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And If My Love Had Never Let Me Go

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Even though he didn't know if Rupert was in danger, was alive or was dead, Ethan found himself running, not for his own life, but for Rupert's. As he threw open the door to the school and shoved himself through, the one voice saying this Rupert wasn't his Rupert was being beaten down by another, by a panicked voice calling out, “What will I do if he's not here?” Stop, use the phone, call the apartment the first voice had tried to say, but the second ran through a thousand scenarios where he never found Rupert – What if he isn't home? What if the number is different here? What if he didn't move to Sunnydale? – always avoiding the one he didn't want to think of: what if he's dead.

He knew he wouldn't call. Too jittery to use a phone, Ethan could picture himself running from school, to home, to coffee shop, running but never finding Rupert, too scared to ever stop, trapped in a Stygian nightmare, always searching but never finding.

He was so certain he'd never see Rupert again that finding him in the library was more shock than not. Ethan stumbled through the swinging doors and stopped afraid that if he reached out he'd find a mirage rather than a man. It was his Rupert, dressed in what he jokingly referred to as his Watcher's uniform of tweed and khakis, but it wasn't. He was clean-shaven, no goatee. He was tense in a way Ethan's Rupert never was. Ethan could see the anger coiled in him like a snake, ready to strike.

It didn't matter. “Thank the thousand laughing gods. You're alive.”

Ethan barely saw the fist before it struck his face. He felt himself falling. “Maybe I'll wake up in my own world” was his last thought before the room went black.