The Watcher that Never Was part 1/10
Summary: So, we supposedly know what Ripper was like at sweet sixteen (trapped in a mid-forties model of course). But what about now? What if Giles never left Ethan and his "bad crowd"? What if Buffy had a different Watcher? What if the Scooby gang was still doing business as usual in Sunnydale until the arrival of a trio of mysterious strangers that bring to light some interesting facts unknown to Buffy and the gang? What if I stop with the 'what ifs' and start the story already?

Notes: The following is an Alternate Universe Buffy Story (takes place around season 4 but different timeline, different history). This fic is supposed to be a fun, shallow, Hollywood-style action film type story so crank up your best rock tunes and enjoy.

Disclaimer: All Buffy stuff belongs to Joss Whedon, Fox, UPN, Mutant Enemy and other entities thereof.

"Faith... my precious, my darling, my luv... what have I told you about the violence?" Ethan Rayne smiled cordially as he took the lively young lady's hand in his and twirled her about the hotel room, dancing through the lavish lounge area with lighthearted amusement.

"Just doin' what I do best boss." Faith grinned, offered a mischevous wink and tugged him along to the bedroom. She leapt up onto the delicate embroidered comforter blanketing the cherry wood bed, and sprang playfully on the mattress. Ethan wanted to join the fun but allowed Faith her impish thrill, settling on the more composed activity of holding her hand as she swung it back and forth with each jump. "Rough stuff's what I'm good at."

"What comes naturally." The soft low voice came from behind the slowly opening door to the room and Faith's eyes brightened even more.

"Ripper, gracing us with your presence after all?" With a parting kiss, Ethan released Faith's hand and turned toward his old friend. He could tell Ripper was in his usual foul mood, complete with customary frown and glare.

"Why so gloomy? We've come to Sunnydale, per your wishes and now we've acquired some play money. What could be better?" Ethan took a seat on the edge of the bed as Faith continued to bounce into the air, wood frame squeaking from the stress of the activity.

"She'll break the bed," Ripper said detachedly as he shut the door and walked over to the window. He pulled the shade back with a single finger and scanned the street below with a cautious eye.

"Then I'll buy her another one." Ethan cocked a brow with curiosity. Ripper couldn't possibly care about the contents of their overpriced hotel room. His mind was elsewhere, and though Ethan knew exactly what thoughts were distracting his longtime friend, he had a glimmer of hope that it could be something else... anything else. He stood and walked over to his disheartened friend, placing a hand on Ripper's shoulder and giving his tense muscles a gentle squeeze. "What is it, old man? You've been brooding ever since we arrived here."

"Ripper just needs to get laid. It's been a while for 'em, hasn't it choir boy?" Faith pounced to the floor and charged over to Ripper, hopped onto his back and wrapped her arms around his neck, hoping to coax a piggyback ride out of the sullen man. Instead, Ripper responded with a harsh brush-off, forcefully pulling her from his back to the floor and flashing a frosty glare as he escaped into bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

"Gracious as always, pet." Ethan strolled back to the bed and shook his head in frustration. Tact was not one of Faith's strengths. The weary sorcerer fell face first into the inviting comforter, pleading for the current drama to end peaceably.

"What? It's true isn't it?" Faith said, watching Ethan rollover onto his back, shielding his eyes with an arm to block out the bright lights. She stepped up onto the mattress and straddled him, suggestively settling her backside down over his groin and leaning forward. "It's true for you too. All this sex depravation is causing a PMS within the ranks."

Ethan peeked out from under his arm and smirked as Faith rocked along his crotch, taunting him to give in to his lust. "PMS?"

"Pissy-moaning-shit! Why can't we just have a little stress relieving romp and everything's good again?" She ran a blood red fingernail seductively up his chest and etched shallow circles along the goosepimply flesh of his neck. Ethan fought back his desire to give in to the temptation of the persuasively dark Slayer seducing him. He brushed her brunette locks back behind her ear and cupped the silken skin of her cheek. What a rich beauty she possessed and quite the sexual appetite, especially since they'd restricted her hunting.

"You know the rules, no fun until we've finished our business." He sternly gripped her wrist and pulled her off his reactive groin. "You'll be the death of me, luv. Stop this teasing. We need to stay pure, at least for the moment."

"Pure?" Faith chuckled. "That's a laugh and a half. Pure as the driven yellow snow maybe. Fine, I'll get my kicks elsewhere." She said through pouted lips and jumped off the bed.

"Be back before sundown."

"I knowI know. Don't wanna chance a fender-bender with the Slayer." Faith grabbed her leather jacket and tossed it over her shoulder. "Gotta say I'm curious, though. Come all this way so that Ripper can take a gander at his girl and we ain't even introducing ourselves to the local Goodie-two-shoes?"

"Faith, we've discussed this; she is not his girl." Ethan corrected as he sat up, carefully enunciating the words as if to burn their meaning in her insensitive mind.

"Little miss prom queen could-a been if he didn't drop out. Don't ya think he might wonder how things would-a been had he gone back to the Council? He'd probably be all uptight, tweedy, reserved librarian type if his father had his way."

"Thankfully, we avoided that fiasco, didn't we?" Ethan, uncomfortable with the current topic, straightened his wrinkled shirt. "Go let off some steam while I tend to our overly emotional Ripper." He walked over to the bathroom as Faith opened the door. "Oh, and dearest..."

Faith paused, impatiently tapping her boot and looked back at Ethan, "Hmmm?"

"No fighting. We should lay low for a couple days until the heat dies down from our little withdrawal yesterday," Ethan requested gently.

"Can't make any promises but I'll try, boss," Faith said through a roguish grin. She slammed the door closed and Ethan rolled his eyes, irritated. One thing Faith wasn't was inconspicuous.

He focused his attention on the bathroom door. Ripper was hiding something and it was starting to cause problems.

"Ripper, do be a dear and fill me in on the troubles here or do I have to pry the information out of you?" Ethan spoke in a raised voice so he could be heard through the door.

Ripper opened the door and walked swiftly past him, tossing a dampened hand towel to the bed.

"I'm going out," he mumbled distractedly.

"But you just got in?" Ethan stepped up to him and watched as Ripper retrieved a roll of bills from their supply bag and tuck it away in a discreet pocket of his leather motorcycle jacket.

"And I'm going back out," he responded snappily and marched passed Ethan towards the door.

"Where? Ripper, we need to talk about this." Ethan rushed to intercept his friend at the door and held it shut.

Ripper gave him a fierce look."There's nothing to discuss. Out of my way."

"Fine, have it your way." Ethan stepped aside. "She's none of your business, you know? Best stay clear of her, else it's your funeral."

"So be it," Ripper challenged with an unsettling grin that made Ethan want to stop his old friend from going. But it was too late, the door was closed and Ripper was off on another mysterious evening excursion.

"Buffy, we might have a new problem," Wesley said anxiously as he hurriedly entered his modest apartment and acknowledge the gang with a swift nod. It was an all too familiar scene, Buffy sitting at the counter as Xander sprawled out on the aging couch with his legs trapping Willow to the corner. They had yet again raided his cupboards and were snacking away on the only treats he'd allow himself with Council funds.

"What happened to the old problems?" Buffy asked and chomped down on a cheesey poof.

"Oh, they're still here. We'll just have to ignore them for the moment. Look at this. It's tomorrow's copy." He tossed the newspaper to Willow as Buffy leisurely slid off her stool and joined the others on the couch.

Buffy glanced at the headline and rolled her eyes."New Bank, new bank robber. Wes, I'm a Slayer, not a cop. I think you're taking this reporter gig a bit too seriously."

"Hey, he's good at it and it gives him the inside scoop on the happenings around here," Willow said defensively.

"And here I am thinking it was just a temp job cause he was fired from the high school. Who'da thunk it, our brainy Wes doesn't know the Dewey Decimal System?" Xander teased.

"That's not fair! It wasn't until the Mayor..."

"Thank you, Willow, but we have more pressing issues." He gestured to the paper with a finger. "Please read. There are unique circumstances to this crime that may require our attention."

Willow decided she'd give Wes a break and began to read aloud:

"The first attempt at cracking the so-called impenetrable security system at Sunnydale First National proved profitable for a trio of hooded bank robbers. The brazen robbery occurred in broad daylight, in range of five security cameras that caught the unfolding drama, and a bank full of patrons. A-One Security is at a loss to understand what went wrong with their security measures. A spokesperson for the Security service insisted it was an inside job while representatives of the bank are refusing to answer any media questions regarding the incident pending further investigation."

Willow looked puzzled up at Wes. "Um, this doesn't sound too Hellmouthy."

Wesley was quickly losing his patience. "If you'd kept reading you would have noted how witnesses recall seeing one short masked figure enter the bank first, followed by two taller, masked figures. The short one managed to take out all three security officers without any aid from their accomplices. Once the officers were out cold, one of the taller figures contained the panicked crowd by simply waving their hand in the air. Everyone was caught on film collapsing to the floor unconscious at the same moment. The other figure approached one of the cameras and with a pointed finger, that was it for the visuals."

"I'll give you weird but why are we getting the bedtime story?" Buffy asked.

"This is mystical in nature, Buffy. I highly suspect that the shorter figure may be a demon. The attack was brutal and efficient." Wesley began to pace around the room, his mind racing with interesting possibilities the robbery could hold.

Xander took a cheesey poof from Buffy's bag and crunched into it."So was anyone killed?"

"No. Not one shot was fired. Apparently, the assailants had no visible firearms. Every patron and employee was left unharmed. Only the officers received mild concussions from the shorter figure's assault. Everything about this robbery is odd. The vault wasn't busted into, the entire door was found leaning against a support wall, completely separated from its hinges, as if never installed." Wesley's features exuded excitement and Buffy could see he was anxious to investigate.

Xander crunched another poof, "Sound's like a good movie of the week."

"Okay Wes, I'll look into it but only after I've done my patrol. This is your pet project. You are doing most the research on our friendly neighborhood bank robbers." Buffy pushed the bag into Xander's chest, grinning as she heard the crunch of the remaining chips smashing to crumbs within the battered bag.

"Don't I always?" Wes sighed and took back the paper. Another small battle won with perseverance.

"Hey, I chip-in quite a bit with the book thing and the computer thing and the interviewing thing," Willow objected.

Xander smirked. "That's right Will. You're the stuff when it comes to things."

The evening patrol was surprisingly uneventful and Buffy found herself wishing for just a bit of action. The usual vampy haunts were strangely quiet so she decided to take a detour to the new northern branch of St. Evensty Memorial Cemetery. Only a few deceased tenants called the new location home so Buffy thought she could spend a minute checking out the layout of the new grounds, preparing for the inevitable battles that would eventually take place there. As she walked the unfinished gravel path, she felt a presence nearby. Though she couldn't see anyone following her, her gut warned her of something amiss. Normally Buffy would brush it off as nervous anxiety but this particular physical reaction had been occurring on her patrols over the span of a week now and she knew there had to be something to it. She trusted her instincts and her instincts told her someone was watching her.

"Okay... it's not polite to stalk, " Buffy spoke boldly to the darkness, scanning the horizon for a shady figure. No one seemed to be there. "Listen, it's been a really boring night and I could use a little exercise so if you come on out, I'll give you the first strike."

"Which one Slayer? All my friends wanna play too," the raspy voice growled from some bushes at her side. Pairs of yellow eyes began to populate the shadows and Buffy quickly assessed the scenario. At least four... no, six vampires were taking up positions surrounding her. They stepped out of the darkness and began to taunt her with various weapons; a stick, a pipe, a couple knifes, and what looked like a tazer gun. Though she was confident she could take them, she couldn't help but wish she'd brought backup.

"If you play fair, you'll all get a turn," Buffy said as she spun around, cautiously keeping an eye open for the tazer. It was the only thing she'd not dealt with before and didn't want to risk being rudely introduced to it.

"We have our own rules Slayer. Rule one, what rules?" And with that, the battle was on.

Two vampires struck at once, punching and kicking wildly at the slippery young lady. Buffy blocked one with her forearm and followed through with an elbow, then side swiped the others legs, knocking him to the ground to land a heavy heel of her boot to his throat.

Another ominous vampire came at her with a knife and she swiftly dodged, grasping his wrist and thrusting the blade into another approaching vampire. The knife-wielding vampire growled furiously and planted his heel into Buffy's shin, knocking her off balance for a moment.

The shimmer of the pipe caught her eye just as the she felt the prick of the tazer pierce her side. Volts of electricity tore through her flesh, paralyzing her to the spot as the pipe connected with her skull. She felt the warmth of blood trickling down her forehead and over her brow, leaving her half-blind. Mercifully, the nauseating pain of the tazer pulse stopped and she collapsed to the gravel. Her muscles shuddered with fatigue, refusing to work. She was helpless and wounded and feeling very much alone.

"I'm disappointed in you Slayer, I'd heard tall tales of your strength and power. Come to find out it was all just a fairy tale." One vampire kicked her square in the face and Buffy felt her head spring back as her neck strained to keep it attached.

"S-sorry to d-disappoint," Buffy coughed, tasting the tang of blood on her tongue. She had her doubts for a happy ending this round. She tried to look up at her attackers and struggled for a clear view, but the blood stinging her eye made the whole scene a blur.

In a flash of brilliant light, the undead thugs vanished from her view. More bursts of light shimmered off the blades of damp grass in front of Buffy as she struggled to stay conscious. She could hear the ruckus of the gang retreating and the odd high-pitched shriek of the unworldly illuminations. And then, there was silence. After a moment, she heard footsteps approaching on the loose gravel as she lay still, trying to take inventory of her injuries.

"Can you move?" The soft, low masculine voice asked from above.

"Um... no." Buffy wanted to see the face of the stranger who'd saved her but her body wouldn't cooperate.

"You'll need to be treated for that head wound." The mystery man's gentle British tone had a soothing effect. She wondered if he might be from the Council.

"No... no hospitals. It's... um, it's against my religion." She had to prevent an emergency room visit. They required too many questions to be answered and she was fresh out of believable explanations.

"If you'll permit me, I can tend to your injuries." A large, gentle hand slid under her shoulder and carefully propped her upright to a sitting position. A bolt of intense pain ran up her spine into her head and she shut her eyes, waiting for it to subside and to gain some kind of control over her muscles. Buffy was hesitant to trust her limbs to support her but felt them begin to relax, thanking the powers that be for her Slayer healing, once again.

She cracked open her eyes just as the darkly clad stranger knelt down into her view. He was stunning. Though much older than her usual preference, his dashing features stole her breath away. A chiseled chin highlighted by well sculpted, peppered stubble that also adorn the upper of his pout-shaped lips, high cheek bones marred by a captivating blemish; a ragged scar a couple inches in length, brown and gray, defiantly curly and winded short hair. But what held her gaze was the most piercingly gorgeous, emerald eyes, staring concernly at her.

"I-I... I don't want to be any trouble," Buffy mumbled, not able to draw her eyes away from the handsome gentleman. Before she could refuse, he took her semi-paralyzed body into his arms and stood up.

"I have a hotel room not far from here. I can treat you there." As he began to walk, Buffy felt her head pound with every step and shut her eyes to alleviate the pain.

"I don't even know who you are." Her stomach churned and she could feel herself losing consciousness. She concentrated on clearing her throbbing head but the sickness was worsening. Buffy knew she couldn't let this total stranger whisk her away somewhere, even if her body was ready to throw in the towel. "How can I trust you?"

"You don't have to trust me. You're the Slayer, you can tear me apart if I try anything... inappropriate." He smiled subtly as he advanced toward the exit of the cemetery, carefully cradling Buffy in his arms.

"You know who I am?" Buffy was worried; that wasn't a good sign. Usually, those who knew who she was were out to kill her. "Who are you?"

"A friend."

"I had to kill the last man who claimed that; sent him to a hell dimension." Buffy's head swam in waves of pain; she was loosing her battle to stay conscious.

"Then I'll have to earn the title, won't I, Slayer?" He said soothingly as Buffy's head fell back, finally giving into the darkness.

Part 2...