The Watcher that Never Was part 4/10
"I'm sorry to say my investigation seems to point to Rayne and his associates for the robbery." Wes leaned against his small TV stand and watched the faces of his young friends.
"Thank you Mr. States the Obvious!" Xander teased.
"So what now? We aren't cops," Buffy asked.
"Can we make a citizens arrest?" Xander asked and received a quick jab in the ribs courtesy of Willow's elbow, followed by an upset glare.
"What's your proof? Do you have any evidence linking Ethan to the crime?" Willow hoped Wes hadn't gotten anything substantial.
"No but from what facts I've gathered from other crimes in which he’s also a suspect, the actions taken during the heist follow Rayne's methods. I'm quite sure he and this Ripper fellow pulled off the job. I'm still at a loss for the third member of the team."
"So you have no hard evidence?" Buffy grinned.
"So we can't go to the police. So what now?" Willow was relieved.
"We should try and find out why they are still in town. They've already stolen money, so what's keeping them here?" Wes suggested.
"Perhaps it’s our award winning donut holes?" Xander grinned.
"Or maybe our five-star magic district?" Willow smiled.
"Don't forget the worlds bestest old-fashioned Hellmouth, baked fresh daily for your apocalyptic needs," Buffy joined in.
"Might I suggest that we stop guessing and find out." Wesley stood up and began to walk to his desk. " Willow, I think it might be a good tactic after all to send you on a magic tutorial."
"Spy? I get to spy?" Willow bounced excitedly in her seat. "I'll call him tonight. Goodie!" She pulled out a little slip of paper and examined the numbers handsomely scrawled across it. "Oh... ok... now I'm nervous. What'll I do? What will I say? I'm no Bond girl."
"Wes, don't wanna overstep my civilian bounds here but this Rayne guy is suspected of more than a few measly crimes. Sending our Willow in there alone doesn't make me feel all warm and cozy," Xander urged.
"You will accompany her."
"Darn!" Willow blurted out and quickly blushed with embarrassment. "I mean... darn!"
"We're on it." Buffy jumped up enthusiastically, followed shortly after by her less animated friends.
"Not you, Buffy, it's too risky. Remember, you're to stay clear of this Ripper fellow," Wesley ordered.
"You're side-lining me? What am I supposed to do?"
"Patrol of course. Let us handle this case. You go about your business as usual and report back to me."
"Case? Wes... you’re not a lawyer or a cop. What are you going to do?"
"The Council has permitted me to act on their behalf." He searched through the contents of his desk.
"Which means?" Buffy was getting impatient.
"The Council wants me to gather intelligence on Rayne and his accomplices and when the time is right..." Wesley pulled out a pistol and set it down on the desk.
"You'll shoot 'em?" Willow squeaked in a panic.
"No... this is merely a precautionary measure. The Council will send an extraction team. They have some interest in studying Rayne but are particularly interested in Ripper."
"Why?" Buffy didn't like the sound of that. Wes looked over and shook his head. "I know... need-to-know. Not liking this Wes!" Buffy threw her coat over her shoulder and stormed out. Wes glanced regretfully over at Willow and Xander who exchanged guarded looks.
"Her own good... we know. But she doesn't have to like it. After all, she's the one in the trenches, not them," Xander explained and left with Willow following behind him.
"I need you two to make yourselves scarce tonight," Ethan yelled from the steamy bathroom as he shaved.
"Got a date?" Ripper said, lighting up a cigarette.
"He's gotta, he's shaving," Faith joked as she hopped on Ripper's back and encouraged him to finally give her that piggy-back ride she'd been waiting for. Much to her delight, he gave in, wrapping his hands around her legs and strutting playfully over to the bathroom as he puffed away on the cigarette dangling precariously from his lips.
"For you're information, I will be entertaining a beautiful red-head, budding witch this evening. And I’d rather rid myself of an audience," Ethan said, grinning as Ripper and his jockey came into view and leaned against the doorframe. Ripper reached out and swiped a finger full of the shaving cream from Ethan's chin and smeared it on Faith's nose.
"Don't worry lover boy. I've got business to attend to as well," he said and felt Faith motion to let her down. Hesitantly, he did and glanced back, curious as to why the sudden change in play.
"You're going to see her again, aren't you?" Faith stepped back and wiped the shaving cream off her nose.
"I have to," Ripper answered frankly, as if he had no other choice. He didn't want to have this conversation again.
"No... you only *think* you have to." Faith waved her hand in the air, frustrated. "She doesn't even know who you are, Ripper. She doesn't know you exist, not in the way you want her to."
Ripper sighed as he walked past her to the window to peek around the curtain. It was getting dark; Buffy would be out patrolling soon. "None of that matters."
"It should!" Faith growled, not understanding why he was so obsessed with this chick.
"Faith has a point, my friend. Besides, you know how it will end if you continue to see her." Ethan walked out of the bathroom and searched his bag for a proper shirt.
"I can't help that. I have to see her... watch out for her," Ripper responded distractedly and headed for the door.
Faith stepped forward to block his path. Ethan walked over and joined her in her defiant stand or to keep the peace, whichever was necessary. "Why do this to yourself? There’s no changing the past. You gave up your chance at that life long ago."
"And I'm being haunted by it." Ripper pushed his way past the human barricade and opened the door.
"You're not her Watcher, Rupert," Ethan pressed.
Ripper paused, shaken by Ethan's use of his proper name and looked back. "I should be." The door closed behind him leaving Faith and Ethan exchanging worried glances.
Buffy tried to be as quiet as she could, hoping to catch some beasties off guard in the known hotspot of the Western Memorial Cemetery, the Furrington Crypt. She carefully stepped on the grass, making sure to avoid any dried leaves or twigs. There was a sudden snap of a twig and the Slayer shot around, ready in a defensive stance for whatever the darkness offered.
"Bloody hell, I could hear you coming a mile away." Ripper slipped out from the shadows.
"I don't remember ordering an escort tonight?" Buffy grumbled and looked back at the Crypt, noticing it seemed lacking of wrong doers.
"Free of charge, my lady." Ripper strolled up and settled in beside her, a bit too close for Buffy's comfort. She watched as he scanned the location. "Not very lively."
"No, you missed all the fun. I've cleaned up the place, already," Buffy said defensively and shuffled through the brush to begin walking down the main path. Ripper hurried to catch up and kept pace beside her as she marched along.
"Glad to see you're back to your full potential. Mind if I join you?" He lit a cigarette.
"Somehow, I got the impression that you're asking out of formality rather than caring what I actually want."
"I will leave without delay, if you wish it."
Buffy swore she could hear a faint voice screaming 'NO!' from within her psyche at his offer. "Naw, it's been pretty quiet. I could use the company."
They walked at a quiet yet brisk pace, keeping a lookout for demons. Every once in a while, Buffy would sneak a peek at Ripper then quickly glance away to go unnoticed.
"I'm curious, has the Council prohibited you from seeing me?" Ripper inhaled deeply his cigarette deeply as Buffy stopped cold in her tracks and turned to face him.
"You seem to know an awful lot about me?"
"They haven't told you, have they? I would think that's a rather bad idea."
"It doesn't really matter. I'll find out what I want to know." Buffy continued to walk on.
"And what is it you want to know?"
"I want to know why there isn't any sign of the usual Hellmouth fun anywhere I go?"
"Luck perhaps?" Ripper smiled coyly and Buffy wondered if he had anything to do with the inactivity lately.
"I don't believe in luck."
"Pity." They walked in silence again for a short distance.
"So why did you rob that bank?" Buffy asked casually, continuing on without showing any real interest in the answer.
"I robbed a bank?" Ripper snickered, strutting cockily beside her.
"Give it up, I know what you did. I would like to understand why."
"Why? You don't feel the usual reasons apply in this case?"
"I'd hoped for something more noble... Robin Hood like." Buffy shot a hopeful glance at him and quickly looked away as he caught her.
"Sorry to disappoint you." He tossed the spent cigarette to the ground and Buffy picked it up, disposing of it in a small plastic bag she had in her pocket. Ripper smirked. "Perhaps I'm just as bad as the Council would have you believe."
"Then I suggest you keep your distance," Buffy warned and turned down a darker path, gaining distance from him.
"Or what?" Ripper moved up, cutting her off and wearing a defiant grin in doing it.
Buffy backpedaled a few steps. "What do you want from me?"
"Time," he said with a determined stare. Buffy had no idea what he meant.
"About 10: 05 pm." She pushed past him and continued on her way.
She paused and turned back with an impatient glare.
"You deserve to know," he said softly.
"Then why not tell me yourself?"
"Why would you believe me?" he whispered, sounding almost ashamed.
"Shouldn't I judge that for myself?"
"You'll get your chance." Ripper marched up to her and grasped her arm, pulling her back toward the direction they'd just come, "But for now I think we ought to get out of here."
Buffy glanced back to a surprisingly large gang of vampires and demons coming toward them.
"I see your point," she said and turned back toward Ripper, ready to run. "Um, I think they might not want that."
Ripper turned around to face another horde of demons coming from the other direction.
"Seems my luck just ran out." Buffy sighed.
"I thought you didn't believe in luck?"
"I'd hoped you could prove me wrong right about now!"
"Faith, nothing is going to happen. You know the rules. I simply invited her over for a little magic banter and that's all." Ethan buttoned his silken collar and grinned at his absurdly nervous stomach. Why was it that abstinence could drive a man to resort to behaving like a ponce on a first date?
"I just wanna check out this lil' red-headed vixen that has you all hot and bothered." Faith put on her coat and slipped a knife in the hidden compartment of her boot.
"Faith, please, she could be here any moment." At that very moment, he heard the knock at the door. He shot a stern glare back at his Faith and went to the door. With a final straightening of his collar, he opened the door.
"How very nice to see you again…" Ethan's face quickly showed his surprise in his date's male companion's presence, " Willow... and friend. Xander, wasn't it?" Ethan offered his hand politely and Xander shook it firmly, wanting to appear intimidating.
"Yummie." Faith stepped forward, ready for a proper introduction. "Willow, huh? And you are?" She grinned as she ogled the boy.
Ethan sighed. "I just said..."
"Xander... right. Cool! Let's get some air," she said, took his arm and lead him back down the hall before Ethan or Willow could object.
"You’ll have to excuse Faith; she's a child of the night and has been pent up here all day. Once the sun goes down, she must rejoin the shadows." Ethan stepped aside and motioned for Willow to enter. He shut the door behind her and leaned against the wall, exasperated in knowing he'd have to explain Faith's presence better than the vague excuse he'd offered.
"Um... yeah. I guess I know the type." She stepped in the room and turned around quickly, not knowing what to do next. "Is she a friend of yours? I mean... that's silly... of course she's a friend. She's here right? I guess I mean is she a ..."
Before Willow could finish, Ethan took her into his arms and kissed her. At first, she appalled at his overfriendliness, ready to pull away from his uninvited advances. But then the masculine taste of his lips finally struck her, tea and honey along with something else somehow familiar yet a mystery and it excited her.
Ethan slowly pulled away, his eyes fluttering open in a daze. "Forgive me. I don't know what came over me."
"I-I think I do." Willow sighed and pulled him to her, once again pressing her lips to his, inviting him to continue his advances.