All-Night Diner – Night
Their junk food feast now over, the slayer duo relaxed in the diner. At least, Buffy seemed relaxed. Faith’s mood didn’t seem much improved, despite Buffy’s efforts to lighten things up.
“You know, I think I’ll take you up on that sparring offer we keep talking about,” Buffy said enthusiastically. She leaned back against the booth seat, their plates and glasses empty. “I need to get back into the game and reconnect with my inner-slayer. What do you say?”
Faith put on a fake smile. “Sure.” She rose, putting on her coat. “Maybe I’ll get lucky, and you’ll kill me,” she said darkly. “Put me out of my misery.”
Faith walked toward the door and Buffy quickly left her seat, donning her coat as well. She frowned at the remark and tried to catch up.
All-Night Diner – Moments Later
Once outside, Buffy reached out and touched Faith’s arm. When Faith stopped, Buffy walked around to face her and grabbed her by both arms.
“Don’t say that,” she told her earnestly. “Don’t ever say that.”
Faith suddenly realized how her words might have sounded. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, like you would –”
“No, not the ‘me’ part,” Buffy gently corrected. “The ‘you wishing you were dead’ part. Don’t say it, not even as a joke, okay?”
Buffy released Faith’s arms and took hold of her hands instead. She gave the hands a squeeze as she looked into Faith’s eyes.
“I know things seem pretty bad, but just hang in there,” she said. “They will get better. I promise.”
She gave Faith an encouraging smile, and for a second, Faith actually seemed to return it. Then the bright light of a flash intruded.
“What the hell –?” Faith said, as she and Buffy turned to see what was going on.
A few feet away they saw a man with a backpack on his shoulders and an expensive camera in his hand. He grinned at the two slayers, then wisely took off running.
“Son of a –” Faith swore. She started to run after the guy, but Buffy stopped her.
Faith shot a glare in Buffy’s direction and yanked herself out of the other slayer’s grip, but she didn’t go after the man. She just let out a long, furious growl.
“Bad enough when I had my freakin’ fifteen minutes o’ post-resurrection fame,” Faith ranted, “then this stupid book comes out and starts it up all over again…but in a bad way!” She stopped and took a deep breath. “I mean, all I had to worry about then was whether my action figure looked like me or not.”
“I know, I know,” Buffy said in a calming voice, “but like it or not, you and I are celebrities, and –”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Faith shot back. “You’re not the one being stalked!”
“What makes you think they weren’t stalking me?” Buffy countered. “I am the Council Chair.”
“Of course you are!” Faith replied with heavy sarcasm. “You’re number one! You’re the original.” Then she pointed at Buffy. “You want the damn spotlight, B? Take it. I’ve had about as much as I can stand.”
At that, Faith stormed away, leaving Buffy behind. The blonde slayer looked as if she might give chase, but her cell phone rang, and she looked down to see “Rowena calling” on the display, along with a note that said ten missed messages. She looked at her watch, which read 12:05 A.M. Her brow knitted in concern.
“I’ve been calling like crazy. Willow’s been in an accident at the lab. Are you near the Council?”
Buffy looked at Faith’s retreating form, but then began to walk in the opposite direction of Faith.
“On my way now.”
Cleveland Back Alley – Night
“Zach! Zach, thank god!” Jason Felix reached his hand out and took Zachary Kreswell by the shoulder. The younger man smiled at him. “Come with me. I’ll take you to the Council. I’ll –”
“Jason. Jason, Jason. Such a worrier. Always were. Always afraid for humanity, for B9, for me, for mother. Never a thought for yourself.”
“Zachary, come with me son.” Jason tugged at Zach’s shoulder.
“Did it not occur to you to be even just a little bit concerned for your own safety and well-being? But no, why should it?” Zachary pulled away, slipping from Jason’s grasp and grinning meanly at him. “After all, you lost everything when your own family was killed, didn’t you?”
“What are you going on about? Let’s get you to the Council. They won’t hurt you if they see you’re with me.”
“Even I’m not enough – me, your surrogate son. But of course not! Not man enough for my own father and, sadly, a poor replacement for a daughter, no matter how much of a ‘girl’ I am.”
“Poor Jason. Still pining, still suffering, after all these years. Let’s say we just…take that suffering away, hmm?”
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same Time
Willow breathed heavily at Giles through her oxygen mask. “I’m all right,” she huffed. “I’ll be okay. Really…” Rowena brushed the red hair off Willow’s forehead, being careful not to touch any of the burned areas. “Is Gwen…is Gwen okay?”
“Yes,” Rowena replied. “She’s fine. She’s with Ethan, and Buffy’s on her way.”
“Giles, did we find Zachary’s address?”
“Yes,” Giles replied. “The New York Branch was immediately dispatched, but he wasn’t there.”
“Any movement from Jason?”
Giles caught his breath. “Good lord. I-I forgot about – I rushed up here to the infirmary to see about you!”
Willow’s eyes grew wide, and she began to sit up. “We have to find him,” she said.
“You just became a human car battery, okay?” Rowena insisted. “Lay down, now!” She then turned to Giles. “Take whatever slayers and witches, with the exception of this one, that you need. If what you say is true – if Zachary has done all of these things – it’s a pretty good bet that Jason will probably try to get him to give himself up. Which, I suspect, will put Jason in harm’s way.”
“Locator spell,” Willow said.
“Right!” Giles replied, and left the infirmary to convene the Coven.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
Ethan watched as the thousands of strands of embroidery threads twitched and began to move, crawling and snaking their way over the floor until they made a beautiful map of the outskirts of Cleveland. At one spot, a bright red thread braided itself into a ball and spun just above the embroidery map.
“There you are!” Ethan said.
Watchers Council – Outside Ethan’s Apartment – Moments Later
“What do you want?” the older of the two slayers asked as Gwen approached them.
“Don’t get snotty with me,” Gwen shot back. “I’m here at Ethan’s request, just like you two.”
“We’ve got it covered,” the younger slayer answered.
“Yeah, and I’ve got you covered,” Gwen replied. “Electricity trumps slayer skills.”
The two slayers looked at one another as the door opened. Shannon popped her head out. “What’s all the noise?”
“She says Ethan sent her to –”
“Oh. Hi, Gwen. You here to help watch Ms. Kreswell?”
“Well, somebody’s finally getting it,” Gwen smirked.
Shannon smiled. “Cool. C’mon in.”
“Not so cool. I’m not one of wifey’s favorite X-Men. I’ll stay out here, but shout if you need me. In the meantime,” she sneered, “I’ll work on my people skills with these two.”
“Don’t worry,” Shannon said to the two slayers, “she’s okay.”
The slayers shrugged. Shannon closed the door, and the pair stared balefully at Gwen. She frowned at them and removed one of her PVC gloves.
“Wanna see a trick?” she asked. She rubbed two fingers together, and electrical sparks flew off her fingertips in extra-bright white flashes that crackled and popped. The two slayers grinned.
Cleveland Back Alley – Same Time
“Poor, poor Jason…”
Zachary shook his head at the prone form of Jason Felix on the pavement. Shrouded in darkness and shadow, they went undetected by a couple of winos heading north up the street. The two men passed by, drunken and cackling over some joke, and Zachary listened as their voices faded into the distance. He breathed in deeply and made a face.
“What a stench!” he said to the unconscious Felix. “And this used to be such a nice city. Say, you’re looking a bit down in the mouth. How un-fun of you. You know, you’re such a bore when you’re like this, you pathetic, moody man. I’m grown quite tired of you and your doom and gloom attitude. I think I’ll put you out of your misery, and mine, once and for all.”
He smiled and raised his hand.
The sudden sound of purposeful clapping startled him. He turned his head slowly and saw, not more than twenty feet away, Ethan Rayne standing and applauding.
“Bravo,” Ethan said. “You’re now as pathetic and sniveling a git as your father was. Well done.”
Zachary’s eyes flashed with deep hurt, then fierce anger. He turned his head back to Jason and raised his hand a little higher.
“What are you going to do, Zach? Waste your power – excuse me, whomever’s power you borrowed – on killing Jason, when you’ve got me here to punish? Not that I much mind. The man’s a twittering fool. Be nice to be rid of his incessant babble about things no one much gives a damn about. But then, that would leave you without enough power to take me on.”
Zachary said nothing, but looked at Ethan out of the corner of his eye.
“Oh, come on! You think I don’t know how much you’ve drained yourself by teleporting here? You did teleport, didn’t you? Or did you just fly in on your Nimbus 2000 like the pusillanimous little schoolboy you are?”
“Don’t!” Zachary said sharply. “Don’t push it, Ethan,” he repeated more calmly. “I don’t want to hurt you. Not really.”
“Oh. I see. You’ve just been flirting all this time, is that it?”
“I could have killed everyone!” Zachary said. “Your slayer and her little boyfriend. Rosenberg, the little Giles girl.” His eyes darkened, and he stood up slowly, turning until he faced Ethan. “My mum. Your little love-bird, Raiden.”
Ethan’s eyes flickered minutely, but Zachary saw it. “My god! You’re in love with Gwen Raiden! Does…does my mother know? Does she, Ethan? But she must. How could she not know it? You seduced me and married my mother, and all the while, you’re in love with that little electric tramp! Oh, ho! What a joke! Having a go at my mum because, after all, it’d be too dangerous to plug into that tart’s socket –”
Ethan raised his hand so suddenly that Zachary had no time to react. He was thrown back, fast and hard, against the brick wall of an abandoned building. He groaned as he slid down onto his butt. Ethan walked toward him calmly.
Zachary stood up, wobbling a little. He steadied himself with a hand against the brick wall and watched Ethan approach. Ethan brought his hand up, slowly this time, and then made a quick sweeping motion across his chest. Zach was spun around and smashed face first into the brick wall. His nose was bleeding, though not broken. He staggered back and regained his balance. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Ethan closing the gap between them, with slow even steps.
He turned quickly and raised his own hand, but Ethan flicked his fingers at him, and Zachary felt a hot stinging in his stomach, as though he’d been stabbed by hot pokers. He doubled over in pain as Ethan walked the few remaining steps, stopping within inches of him.
Still doubled over, Zachary looked up at Ethan, his head level with Ethan’s hips. Ethan let out a laugh and grabbed him by both sides of the head, grasping his hair so hard he pulled some strands of it out.
“Is this what you want?” Ethan moved forward. “Is this what you’ve been after all this time? Is this what you truly want?”
Ethan’s knee came up sharply, catching Zachary in the chin. His teeth rattled, and he yelped as he bit his own tongue. Ethan let go of him, and Zachary fell to the ground on his knees.
“What? No witty comeback?” Ethan goaded.
Zachary raised his head up. His eyes were black. His fair hair was going black as well, and veins began to appear across his forehead and cheeks.
“How adorable,” Ethan smirked.
Zachary roared in rage and raised his hand. Ethan was thrown back into the air by the energy blast and landed in the middle of the street, on his back. He lifted himself onto his elbows, ready to fend off the next blow. But Zachary remained on the ground, kneeling and breathing heavily. His eyes were still black, but his hair was turning back to its natural color, and the veins had disappeared from his face.
Zachary looked at Ethan, confused.
“I said finish it.”
Zachary stared blankly at the mage, as Ethan stood and dusted himself off.
“I’m giving you a golden opportunity,” Ethan said matter-of-factly. “I’ll give you a chance to take your best shot at me. I won’t raise a finger, nor an eyebrow – I won’t even breathe. You can hit me with anything you want, all that you have left. Do it!”
“Why?” Zachary cried out, his face contorting in pain. “Why do you want me to…I don’t want to hurt you, Ethan! I-I mean I wanted you to hurt! I wanted you to…to hurt…to…”
“To prove that I loved you?”
Zachary blinked, and tears began to roll down his face. “I wanted to know that there was enough feeling left in you to cry for me.”
“Finish it. Or I will finish you.”
“You…you don’t mean that.”
“Zachary. Do not call me on this. Finish it!”
“You want me to destroy you?”
“Do it. I’m granting you this one final wish – to strike out at your father by striking at me. It’s a gift, you know? My parting gift to you. Finish it.”
“Ethan! I don’t want to –”
“An unfinished life. How tragic.”
Ethan raised his hand again, slowly, and with a delicate movement of his fingers.
Zachary swayed woozily where he knelt, blinking and looking very nauseous. He put his arms out at his sides, as though he was trying to grab onto something to hold himself up. But there was nothing there, and he flopped onto his side on the ground.
With another subtle finger movement, Ethan approached Zachary as the boy rolled onto his back. Ethan stood over him as he breathed, a little quickly, and stared up, eyes full of fear. Tears rolled down the sides of his face.
Ethan knelt down beside him, his hand still raised, his fingers still working in small, graceful gestures.
“Ethan…Ethan…I can’t feel anything.”
“That should come as a blessing for you,” Ethan said silkily.
Zachary began to cry. “Ethan! I just wanted to be with you. That’s not a sin! Is it? Is it? Ethan! Oh god, don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me!”
“You’re already dead,” Ethan said simply.
The young man shuddered with sobs. “Ethan…please forgive me. Please forgive me. Don’t send me away without forgiveness. Please…”
Ethan looked down into the face of the boy he had met at Bureau Nine. The youth and beauty were there, suddenly, captured in the tear-streaked face and the pained expression. Ethan’s eyes flickered once more, and his fingers stopped moving for a moment.
“Forgive me…” Zachary breathed, his life ebbing.
Ethan sighed. “Look at me…” he called gently. Zachary’s clouding eyes searched for Ethan’s. He found them, and they were cold and calculating.
“No,” Ethan said calmly. “You’ve harmed people I love, people you loved. Your passing is the only way I can ensure their safety. So go. Go and be nothing for eternity.”
Zachary stared in horror into Ethan’s cold, contemptuous eyes. A look of profound sadness came over his face, and he held Ethan’s detached stare. And held. And held…
Ethan’s fingers stopped moving. He lowered his hand to his side and gazed at the now unseeing boy. Without bothering to close Zachary’s eyes, he rose up and stood over the body.
“After all,” he said, “turnabout is fair play.”
Cleveland Back Alley – Later that Night
Jason Felix sat in the back of the ambulance, a bloody bandage around his forehead. The first traces of dawn lent a gray cast to the streets and Jason’s pale face.
“We’re going to ask you to lie down for the ride to the hospital, sir,” the EMT said.
“Please,” Jason said, “the young man…where have you taken him?”
“Did you know him?” the EMT asked.
“I’m sorry, but they took him to the morgue. That woman over there,” he nodded. “She’s Faith Lehane. She’s with the Watchers Council. She can probably tell you more.”
Jason looked over and saw Faith standing and talking to Jeff at the spot where Zachary’s body had lain on the ground.
Watchers Council – Ethan’s Apartment – Later that Early Morning
“Ethan, thank god you’re back! Where have you been?” Cameron asked, as Ethan entered their apartment.
“I – I needed a bit of fresh air,” he lied. “I just had to get away from all of this! I needed to think.” He smiled at her. “And I’ve worked some things out. I think the man we’re after is probably a dark mage, perhaps even a rogue watcher…”
Cameron put her arms around him and held him tightly. “There was some sort of alarm a little while ago,” she told him. “I think they had a problem out in the field.”
“Yeah,” Shannon said from the kitchen doorway. “I called down to Security. They said they found Jason Felix unconscious on the eastern side of town. And some dead guy near him.”
Cameron blinked. “Why didn’t you say something?” she demanded.
Shannon’s face turned red, and she hung her head down. “I – I didn’t want to worry you. In cases…in case –”
“In case the dead guy was me?” Ethan smirked.
Shannon nodded. “Besides,” she said quietly, “I was afraid that it really was you and…anyway, I’m glad you’re all right, too.” She smiled sheepishly at Ethan.
“So am I, my little blue slayer.” He smiled back at her softly.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Noon
“How is C.K. taking it?” Robin asked.
“Ethan says she’s holding up as well as can be expected,” Giles answered.
“And we’re sure it was Zachary behind everything?”
“Quite sure,” Giles replied.
Robin shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I can’t let this question go. If Zachary was responsible, and his intended target was Ethan, how is it that Ethan himself didn’t know? Ethan’s no fool. Wouldn’t he have put two and two together?”
Giles sighed and looked at everyone assembled. “I think, like C.K. and Jason, Ethan was too close to the problem to actually see it. He loved Zachary, and I suspect that love may have blinded him to the more…obvious details. Ethan is, after all, human.” Giles smiled wanly at the group.
Robin frowned. He shook his head to clear the thought and turned to Rowena. “How’s Willow?”
Rowena turned to Jeff. The young witch looked taken aback for a moment.
“Oh, right. Standing in as the Coven boss for Will and Andy while he’s spring breaking with Tracey. Uh, she’s doing good. She should make a full recovery.”
“Yes,” Rowena added. “I saw her this morning, and she’s still resting.” There was a slight lull in the meeting, and she turned to Buffy. “Did you have anything else today, Buffy?”
In expectation of a reply, everyone turned to the head of the table. What they found, though, was Buffy and Faith huddled over a tabloid.
“I can’t believe this!” Buffy said, flipping angrily back and forth from the front page to the center spread. Then she held the newspaper up for all to see. “Have you seen this?”
Taking up almost all of the tabloid’s cover was a huge picture of Buffy and Faith holding hands and facing each other in front of the diner. The photographer had snapped the picture just as Buffy had coaxed the smile from Faith. The headline read, “Council Chair and Slayer Commander in Torrid Affair?”
Kennedy swiped the newspaper from Buffy’s hands and pulled it over for closer inspection. Next to her, Jim leaned over for a peek. Meanwhile, Buffy and Faith were lividly pacing the floor.
“This is unacceptable,” Buffy pronounced.
“Don’t they have anything better to do with their lives?” Faith complained loudly.
“This will not be tolerated,” Buffy promised.
“First the supposed ‘Real Story of Faith Lehane.’ now this crap,” Faith groused bitterly. “And how the hell did they get this to press so fast, anyway?”
Buffy looked at the front cover again, as a wide-eyed Robin glanced at the center spread. “Arggghh!” Buffy cried, as she snatched the paper back and threw it down in a wad on the table. “Now I’ll never get a date!”
Everyone at the table froze. It was clear that they were working hard to suppress their laughter, but it was Xander who finally let the first snicker escape.
“It’s not like I haven’t offered,” Xander remarked.
A few others at the table snickered too, but they were all instantly silenced when Buffy directed a laser-like glare around the room.
Even Faith had to chuckle now. “Hey, you wanted the spotlight, Ms. Chairwoman,” she reminded her. “Now you’ve got it.” She sat back down next to Kennedy, as Rowena carefully eased the crumpled tabloid over and started straightening it back out for viewing.
Buffy ignored Faith’s jibe and went into commander-mode. “Jim!” she nearly shouted, making the PR director jump in surprise. “I want to know who took those pictures. I don’t care how you do it, just do it.”
Rowena examined the copy and then held it up, pointing to the credits under the photos. “Well, actually –”
Buffy had already moved on. “Call our lawyers, get them busting down the door of that rag sheet and threatening a lawsuit. They have no right to publish such-such…nonsense!”
As Buffy continued to belt out orders, Kennedy leaned over to Faith and said, “Is it just me, or does the term overreact come to mind?”
In response, Faith elbowed Kennedy. “Shut up!”
Kennedy grinned and said, “I don’t know…just a year ago you two were pretty cozy at Demented Island, and you have been hanging out a lot lately…”
“The only thing demented around here is you and anybody else who thinks there’s something going on with me and B!” Faith insisted, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms.
“Wait until Will sees this,” Rowena muttered to no one in particular.
Buffy reached over and snatched the paper away from her, making the watcher pout.
Watchers Council – Science Department – Same Time
Slumped over the table, Gwen rested her cheek on her curled up fist, her eyes narrow and despondent. With her other hand, she spun a coin on the surface until it lost momentum and rolled flat onto the table. Then she picked it up and spun it again.
“If Ro finds out you’re not laid up in bed watching Xena re-runs and you’re instead spending time with the spokeswoman of PVC monthly trying to get her outta her suit – figuratively speaking, of course – then your ass is toast…again.”
“Leave Ro to me.” The computer terminal beeped from where Willow sat. “Okay…new nanites are done.”
Gwen twirled her finger in the air. “Yay,” she said bluntly.
“Coding’s been uploaded, we’re good to go.” Willow moved off the stool and over to a door bearing a swipe card panel beside it. She swiped her card and entered a small room awash with a dull red. A moment later, she returned with a glass cylinder full of the gray solution. “Let’s do the same amount as last time. I think it was the right amount, but thanks to Zachary…you know…poof.”
“Yeah…just be ready to run like hell,” Gwen replied meekly.
Willow ejected the nanites from the syringe into a glass of water and, when she turned, she noticed Gwen’s deflated demeanor. “Oh c’mon, hey now, turn that frown upside down.”
Gwen sighed and sat up. “I should have never gotten my hopes up.”
Willow smirked. “Wanna hear a story?” She took the glass in hand and slowly walked over to Gwen.
“Got a feeling you’re gonna tell me anyway.”
“Damn straight!” she smiled brightly. “In fact, it’s about electricity, so you should like this.” Willow took a seat opposite Gwen. “Thomas Edison tried a thousand times before he finally invented a successfully working light bulb. He said that he didn’t fail a thousand times, he successfully discovered a thousand ways to not make a light bulb.”
Gwen waited a moment. “That’s a story? And that’s relevant how?”
“If he had stopped at nine hundred and ninety-nine times, we’d all be in the dark.” Willow gave her a large grin as she set the glass next to Gwen.
Gwen returned the grin. After a moment of staring at the glass, Gwen reached forward and took it. She sniffed the water and then looked to Willow, who held her smile. With a deep breath, Gwen put the glass to her lips and drank the water down.
Willow moved from the table and back over to the computer terminal. “Again, everything’s good. Nanites are now…” She tapped the keys. “…active.” She turned back to Gwen. “You ready?”
“I guess,” she said as she stood up.
“Switch off,” Willow uttered.
Gwen shook out her limbs, threw her hair back over her shoulder, took a breath and closed her eyes once more. Then, a moment later, she opened her eyes and sighed. Willow frowned, quickly turned back to the computer, and then back again.
Gwen averted her stare to the coin on the table beside her. She pulled off her right velvet glove and reached out. With her fingers mere millimeters above the coin, she hesitated. She swallowed and then placed her palm down over the coin.
Willow blinked and took a step forward.
Gwen curled her palm into a fist and lifted it off of the table. There was no coin left behind. She turned her hand over and gingerly opened her fist. Laid in her palm, perfectly round and intact, was the coin.
She drew a sudden breath. “Oh my…” Willow stepped up beside her, and smiled. “I think I’m standing in the presence of the new Edison,” Gwen told her.
Their eyes met, and Willow opened her palm. Guardedly, Gwen edged her hand forward and placed the coin in Willow’s palm, her fingers touching Willow’s skin. Completely taken aback, Gwen felt her eyes well with tears.
“I don’t…know what to say…I…”
Willow opened her arms. “Come here.”
Gwen grinned and stepped into Willow’s arms. “Th-thank you. Thank you so much.” She tightened her hold on Willow.
Gwen began to cry, a relieved and brilliant smile on her face, and Willow held her tighter.
Cleveland Duck Pond – That Evening
Ethan leaned over the railing of the duck pond, Zachary Kreswell’s favorite spot in Cleveland. He looked out over the cold, murky water and gathered his coat about him more closely. The evening chill made his breath come out in steamy puffs. He stared blankly across the pond.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
Ethan turned his head, startled to see Rupert Giles standing a few feet to one side. “Ripper.”
“Ethan.” Giles smiled slightly and walked up alongside Ethan, where he, too, leaned over the railing.
“How is Cameron taking it?”
“Ah. Well, of course, it was her son. Felix says he remembers absolutely nothing after Zachary’s blast caught him. And the investigation has turned up absolutely no witnesses to the event. The Council’s at square one as far as knowing what actually took place.”
“Is that so?” Ethan replied.
Giles nodded. “Felix has gone on record saying that he asked the boy to come to Cleveland to visit and that he hadn’t known the boy had gone bad until Zachary attacked him. The accepted theory is that Zachary was behind all of the curses and spells and that whatever force Zachary threw at Felix somehow rebounded on him, killing him.”
There was a long stretch of silence between them, until Ethan asked, “Why are you covering for me?”
Giles bit his lower lip. “Ethan, tell me what happened with –”
“Don’t be a berk. You know what happened.”
“Tell me what happened with Lupo. What did he show you?”
“He showed me Cameron’s death.”
“You mean, Zahary’s –”
“I mean my wife! He showed me my wife’s death at her own son’s hands. And then he showed me her other death.”
“Five years from now, even if Zachary was stopped. Quite a natural death, really. Disease is such a simple, apathetic evil…”
“Ethan, I –” Giles looked at Ethan sympathetically, at a loss for words.
“Lupo also showed me a son,” Ethan continued quietly. “My son. C.K.’s and mine. Or so I thought. But as I thought more, I began to realize that I didn’t see C.K. at all in connection with that child.”
Ethan looked directly at Giles. “I won’t have that child with her, Ripper. I don’t know who the mother will be. But it won’t be C.K.,” he sighed. “The only thing I can have with her is…a little more time.”
Giles watched as Ethan straightened.
“Zachary,” Ethan said, “was about to destroy that time together. I couldn’t let that happen. So I put a sleeping spell on Jason Felix, who was already down, in order to keep him out of my way while I dealt with Zach.”
Giles looked searchingly at Ethan. “Dealt with…?”
“I want to thank you, Ripper, for not saying anything about this to the Council yet. C.K. has been hurt enough. I don’t want her to know that it was me that destroyed her son. Whatever the Council decides to do with me, I don’t want C.K. to know what I’ve done.”
“Ethan…you should know that I took a little ‘trip’ of my own with Lupo.”
“Ethan, I knew what could have occurred between you and Zach. I knew that if you didn’t face him, he would have caused more hurt and, eventually, deaths. I’m not saying the end justifies the means. Not at all. But given the choice, I thought it best to leave you to your own devices.”
“You…you knew what I would do? You knew I was going to kill him?”
“I’m sorry, Ethan.”
“It’s our job to fight the monsters. Regardless of the form they –”
“Ripper, what if it’s me? What if…what if I’m the monster?”
“I ask myself that question every time I think of Glory and what I did to Ben – and of Eyghon and what happened to Randall. I’m in no position to fault you. As someone once said, ‘The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world’.”
Ethan frowned, pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “Nice sentiment,” he said, the cigarette between his lips. “Unfortunately, I don’t think the Council’s seen that movie.”
Giles nodded, grim faced. “Let’s get away from this sodding pond. I need a drink. And so do you.”
Large puffs of smoke lifted into the air as Ethan and Giles began to walk down the path in the evening mist. Giles smirked, pulled the cigarette from Ethan’s mouth, and took a drag. “It’s over, Ethan. And at the risk of despoiling my squeaky-clean reputation, I don’t see a reason for the Council to ever know what you’ve done.”
From somewhere, “The Marseillaise” began to play.
Ethan looked wonderingly at Giles, then took the cigarette back from him.
“You know, Ripper,” Ethan said, his mouth quirking into a teasing grin, “this could be the start of a beautiful friendship…”
They walked off into the gloom, as The Marseilles swells to its conclusion.
Fade to Black
V.O., Giles: “Prat.”
Special Guest Starring:
Ashton Kutcher as Ethan Rayne and Billy Crudup as Rupert Giles
End of Turnabout
Next on Watchers…
The whirlwind surrounding Faith’s past reaches a fever pitch at the same time that she is targeted by a serial killer seeking retribution for her sins.