"Is he alright, love?"
"I don't know, Deirdre. Wake up, Ethan." Ethan can feel awareness trickling back into his body which feels like it has just received a major electrical shock. Rupert is kneeling, so he must be on the floor, one hand on his shoulder and command in his voice. "Wake up." And a tendril of power this time as well. He's worried. Ethan opens his eyes for an instant, immediately slamming them shut against the blinding intensity of the light.
"I'm awake, Rupert. Tell Deirdre I'll be fine." He's more than a little disturbed by how weak his voice sounds. Then Rupert's hands at his back, helping him to sit.
"Turn out the lights, Deirdre, all except the ones in the kitchen. It's too bright." Still issuing orders, Rupert at least sounds calm now, relieved even. Ethan can feel Rupert's sigh almost before he hears it. "Ethan will be okay, but I need you to put out the lights." He pauses. "And bring a glass of water."
The pins and needles are already starting to subside but Ethan still feels as if all of his senses are unnaturally heightened. He can feel the texture of Rupert's blue jeans beneath his hand and hear the water as it tumbles into the glass, as if it is hitting slowly drip by drop. Worse he can smell the heavy minerals in it. He can't remember ever thinking that tap water had a scent before, but he knows that this is it. Still he opens his mouth and accepts a sip when Rupert presses the cold smooth glass against his mouth. When the glass is taken away he asks, "What's wrong with me?" He feels like he should know, and yet the answers won't quite draw themselves out from the shadowed corners of his mouth.
"Open your eyes, Ethan. Let's get you set to rights and then I'll answer your questions if you can't recall what happened." And this is a voice that Ethan has never been able to resist. Giles' voice with just a touch of command, but mostly cajoling him into agreement.
Ethan slowly opens his eyes. It still seems bright in the confines of Phillip's small apartment. He isn't sure why they're here. He's never worked magic here before and it's beyond clear that they've done magic tonight, even if he does feel like he's been run over by a truck when magic usually leaves him feeling energized. "We came here to fix something. Where's Stephen"
"Very good. I didn't think you'd have any permanent memory loss, but you never can tell with these things. Stephen's okay. Was a little cut up, but he'll survive it." At the mention of Stephen, Rupert's voice turns hard. "He's at casualty now, being stitched up as we speak, I'm quite sure."
Little mousy Deirdre is back now, looking almost angry. "It wasn't his fault, Rupert."
Rupert's eyes close and he turns away for a moment. "No, I suppose not. It was my fault if it was anyone's. I knew just how dangerous what were doing was. I should have stopped it a long time ago."
With Rupert's words, Ethan's memory floods back in flashes of image and magic. Before, how long before now he couldn't say, he and Rupert had been in his own home, sleeping off a night of truly brilliant magic when they both woke to the knowledge of death. Nobody he'd ever been magically connected to had died in Ethan's past. He didn't recognize the feeling. Rupert had. They followed the magic, only to arrive at Stephen's apartment. The windows were gone, the door burned, and he could hear Stephen's voice from the next room rising higher and higher with fear and desperation as he cast protection spell after protection spell. A few steps and they could see the demon Eyghon, for that was all that was left. Thomas was dead, nothing more than a vessel for the demon to use. Rupert's whispered pleas for help from a deity that Ethan knew he did not believe in were heard in the split second before Ethan realized what had happened and what was now loose. There was no way that Stephen, even drawing on the energy of Deirdre could ever hope to contain it. Eyghon was a demon, so far beyond Stephen's casting abilities. And now that it was free, he had no idea how to stop it. It would kill them all.
"You bloody bastard, you fairly ripped my power from me." Rupert hadn't been so at a loss. A hand over Ethan's heart and a few murmurred words of Latin had bound them even tighter than they already were, laying Ethan's power out like a buffet for Rupert to draw from. And use it he had, throwing spell after spell, some of the binding and some of them meant to injure. In the end he had forced Eyghon back to the hell he had emerged from, more with raw power than anything else.
And there was guilt in the twist of Rupert's mouth and the half-closed eyes. "I'm sorry. I knew I wouldn't be strong enough to stop it on my own, and there wasn't time to do this properly." Rupert withdrew every point of contact he'd had with Ethan. "It almost wasn't enough as it is."
Ethan's eyes closed and his mouth thinned with frustration. "You kept us alive. If I'd had the thought first, then this would be you." He reached for Giles and when his hand found the other man's arm it only felt normally of skin, no longer as if he could feel every hair like a stiff bristle against his own oversensitive skin. "It's not your fault. Despite what Deirdre says, it was Stephen's fault. He knew the dangers, I daresay better than I if not quite as well as you. And I knew them well enough to know not to try without both of us present. I don't know what he was thinking to invoke something that powerful with only his small magic and the lives of Deirdre and Thomas to contain it. It was sheer idiocy."
"Idiocy which I could have prevented by not involving them in the first place." Rupert starts to pull away again, but Ethan hangs on, drawing him even closer, wrapping his arms around the larger frame. He looks across the darkened room to Deirdre, pleading. He has never been good at offering comfort, truly has never bothered for anyone else. Deirdre is a natural at it. She glares at him, probably for his comments about Stephen, but comes to his aid anyway. Rupert flinches from her touch as well, but she persists laying her hands on either side of his face and forcing him to look at her.
"You brought magic into our world, Rupert. Neither Thomas nor I would ever blame you for that. It saddens me to have lost my friend, but I don't blame you. I could never blame you." She speaks to him much as Ethan had always imagined a proper mother would to their child. For the first time he truly understands why they will never be lovers, they are too close for that, too much like family. "It's not your fault."
Ethan knows, can feel that Rupert doesn't believe them, even as he nods his head. But Rupert seems calmer when they release him. "You can turn the lights on now, Deirdre. I think I've adjusted to the real world once again." He tries to make his voice match it's usual brightly flippant tone, but knows he falls well short of that mark. "There is the matter of a body yet to deal with, is there not?"
Rupert nods and runs a hand through his hair, "I know a few places where his death would not be too seriously looked into, even with his injuries." The idea sounds distasteful given the scorn that Rupert says the words with, but Ethan is acquainted with more than a few of those neighborhoods as well. He looks around, realizing for the first time that the shards of broken glass are gone, whole panes back in the windows and an intact oak door sits in it's frame. "When did you have time to fix the mess." Only the strangely bloodless body of Thomas mars the perfection of the room. It probably looks better than it had before this night's events. "And how long was I unconscious."
Rupert shrugged, but Deirdre answered. "It happened while Rupert was fighting that thing."
"One of my spells must have done somewhat other than I intended." He said. "You lost consciousness just as I sealed the way behind Eyghon. You weren't out long, ten minutes perhaps, but I doubt you were in any shape to notice your surroundings for some time before that." The guilt was back, but not as heavy as before.
"How are we going to move him?" Deirdre asked, ever practical. Ethan knew that she must feel more than she was showing. She'd never been one to use and discard her men as he did. Thomas was important to her, special. They might even have one day married, though they hadn't been dating recently. Still, here she was trying to handle the little details of their day.
"Spells and charms, nothing worth speaking of, though I suspect that Rupert will have to deal with them if it's to be done tonight." Ethan replied.
"You know where Stephen keeps his supplies?" Rupert asks Deirdre, the hard edge back in his voice. At her nod he says. "Show me."
Ethan sinks into the less than comfortable couch and allows himself to drift as Rupert gathers what he will need.
He must have fallen well and truly asleep, because the next thing he knows there is angry whispering near the door. He leaves his eyes close and listens for a moment.
"I was handling it."
"You ceased handling it, the moment it ripped itself from Thomas's body." And Rupert must be well and truly angry. The words are infused with power, and Ethan is fairly certain that it is not intentional, merely too much emotion trickling into the sound of his voice. If it were intentional, it likely would be inflicting actual wounds on Stephen. As it is it only brings stinging pain. "If Ethan and I had not felt what was happening Eyghon would have killed you. Then it would have killed Deirdre. Then it would have come after Ethan and I. Caught entirely unawares, we likely would have died as well. What's worse, if it should ever manage to free itself again, of if some other foolhardy twit should think they have the ability to contain a millennia old demon with no more power than the average pixie, it will once again come for us, marked as we are." He takes a breath here, the first for a long while. When he continues the anger has drained from his voice, replaced by a kind of cold sadness. "When I leave here tonight, I truly hope it is the last I ever see of your foolish face. Leave us alone, both of us."
Stephen's voice is coldly furious, but it contains not an ounce of the power that had laced Rupert's. "You don't speak for Ethan. We're friends, whether you like that or not."
"Perhaps he doesn't speak for me, but I imagine I can do it well enough for myself." Ethan stands feeling much better now and managing something close to his usual tone. "You are beyond lucky that Rupert was here to clean up your mess. You're a fool Stephen, a fool and a pretender. I neither need nor want that in my life. Stay away from us."
Stephen's hand lashes out before Ethan registers what is happening. He lands a resounding slap against Ethan's cheek before Rupert is restraining him. "Get out. Both of you get out of my home." He fairly screams at them. Rupert releases him, pushing at the same time. Stephen hits the wall with more force than was probably really necessary, but Ethan can't help but feel satisfied with it.
"Gladly. Have you finished the necessary preparations, Ripper?" Ethan says, turning away from the other man. He gets a nod in response. "Good, then let's be on our way."
"Really, Ripper. I'm fine. I'm beyond fine. Whichever of your spells repaired the windows, I think it repaired my bad back as well." Ethan tried to reassure his lover. It had been four days since Rupert had drained him to the point of exhaustion. His magic had recovered nicely, and he'd never had any serious physical trauma from the incident.
Rupert's eyes were tight with worry, and really, who knew he was such a mother hen. Ethan would probably be annoyed if he didn't find every move this man made to be almost unutterably sexy. "You're sure? No lingering effects? Your magic is back at it's full capacity?"
Ethan silenced the other man with a kiss, and as was usual with them, it soon escalated into something more, something involving sex and the gentle blending of their magics. Ethan sighed as he felt electricity build everywhere his own scorchingly wild energy touched Rupert's cooler, more controlled magic. "Do I feel recovered?" Ethan asked, speaking right against Rupert's ear.
Rupert began to relax against him, sliding into the familiar rhythm of their lovemaking. And it was lovemaking between them. With everyone before, Ethan had taken what he wanted usually with little more than a by your leave. With Rupert everything was cooperation. Even when they rode the wild rush of magic after a particularly complex spell, even when they'd been under Eyghon's influence, even then there was something more to their union. They simply were more together than when separate.
There was a clap of thunder when Ethan came and he marveled that he could not tell if it were merely natural weather or if, as it had done once or twice in the past, the power of their coupling had spontaneously produced magic. When it did happen it was always in the form of that first spell they'd ever tried together, warm winds and fat drops of rain, clouds shot through with lightning.
When it was over they lay twined together in the almost literal afterglow. They'd raised some serious power this night. The continued tapping of rain at their bedroom window likely was theirs. "I love you." He'd never spoken the words aloud, not to Rupert certainly, but not to anyone else either. He smiled when Rupert looked at him, questioning. "I do, you know."
And Rupert smiled then, brushing featherlight kisses against his cheek, his mouth. "And I love you." He had said the words, not often, but more than once. Ethan hadn't realized until now that he had been waiting. Waiting to hear them in return.
"You don't have to do this, you know. You have nothing to prove, not to me, and certainly not to your self-righteous Watcher's Council." Ethan said, sneering a bit on the last words.
"I have something to prove to myself." Rupert said. "Besides, they might be able to tell me what happened to my mother. I owe it to her, at the very least."
Ethan slipped his arms around Rupert's waist. "Don't let them take you from me." A part of him has always feared the day when Rupert returned to them. A birthright is a powerful thing, even when you don't want it, and the Watcher's Council was the one place where Ethan wouldn't, couldn't follow. "I can't lose you."
Rupert's smile was indulgent as he dropped a kiss against Ethan's temple. "You won't lose me, love. I have no intentions of going back to them. He was always good to my mother, to me. I'm taking this meeting out of respect to her." He hugged Ethan close to him. "Come now, all this bold emotion is unlike you. I'll be back in a few hours." Rupert released him and stepped resolutely away.
He was gone, on his way to a meeting with the very head of the Watcher's Council, dressed as a student off to meet his master. Ethan tried desperately to convince himself that the feeling that he was never truly coming back was simply nerves and the doubt that went along with first loving and not the prescience his cursed father had passed to him.
Ethan stood with his arms crossed over his chest as Rupert packed up the evidence of their life together. "You told me you wouldn't go back to them." He wishes he could bring himself to place more anger in the statement, but it comes out flat with resignation. If he hadn't known this day was coming, things would be different.
Rupert wouldn't look at him. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, a nervous gesture that Ethan hadn't seen from him since early in their relationship. "I have to. My father is an ass, but he didn't kill her. She killed herself with magic that was beyond her. After what happened with Eyghon, am I really any different." He turned away and began neatly folding shirts and placing them in his bag. "It's the chance I have to make amends, to pay for the life I owe." He pauses then and when he speaks next there is a false, almost brittle cheeriness to his voice. "You should join me. You're smart and better by far than I am with languages. The research division could use you."
"Even if they would have me, which I highly doubt. You know I can't." Ethan's voice snapped and crackled with anger. "You're really prepared to walk away from your power, from me."
Rupert turned and looked at him then, for the first time this day. Pain was clearly written in the line of his jaw and the glistening of his eyes, but when he spoke his voice was clear and strong. "Nobody cares about your past or your parentage. You would be welcome. As for my power, it destroyed my mother. There may be some who can keep it in check, but I don't know that I'm one of them. It is her power that I was born with, after all." He closed his now filled bag and began to walk from the room. "I'm not going anywhere you aren't free to follow."
Even with Rupert clamping down on their link as if his very life depended on it, Ethan could feel his power fighting against being locked away. As the only person he had ever loved walked out of their home and out of his life, Ethan knew one thing. He would not be shoved away into some forgotten recess of Rupert's soul. No, he would be felt and remembered every day by magic and by pain. For an instant as anger flared through him, Ethan wanted nothing more than to make Rupert feel this same shattering pain that ripped through him now, worse by far than the pain that had accompanied his magic being torn from him just weeks ago, but that thought soon left him. He'd be an annoyance, the stinging fly that couldn't be gotten rid of, but he would never wish this pain on an enemy, much less his beloved.
The next morning, Ethan went to work. He'd never had the discipline for concerted study, but Rupert had taught him how to find the best parts in a book with studied ease. He chose the magic that was as far from the ordered life that Rupert chose to follow as possible, becoming a devotee of chaos in all of it's forms. With each new spell he found grim satisfaction in the knowledge that Rupert felt it all through the link he had forged, that they all whispered to the power within him, calling it out to play. A few times in those first weeks it flared to life at the touch of his own power, but soon Rupert learned to suppress it completely. If it hadn't been for his knowledge of how deeply their bond ran, Ethan would have thought it was over. He didn't believe that, maybe couldn't. This small revenge and the lingering hope that his Ripper would see sense were the only things that kept him alive.