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Second Guessing

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She's not Ripper's usual type, not at all, and that makes her not Ethan's type, either. He doesn't mind the usual sort, because they're not around for long, but this one's different. It makes him suspicious. It makes him jealous, but there's nothing on this Earth that would get him to admit that to Ripper.

So he sits on the floor with Ripper and this American girl who's spending the summer at art college, and he helps Ripper pick out records to play for her, and he doesn't bother remembering her name. If Ripper ever mentioned it. He probably didn't; he's done everything short of throwing Ethan bodily out of the flat, and that's only because--or so Ethan guesses--Ethan's gone through three nights of her here without bringing up any of the things he's sure Ripper would rather not have this particular girl know about Ethan.

The usual girls wouldn't care; the usual girls are chosen, in part, by how little they do care, and besides, it's not like anyone in their crowd doesn't know that Ripper Giles and Ethan Rayne are fucking. Half the time, the usual girls are happy enough to find themselves in bed with both of them.

But Ripper didn't meet this girl any of the places they normally go, and the way she goes wide-eyed and giggly when Ripper passes her a joint--even before she's taken it from his fingers--lets Ethan know that wherever Ripper did find her, it's nowhere Ethan has ever wanted to be.

She stretches out her legs, and Ethan growls, "Watch yourself," when she nearly scuffs one of the symbols Ethan had painstakingly chalked on the carpet that afternoon. He'd thought it would be just the two of them tonight. He'd thought they'd try a few of the spells they'd found last week, the ones Ripper's been too busy to try out lately.

"What are those?" she asks.

"Magic," Ethan says, and smirks. He's sure Ripper hasn't told her about the magic. He's sure this girl--Janet? Julia? Something like that--just thinks Ripper is a bloke in a band, and has no idea what he's really about. He doesn't know why Ripper would bother. There's no way this girl can be that good in bed.

He wouldn’t know. Ripper hasn't shared this one with him, which is yet another way she's different. They talked--argued--about that earlier, but Ripper pointed out that Joyce--that's her name, Ethan remembers; Ripper did tell him--was "sheltered." He didn't want her to decide that all Englishmen were freaks and run screaming into the night.

Ethan wouldn't mind that, but he's smart enough not to say anything. Ripper will get tired of her eventually. He always does.

Joyce laughs, and now Ethan's sure Ripper hasn't told her anything about the magic. "No, really, what are they?"

"Magic," he repeats, but this time he's watching Ripper, and seeing the tight line his mouth's set into. Ripper's told him that he was taught not to tell people anything about magic, or demons, or anything that might challenge their world-view and present a risk to the Council, but Ethan thought he was past that. It seems he isn't, after all.

She giggles again, but when Ripper doesn't start laughing, she stops abruptly. "Seriously?"

Ripper nods, and he's studying her face as closely as Ethan's studying his. After a minute, she says, "Cool," and leans over to look at the symbols. "Is that a spell?"

Ethan's not surprised she's impressed; what she's really impressed with, as far as he can tell, is Ripper. She's wrinkled her nose at some of the music Ripper's played for her, until she realizes that he likes it, and then she's been enthusiastic. There's a desperate need for his approval that Ethan finds... uncomfortable. He doesn’t let himself think, familiar, because he and this American innocent are as different from one another as chalk and cheese. There's nothing familiar about her, except that there are thousands of girls like her.

Ethan, on the other hand, is certain he's unique.

"Sort of," Ripper says, peering over her shoulder. "Are these for that summoning spell you were talking about, Ethan?"

Ethan lies back on the floor, hands behind his head, and looks up at the ceiling. "Just something I was trying out," he says, carelessly. The last thing he wants is for Ripper to think that Ethan's disappointed that Ripper hasn't been around lately. "Nothing important."

"Summoning. What does that mean?"

There's a few seconds' silence, and Ethan realizes Ripper's not going to answer her. "It means we're trying to conjure up demons," he says, turning his head to look at her. Her eyes go wide again, and she frowns.

"He's joking, right, Ripper? Nobody would actually want to call demons up from hell," she says.

Ripper hesitates again, and Ethan wishes he had some idea what he's thinking. Especially when he laughs and says, "Of course he's joking." Maybe he's just protecting her, but the way he won't look in Ethan's direction makes Ethan wonder.

Ripper leans over to kiss her, and while she kisses him back, she pulls away quickly, nodding toward Ethan. "Can we go someplace a little more private?"

"Stay out of the bedroom," Ripper says, glaring at Ethan, and Ethan wonders how Joyce can't have put two and two together. One bedroom, one bed, and his tendency to wander in unannounced, looking for a shirt or a book or that bottle of whisky he and Ripper had brought to bed with them the other night; if she has any sense at all, she knows.

"Where am I supposed to sleep?" Ethan asks. "'S my bed too," he adds, and oh, yes, she knows. She just doesn't like it.

And neither does Ripper, because he glowers and snaps, "I don't bloody care."

"It's all right, Ripper," Joyce says, slipping his arm around her and leaning in close. "I was thinking we could go to my place, anyway. This place is... well, it's a little..." She waves her hand, and Ethan thinks he can see her selecting and rejecting adjectives like "squalid." He doesn't know what kind of place an art-college girl from America would live in, but he can't imagine Joyce anywhere like this. She doesn't fit.

He fits; he doesn't care much about where he lives, anyway. One day, they'll have anything they want, and then, they won't live here. Until then, it'll do.

And Ripper fits; the guitar in the corner of the bedroom and the leather jacket slung over a chair belong here. Joyce doesn't fit, and Ripper will see that now, and he'll remember why she's not his usual type.

Instead, Ripper's gaze flicks around the room, and then, to Ethan's surprise, he nods. "Yeah, all right."

They leave, and Ethan tells himself he's grateful; he can sleep in his own bed and without listening to Ripper and Joyce in the other room.

Ripper's back when he wakes up, sprawled in the bed next to Ethan, and Ethan doesn't ask him what happened. He doesn't really want to hear about it. They try out the spells, and they spend hours arguing about what went wrong, and their argument ends the way their arguments always do.

Joyce doesn't come around again, and Ethan has no idea what happened. He assumes Ripper got bored with her; that he realized she didn't belong in his life.

He pretends he doesn't see the way Ripper's started to look at things, like he's not altogether certain he belongs in his life.

Whatever Joyce reminded him of, Ethan's sure he can make Ripper forget.