There are rooms in this house
That I don't open any more
Dusty books and pictures on the floor
That she will never see
She'll never see that part of me
I want to be for her what I could never be for you.
- Ben Folds Five, Mess.
Rupert Giles had thought that he was as safe as anyone could be at the mouth of hell. He didn't truly realise how illusory that belief was until he woke to find himself blindfolded, bound and handcuffed with Ethan Rayne straddling his chest. To his credit, he didn't panic.
"Fuck off, Ethan." Blinded or not, there was no doubt in the Watcher's mind about the identity of his midnight hagrider. He was a heavier; enough that he wouldn't blow away in a strong breeze any more, but even after twenty years there was no mistaking that particular sensation.
The Chaos Lord laughed, and the sound hooked something deep in Giles's guts. "Oh, there's my Ripper. I was beginning to wonder where he'd got to ..."
The Watcher took an inventory of his awkward position; feet bound securely (with his own ties, if he wasn't mistaken) eyes covered with something that felt like silk, wrists ... shit. Ethan had found the handcuffs in the box at the bottom of the linen cupboard.
"I don't go by that name any more. I'd like it very much if you'd let me go now." He'd change the locks first thing, for all the good it would do.
"I'm not doing this to antagonise you, Rupert. No need to be frightened."
"I am not afraid." It came out a growl, and it was only then that Giles realised he was speaking the truth - he wasn't at all worried that Ethan was going to harm him, and since he wasn't dead already he'd probably survive until morning. The gloating and nasty headgames might be upsetting, but it was unlikely that he was going to be hurt. Unless he asked nicely.
Far more worrying than his old comrade in arms was the intense desire he felt to smash the other man to a bloody pulp and roll him down the stairs. It seemed that Ethan was right about one thing; Ripper was not gone entirely. Still, that might be useful in his present situation ...
"We've established that I can still kick your arse, so I suggest that you uncuff me now before I get angry. If you don't make me wait, I won't throw you under a passing car when I toss you out the front door."
Lying on his back with his arms bound under him and Ethan's weight on his chest Giles could feel his limbs beginning to go numb already. It would be mildly challenging to beat the warlock black and blue if he had pins and needles.
Another chuckle. "If you want to get them off, Rupert, you know how to do it."
No. Not even a possibility. "I wouldn't give you the satisfaction."
Although, it would almost be worth conceding the point, just to feel his fist or his foot slam into the other man's flesh again ...
"If I'd been looking for satisfaction, I wouldn't have come here."
Apparently rape wasn't on Ethan's agenda for the evening either. He really hadn't changed - still wanted some kind of consent, even if he was willing to go to any lengths to get it. Giles felt a passing stab of relief. He could use this.
"Then what are you doing here? Even if you were looking for a quick shag, I doubt you'd cross the Atlantic ocean and tie me up just to get it. I'm not that good a lay."
"I think you're selling yourself short." Fingers run through his hair. "But I didn't come here to screw. Can't two old friends have a conversation like civilised adults?"
Now Giles found himself laughing, briefly and bitterly. If there were two things Ethan Rayne was not, they were adult and civilised.
Ethan shifted backwards a little, getting comfortable. "I wanted to talk to you."
Wrong answer. At least in part. Ethan wanted . . . what? Permission? Approval? Ah, attention, the hot, sharp focus that Giles was directing on him now, ignoring the ache in his arms to direct all his available senses at the man. Chaos loved an appropriately horrified audience.
"You have an odd way of striking up a conversation, Ethan."
"Unfortunately, I didn't think you'd welcome me with open arms if I knocked on the door, so I was forced to resort to more esoteric means."
Giles wondered if a delayed action sleep spell with a nice, neat release had been slipped into his tea, or the food he kept stashed in a draw in his office. Perhaps Ethan had even put it into a handful of dust in the air. He was that good, these days - his youthful talent backed up by the skills of a master enchanter. The intellectual within the Watcher admired the other man's craft even as the moralist despised the results.
"What, exactly, is there for us to talk about? I thought I'd made my feelings on the subject of your return perfectly clear. I could say it again using smaller words, if you're still confused."
Perhaps, in the end what Ethan wanted was closure, and whether that meant one last fuck in the dark or getting his head broken open didn't much matter. Giles felt the slightest twinge of pity - he'd known since he woke to the nightmare of Eyghon what Ethan still hadn't quite realised. They would never finish this.
"We could begin by exploring why you were so hostile when I was trying to solve our mutual problem."
Even if one or both of them ended up dead. Yes, it would be satisfying, if pointless, just to pummel Ethan's kidneys until he'd be pissing blood for a month.
"I was doing my job, minding my own business, all of that was in the past, then I find you're lurking around ..."
"I had leased a sizeable business on a major thoroughfare and painted my name above the door - I even distributed fliers. I'd hardly call that lurking. It's not my fault if you don't get out much, old chap."
Giles squirmed, partly because he should have noticed sooner that Ethan was in town, and partly at the constriction in his limbs, which was getting worse.
"I'm sorry if you're uncomfortable, Rupert, but this is an inconvenient bed you've got here - nothing to tie you to properly. I take it you weren't planning to play this particular game with that Calendar creature?"
Giles gritted his teeth, and managed not to swallow the bait whole. He was not going to talk to Ethan about Jenny - they were in two different boxes, and would stay that way. "It's been a long time since I played a game like this. One of the many things I left behind when I came here."
"I can't help observing that you kept these." Slipping a hand behind Giles's back, the warlock caressed the metal and leather, and the wrist beneath.
The handcuffs were the only thing he'd kept. Oh, the jacket. The books, because no knowledge was ever wasted, the vinyl, because you'd never find that stuff again and it was relatively innocent ... Yet the cuffs were the only object with Ethan's blood and sweat in them, the only thing with the taint of his magic. In the old days, he had woven it into everything - the record player, the sheets, the strings of Ripper's guitar - but Giles had gotten rid of all that.
"A little harmless nostalgia. Not an invitation."
The handcuffs had taken Ethan most of December to make, and Ripper had spent a highly entertaining Christmas day exploring the various enchantments they contained and trying to guess how to break the spell that locked them. He had always planned to throw them out, but every time he touched them the memories came crawling back.
"If you still consider yourself my friend, in some twisted fashion, and you want to make me happy, you'll leave now and never darken my doorway again. I won't hurt you if you stay out of my way."
"Happy?" Ethan ran a finger along Giles's jaw line. His nails, like his hair, had been cut short. They wouldn't leave those long, distinctive scratches Ripper had worn like brand marks any more. In theory. "Sleeping alone in blue and white stripped pyjamas?" The finger dipped below the collar of the aforementioned garment. "This really is quite dire, Ripper. We shall have to get you an emergency transfusion of tequila and Pink Floyd before you fade away altogether."
Of course he was happy - or he had been, before Ethan Rayne and Eyghon turned up and smashed his equilibrium. People were paying him (albeit not very well) to spend time with books. He had a job, no, a vocation, no, a sacred duty. Jenny Calendar had thought that he was a babe, or possibly a burning hunk of something unspecified. He had children - something that he hadn't known he wanted until they turned up and sliced their way under his skin.
He wanted Ethan to leave. Was not in the least curious, or aroused by the way the other man was tracing his jaw line, slowly and repeatedly with one fingernail that was longer than he'd first imagined.
"Let's see how far the rot's set in, shall we?" Ethan unbuttoned the top of Giles's pyjamas, slipped a hand in. "Going grey."
"It happens to the best of us," said the Watcher dryly, struggling to keep his cool. "You're no spring chicken yourself."
"Too true." The Chaos Lord sighed and brushed a cold thumb across the Watcher's nipple. Giles stiffled a gasp and kept his silence. He doubted that he was going to be able to talk his way out of this, and perhaps if he ignored Ethan long enough he'd melt away into the night.
Between the library and the costume shop - a considerable walk, since Willow's ghost self couldn't ride in the Citroen - Giles had asked the worried student about the proprietor. She'd told him that Ethan was "a nice old guy with a British accent" which was exactly the description she would have given of him.
There was no way to tell the difference.
One of the enchantments woven into the cuffs set the bound party's nerve endings on fire, and the Watcher had been subconsciously tensed waiting for Ethan to invoke that particular quirk for some time. Instead, he undid another button, ran a finger down his victim's collarbone. The effect was distressingly similar. Giles felt the shame that always threatened to drown him when he responded to Ethan this way increase ten-fold.
The palms of his hands were covered with scars where they pressed against the Watcher's chest, cool as they had always been. The bruises Giles had given him were probably magiced away already; Ethan never liked the way stale blood blackened the underside of his skin. He preferred to trade it to Chaos for clean red fluid and fine white lines.
Giles had decided long ago that Oscar Wilde had been wrong about a number of things, and Ethan Rayne was walking proof of that. If there had been any justice in the universe, the warlock would have resembled the after shots of Dorian Grey, with all his debauchery and moral turpitude painted across his skin in marks and stains. Instead, he merely looked his age - all his softness ground away to show the hard planes beneath. The years had given him a veneer of maturity to cover his wickedness where once an illusion of innocence had served, and in the costume shop Giles had seen at once that Ethan would get away with murder or worse as easily as he always had.
Ethan bent his head down and licked Giles's cheek gently, and the librarian half expected the feeling of long curly hair falling against his face and chest, as if the ghosts of the boys they had been were in the bed as well.
"Mmmm. You've had so much Scotch the last few days I can taste it leaking out your pores. I'm disappointed in you, Rupert, crawling into the bottle instead of defending yourself."
He bent down again, tongue lower this time, running along Giles's chin. He still wore far too much aftershave, and the scent was cloying enough to be slightly nauseating.
"I wasn't the one hiding behind an innocent sixteen-year-old girl."
"An innocent sixteen-year-old girl with Slayer powers, who does six impossible things before breakfast every day and had a far better chance of destroying the demon than either of us."
Ethan planted a kiss on his neck, barely brushing the erogenous zone that he'd surely memorized the location of years before. "You forced her to deal with the consequences of our actions."
"At least I had a plan - you melted into a pathetic puddle of angst at the first sign of trouble. You and I and the lovely Ms. Calendar would all be dead by now if Buffy and her little friends hadn't defended us."
"Oh, I'm sure that our safety was at the top of your mind." Tongue against his ear now, and he'd never liked that much. A tiny thinking space.
"If it hadn't been I'd have burned off the mark at the first sign of trouble and let Eyghon go after you."
There was no answer to that one. Somewhere in the last minute or so Ethan's right hand had slid down to brush the librarian's hip, and the old scar that rested there.
"In any case, all's well that ends well. The Slayer saved me, and the Slayer's companions saved her. Such a lovely little collection - if I'd known that Watchers got to hang out with talent like that I'd have joined up myself." The hand on his hip moved, just a fraction. "A nice assortment, too - a blonde, a brunette and a redhead. Did you plan it that way, Ripper, or was it a happy accident?"
Giles recoiled at the way his desire to kick Ethan until he begged for mercy only heightened his arousal, but the guilt didn't diminish either his anger or his need. "If you dare think of laying a hand on any of those children ..."
"Dear me, you are far gone. I honestly thought at first that it was an act, but you actually believe it. You've gotten boring, Rupert."
"There are worse sins." Ethan knew them all, and the way he was stroking the Watcher's stomach, his hand slightly too low or slightly too high depending on which part of his brain Giles listened to was certainly among them.
"On the contrary, it's the only one that counts."
Drawing back, the Chaos Lord undid the rest of the buttons on Giles's pyjamas, twisted them back over his arms, rested his fingers against the Mark. "And yet, you kept the tattoo."
That one had been a sign of penance, not of longing for old times. Giles had wished to escape the past, but he couldn't let himself forget the feeling of watching Randall's corpse melt in the dawn sunlight.
"I suppose that you'll miss yours." He wondered if the acid burn had left a mark more permanent than a bruise, and hoped that it still hurt.
"Actually, I have some new ones since the last time."
And Giles wanted, very badly, to trace a finger or a tongue around them, and Ethan paused, let that desire hang in the air a moment, no part of his body touching the Watcher except for the fully clothed weight on his stomach, and that was all he needed.
Right on cue, Ethan vaulted off the librarian's chest, as lightly as ever. "If you don't want to play, Ripper, I suppose I'll be leaving." He paused, daring Giles to disagree, to make him stay, to admit that Ethan had won this round without landing a hit.
"As a friend, I have to warn you that if you don't get laid soon you'll snap entirely, but if you're not up for it . . ." he could hear the shrug in the other man's voice . . . "it's your choice. I doubt that Jenny Calendar will be willing to oblige any time soon. Be seeing you."
He should have had a retort, a denial, something to answer that with, but Giles kept quiet. Rolled over onto his side to let a little of the blood flow back into his arms and listened to the non-sound of Ethan making his way down the stairs.
Giles lay there for a long time; until after he felt rather than saw the room lighten, and thought that Ethan Rayne must surely be gone with the darkness that had brought him. Softly, trying to think of Jenny, he murmured "I love you."
The cuffs unlocked themselves from his wrists as obediently as ever.
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Title: Three Words
Author: Andraste [email] [website]
Details: Standalone | R | *slash* | 15k | 02/09/04
Characters: Giles, Ethan Rayne
Summary: Giles, Ethan, handcuffs. Do I need to draw you a diagram?
Notes: This is not a nice story, people - darkness, swearing, sexual activity of dubious consensuality if not actual sex. Set some time after 'The Dark Age' in Season Two. Many thanks to Lise Williams for the beta.
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