Hyatt Regency Hotel – Amy’s Room – Next Day
Amy came out of her bathroom wrapped in a fresh, dry towel. She suddenly jumped.
Ethan Rayne was sitting in the tall-backed chair by the window. His face was bruised, sporting a black eye that was beginning to turn purple.
“I really despise you,” he said casually. “But the man that did this,” he motioned to his face, “I despise even more. And I’m going to kill him with your help.”
“No. No, listen to me, Amy, my dear. Ripper wants me dead. And now, Cyril wants you dead. In fact, Ripper is looking to set up a double-cross. They expect me to turn you over, and although I can’t say our partnership has been the most trustworthy, I’m picking the least of two evils.”
Amy paused and considered his words. “Why should I trust you?”
“You shouldn’t,” he told her. Ethan grinned, despite his battered lips, “But consider this: what do you think Cyril told me on the phone last night concerning you?”
Amy’s eyes flashed doubt for a split second.
Ethan saw it. “Have you been able to contact him?” he asked knowingly.
Amy looked away as she answered. “Not since… no. No, I haven’t,” she admitted. She opened the dresser drawers and picked out clean clothes. Then she went into the bathroom to change, leaving the bathroom door half-opened.
“I’m listening,” she said from within. “Go on.”
“I have a plan – a plan that will shut down the Watchers Council and rid me of Ripper forever. Help me, and I’ll see to it that the slate is wiped clean for you with Cyril and the Organization.”
“What are you going to do to Giles?”
“Teach him a lesson he will never forget. That is, in the miniscule amount of time he’ll have left to live.”
“And the others?”
“They won’t hang around without The Watcher there. They’ll all run home to mum and dad.”
“Willow will be there. She’ll get them to stay.”
“Not if she’s gone, too.”
Amy, dressed, appeared in the bathroom doorway. “Tell me more.”
“We could kill her. Or merely incapacitate her. She’s your problem so I’ll leave it up to you. Either way, with the witch and the watcher out of the way, we can do anything Cyril and the Organization require with absolutely no one to stop us. They’ll be so pleased, my dear, they wouldn’t dream of harming you. Or me. What do you say?”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Early Afternoon
“If you don’t mind my saying, I’m a bit worried about this plan.”
“Giles, relax,” Willow said, “Ethan and I have everything under control.”
“That’s what worries me.”
“Dawnie! Do you see anything?” Willow shouted up to her second floor ‘lookout.’
“Not yet,” Dawn called back.
“Ken, Vi, you guys ready?”
“For the past hour, yeah,” Kennedy answered.
“You sure you know what to do?” Willow asked, turning to Jeff.
“Yeah, quit freakin’, will ya?”
“Well when things start going down, Dawn will help, too.”
“She can’t. She doesn’t have any powers. What if something happens?”
“Hey, quit freakin’,” Willow teased, mimicking him. “Dawn’s a seasoned veteran. She’s the last great member of the Scoobies. She knows how to handle herself. So if things go wrong for any reason, you take your orders from me first and her next. Got it?”
“They’re here!” Dawn called. “Willow, they’re here!”
“Why do I already regret this?” Giles muttered to himself.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Early Afternoon
“You have got to be kidding,” Amy said out loud. “You’re just going to walk up to the front door and knock? Like they’re expecting us?”
“That’s the beauty of it – they’re not,” Ethan replied. “We’ll take them completely by surprise. Be ready to move quickly, though.”
Amy shook her head, but appeared satisfied that Ethan knew what he was doing. Ethan lifted the door-knocker and struck three times.
After a moment, they heard shuffling inside the building, and within a few more seconds the locks were being thrown.
The door opened slowly to reveal Jeff, who looked questioningly at them.
“Hello young man. Is your… Headmaster in?”
Jeff paused as if taking in Ethan’s battered appearance. “Huh? Oh, you mean Mr. Giles?” he asked innocently.
Ethan stared past Jeff and crossed the threshold with Amy. “Bright lad. Yes, Mr. Giles. It’s urgent that I speak with him.”
“Yeah, wait here. I’ll get him.”
“Isn’t there a more comfortable place than this outer office to wait in? We’ve come a long way to meet with our old friend and we’re quite weary.”
“I’m not supposed to let strangers in past here,” Jeff said, pointing out an imaginary line.
“My dear boy! What is your name?”
“Well that’s a good strong name. My name is Edward and this is Adele. Now that we know one another, we’re no longer strangers. Adele and I are very old friends of Mr. Giles. From London. Now, may we sit someplace comfortable while you fetch him ’round? As you can probably tell, I’m not feeling my best at the moment.”
Jeff looked from one to the other and sighed. “Well…” he shrugged and led them to the lounge. He stood at the door as they walked past him and into the room.
“I guess if Mr. Giles knows you…” Jeff slammed the door shut and quickly threw the locks. “You can’t surprise him!”
Willow sprang up from behind the sofa. “Non motio!” Her strong voice carried through the room as she flung a handful of powdered herbs and ground roots at Amy.
Amy’s hands shot up in defense. “Eosan!” she commanded. The herbs crystallized in midair and fell to the floor.
Jeff came up short, his only escape route was blocked by both Ethan and Amy. Thinking fast, he turned sharply and stared hard at the coffee table in the middle of the room.
The table slid rapidly along the floor toward Amy. Hearing the noise, she turned and waved her hand. The table collapsed in upon itself, splintered and split, without ever touching her.
Amy lifted both hands up and cried “Hecate, my will be yours!” and without a further word, bright bolts of energy zigzagged toward Willow and Jeff.
Jeff was already on the move and slid easily under the charge. Willow jumped out of the way in time, but dizziness overtook her and she dropped to her knees. Jeff sent one of the tall, potted floor plants toward Amy, striking her squarely in the back.
Amy screeched in rage and sent more charges that tumbled Jeff and caught Willow in the chest. Willow flew backwards against the wall where she struck the back of her head. She slumped over, shaken and fought to hold onto consciousness.
Hearing the commotion, Vi and Kennedy broke down the door to find a smirking Ethan Rayne.
“You two-timing snake!” Kennedy yelled, as she and Vi charged forward.
With a wave of his hand, Ethan threw the two slayers off him. Vi somersaulted over a chair and it tipped onto her.
Kennedy hit the ground and slid across the floor to the lit fireplace. Her legs slammed into the screen, knocking some of the embers onto her leg. As she beat them out, she noticed Jeff lying, curled and motionless, on the floor.
“That wasn’t part of the plan!” Kennedy roared, jumping to her feet.
“First Rule of chaos, sweet slayer,” Ethan smirked deviously. “Plans change.”
“Giles!” Kennedy screamed. She charged forward and swung hard, connecting with Ethan’s jaw.
Vi was back on her feet and rushed at Amy, only to be thrown back by a strong surge of energy that lifted her off her feet and sent her hurtling toward the French doors. She hit them with such force that the wood frames and square window panes shattered. Splinters of glass and wood seemed to hang in midair while she sailed through, landing outside the room, some ten feet away.
Willow’s eyes widened repeatedly to gain focus as she heard Amy chuckling. With a look of determination, she focused her eyes on Amy from across the room.
Amy vented a great charge of energy toward Kennedy, spinning the Slayer around. Kennedy lost her balance and hit her face against one of the floor-to-ceiling columns.
Amy turned to Ethan. “This is more fun than I expected!”
“Why of course, my dear. Now, you’re learning. Death is such an easy end, but where’s the delight if you don’t have some fun before the destruction.”
“Oh, they’ll be destroyed,” Amy seethed.
Suddenly Amy felt someone grab her shoulder. She was briskly turned around but didn’t have time to stop the jab that hit her square in the nose.
“That’s for the hex spell you did on Willow,” Kennedy told her.
Amy tried to raise her hand to cast but Kennedy ‘boxed’ her once more, snapping her head back with the force of the blow.
“That’s for zapping me away without my consent.” Kennedy delivered another blow, taking Amy right off her feet leaving her sprawled on the lounge floor. “That’s just for the hell of it.”
Giles arrived in the doorway. Dawn followed inside too and raced over to Jeff. Kennedy took the opportunity to go over to Willow.
“Hurt us, especially Dawn, and you’ll bring Buffy down upon your head,” Giles warned Amy who was struggling to her feet.
“I’m not worried about Buffy,” Amy said before spitting out some blood. “Let her come and try to stop me. She’ll be in for a very big surprise.”
“And speaking of surprises, mate,” Ethan spun Giles around. “Here’s one for you.”
Ethan coiled one arm around Giles’s back and pressed his other hand firmly against Giles’s chest. Amy watched, open-mouthed as Ethan began to drain the Watcher of his life-force. Giles jerked and wavered.
Ethan looked at the demolished French doors. “Sigillum,” he said in low tone. A gray, opalescent force-field went up where the French doors had stood, sealing all of them in. No one could escape.
“Ethan…” Giles strained as he sank to the floor.
Ethan followed him down.
“Oh, now, Ripper, don’t look at me like that. Certainly you didn’t think that I’d actually go along with your little plan to bring Amy down – did you? You did! Well, that’s just like you, isn’t it? Always looking for the good in people and, alas, always being brutally disappointed.”
Giles raised one trembling arm up towards Ethan, but could only lift it half way.
“Now, now,” Ethan crooned softly, “Don’t fight it. It’ll be easier if you just…let…go!”
On that final word, Giles’s entire body convulsed once as the last of his life-force was sucked from him. His head lolled back and his body went limp.
Ethan regarded him sadly, it seemed, for a moment and then gently laid him down. “Such a pity,” he mused. “Rupert could have been quite the dark mage if he’d put his mind to it. We were quite the team once…but, I work alone.”
Amy dropped to her knees beside Giles as Ethan stood. She felt for a pulse, then held her hand next to his head for a moment, as if feeling for any life force at all. There was none.
“You… he… he’s dead,” she whispered. Amy suddenly looked unsure of herself and began casting her eyes about the room.
Ethan looked down at Giles. “I suppose,” he added quietly, “you think I enjoyed killing Ripper…well, actually it was rather fun to see the look on his face…but, who’ll take his place? No one else has provided me with so much first-rate entertainment – ”
Willow groaned softly where she lay.
“Ah, the Little Red Witch awakens!” Ethan grinned, walking casually to Willow. “She’ll play, I’m sure.”
Kennedy jumped up to defend Willow, but Ethan batted her away with the wave of a hand, sending her crashing headfirst into the suit of armor that stood guard by the wall. She slumped to the ground as Ethan grinned over Willow.
“No! Don’t!” Amy said, getting up quickly. She raced over, positioning herself between Ethan and Willow. “I mean, I’ll deal with her. She’s mine. Giles was yours. That was the deal.”
“So you want to kill her yourself.”
“No! Not yet.” Amy stood between Ethan and Willow.
“Why, Amy!” Willow said. Suddenly she sat upright, fully conscious. “I didn’t know you cared.”
Three ticks of the clock echoed in the room and Ethan broke into a grin.
A look of sudden realization appeared in Amy’s eyes. “You set me up!” she screamed.
She swung her arm in a wide arc that carried green energy in its wake. The arc clipped Ethan and he fell back, just as Kennedy gained her feet. They toppled to the floor together in a tangle of slayer arms and sorcerer legs.
Willow sent a shock wave that knocked Amy off her feet and over the sofa. She landed with a thud next to Giles, but quickly shot up again and faced the red witch. Amy tried the same shockwave maneuver, but Willow was ready and deflected the shot. It veered off and shattered above Dawn and Jeff. Instinctively, Dawn huddled her body over his as sparks rained down on them.
Immediately, Willow began to ‘rapid fire,’ throwing shockwave after shockwave. Blocking Willow’s onslaught was taking its toll on Amy as shots here and there came closer to hitting her. Finally, a shock got through, hitting Amy square in the chest and sending her crashing into the wall. She fell to the floor next to Giles.
Giles, alive and well, leapt to his feet and lifted his hand. “Non oxys!” he said. A tendril of green shot from his palm toward Amy.
“Retournen!” Amy cried, deflecting it.
Giles dove to escape it, but it hit him a glancing blow. He grasped his throat and began to wheeze.
“Really,” Ethan said to no one in particular, “why does everyone still use antiquated languages and commands to cast spells? You have to be a bloody linguist even to do a simple death-glamour these days!”
Willow rushed toward Amy, tackling her like a football player.
“Give me plain old English any day,” Ethan groused as Giles stumbled toward him, eyes bulging. “It’s quick, it’s easy and it works just as well as all the sodding Latin, Middle French, High German, Sumerian, Egyptian –”
Giles danced in front of Ethan, waving frantically with one hand and still grasping his ever-constricting throat with the other.
“Oh. Sorry. Release!” Ethan commanded, in English, with an off-handed wave.
Giles collapsed to the floor, coughing as his breath returned.
On the other side of the room, Amy grasped Willow’s wrist and suddenly a horrible sizzling sound could be heard. Willow screamed.
Green flashes gave way to small explosions of white-hot energy that cracked and popped so loudly it hurt the ears. Wind began to swirl around the witches and a roaring sound, like a tornado, began to emanate from the center of the fight.
“Ripper, do get up, you’re missing a capital cat fight. All that’s missing are bikinis and a little oil,” Ethan said as the two witches wrestled one another in the strobing whirlwind of energies. “Actually…” Ethan raised his hand as if to cast a spell. Giles took Ethan’s wrist as he shook his head, not quite able to speak yet. Ethan sighed. “Party pooper.”
Kennedy rushed forward to help Willow, ignoring Giles’s strangled cry of “No!” Ethan quickly reached out and caught her by the arm, stopping her.
“Here now, you’ll be killed,” he told her.
Kennedy answered with a right hook. Ethan went down, but Giles caught her by the shoulders. It was clear he could not hold her for long.
“You can’t help!” Giles cried over the sound of screams and rushing wind. Papers in the room were beginning to swirl and furniture shook in place. “It’s their fight now,” he shouted at Kennedy. “To interfere would be –”
“Massacre!” Ethan yelled. He squinted against the harsh brightness of the energy field the two witches were feeding with their rage.
Amy and Willow kicked and rolled, jostled and twisted in bitter combat. They screamed in tandem more from rage than pain.
Ethan looked serious. “They’ll destroy everything around them if they go on like this!” he shouted into Giles’s face.
“Can you put the holding spell on?” Giles shouted back.
“I’ll try,” he shouted back. “But I don’t think I can do this one solo, Rupert. Those two mean business.”
The wind was blowing his hair all about and he squinted against the bright flashes of energy. But then Ethan felt Giles hand in his.
“Do it!” Giles yelled over the commotion.
Ethan grinned and tightened his grip, pulling the energy from Giles. He didn’t try to over-shout the rushing wind, but merely recited a binding spell in a normal, unheard, voice.
There was a moment of sheer noise so loud that it seemed to swallow all other sounds. Inside that noise, there was a “Crack!” Ethan’s binding spell had dashed against the energy field created by the rage of the two battling witches. A bright, tangerine-colored rebound wave spread out horizontally along a sharp, flat plane.
Ethan dropped down just below the belt of orange, pulling Giles down with him. The leading edge of the energy field hit Kennedy in the midsection and cut through her like a razor-sharp sword. She stood for a moment, shock on her face, before looking down at her stomach.
Willow saw the look and knew instantly that Kennedy had been hurt. She stopped fighting Amy for a moment. She watched Kennedy crumple to the ground and stared at her lover’s limp form until Amy got in another jab.
A glow began to shimmer around Willow. It was a simple light at first, almost non-existent. But as it intensified it engulfed Willow in a field all her own. Amy’s blows were deadened, bit by bit, until it seemed as though she was trying to punch through putty.
It was said so offhandedly, a look of uncertainty passed across Amy’s face.
Willow began to rise slowly into the air. Her feet dangled at least two feet off the ground. Amy looked into her eyes. Ethan’s mouth opened and then closed. He watched, mesmerized by the sight of the enraged witch. He squinted at the brightness surrounding her. Ethan absently reached his hand out to Giles, who was shakily regaining his feet.
Nearby, Kennedy stirred as Willow’s power gathered. Willow’s hair began to fly about her head, strands electrified and blown by the hot, magical wind.
“You don’t scare me,” Amy said, sounding terrified.
“No. I don’t scare. I just do.”
“Willow,” Giles breathed as the levitating witch raised her hand. “Don’t do it!”
“She’s not gonna do anything,” Amy said with false haughtiness. “At least not before I do.” She quickly rose into the air to meet Willow head on.
What she met was a horrible screech and sudden wave of energy that spun her several times head over heels, then back-flipped her across the room and up against the ceiling. Amy was pinned there for a moment, and then released.
“Vinciri!” Willow cried from her floating position. Amy was engulfed in the green field of a binding spell, just shy of hitting the floor.
“You can’t hold me!” Amy protested, facing the floor. She struggled to choke out words to repel the spell. All failed.
Willow began to descend, slowly and gracefully, to the floor as Giles picked Amy up and sat her on the sofa.
“You can’t hold onto me,” said quietly. “You can’t hold onto anyone. Not Oz, not Buffy, not your little Tara…not even Xander Harris. Where are all your friends, Willow?”
Willow looked around the room and smiled. “Here,” she told her, then placed a hand over her heart. “And here. But you’ll never understand that.”
“She’s ready,” Ethan said. Everyone looked at him. He was hanging up the phone.
Panic crossed Amy’s face as a soft glow blurred the outline of her skin. In the next instant, she was teleported away.
Once she was gone, Ethan dispersed the force-field in the doorway with a casual wave of his hand.
Jeff, a hobbling Vi, and Dawn all looked around at the damage. Dawn slowly nodded her head.
“Dawnie? You okay?” Willow prompted.
The teenager looked at Willow and smiled. “Yep. Best Thanksgiving ever! When do we eat?”
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Thanksgiving Night
“Pass the dressing, please.”
“What?” Dawn asked.
“Sorry. The ‘stuffing,’ as you Americans say,” Ethan told her as he pointed down the table.
“Oh,” Dawn said, grabbing the bowl. “Here you go.”
Giles leaned over to Willow and whispered as Ethan piled some on his plate. “If everyone wakes up tomorrow as a demon, I’m holding you accountable, since you invited him.”
“This is excellent, and so soft,” Ethan complimented Andrew. “Which is all the better, since my jaw still aches intensely when I chew.” Ethan tossed a smirk in Giles’s direction.
Giles responded by sticking a fork full of turkey in his mouth, preventing any retort.
“Why, thank you,” the blonde man said, settling down to eat himself and ignoring the additional remark. “It’s all in the sage – not too much and not too little. Anyone care for some freshly-made cranberry sauce?”
Kennedy, who was eating her mashed potatoes next to Willow, simply waved him off, so he set it back down.
“So,” Dawn said conversationally to Ethan. “Why don’t you tell us something about Giles we don’t know?”
Giles nearly choked on a sip of white wine. Ethan reached over, smirking, and patted him on the back. “Alright, old man?” he asked. Giles took a deep breath and glared at Ethan unappreciatively.
“Oh, I could tell you about one time in West Berlin when…well, no, that’s not for a child’s ears,” Ethan teased.
Giles ignored Ethan’s attempt to bait him.
“I’m not a child,” Dawn argued, falling prey to it herself.
“My dear,” Ethan said, patting her hand. “There are stories about the Ripper I’d feel uncomfortable telling an adult, let alone a teenager. Give me a moment…Oh yes – well, no, not that one either…Ah, here’s one when we were both still at the Academy.”
“Bloody hell,” Giles sighed.
“Hold up. Academy?” Willow asked. “You and Giles went to Oxford together, not the Watchers Academy, right? You weren’t, like…a watcher?”
“Don’t seem so shocked my dear,” Ethan smirked across the table at her. “Rupert and I have something more in common than dashing good looks.”
Giles rolled his eyes.
“And yes, we were both at the Watchers Academy. But as I was saying, the Headmaster had come down pretty hard on Rupert here for breaking curfew. Seems he and his bandmates went out and enjoyed far too many ‘spirits’ one night…Back in the day, Ripper could drink just about anyone under the table.”
“Bloody hell,” Giles repeated, then swallowed down more wine.
Ethan simply ignored him and went on. “The Headmaster, being the stern killjoy that he was, threatened Giles with expulsion. Of course, I was at home studying that night, so it wasn’t an issue for me.”
Giles let his fork drop on his plate. “Studying? Ha! You had just gotten another black arts book and were looking for a spell to get into Helen Morington’s knickers.”
All heads, save Ethan’s, turned and cast shocked looks at Giles’s outburst. Giles cleared his throat and looked down at his lap, abashed.
“As I said,” Ethan remarked dryly, “I was studying. Point is, Rupert decided he didn’t want any more trouble with the old man, and there was a rumor that the headmaster was shagging the head nurse. So Ripper follows him around for three days and three nights, hoping to get some pictures to bribe him.”
“Giles!” Willow admonished.
“But that’s, like, extortion!” Dawn said, her face registering horror.
“It’s not like extortion at all, dear child,” Ethan told her. “It is most certainly extortion.”
Dawn slowly smiled as a thought occurred to her. “Wait ’til Buffy hears this one.”
Giles groaned and poured himself another glass of wine as Ethan continued.
“Finally, on the third night, he finds the two of them in a compromising position. He can’t take the shot and stay in place because the window is too high. So he just raises his arms and starts clicking as many pictures as he can. When he does, the flash goes off and they notice. Rupert knows he’s caught, right? So he does the manly thing and runs away.”
“Bloody sodding hell,” Giles finished the new glass in five gulps.
Ethan chuckled. “But here’s the best part. His identification card fell out of his pocket, and the headmaster finds it in the bushes. Well, Ripper runs back to my dorm room, short of breath, and tells me what happened. He shows me the camera and I asked, in all his running, when did he have time to put the lens cap back on?”
A look of realization flashed in Willow’s eyes. “Oh. he didn’t?” she chuckled.
Ethan just nodded and laughed. “Fifteen pictures of the inside of a lens cap are on his roll of film. So the Headmaster comes to my room, knowing he’d find Rupert there. And instead of confessing what a birk he is, Ripper plays it cool. He acts like he’s got the photos and tells the headmaster that, if he expels him, then he’s mailing two sets – one to The Daily Mail and the other to his wife.”
“Giles blackmailed somebody just so he could go out drinking?” Willow asked with disbelief.
Ethan nodded. “It worked, too. He never had a curfew again,” he laughed. “Ripper was a crafty one, alright, and he did get better over time. In fact, there was another night…”
Giles closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “This is proof. I’ve died and I’ve gone to hell. And this night will never end. I’ll be sitting at this table for all eternity.”
“Shh,” Willow told him with a teasing grin. “I wanna hear this.”
Giles sighed again, rubbing his head with his hand. “Oh, bloody, bloody hell.”
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport – Security Checkpoint – Day
Willow and Dawn hugged for the third time in ten minutes.
“Here,” Willow said, handing Dawn a box, “this one’s for Buffy.”
Dawn nodded and looked around the busy airport terminal. “I wish I could stay here,” she said. “I’m gonna miss you guys all over again. And now Jeff. He’s really not as callous as he seems. I mean, it’s kinda like Riley was with Buffy.”
Willow put on her best Riley voice and said, “You mean, like all ‘Let me help you slay that vampire, Little Lady’… and then finding out that Buffy could whip him, the vampire and half the Initiative before she broke a sweat?”
“Yeah,” Dawn said. “Only it’s worse for Jeff. I mean, Riley only had Buffy to make him feel… well, inadequate. But Jeff’s surrounded by Slayers – some of ’em a lot younger than he is.
“I get it,” Willow said quietly.
Dawn looked at her hopefully. “Promise me you won’t give up on him.”
Willow saw the look on Dawn’s face and smiled at her, “Of course I won’t, Dawnie. Jeffrey’s gonna be just fine.”
“Jeff,” Dawn corrected.
“Jeff,” Willow replied with a grin. “Right!”
A hard, sudden laugh reached their ears from a little way off and they looked over. They watched Ethan and Giles in a corner of the airport, away from the throng of travelers.
Giles’s hands were stuck deep in his pockets, his sweater hem hanging over his wrists. His head was down and he studied the floor. Ethan stood facing him, dressed sharply in expensive Italian loafers, a burgundy-colored silk shirt and dark, casual slacks.
Giles said something to the floor. Ethan tilted his head at him and a boyish look full of charm, mischief and, perhaps, honest affection crossed the Sorcerer’s face.
“You think it’s a good idea for Giles to just let Ethan go?” Dawn asked as they watched the pair.
Willow smiled faintly. She kept an eye on the watcher and the sorcerer as they continued their conversation, one awkward, suppressing a grin, the other smirking and fey.
“Chunky and creamy…” Willow mused, reflecting on the first words she’d ever heard Ethan utter. “Maybe he wasn’t just talking about peanut butter…” she said under her breath. Giles rolled his eyes in disgust at something Ethan was suddenly giggling over.
“What?” Dawn’s voice broke Willow’s reverie.
“Huh? Oh. Oh yeah. Ethan… he kept his word. He helped us stop Amy. So, Giles is returning the favor and keeping his. Ethan gets to go.”
“Sort of like letting Eyghons be Bygones.”
The look on Willow’s face at Dawn’s horrible play on words cracked the teenager up.
“You know, Dawnie,” Willow said dubiously, “Xander would have been proud of that one.”
Dawn looked at her, troubled.
“Did I say would have? I – I mean will. Will be proud. When I tell him. When I find him…and get my hands on him for not telling anyone where he was going…”
“United Airlines 7410, stops to New York City and London, England, will begin boarding shortly…” the announcement came over the loudspeaker.
“Well, then.” Giles looked at Ethan for a moment. Ethan merely looked back at him, amused. Giles blinked rapidly and looked down again.
Ethan regarded him, curiously. Suddenly he blinked once himself and said, with a slight smirk, “You know I’ll be back…” His tone got lower and thicker. “Don’t you.” It was not a question. “You bloody well know I’ll return.”
Giles looked directly at him. “Yes, like the bad penny you are,” he said, humorlessly.
Ethan paused a moment and reached into his flight bag. “I have something for you.”
Giles took a nervous step back and Ethan grinned.
“Relax, old man. No tricks.” He pulled out a manila folder and handed it to Giles. “Something is coming,” Ethan told him seriously. “Or more accurately, something is already here.”
“Yes, a Hellmouth. I’m already aware.”
“No, something dangerous.”
“More dangerous than you?” Giles challenged.
Ethan met Giles’s eyes. “Yes.”
Giles regarded Ethan seriously for a moment, then slowly opened the folder. He began reading through some of it while Ethan spoke.
“I found that in Amy’s belongings back at the hotel. She wasn’t just working for Cyril, but these blokes as well it appears. I’m not sure who they are but this new organization –”
“The Presidium,” Giles muttered.
Ethan rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “Yes, well, I debated all morning about giving it to you.”
“And what swayed your decision?” Giles asked sincerely, closing the folder again.
Ethan shouldered his travel bag.
“As I told Amy, no one else has given me so much entertainment all these years. The world would get boring if I didn’t have the Ripper to visit every now and again.” Ethan wore a teasing grin for a moment, but turned serious again. “In any regard, take care of The Little Red Witch, Rupert, old mate,” he said, “you’ve got quite a powerful protégé there.” He walked slowly backward toward the boarding gate, his eyes not leaving Giles, the mocking smile still on his lips. “‘Til next time, Ripper,” he added. Then he turned, waved his hand once, and disappeared into the crowd.
Giles stared after him until he slipped from sight.
“Be seeing you…” Giles said quietly, Then he looked back down at the folder in his hand. Tucking the folder under his arm, he reached into his wallet. Behind a small picture of Buffy, Willow and Xander together, he pulled out a worn picture of a much younger Ethan Rayne.
Giles regarded it for a moment before stuffing it back inside and walking over to the two young women.
Willow sighed at the sight of the people ahead of Dawn going to the concourse. Dawn bit her lower lip, waiting for one of them to speak first. They all seemed to realize that no one was going to. And so they all did at once. Broad grins and soft laughter broke the mood and Dawn and Willow looked at one another for a moment before hugging each other. Again.
“Don’t be such a stranger,” Willow said. “And don’t let Buffy be one, either.”
“I won’t.” Dawn turned to Giles. He stood smiling gently at her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“You know that if you ever need anything, Willow and I are just a phone call away.”
“I know,” she said as she glanced at the last few passengers in line to board. “Well,” she shrugged. She turned and began to walk toward the tunnel.
“Dawn,” Giles called. She stopped and turned. “Promise me…”
She looked at him expectantly.
“Promise me you’ll speak to Buffy as soon as you get back home. Will you do that?”
Dawn walked back up to him and hugged him, laying her cheek against the soft tuft of his sweater. Giles, caught off-guard by the sudden show of affection, began to raise his arms, lowered them, then brought them back up to hug her. But Dawn had already backed away.
“I promise,” she smiled up at him. “Thanks.”
Without further word or ceremony, she walked toward the concourse to her boarding area. Just before she entered it, she turned, grinned and waved. Then she, too, disappeared into the sea of people.
Willow turned around and nodded Giles toward the exit.
“Got a postcard this morning,” Willow said, wisely changing the subject. She waved it in front of him. “Brought it so I wouldn’t forget to show you.”
“Xander?” he asked hopefully.
“No, unfortunately. Buffy. Not that a word from Buffy is unfortunate but… you know what I mean.”
Giles smiled pleasantly at it and she handed it to him.
“Ah, Buffy’s in New York. Or was, according to this date. Holiday must have slowed the mails. ‘…why not The Big Enchilada,'” he read, “‘or The Big Connoli, Big Egg Roll, Big Knish…”
“My personal favorite,” Willow said. “And hitting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade too. She’s making up for years in just a few months.” She left him to read the postcard, then stopped and turned to him.
“Dawn wasn’t exactly big with the confiding, but I know something was bothering her. Is she having problems?”
“Well, I don’t think I’d be breaking a confidence to tell you now. You see, Dawn is seeing someone, rather, uh… romantically, I should say.”
Willow’s face registered alarm. “Oh goddess. Not a vampire.”
“No, no. A senior class girl at her school, named Skye.”
Willow gaped at Giles. He walked absently ahead of her for a moment, but stopped when he noticed she didn’t follow.
“But she never said anything… I mean, I didn’t think Dawnie was gay! Well, I didn’t think I was, once upon a time… but why didn’t she tell me?”
Giles took a few paces toward her. “Dawn did mention speaking to you,” he said, “but her problem was with Buffy and her less than favorable reaction, not Dawn’s own choices. She thought I might be better able to talk with Buffy, because I didn’t have a bias. And as it turns out Buffy, didn’t have a problem with Skye on a personal level. She was upset that Dawn cared for someone but didn’t trust her enough to let her know.”
Willow slowly nodded. “Well you know,” she said, understanding, “No matter how old or how wise Buffy gets, there’s gonna be times when a slayer still needs her watcher.”
The corners of Giles’s mouth turned up a bit. “Yes, well, I’ll wager you’ll get a call from Dawn sometime in the future seeking help or support that only you can provide.”
Willow looked thoughtful.
“People can be surprising,” he said gently.
“Yeah, like Ethan. I mean, Giles, he’s like an uber-mage. I could feel this sort of, I don’t know… shimmer? It comes off him when he uses his powers. And I don’t think he was even trying.”
She looked at Giles and saw him nod his head in agreement as they walked along. “Ethan is quite gifted, in many things. All but – well, one must overlook his total devotion to chaos.”
” Good chaos needs good planning,” Willow quoted. “He’s a good planner, Giles.”
“I’ll thank you never to quote him in my presence… or anyone else’s.”
Willow smiled gently. “He’ll never change, will he?” she asked.
“He hasn’t in nearly thirty years.”
“He could have let Amy destroy us, you know…”
“And what about you? You could have turned him over to the authorities – supernatural or municipal.”
“But he didn’t. A-And you didn’t.”
Giles opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. He merely looked at Willow and she back at him.
“Yep,” she said, sticking her hands in her pockets and giving him her best I-see-you smile. “People can be surprising…”
She shrugged and Giles looked down at the folder as they walked on, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Yes, they certainly can.”
Fade to Black
End of In Love and War
On the next episode of Watchers…
Xander’s sudden return to the Watchers Council for Willow’s birthday has unexpected consequences.
Click here to read “Another Year Older” now!