to simply
an ass. Ethan saw the class consciousness in my eyes, and showed me
his own. He never came with me, precisely, when I walked but he
always caught up with me eventually.

One night he brought lighter fluid and matches and we built ourselves
a nice old-fashioned fire, scorching a good 15 feet of ground. He'd
also brought a thermos full of tea-laced whiskey, a few chunks of cold
ham, and a sad, scraggly little thing that had to be the last joint in
the house -- it was well past time for a city run.

I was... touched. To the core. Hideously so. I still am, I think. I asked
him what the occasion was and he shrugged. I knew enough to keep
my mouth shut. We ate, drank, smoked, ate more. Huddled in our
coats, cursed each other out for forgetting blankets. The fire did its
job, though, as did the drink.

It was hours before I realized we'd been, essentially, cuddling each
other. Wide awake under the stars, wrapped in each other and
comfortably silent. I tensed, and there was no way Ethan didn't feel it.

There were another few moments of silence, less comfortable now
before he spoke again.


"Yeh." The closest thing we had to familiar territory.

"I have an idea..."

We engineered a haunting for the main house -- something not
especially difficult. The house, somewhere between mansion and
castle, had been in Randall's family for generations. Randall's noble,
bored, and mildly inbred family. So many secrets for the stealing...

All my life, in all of my incarnations, one thing has remained constant:
Knowledge. Old and hoarded as a miser's gold, dusty and dangerous.
As much of a vice as anything else, the way I've used it, but I choose
to believe I have a handle on it now. I study for Buffy's sake. I hunt
the secrets for the cause of good, now, and if I keep them inside me
after they've been used... well who knows when they'll be needed

Ethan and I, the bastard boy and his willingly blind slave, took Randall
to a seedy country pub -- we'd both agreed the woods wouldn't do --
and plied him with the cheap ale he'd developed a taste for.

And flirtation... I've crossed out the words 'of course' here because
they don't quite fit yet. That is, at the time of Randall and the pub,
the use of sex to get what I wanted had not yet become something...

I'd balked at it loudly, as a matter of fact. It was one thing to fuck
Ethan until my brains dribbled out the end of my dick, it was another
to be...

"Me?" Ethan paused, arching an eyebrow as he rested on his elbows,
on our bed. "That's it, isn't it, Ripper? I'm good enough to fuck but
not good enough to be?"

From anyone else I think the words would have been hurt and hurting,
perhaps spat viciously, perhaps cried... something. I'm wishing even
now that he wouldn't let me get away with things I did twenty years
ago. I remember swallowing the urge to temper my answer, to stammer
and backtrack. I remember being disgusted by the urge. I simply
said: "Exactly."

"Exactly. But of course, you wouldn't have me *any* other way... I
suppose I'm doomed to be your dark little secret. Will you let me steal
your good little wifey's clothes after you've drifted back to your good
little life?"

I snorted at him, somewhat with him, and slapped his bony hip. I was
being given an opportunity to read the whole encounter as more of
the usual, and I took it. "Of course, though the knickers'll probably be
a bit roomy on you."

Ethan wriggled obligingly. "Ah, so it's fattening up you want from me.
Well, you'll get none o' that until I get my chocolate cherries." A trace
of Wales in his voice, there and gone. It seemed to mean 'housewife'
to Ethan the way certain Midwestern accents mean the same to my

I laughed, shaded my eyes from his gaze with my most uncomplicated

"Listen, Rupert," I had the impression I was being scolded. "He didn't
greet you the way he did *solely* to be scandalous. You've seen the
way he looks at us..."

Hungry, jealous, mildly embarrassed. Randall... God, he looked as
though he was quite sure that at any given moment the popular boys
would notice he was there and cut him to his knees. And so he might
as well take what he could, first.

Ethan gave me a look that suggested he was doing nothing more than
giving me the time to figure things out by myself. It would've worked
better if the matter was of any consequence, but I surrendered just
the same...

In retrospect I have to wonder how much value *Ethan* placed on
my casual self-debasements. But we took Randall out just the same,
and flanked him, and got him drunk, and clasped our hands together in
his lap under the table. The simplest sorcery, older than our books.
Randall gave us reams of sordid detail about his family, and Ethan and
I burned it into ourselves, sharing looks at phrases that seemed

"...bit of a scandal when the *14th* maid disappeared..."

"...five pregnancies, four children..."

"...ancestry something of a tangle, perhaps even a snarl when you
go back that far..."

"... simply mad, that's all."

Once begun, Randall barely stopped long enough to drink. After a while
I'm not sure he even noticed our proximity, or all his neighbors in the
pub, or anything at all, really. He was... far away.

Later, much later, Deirdre said that once there was going to be a book
about it all, plain and detailed, but that Randall's family had been less
than encouraging. In the end, we had more than enough for a
thousand touches of spirit mischief. By the time Ethan called it a night,
however, Randall was far too drunk to accept our reward, falling asleep
as we rubbed ourselves off beside him.

"See? All that fuss for nothing, Ripper."

Is blindness a tragedy if the blind have no urge to see? I can almost
feel something hitting the back of my head as I write -- that last
sentence would've caused Ethan severe physical pain. I must admit I
have trouble blaming him, and yet the sentiment behind it is real. I
wasn't sure why I was bothering to relate all of this until now.

The spells were simple, and simply cast. Opportunistic spirits of the air,
old enough to have forgotten their own identities and ever weak... we
called them and they came through our words and Randall's memories,
dressing themselves as Caldwells and Billingses and leaving draughts
of guilty conscience all about the family home before forgetting
themselves again.

A few weeks of small amusement, nothing more. And yet remembering
it all now... Just between Ethan and I, just in terms of our relationship,
I realize that I see the Nostalgia Incident as one of the scores of little
failures that meant... that kept us from being anything more than what
we were.

Just as I hated him for being desirable to me, so was he ill-equipped to
understand why, as Randall snored blamelessly beside us, I could think
the words 'but it's the principle of the thing' and be completely serious.

Not to say I realized the error of my ways at that point. Not at all. The
flash of conscience had been undeniable, but it had also been
unwelcome. We had used Randall, but we hadn't used him very hard.
We wouldn't set the spirits on him, and not just because he would've
known them for what they were and set something worse on us
immediately. Lastly...

I simply did not want to think anything upsetting. Ethan was still half
under me, shifting between a light drowse and one of his more
pleasant post-coital habits: Little sucking bites, wherever he could
reach. Too slow and gentle to be sexual, too mindless to be...
dangerous. They kept us both in a state of buzzed half-arousal, allowed
the touch we both craved...

Even then, I think I must have had some idea that it couldn't last, not
in the way we were going.

I wanted to savor those moments with Ethan when everything seemed
essentially all right, and when we could be together without either
words or desperate need.

I wanted to love him more, better than I did without fearing for my soul.
While a flash of conscience was the best way for me to reach those
parts of myself I hadn't yet given to the man, it was also the best way
to fear.

"Ripper, *please*."


"Why can't.... why can't you shift off enough for me to breathe?"

Sometimes I let myself fill that pause, that tiny little moment, with things
that could have changed the way it all turned out, but right now it feels
like too much.

The second time we all came together as a coven was also, as it turns
out, really the last. While there were many times following where we
were all in the same room... well.

We'd been toying with Ethan's trick, the explosion of spirit, pretty much
since we'd arrived at the estate. Two people holding the split was little
different than one, at least for me. Three was... oddly deeper. Four
people holding the split... I was gone from myself for an hour before
Tommy collapsed, breaking me back into the whirlwind.

I spent the next two or three days coming down... the others assured
me I was perfectly normal in appearance, if a bit subdued, but I
remember... I remember the wind carrying me a hundred places at
once, I remember being inhaled by a dying field mouse, I remember
becoming the mouse, and dying small and baffled.

I remember the increasingly futile and utterly inescapable attempts to
report everything back to the body on the bed, and I remember the
terror as parts of myself wandered too far away to hear.

By the time the circle had been broken... I'm not sure if the sensation
of change was real or just a side-effect from the come-down. The way
I came back...

They said I told them all about it, and it wouldn't surprise me if I
had... but the first time *I* was fully conscious of myself was when
I found myself preparing the way for Phillip with the others. All of
them. I knew and didn't know where I was, and I did the only thing I
could think to do -- I followed their lead.

Phillip didn't come back alone.

We'd been chanting quietly, taking the extra -- and usually
unnecessary -- step of holding hands to help us stay in time with
each other. I was flanked by Randall and Dee, one small, soft hand,
one surprisingly large and callused one.

I never did ask her what sort of work she'd done to get the calluses... one
more memory death for the pile.

Phillip came upright in front of us -- I suppose jerked would be a better
word. First his back was at a perfect 90 degree angle to the floor, then
the knees bent, then the... figure tipped forward and then he was up,
arms outstretched in still and uncharacteristic welcome.

None of us had broken the circle.

"New friends so many so powerful... you will be my new friends, won't

Randall didn't miss a step, though his hand was clammy in my own.
"Who are you?"

"I am Eyghon. You know me, don't you Rupert Giles also known as

I longed for a cross. I knew Eyghon, yes, but only as another Thing
To Avoid, If Possible. I felt my age profoundly. "I know of you,

"I felt you coming towards me, surrounding me... do you remember

"No." I did then, but I don't now. I don't.

"Bored, ambitious liars, all of you... you *will* be my new friends. But

Phillip flopped to the floor, vacant and still for a sick moment before
arching up off the floor, screaming. It was over quickly, and then Phillip
was back, truly. Cursing, sweating, taking the entire room in wild-eyed,
and patting himself all over. "Am I... Is this who I am?"

Ethan snorted nervously. "Well, *that's* up for debate at the moment."

"Stop fucking around." Deirdre, then. "Phillip, what do you remem --"

"Ow... what the fuck is wrong with my arm..." Phillip pulled off his
turtleneck and we all saw. A fresh tattoo, pure black, still bleeding and
swollen. "Oh shit. Eyghon."

Of course, he remembered every last bit of it. Instead of drifting out
over the world in a thinning blanket of himself, Eyghon had caught him
just as we'd torn him from his body. Eyghon, who had felt our energy
and drifted to us. And waited.

The mistake was instantly obvious -- we'd been so focused on,
essentially, flaying one of our number wide open that no safeguards had
been in place. We'd staked out a sacrificial goat. I... have to wonder
how much of me had been in Eyghon's grip until I came fully back to

Just in time to stake out someone else.

I'm having trouble calling up the time at right at this moment. Everything
is so *obvious* from this viewpoint. From any viewpoint, really, that
wasn't ours. Phillip remembered everything and recounted everything in
thrilled, nearly breathless detail.

He'd not been possessed -- his body had remained vacant until he had
invited Eyghon in -- but his spirit had been seized.

"I felt that spine thing you talked about, Rupert, and then I was...
swallowed. God, heat all around me, vision pinpointed in exquisite
detail... I saw all of you, of course, and then Eyghon showed me...

The look on Phillip's face was beatific.

"The power... I felt it."

Phillip had found a new god, and the rest of us... no, I won't hide myself
in the crowd. I looked at him and knew the same jealousy, the same
irrational competition as always. I'd died a mouse, Phillip had seen...
something entirely new.

I wanted it.

I wasn't alone.

Conveniently, Eyghon had left Phillip with explicit instructions on how
we all could get it. We fell to preparing immediately. The only thing
that gave us pause was the matter of the tattoos... not that I was
particularly reluctant to get a tattoo, but who to trust?

The design was not something meant to be spread... at least we had
enough to sense to see that. I like to think it could've ended there, but
there was always Ethan... looking out the window on greying slush. I
think it was February.

"Ethan, darling, didn't you tell me you'd --"

Ethan whirled on Deirdre, mouth set in a line. "That was a long time

"What was a long time ago, Ethan *darling*?" The timing was beautiful,
really -- I was *primed* to go after Ethan. Keeping something away
from the coven. Keeping something from *me*, after I'd sold myself...

"Nothing, Ripper, I --"

Deirdre, drunk on possibility... maybe she just wanted to commune
with the profoundly inhuman but sentient. Maybe she just wanted
something new, like me, like the rest of us. "Oh, but this is *wonderful*.
Ethan knows how to do tattoos, he gave himself one, right?"

"Is that so?" I advanced on him, shot a hand to his throat. Pulled the
blow just before I made contact and laid my thumb on his pulse.

Ethan took a moment to recover before giving me his archest glare.
"I suppose I've been hired, then?"

"I suppose you have. Does that bother you?" There wasn't a trace of
sympathy in me, not then.

"Am I the only one a bit reluctant to give it up to some entity the
resident Watcher isn't even sure he's heard of?"

"Like you ever hesitate to give it up anyway."

Snorts from behind us, laughter... real anger in Ethan's eyes just long
enough for me to register it, followed by a cold smile. "Good point,
Ripper. Would you like to go first?"

Hindsight, hindsight... Ethan refused to do them all in one night, and
needed an extra day just to do his own -- a complicated affair with a
mirror and no anesthesia of any kind, unlike the rest of us.

I watched him do it, looking over his shoulder into his expression. Left
arm resting on his thigh, teeth gritted, a bit of sweat at his temples.
Tense as a bowstring. He didn't meet my eyes in the mirror, and I
was... lonely.

"Where'd you learn to ink, anyway?"

"Why, Ripper... there are all sorts of places an enterprising young man
can pick up a trade, if he is willing and bright."

I had his eyes then... in my mind I don't picture the two of us as we
looked then. I can see him looking at me, laugh lines crinkling his eyes,
lips curled into a rueful smile. Looking at me, into me. Laughing at us.

When he was done, I dabbed the blood and excess ink away. I leaned
him back against me and rested my mouth against his ear.

I didn't apologize.

After that things moved very quickly. The circle was made and Eyghon
was in us, all at once. The connection was fiercely unromantic, a band
of energy coursing through us, showing us all the things we'd been too
decent to ask out loud.

The face Deirdre left behind in 1968, and never admitted. Randall's
collection of sounds and images, stolen from us as he spied. Tommy's
utter emptiness, behind the smile. Phillip's rages and Ethan's nightmares
and my... self. Naked in my own mind, stripped of the lies I'd told to
and about myself, brutish and terrified.

There for me to see, there for my instinctive denial to strengthen, then
whisked away through all of us. And then pulsed out of my soul into
the center of the circle, along with the rest of them... and there was
Eyghon, pockmarked and feverishly hot. The air baked around him, dried
our throats.

"So much potential here... I so appreciate your invitation."

The voice settled in my jaw bone, shook it and made my ears bleed. My
body strained for more of the delicious feeling, the tempering fire. I
wept with joy, focused only on the creature turning and turning within
our circle.

And that was barely a fraction of what I felt when Eyghon poured *all*
of itself into me... A moment to be smothered in the burning, covered
and owned by an ancient. Old times, scenes flashing before me, all
dark, all strained with passion. My mind felt full, the old languages were
fluid as English, my self was lost within something... wise.

Subtle, in the old definition of the term.

When Eyghon passed out of me, I was bereft, and just barely conscious
enough to feel the lack. How did I describe it to Buffy? A high. Yes,
well, I suppose that was accurate enough.

In the weeks that followed Eyghon used all of us, or we used it. I was
never entirely sure what it was getting out of simply passing in and
out of our willing bodies. The only warning we had before it entered
Randall for the last time:

"My lovely ones, I prefer the number five."

Randall came roaring at us, kicking, clawing and tearing. Glass broke,
candles fell over and guttered out in wax. Dee was screaming, Phillip
was knocked clear across the room... we wound up having to drop him
off at an emergency room, running to hide from the questions.

Questions... there was no time for any of them, nothing but Randall's
slitted pupils and his thumbs struggling to disappear in Deirdre's flesh.

"You all make me so *hungry* --"

The rest of its sentence -- I count it as a blessing it chose not to use
Randall's voice -- cut off in a gurgle. I saw blood spurt from his throat,
I saw the hilt of Ethan's knife jutting out like one of Frankenstein's
bolts, and I saw myself reaching in to finish the job.

And then, nothing. After the horrible, meaty thud, nothing but harsh
breathing. I licked my lips, tasted Randall's blood, and vomited

Tommy... Tommy took one of the still-burning candles and lit the

Deirdre lit the couch.

Ethan opened a can of gasoline, and kicked it splashing down the

I... retrieved the knife and threw Phillip over my shoulder.

And that was all.

His parents... I think they assumed we'd been doing drugs. There was
no inquiry into anything at all, and we scattered, unscathed. Utterly

I found another bouncer position, was eventually fired for drinking on
the job. Ethan came and left as he pleased, and always brought his
own bottle. We didn't talk. Deirdre went home to her younger sister...
the others found their own way. Or so I assumed.

I didn't keep in touch.

I remember Ethan growing quieter each time he came for me, and
the way I'd wake up sodden sometimes, and wrapped in his arms. He
didn't call me Ripper, then. Not for years afterward. He didn't use
any name for me at all, really.

I was grateful.

It's hard to believe sometimes, but I had far more time mostly on my
own than with any of the others. The weeks passed in a long grey
stretch of determined shock.

When the Watchers finally came for me, I was ready to sell my soul
for another chance, and in the end I suppose I nearly did. I threw
myself into my studies, cut my hair, drank too much only after exams,
and... got on with things.

After a while, it was all so far away from who I was that I could
breathe again. I turned Ethan away when he called, I didn't open the
letters I received, save Deirdre's, but in the end she sent me back to
the Watchers.

I was quite sure I belonged there anyway.

Even if I was never sure enough to make Ethan's choice. A little acid, of
the sort that would have bored Deirdre to tears.

I tell myself I'm laughing.

Yes, the fatalism of it would have appealed... but I can be honest here. Dear
God, I can *try* to be. Eyghon showed me my rage, yes, and my endless
petty brutalities, but he delighted in my fear.

There was never anything I feared more than the death of the possible,
of hope itself.

And the powers laugh themselves sick at that sort of foolishness every day.