One for a sin offering
June 16, 2003
Disclaimers: Not even close to mine.
Spoilers: Vague mentions of things up through Chosen.
Ratings Note: NC-17.
Summary: Some years later, Ethan and Willow meet again.
Author's Note: Really, I only thought of this pairing because of something Robin Sachs said at Buffycon. Um. His fault? For the Get Ethan Laid challenge.
Acknowledgments: Love to the Spike and Molly for audiencing and catching my mistakes. Everything else is my fault.
Feedback: Yes, please! email@example.com
She reeks of goddess when he comes close, and suddenly some of the odder rumors he'd been hearing make infinitely more sense.
The witch with too much power, and that hadn't been especially strange -- one does hear of risings and fallings when one lives the way Ethan does. But the source of that power was ever in question. The black, the white, and the green. The male and female. She would've been a temptation even without the other rumors.
Traveled with Slayers, in a world so full of them that they didn't even need Watchers anymore -- not that there were many left. Travels with one of those Watchers. Just one, and Ethan didn't need to hear the name.
Ripper was far, far too unfinished to die with the rest -- and certainly Ethan wasn't finished with him.
But Ethan had waited. He'd been quite patient, really -- even putting off his planned exit (escape was such a crass word) from the remnants of the Initiative until his hair was just a trifle greyer, his rage just that slightest bit more keen.
They'd taken him to the jungles, wet, dark, green places full of the stench of filth and plant-life like wild, rough-hewn woman. A different sort of chaos than what he was accustomed to, but something he could use, just the same. Oh, yes.
The world had been full of ripeness and rot, the soldiers' shoelaces and underpants rotting with the natural entropy that surrounded all of them, leaving them slack-jawed and stupid and... careless.
He remembers the stink of machine oil from all those blunt and ugly little guns. He remembers the crackle of ozone as the other guns fired and fired, randomly damaging the soldiers far more than they could ever damage the jungle. Just machines, as subject to chaos as anything else.
And really, all of those orderly minds working on all of those orderly and well-muscled bodies... you'd think they would think to drop their weapons, or at least stop trying to use them as they were intended. Ethan would've gone down from a rifle-stock to the temple as quickly as anyone.
Would have bled and bruised under their fists...
But truly, he's being unfair. Calling up illusory demons and other creatures to devil the waking sleep of a group of young people trained and pared down to fight such things, pared down to the very essence of human weaponry... they'd been distracted, poor darlings.
And Ethan had used up nearly every bit of reserve energy within him to take his vengeance. There, for the manacle scars around his wrists. There, for all those clever little jokes about his sexuality -- as if they could ever come close to understanding.
There, for the stink of iron that he will never, ever be able to forget.
In the end, he'd made a mess so lovely that the jungle took it up as its own instantly. Blood no redder than the flowers, metal so filth-ridden it made its own kind of camouflage amid the bodies and the mud.
He remembers being more tired and weak than he'd been in those first few days in the Nevada installation, when the endless white and perfect right angles of the place had brought him close to true despair, to knowing exactly why the Christians found it to be such a sin.
He remembers joy bearing him up, and the satiation of spent rage.
He remembers the jungle welcoming him into its grasp with promises of things to learn, animals to confuse, demons to... use.
The exhaustion hadn't lasted long.
Weeks passed, or perhaps years, and when the jungle spit him out he'd been lean, far more tattooed then before, and scarred almost entirely of his own volition. He had tasted the pure, wordless fear of the scattered tribes of the Amazon, he had eaten flesh straight from the living, bleeding source. He had learned.
Something like a finer degree of patience, something like the purest expression of memory. There was a vine that he'd named love, and every time he'd seen it he'd remembered the look in Ripper's eyes when Ethan had danced, or when he'd quoted some ancient tome Ripper had been young enough to believe no eyes had seen but his own.
The look had been something trapped hopelessly between helplessness, religious awe, and guilt.
And Ethan remembers being young enough not to understand it well enough to react with more than callow triumph.
There was a snake he'd named faith, and chided himself for the easy joke of it all, and yet there'd been something about its sinuous hunger, and deadly grace...
The outside world had been distressing at first. All the sharp corners, all the repression, and yet it hadn't taken long to find his old joy of it. The seduction of chaos from beneath the skin, and the far more tender veneer of civilization.
The endless change he could wreak, one man against the crashing tide of order. Ripper had worked very hard and very diligently not to understand Ethan's passion, hard enough that he never understood the raw, powerful duty of it.
To be the one to show the world the truth of things, everything that lurked beneath the dirt and the sweat and the crude and solid things. The energy that demanded release, and to be allowed to re-form and change whatever it touched. He was a conduit to the only true god this world would ever know, eternal and unstoppable.
He was part of something... true.
It lightens his step as he walks the streets, as he finds the bar the latest rumors have led him to, as he charms the bouncer by complimenting her truly lush beard, and makes himself look as harmless as any queen could ever be.
As he opens herself up to her power and feels it rearrange his own for a brief moment, as it takes another to make him need to prostrate himself, to destroy, to rage and fuck and... there.
Her hair is its own beacon, a not-quite-natural red glancing bright from the neon. She sits alone, but it's clear that it's purely choice on her part. The dance floor is full of couples and enthusiastic singles, and every once in a while a mascara'ed eye or a defiantly bare one will cast puzzled glances her way.
The ward she is using is a small one, but effective. No one who doesn't understand who and what she truly is will be able to come near.
Ethan doesn't have that problem.
Crossing the ward is a matter of a shimmer over his skin, like walking through gently electrified water, and it makes her jump, look up from her garishly cheerful drink. He breathes deep and smells the club, sweat, alcohol, and... nothing from her. He walks closer and smiles.
"I know you," she says, and her expression is getting harder as he watches.
It's endearing, but he doesn't care to underestimate this one. The body is young, the power is something else altogether. Goddess all over her like a stain, and when she's old her hair will be long and white. The knowledge comes fast and easy, hard when it burns itself on his mind. A small, backhanded gift from chaos. And the mind... well, that remained to be seen. He nods at her and smiles, not bothering to try to look harmless this time. "Ripper telling tales out of school?"
The hardness checks itself on her face with a small frown. "I met you, actually. Years ago."
And that's... disconcerting. It isn't that he's ever had an especially good memory for faces, even ones as pretty as her own, but that much power... he thinks back, and remembers a hedge witch in childish clothing, soft eyes and soft mouth and not enough power to bother with. Raises an eyebrow. "You've changed," he says, and to his surprise she laughs.
Darkly, but with none of the bitterness of affected youth. It's an adult laugh. "Yeah, well, I don't think you'd be here if I hadn't, right?"
It's a moment that would be improved by her taking a drag from a cigarette, or sipping anything but the fruity abomination in her hand. "Very true. Miss Rosenberg --"
"Call me Willow, Ethan. We're not friends, and I don't want to be, but..." She trails off, and waves her hand vaguely.
"All right, Willow... dare I ask what makes you so jaded?"
The look this time could chip steel. "I wouldn't, if I were you."
And Ethan has to chew on that for a moment. Savor it. There's a sense in this girl of opposite, of the kind of wrong that's endlessly attractive. This one would worship order if she knew the rites. This one... is waiting for him to give something away. He bows his head, only a little mockingly.
"What are you here for? What do you want from me? And, no, by the way. You can't have it."
He wants... well, her power more than anything else. But that particular trick isn't very easy to perform unless one is already far more powerful than the intended sacrifice. Or cool, refreshing beverage, as the case may be.
No, he knows he won't be getting anything quite that lovely from this little meeting, but he hadn't needed the American military to teach him the value of reconnaissance.
"Just to know my enemy, Willow."
She raises an eyebrow at that, puts the drink down. Seems to think for a moment. "Stay away from me and mine."
"I think you'll find there's some overlap, there..."
Crackle of power, quiet and deadly, and Ethan feels something inside of him... twist.
He grunts and winces, dutifully.
"No. There isn't."
When the pain starts to recede, he tilts his head. "Why aren't you dancing, Willow? Nothing quite your type available?"
"Isn't your club across the street and down a few blocks?"
Touche. "Not tonight."
They stare at each other for long moments, and there's another crackle of magic. Too fast for Ethan to flinch and the ward is down. Almost immediately, a waitress in a rather brief mock-tuxedo finds their way to their table.
"Refills?" She turns to Ethan and gives him that quick, casually intense scrutiny any man in this place would get. "Can I get you anything, sir?"
"We'll both have Mai Tais, thanks." Willow waves the waitress off and she goes without another word.
Ethan raises an eyebrow. "I think you truly are my enemy."
Willow shrugs. "My table, my rules." She leans back, tilting the chair until it hits the wall. Crosses long legs in not-particularly-interesting jeans and eyes him speculatively.
She is somewhere in her mid-twenties, and for a moment her eyes look much older. "You're not trying to be a Willow I'd remember anymore."
"When did you get away from the Initiative?"
Ethan blinks, smiles and remembers the metal shear stink of blood overpowering -- briefly -- the scent of everything else. "About a year ago."
"Mm. It's been about that long since we heard from Riley, or Sam for that matter."
Not so much a question as an open-ended statement. "There were quite a few nasty things in that jungle."
"You must miss it."
The waitress returns with their drinks, setting both carefully close to Willow. She hands it to him with a smirk. He smiles back and takes an execrable sip. "It had its charms."
Another hard look, and then something rather far away. He thinks of Ripper, and when he'd spend hours staring out a window at nothing at all. He thinks of Riley rotting into earth. "The world isn't made for you, Ethan."
"This world you're trying to make, you mean?"
She downs half of her drink in a single swallow and her mouth twists. He can see where wrinkles will form, if she lets them. "I could kill you in the loudest, messiest way possible right now. No one here would bat an eyelash."
He bows his head slightly, and smiles. "You could, yes."
"You think I won't?"
"I think you'll want a better reason first. I have no intention of giving you one."
There's something bright and unformed behind her eyes, and her smile this time is loose and rough and somehow even older than the ones before. She's getting drunk. "You know what the funniest thing about all of this is? I mean, do you really know?"
He takes a polite sip of his own drink. "Tell me."
"You're a believer. I mean... you really are. I could feel that as soon as you passed through the ward. You... you're covered in it. I can feel it in your bones. Whatever you do, whoever you hurt or kill... you honestly think you're doing the right thing. And that's... my ex would have called it 'fucking hilarious.'"
Interesting. He leans in, just a little. "Would she, now?"
Narrow-eyed nod. "Oh, yeah. Kennedy was... a brat. A fucking brat, and she had... well. Sometimes she got things right."
"I would think... I would think faith is something your lot would be familiar with."
And it's her turn to lean in. She runs a finger down the bridge of his nose with a lazy burst of magic that makes him itch horribly for an endless second. "How many heroes have you messed up, Ethan? Do you get off on it? You can tell me. Since we're getting to know each other, and all."
And there are... all sorts of ways to answer that, really. He tilts his head. "Would it make you feel better if I did?"
She sits back again, and makes a show of thinking it over, youth coming back into her like it had just been waiting for a cue. "Better.... better. That's..." She gulps down the rest of her drink almost absently. "That's really an interesting way of putting it."
He pushes over his own drink, watches her make a face before taking it. "Is it?"
"The world is out of balance, Ethan."
"I've noticed. I take it that was your doing...?"
Nasty smile. "I'm going to keep it this way. I'm going to... wipe this world clean."
And oh, of course she will. It would be almost disappointing if there wasn't that power. That rumored history. As it is... it makes him want to play. "You don't think it will be terribly dull?"
And the look she gives him is purely ugly, and not as strange to that kewpie doll face as it should, perhaps, be.
He has enough time to think about the war out there, the rumors, and just how 'ex' her exes may be, and then she stands up abruptly. Sweeps on her long coat, drops a small stack of bills on the table, and looks at him hard.
"Why don't you come with me?"
The night is bland and bright and starless, the air sterile where not polluted by smoke and other human effluvia. He dips within and reaches out, just enough to skim beneath the world's surface and Willow watches him do it.
He knows he's being measured.
Apparently, he's nothing to worry about, because she turns her back to him and starts to walk. Pauses at the mouth of an alley and grins sloppily back over her shoulder. "I wanna see what you can do," she says. "But I don't think I want you in my apartment."
He offers a leer, but it's to the back of her head. He follows her into the dark and high summer reek and gets slammed back against damp brick. "Really, Willow, you don't --"
The kiss is hard and sweet only through the dubious benefit of the drinks. She bites his lip hard enough to make it bleed and forces a rush of magic through him, burning and cloying and then just deep and dark and wet as this patch of night, as her tongue.
He rides it and groans into her mouth, feeling every part of him rise to the moment. There is all sorts of magic in the world and this is something of a specialty of his. He spits blood back into Willow's mouth and feels the girl, the woman reel and shake. So. Not a specialty of hers. And really, hadn't Ripper taught her anything?
He watcher her feel it. What he has every day. What he is.
Feels it, or something close enough to it to make her break the kiss and shake her head and when she looks up her eyes are wide and black and perfect.
Small, hard hand in his pants and he buries his hands in her hair and kisses her properly. Slower than her touch, deeper than she'll ever, ever go. When she pulls back this time her smile is a kind of joyful obscenity, wet and shiny and hungry. "I'm going to fuck you," she says, and Ethan doesn't have enough time to blink before he's being spun around.
Hands up and braced and she whispers something old and insinuating as she strokes his naked cock, then lets him go.
Sound of a zipper and he hopes he's never too old for this, for the crackle and burn, for the feel of a slick hard cock that he'd bet blood was the mirror of his own nudging between his cheeks and forcing its way in.
Can't hold back a cry at the sudden burn and doesn't try.
She doesn't slow, just rocks her way in, bites at his back through his shirt and wraps force around him to make him bend his knees. And then there's a mouth at the back of his neck, hot and nearly as vicious as everything he's forcing into his blood. She drinks him like a vampire, and fucks him like a woman.
She growls out spells in a dozen dead and dying languages, each of them more damaging than the last and nothing she'd let herself do when her eyes were clear and blue.
The earth shakes beneath their feet and Ethan laughs and prepares to stumble, but the power is all around them now, and he looks up to see rubble bouncing off something invisible about three feet above their heads, pushes against the wall experimentally and feels the true wall, soft and utterly ungiving.
And inside... inside is his own cock and Willow's increasing desperation, fucking his own poison back into his body and licking him like a cat.
"Damn you, God damn you --"
And Ethan lets his head fall back on her shoulder and laughs hard enough that he can feel it in his belly. Reaches down to stroke his own cock and fills his body with snares and dreams of the real God.
Short sharp fingernails digging into his hips and he can feel it when it breaks, when she realizes that she can't stop even if she (truly) wants to and she howls with everything in her. Ethan can feel his ears bleed.
Ethan can hear the screams surrounding them and takes a tiny part of himself back from Willow. Just to feel it. Just to... touch.
And then gives it all back, forcing it on her in an endless meal of human pain and joy and confusion.
She's buried to the hilt, jerking and shuddering more than thrusting, and for a moment he's tempted to yank at his balls, knowing that the connection between them will stop her from coming as much as it will hurt him. But...
He wants her power more.
Bears down and forces his hips back and back and releases his cock to reach up and hold her head to his neck.
"Take it," he whispers, or perhaps it's just the flow of blood. The splash of come against the wall and the fire of it within him. And oh, it's heady, it's wonderful, it scorches his bones and flays the skin from his flesh, and the best part is Willow's endless keen.
The best part is knowing that she's feeling it, too, and that unlike him... has no idea what to do with it.
He laughs and laughs and comes until it feels like he's bleeding inside, feels Willow's cock dissolve to smoke and power within him and drives an elbow into her belly to knock her back.
Turns, shaking and humming, and finds her curled up on herself on the ground, twitching like a kicked puppy and sparking with half-spent magic.
He feels like he's going to die.
He feels like he can swallow the world as he goes.
It's the work of a moment to force a fingernail to grow long and sharp, and then he kneels beside her. Draws on and into her cheek once, twice, and a third time.
Spits a mouthful of blood and saliva onto the wound and watches it sizzle and smoke. A small rune, and nothing as powerful as he could make at this moment, but he wants a messenger, not a slave.
He knows the message will be received and understood.
Ethan gets to his feet and straightens his clothes with a burst of stolen magic, and leaves her there to recover, or not.
The world stretches before him like a strong and needful whore, endlessly dirty and waiting for him. Ready for him.
A goddess screams for vengeance just beneath his skin.
A vine and a snake coil around his heart and squeeze with every pulse and thud. He... hadn't expected this.
But if that isn't the definition of God, then nothing is.
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