The fact of the matter was Ripper didn't like the new bloke. He wasn't sure where Ethan had dug this one up from. There was the Northern accent, but other than that he gave no real specifics. Tall, jumper, and that damn leather jacket. Wore it all the time, even when it wasn't cold, even when there was steam rising from the pavement in the night from the heat, even when the spells were cast, psychic energy leaking, burning, all over the room.
Ethan himself was sketchy on the details. Either he wouldn't say or he couldn't, though Ripper believed the former. Something about a storm, and a police box; grinding gears and helping to change Ethan's flat tire. But other than that Ethan kept the details to himself, hidden behind that smug grin of his. Called himself the Doctor, nothing else. Whatever that meant. He was all that big grin and even bigger ears until you asked him any questions, or until the magic began, and then his smile disappeared behind the slow burn in his eyes. Ripper wasn't sure that anyone else saw it, but he did, and it unnerved him – and not in the good way.
It didn't bother the others. Philip, Deirdre, everyone was happy to bring him into the group. The Doctor never did any of the drugs, nor did he smoke, but he kept a glass of whisky near his hand at all times. Never did any of the magic, either. Ethan kept telling the Doctor what he was missing, not letting Eyghon give him that wonderful, exhilarating high, but the Doctor would only shrug and drink just a little more than was strictly necessary.
Ripper needed a break, choosing a dark, slightly dank pub near an estate. He was sitting in the back, the second-to-last booth, and downing his second pint of the evening when a familiar figure walked in. Ripper would have spotted him a mile away; even in the darkness he could make out the close cropped hair, the leather jacket, the green jumper. He sank even lower into the ripped-up faux leather of his booth, trying to avoid those exacting eyes, but they found him anyway. The Doctor gave a wave and then put his order in at the bar, casually chatting up the girl on the end stool before taking his pint and bringing it over to Ripper's booth.
"Oi, gave everyone the slip tonight, did ya?" the Doctor asked, taking a long swallow off his pint. Ripper noticed he was slightly wet from the soft London rain.
"Apparently not," Ripper said dryly, taking out a cigarette and lighting it.
"Filthy habit. Those things'll kill you, you know," the Doctor said, indicating the cigarette one finger.
Ripper only raised his brows and took a long drag.
"Oh, right, yes. Young and immortal, you. How could I forget?"
There was silence for a moment while Ripper finished the cigarette. "Missed a fun evening, you did," the Doctor said.
"Oh?" Ripper managed, picking up his pint again.
"Sure. Ethan got loaded, tried to summon Eyghon and ended up with some lizard-shaped demon from Asia. Scared the hell out of Deidre. Philip tried to send it back, ended up splitting it in two." The Doctor grinned at the memory. "I had to dump the whole thing in the Thames." He made a face. "Let's hope it doesn't end up crawling up someone's toilet."
"Yeah, sounds like I missed some party."
"Oh, you did. Whole thing falls apart without you."
"Horseshit," Ripper said.
The Doctor looked surprised. "It's true. You're the driving force. Oh, Ethan, he likes to think he is, but you're the one with the real power, you know."
"The magic's nothing."
"So you seem to think," the Doctor said.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Ripper could feel the flush inching up his throat, part anger and part embarrassment.
The Doctor pointed a finger at him again. "See? You know it, too."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Don't play stupid, Giles," the Doctor said. "You know about that mystical stuff. You know it's not meaningless, that there's real power in it, in the universe. You know well enough to be ashamed of yourself."
"We're not doing anything wrong!" Ripper lit up another cigarette. "And don't call me Giles."
"Giles. You think Ripper's really an improvement? Well, I suppose it's an improvement over Rupert." The Doctor tilted his head and looked like he was actually considering it.
"Did you come all the way here just to insult my name?"
"No," the Doctor said, his face taking on the intense seriousness that seemed to be its trademark. "I came all the way out here to talk to you."
"So talk," Ripper said, signaling the waitress for another pint.
The Doctor looked slightly annoyed at the order, but he didn't protest. "What I was saying before, about the group depending on you, it's true. And not just because you can say the right Latin words in the right order. This isn't Harry Potter, after all."
The Doctor shook his head. "Nothing. Never mind. The point is, you're the center of them all, the focus. You provide them guidance, knowledge, instruction."
"Christ, you make it sound like I'm forty," Ripper said as the waitress set his pint in front of him.
"It's not a matter of age. Believe me, I should know," the Doctor added. "It's a matter of character."
"You have it, they don't."
"They're not bad people," Ripper protested.
"Maybe not." The Doctor took a draught off his pint. "But you're the one with the focus."
The look on Ripper's face screamed "boredom." "If I wanted a lecture from my dad, I'd take the bus home," he said.
"Good. Pull up stakes here. Go home."
"I'm not going home."
"Why not? Your parents are lovely people."
"What do you know about my parents?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Enough."
"What are you, some stalker?" Ripper was actually close to being angry, protective of his family. It was a rare feeling for him.
"Not exactly. A friend, more like it."
"Great. Did my dad send you down here? Coz if he did –" The Doctor raised a hand and Ripper stopped in the middle of his tirade.
"Don't worry, your dad didn't send me here. And I'm not about to start playing at being your dad, either," the Doctor said. "Been there, done that."
Ripper sighed with annoyance. "You talk more than Ethan."
For a moment, the Doctor looked offended, then his face cleared and he grinned. "Well, yeah. Quite right."
Ripper sighed again, stubbing his cigarette out in the table's ashtray with a vengeance. "So do you mind winding up to a point? I've only got enough money on me for one more pint."
The Doctor folded his hands, leaned forward across the table. "Stop fucking around."
Ripper blinked. "What?"
"Stop fucking around. Simple." There was silence while the Doctor finished his pint, the sound of pool balls clinking in the background.
"Frankly, Doctor, my life is none of your business," Ripper said.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "They all say that. Listen. Stop fucking around. It's stupid, it's petty, it's beneath you. So you've had your little rebellious phase. Now get over it. Go home, go back to school, get a job."
This time, Ripper was the one who rolled his eyes. "If you knew what kind of job I had waiting for me, you wouldn't say that."
The Doctor shook his head. "Please. You humans always think you have it so tough. Enough with the whining. Man up and do your job. You're a Watcher whether or not you sign up with the Council or not. Just get on with it."
Ripper's jaw dropped a second before his eyes narrowed. "What do you know about Watchers?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes again. "I know enough."
"But – how?"
"Never you mind that."
"But – what? Are you some kind of demon or something?" Something suddenly clicked into place in Ripper's mind, a piece of the puzzle he knew was there put couldn't quite fit into its place just yet.
The Doctor shook his head. "Nope. Don't fit into your paradigms. And that's irrelevant."
"Hardly," Ripper said, slamming his pint on the table hard enough for the liquid in the middle of the glass to slosh over the side.
The Doctor leaned forward even further. "It's you. You're the glue. You're the one with the mind to plan, the talent to instruct, the guts to train and the hand to hold. They depend on you."
"Who's they? My friends?"
The Doctor leaned back, grinning. He folded his arms across his chest. "You'll find out."
"Great. So that's your big revelation."
"Yep." The Doctor shrugged, grin still in place. "Grow up."
Ripper drained his pint, too. "Yeah, thanks."
"You're welcome," the Doctor said, fishing in his wallet. He left a few pounds on the table to pay for Ripper's last round and stood up.
"That's it?" Ripper asked, as if he'd expected more.
"That's it. All you've got to do. The rest is in you already."
"You sound like a guidance counselor," Ripper huffed.
The Doctor grinned again. "Maybe I am." He frowned. "Not quite the image I want to cultivate, though."
"Not with that jacket," Ripper said.
"Fantastic jacket, yeah?" the Doctor asked. "No, you can't have it," he added.
"I don't want it," Ripper rolled his eyes.
"Not suitable for a librarian anyway," the Doctor said, pulling at his jacket as he walked away.
"Librarian?" Ripper looked at the Doctor's retreating back.
Giles called after him, but the Doctor didn't turn around, just walked out the door, hands in his jacket pockets and his shoulders hunched up against the rain falling gently outside.