a huge ball of yellow in the sky! Took a bit, but I finally recognized the
sun!! It's been so long.
Anyway, in honor of the phenomenon, I'm posting the next chapter of Crazy Eights.
It's yours to read and enjoy, and hopefully comment on. **hugs**
Buffy looked around the Magic Box while they waited for Giles, taking in the vibe of those in attendance. This meeting had the makings of another disaster. It was a full house: Willow had brought Tara along; and Xander was back, this time accompanied by Anya who wasn’t exactly known for her tact.
Anya’s presence at Scooby meetings was atypical; Tara’s was almost unprecedented.
Buffy understood why they usually chose to opt out – when they did show up, they were generally relegated to the background. Non-participatory roles. So the question was… why were they here, today?
Buffy shrugged her mental shoulders – time would tell all.
With a contented sigh, she leant up against Spike, who was sitting in his usual spot on the stairs. She found herself suddenly at peace in his proximity, as if harsh feelings were mellowed out. He provided unerring support when everyone else questioned her every decision or theory. It was… nice.
She smiled, then blushed. It was also hot - as in making her squirm in her seat. Just thinking about Spike had a tendency to do that, lately.
“Oi, Slayer,” Spike said quietly, nudging her with his shoulder. “I’d ask what’s on your mind, but I don’t really have to, do I?” The grin on his face proved his point.
“This bondy thing can be sorta inconvenient,” she whispered. “Takes the mystery out of ‘will they or won’t they’, doesn’t it?”
“Not a bad thing in my book,” he laughed. “It’s just a matter of location that’s in question. Don’t think any of your Scooby bunch would appreciate the show, do you?”
“Considering we get the evil eye for just sitting together, nope, I don’t think the full monty Spike and Buffy Show would be welcome.”
Spike’s eyes glazed over as he said, “Can think it, though, with nobody being the wiser.”
The blush on Buffy’s cheeks deepened. “Something tells me they’re not as clueless as we’d like to think they are.”
Sure enough, the Scoobies in question were steadfastly not looking at them.
“Sorry I’m late, everyone,” Giles called out as he entered from the back room. “I’ve been trying to ascertain just how those chips function as a conduit of information from the client to whatever type of storage facility the club uses.”
He took a seat at the table. “The only explanation that seems feasible is magic. And, Buffy,” he said, turning in her direction, “considering Ethan Rayne is involved, I daresay he’s the one responsible for them.”
“He always did like to be in the middle of things, stirring up the pot,” she agreed. “Remember, he was also a middleman of sorts for that vat-o-demon, Lukomas, with the band candy.”
“Lurconis, actually,” Giles corrected. “And the chaos he invoked that Halloween by summoning Janus.”
“Sounds like a tricky bastard,” Spike agreed. “What’s to be done with him? Does he need puttin’ down?”
“Typical,” Xander muttered out from his seat at the research table. “The vamp’s first response is to kill?”
Anya clipped her boyfriend about the ear. “Didn’t we talk about this?” she hissed. “Listen first, react later if you have to.”
“I’m just saying that the first choice doesn’t have to be murder,” Xander insisted. “Maybe Ethan needs another couple of years with the Initiative, not that it seems to have curbed his creep-factor tendencies,” he admitted, somewhat mulishly.
Tara timidly raised her hand. “Excuse me, but perhaps you might want to do a binding spell, to take away his access to his powers?”
“Way to go, sweetie,” Willow encouraged, patting her girlfriend on the shoulder. “Giles, that sounds like a terrific idea. And totally not murder-y or anything.”
Giles nodded. “Binding Ethan’s powers might be a bit tricky. The old codger’s been around long enough to have worked many protective layers into his person.” He removed his glasses and gave them an unnecessary polish. “But I agree with Tara – a little restraint might be a good thing. And it can be done, we just have to be cleverer than him.”
Resettling his glasses, he added, “However, in the event the binding fails, we will have to look at more permanent measures to put an end to his meddling.”
“And again I say, does he need puttin’ down?” Spike seemed reluctant to let the matter go. “And if he does, who do you propose doing the deed?”
Ignoring the vampire’s attempt to steer the conversation back to murder, Giles said, “I believe it’s time I met with Ethan directly. I’ll see if I can knock some sense into him one way or another.” The gleam in his eye hinted at the hidden depths beneath his mild mannered shopkeeper persona.
“Do you think it’s safe for you to go by yourself?” Buffy asked, worry marring her brow. “Spike and I should come with you.”
“Didn’t go so well the last time we showed up, Slayer,” Spike pointed out. “Let the old man do his thing. He’s clearly got more up his sleeve.”
“Thank you, Spike, for your support,” Giles said, not unkindly. “Ethan and I have a long and messy history where magicks are involved, but I don’t believe he’ll harm me.”
“Okay, if you’re sure,” Buffy agreed reluctantly.
Spike withdrew a calling card from his pocket and handed it to the Watcher. “Number’s here, ask for Ailuros. If she’s in the mood, she’ll give the blighter your message.”
Once the children had left, Giles turned the club’s card over and over again between his fingers, contemplating the dilemma in which he found himself.
What had happened to the quixotic youth with the sparkling blue eyes? They’d shared so much together back then; days full of foolhardy mischief and nights full of wild lovemaking. Until ultimately they’d gotten in way over their heads – Eyghon proving to be their undoing.
Giles had pulled himself out from under the rubble of his life but Ethan, it seemed, was still buried in the debris of the occult, still seeking the next high – either physically or metaphorically. A natural follower – a hanger-on – he was always looking for the next powerful being to worship.
Giles would have preferred not to acknowledge the fact, but he knew. That reverence had been part of the attraction in their past – Ethan had absolutely worshipped Ripper Giles. And Ripper had taken all and more that Ethan was willing to give.
And now Ethan’s nature made him easy prey for those who wanted nothing more than to exploit him for his magic… and for what he could do for them. And if Ethan was used up in the process? It didn’t matter.
None of that sat well with Giles. He slammed the card down on the table and began to pace, anger welling up hot and impatient in his breast. He wanted to pummel something – someone! Oh god, he wanted to wrap his hands around Ethan’s neck and squeeze the folly out of him.
In that moment, he sympathized with Spike – murder didn’t seem like such a bad way to solve all their problems. To keep his children and the rest of Sunnydale safe from the predators using The Crazy Eights as a base.
Maybe, just maybe… if they could destroy whatever it was that produced the chips, they could force the club to shut down and if Ethan could be removed from the equation, they’d be out of business for good; unable to set up shop anywhere else.
The question remained – what would it take to remove Ethan from the mix? A restraining spell was a long shot. And he wouldn’t willingly rein in his magicks, not with the potential for chaos they caused. Handing him over to the police would be useless, and the Initiative was no longer an option. Not that they seem to have done Ethan any good.
Giles stopped and regained his seat. Head in hands, he came to the unpleasant conclusion that there was only one way to stop Ethan’s machinations. Spike was right – he would have to be put down.
Willow would wring her hands, and Xander would spout his self-righteous nonsense, but neither of them knew Ethan like he did. Ethan’s life was never going to have a happy ending.
Giles made himself raise his head from his hands. Could he actually snuff out the life of his ex-lover? His one-time best friend? His partner in crime?
Taking a deep breath, Giles came to the only conclusion he could.