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The Debt

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Ethan Rayne slumped back on the old couch absorbed in the latest magic book he and Rupert Giles had managed to steal from the Watcher archives at Oxford. Likewise, Giles sat on the floor leaning against the couch writing in his journal. Ethan always found it amusing that he still kept a diary like a good Watcher-in-Training. After hearing a knock on the door three times, Ethan finally got up to answer it.

A storm had been brewing over London with no sign of stopping. The rain was pummeling down on the streets outside, and their visitor was in a hurry.

"Who the fuck are you?" Ethan asked roughly, as he opened the door.

"The name's Lorne," the green demon extended his hand. "I need help. And I've been told that you and your lover are experienced and powerful mages."

"And you think I'm going to let a demon in my home at this time of night. You have to be bloody out of your mind or running from something big and evil. Which I can tell you that Ripper and I want no part of."

"Could you just hear me out?"

By this time, Giles had joined Ethan at the door and was ready to protect him from this monster; he always kept a sword hidden near the door for emergencies. "If you want help," Giles sneered, "go ask the Watcher's Council."

"Sorry, but I don't want their latest Slayer to make fish food out of me. And they didn't seem to help you." Giles' sneer grew into a glare. "I can pay," the demon pleaded, hoping that the man wouldn't cut off his head; he'd rather watch Dawson's Creek with Angel than grow a new head.

"Pay?" Giles acted interested. "What do you think, Ethan?"

"Depends what it is. Money is very persuasive. Also magics or old books containing them."

"So what is it?" Giles frowned at him skeptically.

"I can read fortunes. Tell you the future."

"Bullocks," Ethan laughed. "You probably read us back our purposefully vague horoscope from the daily."

"My people," he began to explain, "have a talent for reading auras."

"We should at least let him in," Ethan suggested. "We don't want him to get a variant strain of pneumonia and start the Plague Part 2. Though it would be funny."

They sat down at the kitchen table. Being a proper host, Giles put on some tea to warm the atmosphere. Lorne removed his overcoat, exposing a bright yellow suit with a blue dress shirt underneath.

Giles chuckled. "Wow. He's even more of a nancy boy than you were last week when we saw Bowie perform at Hyde Park."

"Hello," Lorne grumbled. "In the room. And I'll have you know that this outfit comes straight off the runway and won't even be released to the mass public until next year. That's right, I'm already styling for the year, 1976."

"Right," Ethan turned and smiled at him. "So what nasty thing that goes bump in the night besides yourself do you want us to take care of? Or which handsome patron do you want to swoon to your beddie-bye?"

"First, I'll have you know that I don't go bump in the night," Lorne said firmly. "I don't cause trouble, and I have a general distaste for anything to do with violence. That's a very xenophobic view to think that all demons are bad. Humans do plenty of evil, even without the help of the black arts. Anyway, I only eat patrons who don't tip well."

The cigarette drooped from Giles' mouth.

"Just joking," he smiled. "Actually, this whole mess happened because of one unsatisfied Kular demon. I may be a barkeep by trade, but my true talent lies in reading people's fortunes or possible future. When they sing, I can see the future."

"Will you read us?" Ethan asked with enthusiasm.

"All of the sudden you believe him," Giles placed the tea on the table. "He probably charges. That costs money, which we don't exactly have a lot of."

"We can splurge for the occasion." Ethan stole Giles' cigarette from the tray and took a drag.

"Hold on boys," the demon interrupted them. "I never charge - only for drinks. Money taints the visions.

"Where was I...oh yes, the good ole Kular demon. After he did a throaty version of the Beach Boys' 全urfin' U.S.A.,' I attempted to dissuade him from sacrificing his daughter for the leader of their clan. The guy stole money from the leader and expected to be forgiven for a little sacrifice; he deserved the fate coming to him. Anyway, he freaked that I was going to tell my boss and the whole thing was going to be crashed. And despite the Beach Boys, I don't think he was into hearing any advice. Next thing I knew the 21st century had traded itself for land of the polyester. Now don't get me wrong, some of the greatest karaoke hits were made in this decade, but this is not for me."

"So you're saying you are from the future," Ethan glared at him.

"That's a bloody good one," Giles laughed. "I might have to trade this cuppa for something stronger."

"I'm serious. And I need a spell to get back. That's why I've come to you."

"Well, how do we know that you're not going to mess up the timeline," Ethan questioned.

"Someone's been watching too much Star Trek." Giles shook his head.

"What? There was a repeat of 禅he City on the Edge of Forever' on the telly last night. I was going to shag you senseless, but someone was passed out."

"Like that's ever stopped you before," Giles muttered and put their dishes in the sink.

"Will you attempt to send me back?"

"We'll tell you in the morning," Giles answered.

"Oh, guys?"

"Yes?" Ethan responded.

"Can I crash on your couch?"

*****

Giles squinted in the morning light that was streaming through their window. The clock read 9:00 a.m. Dammit, he needed to be up earlier - needed to make sure that demon didn't get them into any trouble. He yawned and rubbed his stubbly face; apparently, this woke up Ethan.

"Is it morning already?" the sleepy man asked his companion.

"Yes, darling," Giles put his arms around Ethan.

"I think we'll start the morning with a healthy shag and some more sleep."

"Lorne will hear us."

"And that's stopped you before?" Ethan chuckled. "Besides, I'll put up a magic sound barrier."

"We should really go out there." Giles stood up and put on a clean pair of boxers and his trousers. "I still can't believe that we're helping this demon. Much more, I can't believe that you've bought his story."

"I can tell when people are lying."

"Then how exactly did you end up with fake autographed album of The Beatles which you paid nearly 50 pounds for?"

"We should really see if he had a nice slumber."

Lorne lay on the couch, listening to the two men. How long had it been since he'd had a partner. In Plyea, he - as Cordy would say - was a loser with a capital L. And now here, being green wasn't something that humans were into minus those who played too much D&D. Right now, one of Marco's Seabreezes sounded perfect. Perhaps these two wizards at least had some cereal for him to munch on; Lorne could never work on an empty stomach.

Tossing the worn brown blanket to the floor, Lorne made his way to the kitchen. He soon found the cereal and bowls. Cheerios was a little healthier than he'd expected from the two young men, but the stern one certainly watched what the other one ate. It didn't take a reading for Lorne to know that Giles was growing up and Ethan wasn't. Hopefully, they cherished what they had now. Of course, even he couldn't predict if Ethan would ever speed down the road of adulthood with Giles.

"Would you rather us hire a demon with time teleporting abilities or take your chances with a spell?" Giles asked him.

Startled, Lorne turned and looked angrily at the man wearing a tight pair of Levis and plain blue t-shirt. "Don't sneak up on a man in hiding. Give me a heart attack. And I doubt you could find my heart if I needed reviving."

"Assuming that you even have one."

"Even vampires have hearts. It's the soul that counts, cowboy." Lorne took a bite of his cereal. "And to answer your question, I think I'll take my chances with your and Bonnie's magic. I've had enough of time traveling demons."

Ethan joined them in the kitchen and started making toast. "Why is it that I always have to be the bird?"

*****

"I need ス of an ounce of moonwort and 2 ounces of catnip," Ethan told the shopkeeper at the magic store.

"You know not to mix those things?" the balding middle-aged man asked him.

"I'm not a dope, Gavin. Besides the catnip is for this kitten that Giles found rooting around in our garbage this morning," he informed the man. "It's quite a ball of fuzz with drooping bitty ears."

A large bell dinged as if someone had come through a door. Though Ethan hadn't remembered hearing one when he opened the door.

"Be right back," Gavin looked nervously towards the backroom. "Special customers. They get rather cranky if I don't show up."

Ethan assumed they were either vampires or some other sort of demon.

Out strode a blond human-looking male with a willowy woman on his shoulder. Vampires. Or at least he was. The woman looked especially frail, so delicate that she could have been one of his victims.

"Need to know if you have a spell," the vampire asked Gavin. "Dru here hasn't been feeling the best."

"Ate a man that tasted all oily," she spun around in a circle.

So they were both vampires. Ethan watched them with an intense suspicion. While the male was busy with the shopkeeper, Drusilla glanced at the shelves filled with magical paraphernalia. She turned towards Ethan; he stumbled over the stone statue of Kali as he began to back up.

"You," she turned herself sideways and back again, "have power. Like stars raging and climbing." Her talk turned to giggling. "You and him. The one you love. Don't want to lose your waterfall. That's what I'm always telling Miss Edith, but she never learns. Spike?" she called to the male.

"Dru, luv," he responded, "I'm negotiating with the shopkeep to get that man out of your system; do you mind?"

"This one," she pointed at Ethan. "He has power. And he loves another with power. Together they are louder than the heartbeat on the little girl you fed me this morning. She was so pretty. Hair so curly, Miss Edith was jealous."

"I'll take those supplies," he grabbed the bag from Gavin. "And I'll also take," he morphed into his vampire face. "The magic over there."

Spike snatched Ethan before he could run out the door into the safety of the sunlight.

"I just love it when they run," Drusilla clapped her hands and showed her true face. Spike quickly stole the purple scarf off Drusilla's neck. "Hey," she cried out in protest.

"Now you don't want him to turn us into rats do you?" Spike asked and put the gag around Ethan's mouth. "Shoppie, if you want to live, you'll give me this man's address and the name of the other witch."

Gavin's forehead had already broken out in nervous sweat. This was the last thing he needed today. He knew Giles' fury would have no end once he found Ethan was kidnapped. Swiftly, he wrote out Ethan and Giles' address on the back of his business card.

"Well," Spike smiled at Gavin. "It's your lucky day. Dru and I aren't going to eat you; but we are going to kill you." And with that, Drusilla reached over and snapped the man's neck. "Can they ever be young and tasty instead of old and inedible?"

*****

Spike walked briskly in the early night to the flat that Giles and Ethan shared. He had made sure to eat before so he wouldn't feel like making a snack of the warlock. When he reached the flat, he knocked on the door.

A handsome man in his earlier twenties answered the door. Spike wouldn't have minded a tumble in bed with him. "Yes," the man spoke roughly.

"You, Rupert Giles," the vampire lit a cigarette.

"Who wants to know?"

"Name's Spike. And I think I have something that you want."

"Ethan." Pain shot through Giles' voice at the thought of his lover being held and, no doubt, tortured by this vampire and his friends.

"So you and the demon you've got in there can come to the harbor with me. Of course, this would be easier if you would invite me in."

"I'm not that dense. Excuse me." Giles left the door and walked to the living room where Lorne was sitting propped up against the couch, thumbing through magic books for the spell he needed.

"There's a vampire called Spike at the door who has Ethan. I blame you for this godforsaken mess you've gotten us into," Giles glared at the green demon. "I thought you could read the bloody future."

"I can only read while someone's singing. And lover boy wasn't exactly in the mood to belt out Aretha this morning," Lorne attempted to explain. "So, John Wayne, how exactly are we going to rescue your man-sel in distress?"

"You're going to let me sing," Giles picked up his acoustic guitar that had been propped up by the television.

"And we're going to bring stakes, I hope."

"In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs/Of every head he's had the pleasure to have known/And all the people that come and go/Stop and say hello...

"On the corner is a banker with a motorcar,/And little children laugh at him behind his back/And the banker never wears a mac/In the pouring rain, very strange...

"Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes/There beneath the blue suburban skies/I sit, and meanwhile back...

"In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass/And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen/He likes to keep his fire engine clean/It's a clean machine.

"Is that enough? Can you tell if Ethan going to be all right?" the distress and anger rose in Giles; if the guitar hadn't been an expensive gift from Ethan on their first anniversary, he might have chucked it across the room.

The green demon's head leaned against the couch completely relaxed by the mage's singing voice and gentle guitar strumming.

"What the hell is the matter with you?"

Lorne didn't respond; he seemed frozen in bliss next to the couch.

Giles reached his strong hands over and started to shake Lorne violently. "I've...," Lorne began to form sentences. "I've been baptized by your voice."

"What the fuck are you pissy queens doing in there? Porking? Jesus," Spike's impatient voice echoed through the flat. "You better not be plotting against me."

"Nothing," Lorne shook his head to clear his mind. "Nothing bad is going to happen to any of us. They'll let us go after she's healed. In fact, they have a boat to America tomorrow."

"Then get your arse off the fucking floor." Giles seized his leather jacket from the armchair and headed towards the door. From a small chest in the corner, he took a stake and slid it into a hidden pocket in his jacket.

"Giles, there's something else. Something about your voice."

"I know I'm talented," he sighed. "Ethan always asks me to play for him."

"It's not just your voice. It's you. Your magic. It came out while you were singing and as I was reading, it touched me. That's some scary shit you two are messing around with."

"I really don't need a lecture from a flaming demon who's lost in time."

They met up with Spike at the front door.

"What's wrong with Mr. Green?" Spike pointed a nicely polished fingernail at Lorne.

"I'm Lorne. And you will not understand what happened back there for most of your undead life."

"Why I otta rip those silly horns right out of your forehead," he growled.

"Hey, hey Billy Idol. I can read people when they sing. And I believe you were humming 善enny Lane' while Rooster Cogburn here was playing."

"Who the fuck is Billy Idol?"

"Oh, just wait a few years. You'll know. Hey," he paused in his walking for moment. "Are you the same Spike who used to hang with Angel back when he was Angelus?"

"Last time I saw that git, he ran away wearing more frills than Cher and had a gigantic stick up his arse."

"Some demons carry strange things in their asses."

"Are we almost there?" Giles glared at Spike. He had been following behind them for the past few blocks; so much so that Lorne feared that stake was going to end up in Spike.

They stopped in front of an abandoned warehouse about five blocks from Giles and Ethan's flat. The place stank of dead flowers, and when they entered, Lorne could see that it had indeed once held thousands of flowers.

"Did you bring me a treat," a woman appeared from around the corner. "The rose I found has wilted and the magic man has a mean appearance." She held a small rose in her hand, which she immediately tore up and stomped on. "Bad rose."

"Dru darling," Spike cooed at her. "You remember that I needed to pick up another package for you. Plus I found something green to add to your collection."

"Can I play?"

"Yes," he laced his fingers in hers and twirled her around. "Remember, luv, we're going to play with these mystics and their magics so you'll be nice and strong when we head to New York."

"Oh," Drusilla put her little pinky to her mouth. "Come," she gestured to Giles and Lorne. "I've prepared a tea party."

She lead them through a door, where they found Ethan tied to a chair in front a delicately drawn magic circle.

Instinctively, Giles ran towards his lover. "Ethan," he cupped the man's face in his hands. "What have they done to you?"

"Nothing...," he coughed, "that a good dusting wouldn't take care of."

"Letting the prisoners socialize, Dru," Spike sauntered in the room. "Tisk, tisk. Now," he opened the large book he was carrying. "Let's get on with business."

****

Giles sat on the cold cement floor holding Ethan's hand, already almost done with ritual. He wished that his lover could lean against him for support - but they both had to be strong now or Drusilla's cure wouldn't work. "Let the gates of healing be opened," he began in a strong steady voice.

"For the one in the center has been damaged," Ethan added and sprinkled a bit of something Spike had handed him; no one wanted to know what filled the small bag. "Dark god and goddess who supply demons with strength. Fill this one."

A dark mist of smoke filled the room, and Drusilla stood up in the center of the circle. "Spike," she cried. "It's as though I could sing and dance. Now if only I could have something to eat." Her dark eyes traveled to where the two mages were sitting.

"Now Dru, I have thought of that. But those two will make you sick with magic, just like before. And you don't want that."

"No more oily men. And that green one's got something of you. I can't put my finger on it. What did you do with the Tarot, Spike?"

Another vampire walked into the room restraining a teenage girl with curly hair.

"Oh my favorite," Drusilla clapped and vamped out. She took the petite girl in her arms and bit down.

Spike gazed over at the green demon and the men. "You best leave before she finishes. Dru is not always the most gracious lady."

****

Giles, Ethan, and Lorne ran back to the flat. All three of them staggered to the living room as soon as they were safe inside.

Ethan wheezed loudly and collapsed on the couch next to Giles. "I guess that's my punishment for all those fags I've smoked."

"Remind me, that before the next time you get yourself kidnapped, I need to go the gym." Giles planted a firm kiss on Ethan's lips. They held the kiss longer than it was meant to last - savoring each other and a bit of magic that passed between them. Pulling away, Giles remembered that Lorne also occupied their living room.

"Lorne, you owe us big time. A debt, which I'll leave you to pay for in the future. As I do trust you. But before you vanish, what was it you saw when I sang?"

"Your love for starters. Of course, I didn't need to Beatles to tell me how you two are meant for each other," the demon sighed. "I may read the future, but that doesn't mean I spill it like the Valdez. Your paths are already laid before you; and Rupert, I hope one day to be able to fully re-pay you and Ethan for the trouble.

"How long is Drusilla's 祖ure' going to last?" Lorne inquired. "What you don't think that I believed you were really going to cure her with all that rage running through your system. Of course, I was more afraid that you two were going to pull a Davy Crockett."

"Long enough to get that Spike wanker and his loony blood bride out of our hair," Ethan responded. "Besides we were going to start looking for a new place anyway. I've heard the Queen's palace is a swanky place."

"Or perhaps, my dear, you'd prefer castle with a moat and some knights," Giles laughed. All the stress in his body washed away as he stared into the eyes of his lover. A little kitten pranced over to Giles' lap, and he gave it a bit of catnip and stroked its fur.

"Let's send Lorne back," Ethan bent close to Giles' ear and whispered, "because I'm dreadfully looking forward to that shag I didn't get this morning."

Together, they sprinkled the moonwort to make another circle, and Ethan laid a small charm of St. Christopher, the saint of travel in the middle. Giles spoke in Sumerian, one of those dead languages Ethan had never quite mastered. There was a flash of light, and Lorne was gone from their living room.

"Now on to better things," Ethan pulled Giles' shirt over his head. "Let's never help green time traveling demons again."

"I have a soft spot for flaming poofters in need."

"What are you saying?"

"Bend over and I'll show you."

****

Lorne found himself in the exact same spot at Lorne's that he had left. Those two mages were nothing if not precise. Even if it did turn out that red lights meant go and green meant stop, Lorne counted his luck that he wasn't sent to a dimension possibly more unsavory than Pylea. He smiled while thinking about cute Jerry O'Connell and that this was indeed his correct timeline since Marco had already placed a Seabreeze in his hand. Thank god, Wolfram & Hart owned enough nightclubs to give him one for relaxing and entertainment. And he sincerely doubted that Kular demon would ever return after the call he was going to make to Angel.

Lorne's cell phone started ringing. He looked at the caller i.d., and then answered, "Hello Angelcakes."

"Stupid caller i.d.," Angel grumbled. "Anyway, we need you at the headquarters now. We heard a rumor that Spike's back in L.A. Have Marco keep a lookout for him, because he might be headed for a reading..."

"Uhhhh," Lorne interrupted as he stared at the blond man walking his way. "He's here."