Prompt/Challenge: 31 – Another darn apocalypse, and the only solution, is finding the right type of ‘poison’ (only for the baddie) to kill the oncoming beast. Giles (and perhaps Ethan and Buffy, or both) have the duty to help him on his quest. Unfortunately, it is all based on taste, and requires a raid on the local liquor store.
Summery: Trouble dogs Ethan’s footsteps, like a shadow.
Characters: Giles and Ethan, and a guest appearance by Buffy. She didn’t want to stick around, I’m afraid.
A.N: Hope you don’t mind what this turned into, Fox. It developed a life of its own. A.N 2: This is the first of three, that I'll be posting over this month.
Title: The Demon’s Drink
He should have known that nothing good was going to come from a knock on his door, even if it was in the middle of the afternoon, rather than the middle of the night. No-one that he knew ever knocked, they just barged in, or, if it was in the aforementioned middle of the night, then they had a bad habit of breaking the door down. He also should have known better than to open the door, without first looking through the peephole, but that was a matter for when he berated himself later.
The last thing that he expected to find on his doorstep was a man wearing the guise of Ethan Rayne. It had to be a guise, because surely the real man wouldn’t be that foolhardy, would he?
The lips of the guise turned up into that familiar smile, the one which held so many sharp edges and twisted thorns, and rose what looked like an old scroll, before he had a chance to ask exactly what the hell was going on.
“Let us eat, drink and be merry,” the figment of his imagination said, by was of greeting.
‘For tomorrow we shall all be dead’ his mind automatically filled in that rest of the old saying, and as he finally opened his mouth, hoping it would help in formulating a reply, the thing that he was beginning to suspect might actually be real, began to speak again.
“Or at least drink. The rest is debatable in its necessity.”
Giles took a deep breath, mostly to allow himself a few seconds in which to think, before he replied, “What the hell are you talking about, and what in the world makes you think that I would ever allow you near me with any form of liquor ever again?” Okay, so it wasn’t have as witty as anything that Ethan might ever have come up with, but at least it was to the point, and conveyed the kind of tone that he wanted.
“You have to do it,” Ethan (okay, yes, he was willing to go as far as to admit that this was Ethan) leaned a hand against the door, so that he couldn’t slam it closed, and then rested his full weight against that, just to be doubly sure, “I’m sure that it’s your civil duty, or your civic duty, of some other such form of crap. You’d know the words better than I would, of course, old man, with you proper education, and all that guff.”
“Getting drunk with you, is something that I have to do?” he asked in a incredulous tone, “Well, I think that maybe you should back up a few steps and explain yourself, or remove yourself from my doorstep, before I take steps to do so myself.”
Finally, a little of that glittering mirth left Ethan’s eyes, and was replaced by a trace of seriousness that he didn’t often see on the sorcerer’s face, “I’m afraid I’m talking about the end of the world, Ripper; the big anti-bang, the end of days, whatever you want to call it.”
“So, what makes this one so special?” Giles asked, his heart rate quickening a little, in response to Ethan’s seriousness. If Ethan Rayne was ever serious, then it was either a cold day in hell, the day that pigs had finally taken flight, or it really was the end of times. It was impossible to guess which one it actually was, with a Chaos Worshiper’s involvement.
“I’ve got the knowhow for how to stop it, that’s what. Look, can I come inside, please? I do prefer to discuss the oncoming apocalypse in comfort.”
Giles wanted to think about it for a few moments, but Ethan took advantage of his hesitation, to push past him and throw himself down on the couch in the sitting room, and Giles barely had a chance to close to door and follow him, before the scroll a tossed in his direction. Under normal circumstances, a scroll didn’t fly particularly well, but what about Ethan was ever a normal circumstance? It flew to him, even though he was in the doorway of the sitting room, and the couch was pushed up against the far wall, and he caught it in his left hand.
Ethan flashed him another one of those mocking smiles, which made him feel like a cat that was deliberately having its fur stroked in the wrong direction.
“What’s got you so interested in this apocalypse, anyway?” Giles tried again. He knew it could have been as simple as ‘I don’t want to die’ but it usually took a lot more than that to get the likes of Ethan dealing with the side of good.
“The art, Ripper, purely the art,” he laughed. “It’s a critter called a Hooavian, planning to summon a creature to swallow the earth, at midnight.”
“And the ‘art’ to which you refer to?” Giles asked, trying to resist the urge to stand over Ethan, and glare down at him. He knew that Ethan liked the spice of menace, and the last thing that he wanted to do, was give him what he wanted.
“The art is in the fact that there has been one account of the creature being summoned before, and there was a very specific poison that worked on it. Poison to the beast, not to people, that is. The basic chemical composition is written on that thing,” Ethan nodded towards the scroll, which was just shy of being crumpled in his fist, “and then the fun comes into things. As well as that, you’ve also got a description of the flavour of the poison there, to work towards, and apparently it has to be specific, if it’s going to work.”
With the fingers of apprehension clutching around his stomach, Giles stopped pacing, unrolled the scroll and stared down at it, mind working quickly to work out the chemical.
“That’s alcohol,” he finally said, after he recovered, from the stunned feeling that had washed over him.
“Precisely, and I know no one else better at working to a description than you are. Hence the reason I bring the end of the world to you. There is no one else whom I would rather trust my future with, you know?” Ethan grinned at him, as though he was offering him a real treat, on top of an old chore.
“Typical. And I suppose it has nothing to do with the fact that you probably had nothing else better to do tonight?”
“Oh, there’s always something to do. I just thought that I might be selfless tonight.”
“You?” Giles spat, “You, selfless? Dear Lord, the world really must be ending. What’s the matter, haven’t you been offered a chance to sit at this demon’s right hand, and lord it up?”
“No, it’s not that at all,” Ethan swung his backpack up onto the coffee table, “It’s more along the lines that I happen to like the status quo.”
“Really?” Giles asked, dryly, more that a little sarcasm creeping into his tone.
“Besides,” Ethan spread his arms wide, “do you honestly think that I’d miss an opportunity like this, when it falls into my lap? So come on, what do you say we hit the liquor store, and get started working towards this flavour? I’ve got a great little spell, that I’ve been itching to try, that should get me out without cameras, or people, spotting me. All that you’ll have to do is sit out in the car and be ready to step on it, in case something goes wrong.”
‘In case something goes wrong?” Giles asked, as his head caught up with the tail end of the sentence, before he processed the rest of it, “Oh, for God’s sake. You are not robbing a bloody liquor store, even if it is the end of the world. Besides, you’ve shown me this,” Giles raised the basic recipe and description, but you haven’t offered me a single shred of proof about any of this.”
“Damned spoilsport. Trust me?” he asked, with that smile that always made Giles’s fist curl.
“Not if it would help prevent the end of the world.”
“I forgot how tight you were wound,” Ethan said, in a tone that conveyed that, in fact he hadn’t forgotten at all, as he rolled his eyes, and dug into his bag, to pull out a book that had yellowed pages, and was covered in old, cracking leather.
“Don’t what?” Ethan asked.
“Don’t roll your eyes. It makes you look like a teenager,” Giles sighed, and ran his hand through his hair, as he felt a hint of the exasperation that he always felt, whenever he was dealing with Ethan.
“But, they say you’re only as young as you feel.”
“Well, yes, but at you age, you ought to be a little more mature,” then Giles frowned, “No, sorry, I almost forgot who I was talking to.”
“Now that won’t do, Ripper,” Ethan clucked his tongue, “That won’t do at all.”
Giles took the book, and scowled down at it, looking at the cover, “Do you honestly think that I’m stupid? If there’s information about a demon that’s allergic to alcohol in The Corriandus, then I’ll eat my hat.”
“So, how were you planning on eating it? Boiled, fried, or baked? I suppose I could do a nice hat wellington, in béarnaise sauce, that might be palatable,” Ethan asked, in a tone that was mostly pleasant, but still held a hint of an edge, “I’m not stupid, either, Ripper. The information is at the back, on an old piece of sheepskin. Well, actually, the sheepskin isn’t all that old, but I think it may have been the only thing around at the time. It was that kind of a feeling about it.”
Giles put a foot up on the coffee table, and opened the book while resting it against his knee, which was a gesture that took Ethan back over a decade, to when they had been debating about the use of magic, and whether it was safe to use it for fun. He had cracked book after book, in the exact same manner, and they had argued through night after night, with Giles standing like that, and quoting out loud like some lordly scholar. In the end, Ethan had won the arguments, but there were still times in the small hours of the morning, where he wondered whether it might have been better if he hadn’t. He watched as he bit his lip, finger moving down the page, as he translated the Latin notes that were jotted down, and stared at the sketch, before flicking his gaze back up to Ethan, without moving his head.
“That’s that, then,” he said, after what felt like a rather long time, “Pretty ugly bugger, too,” he said.
“Yes, it really is.”
“There’s just one thing, Ethan,” he said, just as Ethan was beginning to relax a little again.
“And what might that be?”
“There’s no way that this thing can come into the world on it’s own,” Giles shut the book with a snap, and dropped it onto Ethan’s lap, with enough force to make him wince, then put his leg down and crossed his arms, “It has to be summoned. So, if you know that this thing is going to be summoned, then I’m given to thinking that you know a lot more about things than you’re saying.”
Ethan met his gaze for a fraction of a moment, then broke eye contact, and stared just past him, “I…’
“I’m only going to ask once, Ethan. Level with me.”
“I…I might have been discussing the finer points of summoning with someone, and I might have managed to rub someone up the wrong way, and they might have just been able to get access to a book that detailed just how to summon a beasty that was capable of destroying the world, to get back at me.”
“So, you’re saying that someone, a ‘critter named Hooavian,’ if I remember your words rightly, is planning on destroying the world, in order to be rid of you? Truly, I can sympathise with the feeling,” Giles said, sharply, “so it’s all more the pity, that the world isn’t acceptable collateral.”
“Oh, come now, Ripper, I’m not that bad, am I?”
“Did you want me to answer that, or I shall I just glare?” he asked, in spite of himself, trying to keep a smile from off his face. If there was one thing that Ethan never was, then that was boring.
“So, come on, then,” Ethan said, as though the last part of the conversation had never happened, “Let’s hit… err, visit that store.” He corrected himself, as Giles’s eyes narrowed at him.
“As this thing can be laid squarely at your doorstep, it’s your pocket that it’s going to be coming out of, too.”
“That’s no problem,” Ethan smiled, and pulled a depressingly fat wallet out of his trouser pocket, which he tossed to Giles, “I think dark magic pays slightly better than working for the common good.”
Giles scowled, and resisted the urge to toss it back at his head, hard, “Yes, let’s move.”
Ethan stood, and pushed past him, leading the way out to the car, like he owned the place, and it took everything within Giles’s power not to take a leaf out of his book, and roll his eyes. He could hardly do something that he’d just scolded someone else for. He could, however, make a sound of dissatisfaction, and this he did do with great relish.
Choosing not to comment on the fact that Ethan had let himself into the locked car, while Giles still held the key, he simply unlocked the driver’s side door, and buckled himself into the driver’s seat.
“The car, though, I thoroughly approve of. Far better than that old thing you used to drive.”
Again, Giles glared at him out of the corner of his eye as he started the car and pushed the clutch down to slide the gear into reverse, before pulling out of the parking lot.
“Remind me why I shouldn’t ring the military and thank them for the wonderful job that they did, in rehabilitating you?”
Ethan looked away from him, but not before he seemed to loose a few shades of colour, and Giles made a note not to bring it up again, unless he wanted one hell of a fallout to deal with. It wasn’t often that they drew a line with one another, but a part of that was in knowing where to do it, when it had to be done.
It was a short drive to the liquor store, and after he pulled, they both got out in synch with one another, and closed the doors of the car with a sound that made Giles wince.
“Come on, into the store with you, you thoughtless little blighter.”
There was something rather gratifying about seeing Ethan do what he asked without an argument. Inside the store, Ethan turned to him, and held out a hand, “Give us a look at that description.”
Giles unrolled the scroll, and held it so that they could both see it. A burning flavour, sharp and slightly tangy, bitter, bubbles in it, a deep rich brown colour, and a sweet scent.
“So where are we meant to start?” Ethan muttered, scowling at it, “I mean, it would have been nice if it said something like ‘two parts whiskey, to one part Saki, and then whatever to make the bubbles, like maybe lemonade or something.”
“We start at the start, of course. Do you know how long ago this was last made? For all of the apparent age of the paper, the ink obviously isn’t all that old.”
“Maybe thirty years, at the most, I’d say,” Ethan said, after a few moments lost in thought.
“Well, that gives us something,” Giles turned to the shelf of whiskey, and picked up several of the older bottles, handing them over to Ethan, who piled them into the crook of his elbow before Giles looked at him again.
“Okay, okay, I’m going to put them on the counter,” he grumbled, before turning and walking over to the counter to place them down. There, he shot the shopkeeper one of his patented false smiles, “I’ll be back shortly.”
By the time he got back to Giles, the man had pulled another three bottles of the shelf, and was holding them by the neck as he drummed his fingers against the glass. Having already resigned himself to leaving with a far lighter wallet, he didn’t allow himself to look at the prices.
“Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles,” Giles was muttering to himself, under his breath.
“I don’t thing it would have been soda, but there’s always sparkling water, coke, or beer. If it’s the ethanol that does it, then if you mix vodka and beer, then it can triple the amount of ethanol that’s in it.”
“Yes, I know that, thank-you Ethan. I did grow up drinking the same things as you,” Giles said, before gesturing with his head towards another shelf, “Get us a big bottle of straight vodka, put these on the counter,” he handed over the other bottles that he was holding, “and then duck into the cold store.”
Again, he did what Giles had said, and as he headed into the cold store, Giles was already turning to head back to the door, with a couple of 24 packs in his hands. They were old brands, and Ethan doubted that the formula had been changed since conception, and of course, they were yet another expense.
“Come on. The more time we waste, the less time we have to work out this formula before midnight.”
As Giles sat the beer on the counter, next to the rest of the stuff that they had gathered, he didn’t think he had ever seen the shopkeeper smile quite like that before. Then again, he had never brought quite so much in one hit before, either. With a smirk fixed firmly to his face, he pulled out Ethan’s wallet, and held it ready, in the palm of his hand.
“Planning a big night, eh?” the shopkeeper said, in an amiable tone, and Ethan had already opened his mouth to reply, when he caught Giles’s death-glare. He promptly snapped his mouth shut again, as he said farewell to the opportunity that was running away from him.
“Yes, something rather like that,” Giles said, as the last of it, the two boxes of beer were swept under the scanner.
“That’ll be $540, thanks.”
Giles pulled six hundreds out of the wallet and handed them over, before giving Ethan his wallet back, and then he tucked the change into his own, so that he could put some petrol in the car later. The look in his eyes was just daring Ethan to protest, and he was pleasantly surprised when the man didn’t say a word. He was even more surprised when Ethan held his tongue until they were settled in the car again, after taking the purchases out to the car, at which point Ethan finally looked at him.
“Don’t suppose I can…”
“No,” Giles cut him off in a tone that held neither malice, nor the room to argue, “You owe me a lot more than just a little cash, Rayne.”
“And as the youth are so fond of saying, ‘whatever.’”
“Oh yes, very mature,” Giles pulled out of the parking lot, and drove the few blocks back to his place, then got out of the car, and went to unlock the front door, trusting Ethan to bring in the gear. Tossing the keys into the bowl near the front door, he headed through to the kitchen, for several bowls, cups, and a punch spoon, and then added a shot glass to the mix, after a few moments thought. Of course, he would have to sample it along the way, in order to compare taste to the description that was on the scroll.
“Kitchen, or sitting room?” Ethan called out, as the sound of the front door closing echoed throughout the place.
“Sitting room. Put everything down near the coffee table, will you? I may as well be comfortable, while we’re doing this.”
“Oh, very nice,” Ethan called back, in a tone that made it sound as though he was laughing at him, and Giles heard the rustle of the plastic bags, and the clink of glass. When he came out, with his armload, Ethan had pulled the bottles out of their plastic and paper wrapping, and set half a dozen of the bottles of beer on the coffee table as well, and was in the process of dragging one of the chairs around to the other side, so that they would be face to face. Once he had done that, and glanced at Giles over his shoulder, he headed over to where the records were, and pulled half a dozen out of the lot, then flicked up the lid on the turntable, and set one on it. “Not going to tell me off?”
“I fail to see the point,” Giles said, as he put all of his gear down on the coffee table, and the opening notes of T. Rex sounded.
Ethan sat down in the chair, and rubbed his hands together, the glint in his eyes making him look like a small boy who was getting to have Christmas early. Then, to Giles’s surprise, he pulled a laptop out of his backpack as well, flicked up the lid, keyed in what was probably a password, glanced at something on the screen, and then closed it again.
“Let’s get started then,” Ethan opened one of the bottles of beer, a couple of the whiskeys, and the vodka, and then, unable to resist, he cracked one of the beers to drink normally, and began to mix things together.
As the evening crept later, and Giles sampled one version of Ethan’s cocktail after another, some of the line between the fact that this was a necessity, and not just another night, began to blur a little.
It was well after nine, and several more records had done the rounds, when there was the sound of someone trying the doorhandle, followed by a knock on the door. Ethan cast a practised eye over to Giles, watching as he leaned forward and grasped the edges of the coffee table, to push himself to his feet by, and then after he straightened up, he sat back down again rather sharply.
“I’ll get that, shall I?” he offered, with another one of those smiles that didn’t quite reach his eyes, and then stood, before Giles could object. As he passed the record player, he nudged the volume of Diamond Dogs a little higher, glance back to make sure that Giles was still safely sitting down, and circled around to the front door, which he flicked the latch of, so that it wouldn’t look behind him, as he stepped out. Another flick of the hand muffled any sound that would be heard through the door, without the usual light show that he would have worked into it, as well.
He wasn’t particularly surprised to find himself facing Buffy. Again, going for casual, holding a beer by the neck, in one hand, he leaned back against the door, and got a few seconds to stare at her, before she balled a hand into a fist, and drew it back to hit him, then lowered it again, scowling at him.
“Ah, Miss Summers. With people who greet me like you do, I don’t know why I bother to make enemies.”
“I’m not greeting you. Actually, kind of wondering what the hell you’re doing around, when you should be breaking rocks in some desert somewhere, and exactly how many bags I’ll need for your dismembered body.”
“With a tongue as sharp as that, I’m surprised you’re not raising welts already,” he made sure that the sarcasm was obvious, as he raised the beer, and took a draught from the bottle, the very image of a comfortable, content man.
“Last chance, and then the bleeding starts.”
“Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.”
The fist bounced off his shoulder, as he bled the kinetic energy from the blow, and fed it into his shielding. It was a handy little trick, was Rygel’s Shield, but unfortunately, he couldn’t stop the fact that it hurt. The expression on her face, when he simply rubbed his shoulder, and didn’t go flying back through the door made it worth it, though.
“Seriously, though,” he spread the palm of one hand, to show that there was nothing in it, like a magician, about to do some flashy act of magic, and this time there was a lot more truth about his smile, “I’m not here to cause trouble for you and your lovely little town, for once. I came to Ripper…”
“He’s not Ripper.”
“Regardless of what you want to call him,” Ethan raised his voice, “I came to him for my own reasons, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with you. I’ll not disturb so much as a single hair on his cat’s head let alone your peace, and if he wants you to know anything about it, then you’re more than welcome to talk to him in the morning.”
“He doesn’t have a cat,” she stared at him.
“Then it will be even easier to avoid using it as a sacrifice, next time I want to summon something.”
She was winding up for another swing at him, despite the lack of effect that the blow had had on him last time, “If you think, for one second, that I’m going to let it go at that…”
“But you will,” he interrupted.
“I know you, and your annoying little sorcery ways, and if you think that…”
“No,” he interrupted again, “you don’t know me at all. Not half as well as he does, and if I were a danger this time round, then how likely do you think it would be that I would still be here? Ripper’s a big boy now, perfectly capable of defending himself, and making his own decisions, and if you want to have it out with him, then you’ll simply have to do it tomorrow. Now, if it’s not an apocalypse happening here tonight, then may I please go and play, mother?”
“The second I find out what rock you crawled out from under, I’m going to shove you straight back under it. And if you do anything, and I mean anything, that’s even slightly Ethan Rayne, then I’m going to invent new meanings for the word pain, and introduce you to each and every one of them. Am I clear?”
“Clear as rain,” he let himself back into the place quickly, before she could change her mind, because the shield had several faults, and one of them was that it didn’t work in transition. He closed the door behind him, and was congratulating himself on a job well done, when Giles spoke up.
“Who was that?”
“Just some woman selling salvation,” he smiled slightly, to himself, as he went to flip the record over.
“Hmm?” he looked at Giles, who was weaving slightly in his seat, and raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t turn it over. Turn it off. You… you’ve been so damned clinical about this. Not like you at all. Talk to me?”
Oh, sweet chaos’ sake. If the man was already at the stage where he wanted to talk, then he was already a lot more intoxicated that Ethan had realised. Giles didn’t get drunk like other men. He wouldn’t slur a single word until he was at the stage where he couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, and even then, he could still knock a bloke one his arse for looking at him the wrong way. Ethan hadn’t ever been sure whether it was the skill necessary of a Watcher, or a thug.
His gaze darted towards the clock, and he saw that it was just after nine thirty, as he sat himself back down across from Giles.
“Did you do anything to our latest batch while I was out the door?”
“Not a single thing. I couldn’t remember what’s gone into it, for the life of me, now.”
Ethan added another small measure of whiskey to the mix, took another drag from his beer, and then poured the rest of it into the bowl, before using the punch spoon to fill the shot glass, so that he could hold it up to the light and stare at the contents, before handing it over.
“Try this one.”
Giles shot it back, and pulled a face, “Too…” he frowned, looking for the word, and then flicked his fingers, “not light enough. Too much like a stout.”
Ethan stared at the collection of ingredients that they had procured, wondering what the next best thing to throw in would be, or whether he should try again from scratch.
“What did you want to talk about, Ripper?” Ethan cracked another couple of beers, then half filled one of the proper glasses with the mixture, and filled the rest of it with the beer, lightening the colour quite dramatically, before pouring out another shot for Giles to swallow.
Giles swallowed the shot, and then promptly drained half the glass, before pushing it back over, “Here, get this down you. It’s a mile off, but it’s damn nice.”
He took a tentative sip, unsure of what Giles would call nice at the stage of intoxication, and then took a far larger mouthful, as it burned and bubbled down his throat and grinned, “Damn. Shame it’s so expensive to make. We could sell that for a mint.”
He didn’t like the way that Giles was looking at him, like he was something to be dissected, “I’ll only ask you the once. How did you get out?”
Ethan scratched at the scar on the inside of the forearm, took another mouthful of the mix, and then pulled a cigarette out his carton, and lit up, drawing deeply on it, “It was a fucking medical laboratory, Ripper. Only one way, and that was in a fucking coffin, after praying for a chance, just a chance at getting out of that little hellhole. I fell into a trance, and came out of it after the hole was filled in,” Ethan drew on it, and watched as it burned down, then flicked his gaze back up, and rolled the cigarette around to the side of his mouth, “Now is that enough, for you to leave it the fuck alone?”
He inhaled deeply, and then sent a stream of smoke out his nose, as he watched the struggle over whether to say something else play out over Giles’s face. He saw the moment that he let it go, as well, because that was something that would take a hell of a lot more than just words, to begin sorting out.
“Any work stories?” Giles asked, after what felt like an age, looking for something to break the uncomfortable silence.
Ethan stubbed out the cigarette, against a bottle cap, and dropped it into one of the empties, “In all honesty, for the most part I’ve been keeping my head down since. A few confusion charms, money paid upfront, so they broke down when the idiots were halfway out of the bank, money in hand. I think that got news coverage, actually, but I was careful not to use anything that could be linked to me, of course. I’ve overseen a few summoning rituals, and those have paid bloody nicely, and then the rest of it has been minor effort for maximum effect kind of stuff. No more that a way to keep my hand in, really.”
Giles nodded, and managed a tiny smile, as Ethan made another cup of the same brew as last time, and then threw a shot of the whiskey that they had used the least into it, on top of another shot of vodka, then filled the shot glass again, and another for himself.
“I imagine that must be getting to you.”
“You have no idea,” Ethan shook his head, “it feels like an itch under my skin, and if I pay any heed to it, and start scratching, then I won’t be able to stop. I’m right on the bloody borderline, and it wouldn’t do, to forget to pay my respects to the reason that I’m free again.”
“So, what? You’re plotting something, and you’ll leave us with the fucking cleanup, instead?”
Ethan could practically see the bitter memories rising in Giles’s gaze. “No, Ripper. Nothing in my hand, nothing up my sleeve. I’ll find a way to scratch that itch yet, but it won’t be anything that your Slayer will have to worry her pretty little head about.”
Giles knocked back the shot, and then poured half the glass into an empty one, which he nudged towards Ethan, before taking the rest of it for himself again, “Huh. Must be drunk. I could swear that I actually believe you.”
Ethan tipped his shot back into the glass that Giles had pushed over to him, and took a mouthful, wincing at what was a far more pronounced burn, “What about you? Much been happening?”
“As if you don’t… don’t know, as if you don’t keep an eye on things yourself, some way or another. Save the world, save the world again, same… same old shit, on a new, shiny day.”
“Now why on earth would you think that I’d keep an eye on you?” he replied, with a teasing smile.
“Think… you think I don’t recognize your magick, the feel of it woven around things. You… you’re always watching. Watching the Watcher. Feels…” Giles shut his mouth with a snap, as his mind obviously caught up with what he was saying.
“Oh, no you don’t. You do not get to stop that sentence right there. Finish that drink up, and you finish saying what you were.”
Giles tilted his head back, and sculled the rest of the glass back, then fore some reason must have decided that he wasn’t quite drunk enough, because he grabbed Ethan’s beer, and chased it down with that, before pulling a face. “Tha…that might’ve been a mistake. Was going…going to say that it feels nice, kno…knowing that… that you’re there, watching, however the hell you are. Nev…never looked into the spells.”
“Basic warding and protection,” Ethan muttered, not quite meeting his eye, “I always hated the idea of you in danger, and when you hobbled yourself…”
“Yes, you did, and there’s no point in arguing with me, because I know. You don’t go from living and breathing magick, to completely locking it down, without some consequence.”
Giles glared at him, but didn’t say anything in reply to that. Slowly, he shook his head, and then blinked at him, “Be nice if the walls stood still.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Ethan pulled out a pair of cigarettes, lit both of them, and passed one over. It took a couple of tries for the other man to take it, and once he had, he sat back, holding onto the arms of the chair, like it was some ride as the fairground.
“I think I’m drunk.”
“I know you are.”
“How the ‘ell m I go… goa… going to fight a demon, nd stop the end of the world li… like this?” Giles asked, plaintively, “Unless I… Unless I’m sick on it. That’d be bitter, and full of alcohol, wouldn’t it?”
“You aren’t going to be fighting any demons, Ripper,” Ethan replied pleasantly.
“Bu… But wha about the a poc… a apoceelips?”
Ethan looked at him for a few minutes, with his expression twitching, and then he lost it, and then began to laugh.
“What? Whatm I miss…missing?”
“Oh, yes, Ripper,” he drummed his fingers on the table, adding a couple of tiny pushed as he did, “You’re really going to stop a dyslexic fan of Doctor Who from ending the world at ten minutes past midnight.”
Giles frowned, trying to figure out the most important part of that sentence. “What do you mean, ten minutes past?”
Ethan looked pointedly at the clock, “Well, more like twelve minutes past, now.”
Giles felt a wash of misery, and he wasn’t entirely sure where exactly it had come from. “Some booddy watcher I am,” he muttered, staring at a small corner of the ground.
“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. If it was really then end of the world, then do you think I would have let you forget the time? Come to that, if it was really the end of the world then I’m sure you’d have known it, and kicked me out anyway.”
Still, he didn’t glance up, shrouded in his own misery.
“Oh, come on, Ripper. You can’t tell me that you weren’t enjoying yourself. Now, if you’re going to sink into that mindset, then I think we should pack it in, and go to bed for the night.”
“Bed? Wh’ makes you that…think that I’d go to bed with you, spechilly after the last time?”
Ethan reached out, and cupped his cheek with one hand, tilting his head up, so that they were eye to eye, and pressed the other hand down over the top of the one that was resting on the table, as he sighed, and the sound of it resounded in the depths of Giles’s heart.
“Ripper. Rupert. Listen to me. There is no demon, the world is not going to end tonight, and I will still be here in the morning. I promise.”
“You’re never here in the morning,”
“Times change,” Ethan moved his hand, so that the palm of it was pressed against Giles’s, and drew his thumb down the edge of his cheekbone, “and people change. Besides, you know that knock you heard, earlier?”
He saw the struggle to remember, in Giles’s gaze, “Wha’ bout it?”
“That was none other than the incomparable Miss Summers herself. Called me despicable, and low, and probably an entire plethora of other names behind my back, but I don’t think she’ll be back tonight.”
“You… you… you…you smug, incorrigible, self-centred, self-serving bastard,” Giles’s mood left no more room for the drunken slur, but the glint in his eyes held something that Ethan hadn’t seen for a long time, something which made him tense, as nerves began to play with him, so much like clever fingers moving over the neck of a guitar.
“Have I ever claimed to be anything less?” he asked, in a gentle voice, trying to lead Giles away from dangerous territory.
Ethan tensed, as Giles raised his free hand, and then relaxed again, almost imperceptibly, as it settled over the hand that Ethan was resting against the side of his face.
“Now, Ripper. What do you say we pack it in for the night? You are going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning, so I recommend we make with the going, while the going is still good.”
Giles tilted his head blearily to the side, blinking at him owlishly through his glasses, and ran the hand the was resting against Ethan’s, down the length of his arm, to his elbow, and Ethan watched the movement in his throat as the other man swallowed, then before he had a chance to think about it, Giles was on his feet, pulling him up and snaking a hand around his back to catch the back of his head, as he kissed him like he wanted to push under his skin and never leave again. His face might have shown the years, but he still moved with that same grace that Ethan remembered, from a long time ago.
Something painful clenched in Ethan’s chest, but he disregarded it. He had got very, very good at disregarding his own feelings over the last however many years it had been. When Giles drew back to take a breath, Ethan licked his lips, which suddenly felt far too dry, and drew a shuddering breath.
“Just look at that,” Ethan muttered in a dry undertone, “if I’d have known that all it would take was the threat of the apocalypse, then I would have done this, years ago.”
“Do yourself a favour an shuddup for now. We’ll talk in the morning, and work out where we are.”
Talk in the morning? Ethan frowned to himself, as he tried to wrap his head around exactly what the hell that was meant to mean. Did Giles actually still expect him to be there in the morning, when he never had been before, not since their wild nights of youth? But then, he had promised, hadn’t he? Sweet chaos sake, but what was the world coming too, when Giles took his words at face value? But then, as long as there was a chance that it wasn’t a cruel tease, being dangled under his nose, then he would be there. He didn’t think that it was, though. From what he’d seen of this incarnation of his old friend, he wasn’t deliberately cruel, when his hand wasn’t forced.
“Penny?” a hot breath whispered, close to his ear.
“Believe me, it’s nothing worth paying for,” Ethan muttered, wondering exactly how much of this the other man was going to remember in the morning. It was probably best for the both of them, if it was none of it, a self-depreciating part of him whispered, but how he hoped, “Come on then, let’s turn in.”
Giles looked at him with a sudden seriousness, “No doing you… your normal trick. No slinking out like a night, in the middle of the cat,” he frowned, “strike that. Like a cat, in the middle of the night.”
“Come now, I can hardly do that, when it’s already well past the middle of the night.”
“I mean it. You know what I mean,” Giles looked at him with an expression that was so imploring, that it was everything that Ethan could do to keep a straight face.
“I’ll be here,” he muttered, and he leaned forward, lifting up onto his tiptoes and he kissed the man on the centre of his forehead, as he wondered exactly what the hell he was getting himself into.
Giles let go of him, and turned to mount the stairs that lead to the bed, “Come on, then,” he said over his shoulder, and hesitated, when Ethan didn’t move.
“Hang on a second,” Ethan dug into his back, and pulled out a thick looking, dark brew, which Giles recognized as a neutralizer for poisons, which wasn’t all that stupid of an idea. Taking the lid off it, he handed it over, and remembering the foul taste of it, Giles held his breath and swallowed it back. “You go ahead, and I’ll be up in a minute. I’m just going to shut the laptop down, and clean up a little.”
“Kay, then. Don’t take too long.” Giles grasped the handrail and moved up the stairs, with the overly cautious steps of the very, very drunk.
Ethan split their mixture between several empty bottles, then tossed the other empty ones into a bag and tied them off to go out with the recycling, before he sat back down on the chair, and flipped the laptop open, to check what the actual time was, which was just after ten thirty. Shutting the laptop down, he crossed over to the clock to set it back to the right time, and mounted the steps, to where Ripper was waiting for him.
Of course, he wasn’t so much Ripper, and he was Giles, these days, but what was the point in being a devotee of chaos, if you weren’t open to change?