This was inspired by the first Goth pic that ASH did. If he didn't want us to
fic, he shouldn't give our fevered little imaginations so much to work with...
If you don't have a copy, check here...
There are two versions of the ending, one nc-17, one PG-13. Choose your path wisely...
As always, I own none of the characters, only the blame and the shame. The money should flow towards Joss and all fiscally and legally interested persons. No profit, no foul, no lawsuit...
And this baby's dedicated to Carol, Anne, Kristina & Julia, who were there when Ripper and Willow needed them most...
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know
(from a quote about Lord Byron, from a woman with cause to know)
Rupert Giles sat at his desk, book open in front of him, and stared at the bottle. In his father's house, the Scotch within would have been carefully decanted into a cut crystal holder, set on a sideboard and never referred to.
He scorned such pretenses. If you're going to rely on a bottle to carry you through the night, at least be honest about it. If you can't go out and get pissed in public, have the decency not to pretend to your family.
Assuming, of course, one had a family.
No, correct that thought. No self-pity, no whining. He had a family. And right now, he had to find out where Ethan had hidden that damn artifact, so he could protect them.
"Damn Ethan, anyway," he complained to the bottle "Why must he play his games, even now?"
He knew the answer to that, of course. Ethan played games because Ethan wanted to. Ethan did as he wished, and only as he wished. It had been that carefree arrogance which had attracted a young, bitter Rupert Giles to him so many years ago.
And had been what had driven them apart, finally. More than the blood shared on their hands, it had been Ethan's unrelenting egocentricity that had broken their relationship.
And Ethan had used that, in their every meeting since then. Used the damnable Giles code of responsibility as a weapon against his former friend. Used it to twist the blade, as only Ethan Rayne could.
And now this.
Giles laughed, reaching out to pour himself another drink. It was perfect, really. The artifact of En'pei had been created for pleasure. In its original incarnation, it was a tool of an temple of Ek'kidu, enhancing the rites and powering the devotions of that ancient goddess of the senses.
In the hands of someone like Ethan...
Tossing off the drink, Giles pushed away from the desk and paced the length of his office. The dimensions of his new apartment still felt wrong, somehow, even after almost a year. But the practice he was getting in pacing would wear that off, soon enough.
The phone rang, and he thankfully snapped out of his dark thoughts to answer it, expecting Buffy to be on the other end.
But it was Willow, and she was nearly incoherent.
"Willow, please, s-slow down. I can't make out--"
He listened for a moment, automatically reaching out for his glass, and grimacing as he realized it was empty. Apparently, Buffy, Xander, and Cordelia had taken it into their head to go searching for the artifact themselves. Ethan's taunting words to them -- "I'm keeping it safe, where little children can't get their innocent hands on it" had inspired them to try a particular string of clubs. Sunnydale, for all its supernatural afflictions, would never have allowed that borderline red light district to flourish, but neighboring towns were less discriminating. And Ethan had been living in that neighborhood, according to Willow's raid on some database or another Giles preferred to know nothing about.
They had left Willow behind, apparently feeling that her innocent face and youthful looks would hinder them. And she, thinking twice after Buffy's persuasive presence had departed, called the Watcher.
Pouring another drink, the amber liquid sloshing over the side, Giles cursed, low, long and with a fluency that would have astonished his Slayerettes, and made them a trifle envious. It was a good guess, as guesses went. But he knew Ethan as they couldn't, and he knew that those clubs, as tawdry as they might be, would not be Ethan's pick for a hidey-hole. His choice of words -- "innocent hands" -- had been a gauntlet. A gauntlet that Giles, until now, had ignored, hoping that he could find something to render the artifact impotent from a distance rather than go in physically and reclaim it.
Closing the book with a loud slam, he resigned himself to the inevitable. The only positive thing about this entire cock-up was that the Slayer and her companions were otherwise occupied on what would be a wild goose chase.
He had barely gotten the items he needed laid out on the bed before a loud knocking rattled his front door. Opening it with a bit more vigor than was strictly required, he came face to face with Willow Rosenberg.
"Ah, Willow. I'm afraid I can't --"
His attempt to shut the door on her was noticibly less successful than it had been with Buffy, and he watched her march into his apartment with a slightly bemused expresison on his face. Being a trained Watcher should have given him enough experience to handle strong-willed young women. Instead, it always left him feeling slightly winded, and not a little in awe.
"Ethan wouldn't have hidden it in a bar. Not even some of the places Xander was talking about."
Even as he digested her words, he wondered where Xander had come by his unanticipated knowledge of sleazy dives. Time enough to get that out of the boy later.
"He's sneaker than that. Ethan, I mean. Not Xander. Xander's not sneaky. Well, not good-at-it sneaky."
She frowned at her own roundabout speech.
"But you know where he is, don't you? You know where he's hidden it."
The accusation left him somewhat flummoxed.
"I, um, that is, Willow..."
"I'm going with you. You're always on us about watching our backs, well, you need someone to watch yours. Especially if Ethan set this up as a trap."
He stood there, staring at her. Of all the children, it shouldn't surprise him that she had been the one to come to the same conclusions he had. Her mind worked along much the same trails as his. More pity for her.
He was just about to order her back home when he took in two things. One, what Xander called her "resolved" face, that meant she wouldn't be moved come hell or high water. And second, the paleness of her skin, set off by the red of her hair. And a plan began to form...
Staring in the full-length mirror an hour later, Willow couldn't believe her eyes. A burgundy velvet shirt that laced up the front hung smoothly from her shoulders, the sleeves removed to create a long vest-tunic. The color complimented her hair, which was pulled away from her face with a thin braid along the crown, and emphasized the powdered pallor of her face, and the dark makeup on her lips and eyes.
She hadn't known that Giles could braid hair. Or do makeup, either.
A narrow black velvet broomstick skirt swirled around her ankles. She recognized it as one that Jenny had worn once or twice. But it didn't smell like her. It smelled like... like spice, and summer heat. The same as the shirt. Something in the spell Giles had used to store them, maybe. And it had been a spell, she felt it when he pulled them out of the wooden chest in his office.
On her feet, her open toed sandals showed black-painted nails to match those on her fingers. A wide silver choker rested in the hollow of her neck, and thick, ornate silver bangles rode on her slender wrist.
All in all, she had no idea who she was any more. It was unnerving, to paint away herself and discover this creature.
Then the door behind her opened, and whatever reality she still held on to crumbled to dust.
She turned, took a good look, and squeaked.
"Thank you. I think."
The man in front of her bore no resemblance to the tweed-coated Watcher. In his place stood...
Well, she had to admit, he was the perfect match to her own new look. Turning back to look in the mirror, she compared their outfits. Where she was in burgundy, his shirt was white silk, button-down, but open at the neck, with French cuffs closed with heavy silver cufflinks. But the rest of the costume was similar: heavy on Goth-style accessories. A heavy cross hung on a black cord around his neck, and his hands were adorned with thick silver rings. And, where he usually wores a very practical watch, there was now a heavy silver link bracelet. His fingernails were painted black, like her own, with a faint glitter to them. His hair was styled different somehow, slicked and kinda punk-ish, and his eyes had a faint smudging around them like...eyeliner? Wow.
But then her gaze drifted lower, and stopped.
Rupert Giles, Librarian, should not be allowed to look that good in leather, was her first coherent thought.
Willow stood on the curb, staring at the unpreposing facade of the club Giles had brought them to. She shifted to let a group pass her, trying very hard not to stare. After all, they weren't dressed any more strangely than she was.
She resisted the urge to tug at her skirt, feeling Giles come up behind her. Suddenly, she felt reassured. If he could pull this off, then so could she.
"We'll be less noticable as a couple," he had said. "Ethan will be expecting me to come alone. He won't expect me to risk any of you in this place."
He stopped, looking at Willow then with a hint of embarassment. "I, er, that is..."
She had giggled then, almost helplessly. Giles in leather was still Giles. Reassuring. "It's okay, Giles. I'm okay with this. Um, I think."
The plan was pretty simple, actually. Almost not even a plan. They would go into this...club, mingle without really mingling, she would stay out of trouble, and Giles would look for the Chalice of En'Pei. If they found it, great, if not...
Well, she would have gotten a serious education in alternate lifestyles.
"It's not quite what the media portrays it," Giles had said. "Most are quite, well, not normal, exactly, but you could work with them everyday and never know it."
"I'd like to think I'd know this," she said now, staring at the woman in front of her. Dressed in a leather catsuit that left nothing to the imagination, and six inch heels, it took a few moments for Willow to realize that she was a he.
The transvestite noticed Willow staring and turned to giver her a slow, honeyed smile acompanied by a once over that made the teenager blush from knees to hairline.
A warm arm around her waist shocked her, and she looked up to see Giles giving the non-woman a "back-off" glare from underneath his arched brows.
"Easy, honey," the other man said in a light contralto. "I'm not looking to pluck your little bird there."
"Best not." Giles' voice was... different. Huskier. Dangerous. A shiver ran down her spine, leaving a weird, tingly feeling behind.
She grinned, a happy, goofy grin. She had never been fought over before.
"Neat," she whispered under her breath, then yelped.
"Hey!" Willow glared at him, rubbing the tender spot where he had slapped her.
He grinned back, and she fet her heart skip a beat or three. In the middle of all this, he seemed... happy? No, not happy. But younger somehow. Less like a Watcher -- nothing like a librarian! -- and more...more like the guy with the guitar in that photo. Eager. Aggressive. Fun.
Okay. So maybe there was something to that. No vampires, right? How tough could this be?
"Come on, G-man. Let's go see how the leather half lives." Ohmygod, did I just say that?
But Giles just laughed, and the arm around her pushed forward, ushering her forward, past the bouncer with the intricate head tattoo, and down three narrow steps into a whirlwind of darkness and lights, and noise...
He stood by the heavy, ornately carved wooden bar, waiting for his drink with carefully controlled impatience. No need to make a scene. Not yet. But he disliked leavng Willow on her own in here. She was too much a tasty little morsel to abandon: no matter how well she thought she was getting into the game, the sharks in here would chew her up alive.
And he didn't think that she would enjoy that. He cast a look over his shoulder through the carefully-constructed gloom to where she sat on a low plush divan, and had to blink at the sight of her lounging there, sleek and boneless as a cat. Well, not yet, perhaps she wouldn't. But he had a terrible suspicion that she might easily develop a taste for this scene. Just as she had developed a rather alarming taste for the magiks.
She was too much like him, and that was a sobering fact. He should never have brought her here. But what other choice did he have?
You could have simply left her there, a whisper in his mind said. You could have pulled the "So sorry, must go now" and thrown her out. Gently. But you didn't. Because you wanted her to see this. You wanted to know how far she would willingly go...
He wanted to deny it, but couldn't. He saw so much of himself in her. The desire to show her the paths he had taken, to guide her past the danger spots and the sinkholes to the rewards that were available, it was almost a physical urge.
And if he didn't, gods help his conscience if she turned to someone like Ethan.
Like you did.
"Yes, damnit, like I did," he answered the whisper. The bartender, a tall, bald, black man used to people talking to themselves, merely handed over the two glasses and named a sum. His bored expression firmly back in place once again, Ripper paid out and returned to his companion, neatly cutting out a low-swimming shark about to settle on the divan.
"Having fun yet?"
She accepted her glass -- red wine, and only that after a seriously hushed argument -- and looked up at him from under her lashes, her color too high to have been from cosmetics. "Those..the people on the monitors..are they..."
"In the other room," he nodded, his mouth twisting into a smirk.
She squeaked again, more muted than before, and returned to her careful study of the room. Taking a deep sip of his own wine, he looked at the monitors she had been observing, and forced back a wince. That had to hurt.
Then again, that was rather the point, wasn't it?
Willow curled up on the divan, Giles warm against her back, and nursed her drink. She wasn't much for wine -- although this was much better than the stuff they served at the seder every year -- but after fighting to get Giles to agree to even this, she wasn't going to not drink it. In the meantime, she was trying to look as impassive and bored as she could, while mentally taking in everything that was going on around her.
And there was a lot going on. Even if you ignored the television monitors that seemed to be hanging from the ceiling in every corner, and the dancers up on the stage wearing a lot of white body paint and not much else, there were stilll --
Willow stopped. The couple in front of her -- both male, both heavily pierced and muscled, had begun to... well, to make out.
Not like her and Oz, though. Not even like Xander and Cordy when they thought no-one was looking...
Her gorge rose a little at the thought of those two, but this new experience quickly crowded out that old, familiar pain. Leaning forward, she watched the two men grope at each other in the middle of the crowded bar. Nobody seemed to notice. Nobody seemed to notice her watching them either. Voyourism was expected here, she guessed. That was kinda the point. Anyone could stay home and act like this.. But it was more fun to show other people what you were willing to do.
More than a little cynical, Wil, her own voice scolded her. She should be in shock just thinking about this place, not taking it in like a new piece of shareware. So what's with that, to quote Buffy.
She took another sip of her wine, beginning to enjoy the tartness as it crept along her tongue and back down her throat. Giles, she finally decided. If it were anyone else with her, she'd never have been able to walk in the door, much less act like she belonged. But having Giles with her made it more of a... a research trip.
She stiffled a giggle. Well, not really. But close enough. He would never let anything happen to her --
and where was he, anyway?
Fighting down the instant panic she felt at being left alone, Willow forced herself to breathe normally. He had to go poke around, look for any place the Chalice might be. That was the plan. Remember the plan.
She took another sip of the wine, and went back to studying the crowd.
Giles moved along the outskirts of the bar, keeping to the edge of the action. His gaze touched on first one table, then the other, constantly moving, never letting himself get caught up in any of the tableaux being enacted in the shadows.
Then the faintest tug of something caught his attention. Slowing, he let his senses expand a little beyond his usual tight control, opening up to any trace of magic.
"Ah, there you are."
It shone like a beacon, once he knew where to look. A faint irridescent glow, calling to him. "An' the Chalice shall cleave to a soul with joy and light in their soul. An' it shall reward those of a passionate nature and a child's favor."
The couple in front of him seemd unlikely guardians for such an artifact. They were young, open-faced, but their eyes were hard. Not Ethan's usual -- too shopworn already. No challenge. But he likely had to move quickly, and there was a limited pool of talent in here.
He insinuated himself into their space, and leaned in. "You want company?"
The man was about to tell him to get lost in crude but to-the-point terms, when the woman decided otherwise.
"We were just about to have a party. Want to join us?"
"Cady, what are you --"
"Hush," and she turned an I Know What I'm Doing look on her partner. "Come on," she said to her new playtoy. "You look like you know how to have fun."
"On occasion. If the party favors are the right kind."
The man pulled out a narrow vial. "Like this?"
"Like that, yeah." Too easy, he thought, suspicious for a trap. But he could sense nothing of the Magiks about these two, only what was reflected from the Chalice.
"I'm Cady. That's Nene. And you are...?"
"My friends call me Ripper."
"Really?" Cady raised one overplucked and overdrawn eyebrow. "Any reason?"
He hooked a foot in a chair, dragged it out, and sat down in it, all while leaning over and whispering something in her ear.
If possible, her eyebrow went higher. "Really? Such a talented boy."
Nene, already bored, was drawing thin white lines on the table with the contents of the vial. Giles closed his eyes once, briefly, and took the proffered rolled bill from the woman's silver-taloned hands. If they thought he would be an easy roll, once they had him kited, well, he planned to do much the same to them. So who was he to judge?
After a while, even the novelty of figuring out that the shadows off to the side of the bar really was someone giving someone else a blowjob wore off. Willow was beginning to feel a little too jaded, and wondering again what Giles was up to. It really wasn't fair, him leaving her like this while he got to do the hands-on research.
Just as she was about to get up and go looking for Giles, someone behind her said "hello there, darlin'."
She turned to encounter a bare, hairless chest. Looking up, the chest led to a long neck, a pointed chin, wide cheekbones, and sparkling hazel eyes.
"Hello." Okay, she thought. I can do this. I can not make a total incredible blushing geek out of myself just because this guy's standing there half naked and talking to me...
"You were looking lost, little girl. Anything I can do to help?"
Willow licked her lips, tasting the unaccustomed lipstick there. Stay cool...
"N-no, thank you."
"You sure?" The man looked her up once, and then down, and she felt like her clothing had just been stripped away. But where the feeling should have made her feel like hiding under the nearest table, tonight she simply stared back, slowly checking out the man in front of her. He wasn't so hot, once you got over the shock of his waxed body. And he was wearing more makeup than she was.
"Sorry," she said again. "But you don't match up with what I came in with."
He pouted, then shrugged. "Your loss."
She watched him walk away, and sighed at the view. "Maybe one drink..."
"Don't even think about it," a familiar voice warned in her ear, his breath warm and wine-scented.
"Giles! Um, I was just--"
"Flirting?" he suggested, sitting on the divan behind her, so that she fit into the crook of his body.
"Um. Yeah." She grinned up at him. "I guess I was, wasn't I?"
And she was now, too, it suddenly struck her. She was flirting... with Giles.
And he didn't seem to mind. Oh wow.
All in character, she reminded herself. Just an act...
Then she looked at him a little more carefully.
But his eyes were a little too bright, and his heartbeat against her shoulder was too rapid. She had a moment of sudden worry -- what was wrong with him? Then his hand was on hers, moving it backwards until she could feel a hard, cold object in his hand. It stung a little, almost like a static shock.
"You got it!"
"Mmm-hmmm." His voice was low, almost a self-satisfied growl.
"So we can go home now, right?"
He moved closer, his free arm wrapped across her shoulders, pulling her closer. "Probably we should." God, his voice. It made her insides feel all puddly.
"I don't want to," she said, suddenly feeling giddy. Surely one glass of wine couldn't do that. Could it?
The Chalice! What was it that that page said about it, that it emphasized emotions? No, that it enhanced them. Whatever you were feeling, when it was activated -- had Giles activated it somehow?
"Oh wow," she said, feeling a wave of warmth pass through her, leaving every nerve ending tingling and jumping.
"Relax. Enjoy it. We've earned it," he advised, his mouth still at her ear.
Whatever she was getting, it wasn't just her. It was from Giles, too.
No, not Giles. Not like this. This was Ripper. And not the facade he'd put on before, either, a costume like his outfit. This was the real thing.
She should have been worried. Scared maybe, even. Instead, she grinned, and drained the rest of her glass. "Wanna dance?"
I'm pure of heart and under 18...send me to the PG ending... <br>
Smut? You betcha! I'm an over-18 denizen of the sub-gutter anyway... <br>
This has been a bit too much for me, actually. I need to lie down first.