Watchers Council – Conference Room – Noon
“I don’t like it,” Willow replied. “I’m against it. I think we need to pool our own resources and do the job ourselves.”
“Yes, and normally, I’d agree with you, but…”
Willow looked sternly at Giles and frowned. “We could finish this quickly and without a lot of trouble. We know there’s borrowed magic involved. What we don’t know is who’s behind it. If we –”
“Willow, I know that it makes sense to use all our resources. But I think Ethan is right this time.”
“Blinded,” Buffy muttered to Willow.
“What?” Giles asked.
“Never mind,” Willow told him. “Go on.”
“I think he needs to handle this himself,” Giles continued. “The man responsible for the attacks is doing it to inflict pain on Ethan. You’ve put up protections on everyone here. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to punch through them. Let’s not give him any more targets to inflict injury upon than he already has.”
“I’m with Willow,” Robin said. “I think we’re risking a lot allowing Ethan to fly solo on this – especially since he’s calling in this ‘expert’ who, if I remember correctly, makes you a bit uncomfortable yourself.”
Giles sighed. “Look, I know the man he’s calling in, and I know what Ethan has in mind. With only two days, he’s got to act quickly and –”
“You said Ethan’s had contact with the suspect,” Rowena said. “Besides the fact that he could be censured for not divulging any of this to the Council, it’s done absolutely no good. So why do you think Ethan can be any more effective in forty-eight hours?”
“Because he’s trying to protect someone,” Buffy said. All eyes at the conference table turned to her. “Why does Mr. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named want to hurt Ethan?” Buffy asked.
Giles stared across the conference table at her and shrugged casually. “Why does anyone ever want to hurt him? That’s the charm of Ethan Rayne, I suppose.”
Buffy stared blandly back at him. “You were never a good liar, Giles.”
“No,” Xander cut in. “But he is the best watcher I’ve ever known. And I’ve known a few. If Giles says we should turn Ethan loose and get out of the way, I say, hey – who’s not for sitting home cozy and warm while the bad guy fights the bad guy for a change?”
“And if Ethan fails?” Jason Felix asked quietly. He looked up, his face pale. “What then?”
Giles waited for a beat. “He won’t fail. He can’t.”
“Now, there ya go with that stiffy-uppy thing you do these days every time Ethan comes up,” Buffy said. “Why –?”
“It’s not important!” Giles snapped at her. “What is important is that Ethan be given the chance to deal with the problem. If he fails, I assure you, I will be in the forefront to resolve this issue. Completely.”
“Resolve this issue?” Rowena said quietly. “Giles, Mary Bennett, Shannon, Norman, my wife, your own daughter and Ethan’s wife aren’t issues. They’re a dead twenty-something and our loved ones.” The entire group looked from Rowena to Giles.
He stared back at them all, looking about the room. “Then this will be Ethan’s truest and hardest test.”
Buffy began to protest.
“He won’t fail,” Giles cut her off.
Jason Felix sat slowly back and looked down worriedly.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – That Afternoon
Giles stood alongside Ethan and looked down at his wrist again.
“Oh, for crying out loud, Ripper! Will you please stop checking that bloody watch!”
“This watch was a gift!” Giles said defensively. “Becca gave it to me.”
Ethan rolled his eyes and looked at his own watch.
“Ah! Ah!” Giles said self-righteously.
Standing with Willow and Buffy, Shannon rolled her eyes at the two men. “They’re like two little kids,” she said in a loud whisper.
Ethan turned his head sharply toward her and opened his mouth to reply, but in that moment, the room somehow went dim. “Here we go…” he said softly, as Giles tensed up beside him.
“This is very unorthodox,” Giles said in his most authoritatively British accent. “In fact, I am quite against Shannon being in here when –”
“You’ve got your slayer,” Ethan said petulantly. “Well, the Little Blue Slayer is mine.”
“But you’ve got ‘The Little Red Witch’,” Giles argued.
“Will you two just stop!” Willow said. “Sheesh, I feel like I’m ready to take on sextuplets after you two – never mind twins!”
“I don’t…feel so good,” Shannon said, looking a little woozy.
“It’s only for a moment,” Ethan said.
The coven room went black. Then an unearthly orange glow filled the entire room, coming from everywhere at once with no single point as a source. Everyone squinted until it dimmed, washing the room in a soft orange glow.
A tall and solidly built man, dressed in tight-fitting black slacks and a tank-top and looking much like a circus strong-man, stood before the assembled group. To each, it appeared the man was standing directly in front of him or her alone. Willow tensed, and Shannon’s hands curled into fists at her side.
Ethan’s chuckle and Giles’s groan made everyone turn and look at the pair. As they did, they could see the same strong-man figure standing in front of each of them.
“That entrance is getting a bit old, isn’t it?” Giles said.
“Yet it is still effective, is it not, Rupert Giles, Grandson of Elizabeth?”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Your material needs a bit of a refresh, as well.”
A hearty, booming laugh filled the orange-lit room, then a finger-snap caused the circus strong-man shapes to disappear.
“Avatar…” Willow mused.
Shannon raised her hand and moved it forward to the spot where the avatar had stood. “Eep!”
The sudden appearance of a man in front of her took her completely by surprise. She looked up at him. He was not nearly as large and muscular as his avatar, and he had long, silver locks that fell down over a black cloak fastened around his neck and hanging off one shoulder. Otherwise, he was dressed in a normal blue business suit. The man smiled at her, chuckling. His steel-gray eyes and his expression, though dangerous, betrayed a warmth that made Shannon smile back and lower her arms. Then she laughed, too. “You look just like Norm’s picture!” she grinned.
“Lupo Orongo,” he said, sharply sticking his hand out at her, “at your service, Scythe Slayer.” He smiled knowingly.
“Uh, no. That would be me.” Buffy looked haughtily at him. “I’m the Scythe Slayer.”
Lupo looked in Buffy’s direction, amused. “Yes,” he said, “you were. But she will –”
“Lupo!” Ethan called.
“Ethan!” Lupo’s voice sounded from behind the mage. Everyone turned to see the real Lupo Orongo standing behind Ethan Rayne, as the apparition before Shannon faded.
Suddenly, Ethan was caught in a vice-like bear-hug that lifted him off his feet. Lupo was laughing happily and squeezing him tighter and tighter. “It’s been a bit too long, old friend!”
“Yes…” Ethan rasped out. “But if you wouldn’t mind letting me go – old friend – I’ve grown rather fond of air over the years…”
Lupo plopped Ethan down on his feet.
“I’m Shannon,” the young slayer said, grinning and holding her hand out to shake. “Shannon Matthewson. Honored to meet you.”
“I am most honored to meet you,” Lupo said. He bowed, taking her hand and kissing the back of it. Shannon blinked and blushed.
“I have heard a great deal about you, Blue Slayer,” Lupo told her. “And you,” Lupo turned and faced Willow, “Red Witch!”
The smile was gone from his face, replaced with an appraising look that made Willow blush. Lupo bowed low again, the hem of his cape touching the floor. He held the bow for a moment as Willow shifted on her feet, then shrugged uncertainly.
“Well, uh, hi,” she said with a nervous laugh.
Lupo stood up and regarded her minutely, then turned his eyes to Buffy, who stood with arms folded and head cocked to one side. She smirked at him. “Nice wardrobe.”
“Ethan,” he said, his eyes returning to Willow, “you have not spoken about me to this one, have you?”
“I’ve not spoken about you to anyone, really,” Ethan admitted. “Norman told Shannon about you. But, what with your coming here, a few have been informed of your arrival. Our Council Heads, for starters. And our security force. And –”
“Is Norman here?”
“No. No one outside the Council knows you’re here.”
“That is too bad. I will have to contact him myself.”
“He’ll be sorry he missed you. Maybe we could call him tonight if…” Shannon’s voice trailed off as the adults all eyed her.
But Lupo chuckled at her and nodded. “I suppose we would use the telephone,” he said. “Very well. If it is all right for my presence to be announced to him, I look forward to it.”
“Lupo, we need to get down to work,” Ethan said. “Myself, Ripper, Willow, Buffy and Shannon are the inner circle. But only Ripper will be in the room with us when you…help me.”
Lupo eyed Giles. “The mark still burns on you, Rupert Giles,” he said quietly. Lupo raised his hand and moved it toward Giles’s arm. “I can remove…”
“Lupo!” Ethan stopped him. “Ripper and I…we keep the mark. We have our reasons.”
Lupo nodded. “The mark may interfere, Ethan. It may prove painful.”
“I’ll take that chance.”
“And you?” Lupo looked at Giles.
Giles and Ethan exchanged a glance. “And me,” Giles replied.
“Very well. We must prepare. But first, tell me, where does one get a good steak in Cleveland?”
“Got just the place for you,” Shannon smiled and hooked her hand around his arm. “We have a real nice guest dining room and the best cook in the world,” she said, leading him from the Coven Room.
Giles looked worriedly after them. Ethan smirked and shook his head as they all filed out behind the strange mage and the Little Blue Slayer.
Queens, New York – Zachary’s Apartment – Same Time
“Zach! Zach, this is Jason. If you’re there, I need you to pick up! Zachary?”
A deep sigh sounded on the answering machine. Zachary Kreswell looked up from the powder he was adding to the odd-smelling liquid and smiled.
“Zachary, when you get in,” Felix’s voice continued, “please…call me back. Right away. I must speak with you, it’s terribly urgent.” The sound of Felix hanging up was followed by the disconnect beep on Zachary’s phone.
The powder began to fizz in the liquid as he reached over for the shopping bag from Gloria’s Fabrics and Crafts. He reached inside and pulled from it a set of new, expensive embroidery needles, a gift box filled with a colorful array of embroidery threads and a swath of wrapping paper. The liquid stopped fizzing, turning a sickly yellow color, and he hand-dipped each of the needles into the mixture. He carefully lifted them out, setting them across the narrow cup to dry.
“Oh, Mother,” Zachary smiled as he continued to dip each needle, “I do hope you like these lovely sewing needles…”
City Street – Night
“Are you certain,” young Ethan Rayne asked breathlessly.
“You have seen it.” Lupo Orongo looked very much the same as he always had, his long silver hair and his gray eyes shimmering in the dark.
Ethan swayed and steadied himself against the old, brick building. “It’s a trick! A parlor trick,” he smirked. “You’re quite good. But I’m no fool.”
“If you think it’s a trick, you’re a bigger fool than you claim not to be.”
“Bugger off, you sodding stage magician! And stay away from me and my friends!”
“They will not be your friends much longer if you and Rupert Giles continue down this path. What you saw is not what will happen, but what could happen. You can change that. You are a powerful mage.”
“And you’re the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, eh?” Ethan sneered. “Bugger…oh!” Ethan stumbled to his knees.
Lupo reached down and lifted Ethan up easily by one arm. “You must not raise the demon, Ethan! You must not raise any demon, but particularly not Eyghon! You saw what will happen. You will lose Rupert Giles if you do.”
“Piss off! No one tells me what to do!”
“Ethan, I do not tell you what to do, but what you will do if you continue to –”
“Listen, you has-been circus freak! Ripper and I, we’ve got a good gig here. We don’t need you or anyone else pissing on it! Now take your side-show act and disappear under that nancy cape! Go on!”
Lupo stared at Ethan for a long moment. “You know how to reach me,” Lupo said. He was gone.
Ethan blinked and shook his head at the sudden disappearance. “I hate when he does that,” he muttered to himself. Then he staggered out of the dark street and onto the main walk, the lights of the business district looming ahead.
1970s London – Impoverished Flat – Night
“Whose turn is it, then?” Diedre asked as she patted the group’s pet, an old black and white border collie. “Thomas went last time.”
“It’s mine!” Rupert grinned. “And I’ve been awake for the last thirty-six hours.”
“You can’t go next!” Randall said. “You went the time before last.”
“Bugger off! I’m going again! I haven’t slept on purpose, just so that –”
“Oh, let Ripper go,” Philip muttered. “I don’t want to hear his bloody whining for the next two weeks…”
“No.” Ethan’s voice was flat and hard. “Randall’s right. Ripper’s already had his turn the time before last.”
“I’m going tonight!” Rupert said, turning angrily to Ethan.
“I said no.”
Ethan looked sternly back at Rupert Giles. “Ripper…I said no. Now, who hasn’t had a turn in a bit…? Randall?”
“Yeah! My turn!”
Rupert glared at Ethan. “You don’t tell me what to do.”
Ethan turned and looked at him squarely. “I just did. Now shut yer gob and let’s get on with it.”
Rupert looked as though he was about to say something, then hesitated as Ethan continued to stare coldly at him. Finally, he blinked and looked away from the mage. “Right,” he said. “I can let Randall go instead of me. Please…” he smiled mockingly, “be my guest.”
Thomas sent the old dog to lie down in the corner. It obeyed him instantly with a wag of its tail and obediently took its place on a ratty cushion. It lay its head on the edge of the cushion and whimpered.
“Shut it, Mack!” Thomas snapped, and the dog went silent.
Randall took almost no time to fall into a deep sleep as the circle of friends sat around him and bound his hands and feet, then summoned the demon, Eyghon. Giles glanced occasionally at Ethan to his left. Each time, he saw a troubled look on Ethan’s face.
The old dog began to growl, standing slowly with its hackles raised.
Randall’s eyes opened wide all of a sudden as Eyghon took him. His body convulsed, and the group saw panic spring into Randall’s natural eyes just before the eyes of the demon took hold. Randall pulled against the restraints, ranting and laughing and slavering as he rolled from side to side, the straps and ropes just barely holding.
“Something’s wrong, eh?” Diedre said. She watched with growing concern as Randall’s features morphed into Eyghon’s features. “It’s not supposed to be that strong inside him, is it?”
Ethan drew a sharp breath, unheard by all except Rupert over Randall’s rising cries of rage. “Ethan…?” Rupert called. “Ethan…”
“He was right…” Ethan breathed. He looked at Rupert.
“Who was right? Right about wha –?” Rupert’s question went unfinished as Randall easily snapped his bonds all down the line with demonic strength.
“Lupo…” Ethan mouthed to himself. “Ripper, look out!”
Rupert turned his head in time to catch a blow from the demon-possessed Randall and fell backwards, his head slamming onto the floor. Diedre and Thomas were already chanting, trying to send the demon back as Mack barked with bared teeth at Randall. Ethan and Philip grappled with Randall, trying to bring him down, as the chant began to weaken the demon within him. The three toppled to the floor, but Randall reached out and grabbed at the old dog. The dog bit through Randall’s hand, but suddenly its jaw was wrenched down cruelly.
Rupert scrambled to the weapons chest and heaved the lid open. He quickly fished inside it.
With demonic strength and oblivious to the pain of the dog’s teeth, the demon broke the dog’s jaw down and away, nearly tearing it off. The animal cried once and collapsed to the ground, breathing rapidly and unevenly, dying.
“Mackie!” Thomas cried, breaking the chant as he ran to the dog.
“Keep chanting!” Ethan cried, but Randall swept his arm and toppled Deidre over, then charged at Rupert, dragging Philip with him.
“Ripper!” Ethan cried.
Rupert Giles had found what he was after, an antique broadsword. He stood, swinging wildly with it as he did so.
Ethan ran from behind Randall. “Ripperrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”
Giles’s aim was off. The sword struck, not at the neck but at chest height, catching Randall under the left arm. The sickening sound of blade through flesh made Rupert release the broadsword in horror. The sword held, deeply embedded in Randall’s chest. Randall’s body dropped to its knees as the demon itself cried out. Ethan almost tripped over it as he stopped in mid-run. Randall turned his eyes upwards toward Rupert, all trace of the demon fading. He stared in disbelief at his friend. Then, Eyghon’s eyes flashed in Randall’s head again, and the demon laughed through the lips of the dying man.
“Hurry!” Ethan shouted, holding Randall’s arms from behind. “Before he takes him again!”
Rupert grabbed the broadsword and, with a fierce cry, pulled it free of Randall’s body. This time, his aim true, Rupert Giles swung the sword quickly and adeptly, slicing completely through Randall’s neck. Ethan let go and the decapitated body fell sideways, trembling, then lay still.
There was not a sound in the room.
“No!” Thomas’s voice cut through the silence. The group turned to look at him where he knelt beside the dead dog, who now rose to its feet and snarled viciously, staring at them with Eyghon’s eyes. Philip and Ethan sprang into action, Ethan taking the broadsword from Rupert’s hands. The dog snapped once, then ran and jumped out of the window, falling three stories to the ground below. The group ran to the window and saw the animal hobbling away on broken legs.
“Hurry…” Ethan said. The group returned quickly to the circle and began the chant to send Eyghon back to the netherworld.
“Look!” Diedre said, pointing to where Randall had lain. His body and head had melted into a pool of blue, the only visible remains of him.
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Day
“We never really were sure that we’d sent Eyghon back for good,” Giles said. “We never found old Mack, but a block away, we found the same bluish substance where we suspect the dog had finally fallen and died. After that, the circle broke up, Ethan and I separated. He showed up in Sunnydale one Halloween, and of course, you both know the rest.”
Buffy and Willow exchanged troubled looks. “Giles, I’m sorry,” Buffy said earnestly. “Sorry you went through all of that. But…what does that have to do with this Wrong-O guy?”
Giles sighed. “Lupo Orongo was introduced to Ethan and me at a –” He stopped and blushed. “At a bacchanal. Ethan and Lupo got on well and became fast friends.”
Willow and Buffy traded amused smiles.
“Lupo had certain talents –”
“I’ll bet,” Buffy smirked at Willow.
” – and one night he came to Ethan,” Giles continued, ignoring her, “with a warning about what we were doing by raising Eyghon. He said if we kept raising him, Eyghon would grow stronger and that neither mystical nor physical bonds would hold him. But he also told Ethan that the next encounter would be deadly, that Ethan and I would be parted forever.”
Giles sighed and rubbed his forehead. “It was – it was such a rush to be possessed by him…”
Buffy and Willow both grinned.
“I meant Eyghon!” Giles said irritably. “I wanted so badly to take the demon on again.”
“So Ethan knew someone would die? And he let it happen!” Willow said.
“Ethan didn’t quite believe it would happen. But he didn’t take any chances, either. So when I said I’d take the turn to be possessed, Ethan stopped me and…and let Randall…”
“And Lupo was right anyway,” said a voice from the doorway.
They turned and saw Ethan there with his arms folded across his chest.
“Ripper couldn’t forgive himself or me for what happened to Randall. Lupo told me Rupert Giles would be dead to me if we raised Eyghon once more. Well, he was very nearly right.”
No one spoke for a moment. Then Ethan looked at Giles.
“Time to start, mate,” Ethan said quietly.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Minutes Later
Ethan sat back in the chair, his eyes shut lightly. “You know what to do, then?” he heard Giles ask Shannon, Buffy and Willow, all standing outside the Coven Room door. Ethan smirked.
“Ripper! Never mind all that. If something goes terribly wrong, just christen my grave with a good scotch!”
Ethan heard Lupo Orongo chuckle at the comment as the door closed quietly and the electronic security lock clicked.
“All right,” Giles said, turning to the two mages. “Everyone’s in place. You can start.”
Giles stood by, his hands behind his back.
“This will take some time, Rupert Giles. Why don’t you sit down and be at ease?” Lupo smiled, his gray eyes glinting unnaturally. He did not wait for Giles’s answer, but went to Ethan and laid his hands on Ethan’s forehead.
“Clear your mind,” Lupo instructed. Ethan’s breathing slowed as he complied.
“Good,” Lupo said, tracing an odd pattern on Ethan’s forehead with a fingertip. Ethan’s head involuntarily moved with the path of Lupo’s finger: left, right, up to the right again, a half-circle to the left, and another to the right…
Lupo pulled his hand away, his finger extended. Ethan began to come away from the back of the chair, his eyes still closed. Giles moved in then and took Ethan by the arm, steadying him as he stood. Lupo nodded once, slowly, and Giles backed away, releasing Ethan’s arm and standing well clear of the two men.
Ethan swayed where he stood. Lupo stepped up to him, no more than two inches away. A strange glow began to emanate from all sides of them in streams of orange and green. Giles squinted against the glare, watching and waiting.
Watchers Council – Ethan’s Apartment – Same Time
Cameron Kreswell smoothed her hair from her face. Her own handwritten notes blurred before her eyes, and she rubbed them with her fingers. Stiffly, she sat back and stretched, then got up from her computer to make herself a cup of tea.
As she ran the water in the kitchen sink, there was a knock at the door. Cameron turned off the water, set the kettle aside and headed for the foyer.
“Hello,” Cameron said as she opened the door to find a small slayer standing there. “How are you dear? What can I do for you?”
“There’s a package here, Mrs. Rayne. It’s for you. They told me to bring it to you.”
“Well, lovely! Would you like to come in for some tea and cookies? I’ve got a homemade batch of chocolate chip I made fresh last night.”
“Um, no thanks, Mrs. Rayne. I have to get right back. Kennedy’s orders.”
“I see. Well, then at least take some back with you for your squad,” she said.
The young slayer smiled. “Okay, sure.”
Cameron led the girl into the kitchen, setting the small package down on the kitchen table, then handed one chocolate chip cookie to the girl, who munched happily as Cameron set a mountain of the cookies on a paper plate and wrapped them carefully. She sent the little slayer on her way with thanks and went back into the kitchen to set the kettle on the stove.
As the kettle heated, Cameron sat down and looked at the package. The postmark was from a store in New York. She smiled broadly and opened the package quickly. Inside was a brand new set of embroidery needles and a beautiful gift box of embroidery threads. There was also a note inside. Cameron opened it and read:
Here is a little gift for you. You have brought color and brightness into my dull world. These simple threads pale in comparison, a mere token of what you have given to me. Do not thank me. Just embroider something beautiful for yourself and surprise me, for I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have you in my life and how you’ve helped me turnabout.
Cameron smiled and began to reach for the embroidery needles when the tea kettle suddenly began to whistle. She stopped in mid-reach and got up to pour herself a cup of tea, humming happily.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Minutes Later
Ethan’s body jerked. He blinked and then groaned. Giles was there quickly, catching him under the arms and steadying him as he swayed.
“Steady now,” Giles said, as he helped Ethan to the chair in the center of the room. He lowered Ethan into it. “You were gone a long time,” Giles said to Lupo.
“It was necessary. He had to see for himself.”
“Well you’ve done a right good job of it! He’s knackered…”
“He is not as young as he once was,” Lupo smiled. “Whereas I do not know youth nor old age…”
“Lucky you,” Giles said, as he picked up the bottle of scotch from off the floor and poured some into the glass. He held it to Ethan’s face.
“Rupert…” Lupo called.
Giles looked over his shoulder at Lupo.
“He will not remember details. Do not vex him with many questions. Trust that what he says is the truth as far as we can see it at this time. Unless, of course, he lies outright.” Lupo smiled.
Giles huffed at Lupo as Ethan tried to take the shot glass in his trembling hand. “Bother,” Giles said. He brushed Ethan’s hand aside and brought the glass to the mage’s lips, tipping it.
The first sting of the scotch seemed to snap the mage out of his stupor. “C.K.!” Ethan sat upright and looked around anxiously. “C.K…”
“You’re in the Coven Room,” Giles told him.
“Calm down and drink the rest of that,” Giles said, releasing the shot glass into Ethan’s hands.
“Pour yourself one,” Ethan said grimly.
Giles stared back at him. “Why? What did you see? Ethan? Eth –”
“I-I saw…” He looked up at Giles and hesitated. Then, very softly, he said, “I saw my son.”
Giles blinked at Ethan and turned to Lupo. But Lupo Orongo was gone.
Fade to Black
End of Act Two