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Crazy Eights - Chapter 18

Today is a nice, bright, sunny Thursday, and I have to offer the
penultimate chapter of Crazy Eights for your enjoyment. I can't
quite believe this is almost finished.

Enjoy, and comment if you feel like it.

Tomorrow is another day.

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(Some dialogue taken from and paraphrased from the episode A New Man, by Jane Espenson.)

Giles picked his way carefully through the crowd outside the Fish Tank. To the left of him, there were drunks puking up cheap drinks. To the right there were couples in various stages of coupling. Loud, raucous music poured from the repeatedly opening door.

“The things I do in the service of humanity,” Giles muttered to himself as he made his way inside. “I’m getting too bloody old for this.

He scanned the room, looking for Ethan, and not finding him. He made his way to an empty table and sat down to wait. His demeanor was placid – his features carefully radiating calm – while his right hand was busy fiddling with a glass vial.

A waitress in a barely-there leather skirt and skimpy tube top stopped by, asking for his order.

“Scotch, please,” he said, watching with distaste as she wiped down the table with a dirty rag. “Single malt, top shelf if you have.”

“Make that two, darling,” Ethan’s smarmy voice rang out behind him. “Put it on my mate’s tab, like a good girl.”

“So, Rupes,” he said as he sat down. “You decided to go slumming with us low-lives? To what do I owe this honor?”

Giles waited until the waitress placed two glasses down in front of them.

“Leave the bottle, won’t you?” Ethan asked, swatting the waitress on the backside as she moved away. “Oh, Rupert – if looks could kill, eh? Remember when we had them all falling all over us?”

“We’ve changed,” Giles sighed. “Well, not you… you're still just as sadistic and self-centered.”

Ethan picked up his glass and held it out towards Giles. “Here’s to me!” He reached to clink their drinks together with a sad smile on his lined face.

“The world has passed us by,” Giles said, defeated. “Someone snuck in and left a couple of has-beens in our place.”

“You, maybe.” Ethan laughed, tossing back yet another drink. “I’m still in the middle of it all.”

Raising his own glass to his lips, Giles asked, “Just tell me what you’re doing there… in a fancy club catering to demons. I know that the chips implanted in your patrons are your doing. And I can smell your signature on them a mile away.”

“Oh, so crass. We used to be friends, Ripper,” Ethan teased. “When did all that fall apart?”

“The same time you started to worship chaos.”

“I seem to recall a similar conversation a while back. Nothing new to say?” Ethan threw back his fourth glass since sitting down. “There are lots of big mucky-mucks hanging around, all with big plans of their own. They need knowledgeable folk to make their ideas come to fruition.”

“And you’re the wizard for the job?”

“The one and only.” Ethan fake-tipped a hat. “Those chips are a bit of genius, if I say so myself. The amount of power they’re capable of siphoning off without harm is amazing. You wouldn’t believe the black market for the stuff.”

Giles looked at his old friend, incredulous. “Do you even have a clue as to what’s being done with it?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. As long as I’m paid – and I’m being very well compensated for my time, believe me – everyone else can go worship Janus.”

Giles had heard enough. With a wave towards the bar, he said, “Why don’t you see if you still have it, old man? Go see if you can charm a phone number from our waitress.”

“You think I can’t?” Ethan asked, taking the bait and eager to preen as always. “I’ll be back, quick as a wink, with her number in my pocket.”

While Ethan was off flirting for all he was worth, Giles surreptitiously emptied the vial into the other man’s glass and poured another measure of scotch for the both of them.

“It was touch and go for a bit, but…” Ethan crowed, triumphantly waving a fluorescent green post-it note complete with number.

“A toast, then,” Giles offered, raising his own glass. “Even though I’m going to feel like hell in the morning.”

“Relax, old man. We’re a couple of sorcerers – the night is still our time. Time of magic,” Ethan said, downing his drink in a single swallow.

“Nothing to worry about, mate,” Giles said, a look of regret on his face. “When you were off sniffing around the waitress, I poured a measure of poison into your drink. You’ll be dead shortly.”

“Still following my lead, eh Ripper?” Ethan slurred. “Last time I turned you into a Fyarl demon. What’s it gonna be for me?”

Giles smile was small and melancholy, sorry that it had come to this, but what was done, was done. “Relax, Ethan,” he said, softly. “It’ll all be over soon.”

“Still the kidder,” Ethan laughed. His next breath was labored, and he struggled to draw in another. He leaned into the back corner of the booth as his muscles grew lax. “Really, Ripper? You’ve actually done for me? I didn’t think you had it in you anymore.”

“You’re too much of a wildcard to be allowed to roam free anymore, my old friend. It didn’t have to be this way, but you never learn.” Giles covered Ethan’s hand on the table, holding it as his life slipped away. It ended with a whimper, and Giles closed his eyes and breathed deep. It was done.

“Oi, Rupert,” the harsh baritone of Buffy’s annoying vampire rang in his ears. “What are you doin’ in these parts?”

“Just taking care of business, Spike. None of your concern, really.”

“Aren’t you gonna introduce your mate?” Spike said, brows drawn in a serious expression.

“Spike, Ethan. Ethan, Spike,” Giles said, perfunctorily. “I’m afraid you’re not gonna get much of a response from him.”

“He’s dead, you know.”

The corner of Spike’s mouth turned up a little. “And you’re pissed to the gills, aren’t you?”

“I am, indeed.”

“C’mon, then. Up you go,” Spike said, hauling Giles up by the arms. “Least I can do is make sure you get home safe and sound. Buffy would have my guts for garters if I let anything happen to you.”

“That’s quite kind of you, sir,” Giles agreed, stumbling slightly as he followed Spike towards the door. “I’m sure Ethan will be well taken care of when the table is needed.”

Giles tripped as they exited the building and gratefully accepted the support when Spike moved to keep him upright.

“Tis done,” Giles murmured.

“And done quickly,” Spike concurred.