The Watcher that Never Was part 6/10
Wesley opened his door to the sight of his sleeping Slayer laid out across the length of his couch. He smiled at the charming vision and quietly shut the door, hoping not to disturb Buffy's much needed rest. He made his way to his weapons chest and accidentally knocked over the crossbow he'd precariously place on end earlier. Buffy jerked up and looked around wild-eyed for the source of the disturbance.
"Wes? Where have you been young man? I've been worrying myself sick!" She teased as she wiped her eyes.
"Sorry to wake you." He took a seat beside her. "But I'm glad you're awake. We need to talk."
'We need to talk.' Nothing good could come from that statement. It immediately sent shivers up Buffy's spine, Wes knew of her secret rendezvous with Ripper. She was a dead Slayer.
"What'd I do now?" she asked warily.
"It's not what you've done. It's what I haven't," Wesley said as he peeked out of the corner of his eye at her, uncharacteristically nervous.
Buffy sighed with relief. "Way to get my attention! What's up?"
"I went to see Ripper last night..."
'Oh no!' she thought.
"It was interesting to say the least." Wesley smiled awkwardly and Buffy found that somewhat comforting. "I think you deserve some information… background on Ripper, and it will be difficult to believe."
"Can I be the judge of that," she said defensively, remembering Ripper saying the same thing to her. "So, who is he?"
"He was to be your Watcher." Wesley started and could see Buffy's forehead wrinkle with confusion.
"So Will, how was the date last night?" Xander grinned as he sipped his root beer, scanning the Bronze crowd for Buffy.
"It was wonderful. We talked all night and I learned how to call on the spirits of the..."
"So no touchy feely?" He leaned forward, eagerly awaiting the answer.
"None of your business. Besides, where were you with that easy-looking brunette? You were supposed to give me a ride home? Ethan ended up calling a cab and accompanying me to my house." Willow tried to look stern but the memory of Ethan weakened her fortitude. "He was such a gentleman."
"I know. I'm sorry. Faith and I hung out here all night." Xander smiled at the recollection. "She said it had been a long time since she'd just hung around with people her own age. Guess she doesn't get to see the youthful scene very often."
"So no touchy feely for you?" Willow was surprised, that young lady seemed like a fairly loose type a girl.
"Naw, we did a few takes from dirty dancing but that was it. I actually enjoyed watching her enjoy herself. Gotta say, I'm curious what the deal is with her and the dynamic duo." He noticed Buffy wander into the main entrance and waved her over.
"She looks... upset?" Willow asked after a quick assessment of her friend's expression.
"I second that emotion. Definite upset features on the Buffster."
"Hey," Buffy said glumly and took a seat opposite them at the small round table.
"Hey to you to. How'd the Slaying go?" Xander asked. Buffy stared blankly at the table, not showing a hint of recognition of his inquiry.
"Buffy? Something wrong?" Willow asked, getting concerned at her friend’s odd behavior.
"He was supposed to be my Watcher," Buffy mumbled.
"Who?" Xander asked.
"Ripper," she sighed.
"Ex-squeeze me?" Xander shot a stunned look toward Willow whose eyes were wide with shock. "Mr. Smoky the Leather-bound, thieving thug was a Watcher?"
"He was training to be one until he dropped out of school," Buffy explained.
"Then how do you know he was supposed to be your Watcher? If he never even finished the required training, then how could he be your Watcher?" Willow asked, totally confused.
"Wesley said that it's similar to the way the Council discovers potential Slayers. They get wind of a promising student who shows signs of the right qualities and they whisk him off to a special school. Ripper's family line was full of Watchers so he was preconditioned to be one."
"Except Ripper had other plans," Xander added.
"Ok, I get the potential Watcher thing. But why your Watcher? How could the Council possibly know that?" Willow asked and saw Xander shrug.
"Prophecies and writings, documented in books past down through the generations." Buffy stared overwhelmed at Willow. "It was destined."
"Wha... then what happened? Why is Wesley your Watcher?" Xander didn't follow.
"They don't know... something must have happened. Ripper was supposed to be my Watcher."
Willow could see the torment in Buffy's expression but couldn't understand why this bothered her so. "There's something else, isn't there?"
"They say the prophecies warn of an alternate reunion between the Slayer and the Watcher that never was." Buffy looked forlornly at Xander.
"I'm guessing not a good thing?"
"We both die," she whispered.
"Definitely not something you want to read in your fortune cookie!" he said nervously.
"Do the prophecies warn when or how?" Willow asked, already knowing how vague prophecies usually were.
"Wesley said they Council couldn't translate the writings enough to get a clear description or warning. That's why they forbid me to go near him."
"Then why is he seeking you out? You think he wants to fulfill the prophecy?" Willow asked.
"I don't know."
"What are you going to do?" Xander asked.
"I don't know."
"Well, first of all, no Ripper until the Council can give you more definitive details of what could happen between you two," Xander ordered.
"That's what Wesley said. I guess I don't have a choice." Buffy sighed and slumped in her chair, trying to hide the fact she was torn between keeping herself safe and wanting desperately to see Ripper again. She just couldn't believe he'd mean her any harm.
"Now the security in the bank is lax. We needn't worry about the rear entrance and..." Ethan was interrupted by the late entrance of Ripper, who opened the door and strolled in with a grin playing along his lips. "Well, nice of you to show up, old man. Perhaps you'd like to tell us what you've been up to?"
"My business is my own. What have I missed?" he took a seat beside Faith on the floor of the hotel room and wrapped an affectionate arm around the young lady who smiled at his sudden swing in mood.
"Oh nothing really, just enjoying the sound of my voice and you?" Ethan was determined to find out why Ripper was suddenly showing signs of happiness, a not too frequent visitor to his offbeat reality.
"Have you confirmed the location of the jewel?" He tried to jump right back into business mode, focusing on the task at hand.
"Yes, it's tucked away in a safe-deposit box." Ethan noticed Ripper smile at the news and couldn't hold out any longer. "Why so chipper all of a sudden?"
"We met. We spoke. I'm pleased." He gave Faith a little squeeze and she poked him in the side with a playful finger.
"I must say Ripper, I think you've increased your word count to a new level. Don't let all your feelings out now, you might actually say something," Ethan teased.
"She's everything I'd envisioned." He fell back to the carpet and lay there, staring at the sparkled ceiling. "And I think she's safe."
"Does this mean your little protective quest is over and we can go about our business?" Ethan asked, miffed at the meeting.
"I don't think so." Faith rolled over on top of Ripper and examined his contented features. "He's got that special something in his eye. Ripper's not done yet with his little Barbie doll." Ripper's expression went serious and he stared into Faith's eyes, seeing something troublesome there.
"You stay away from her," he warned with a gentle caress of his hand over her cheek. Faith shifted her weight lower and grinded into his leather-clad groin.
"Make me," she taunted and licked his lips as she continued to grind sensually against him.
"I grow weary of your games, Faith. Go find yourself an adolescent boy toy and let me be."
Faith's slap was beyond ferocious. The sound of it rang in Ripper's ears as he rubbed the stinging flesh of his cheek.
"I already have!" She hissed.
"If you two are quite finished, can we discuss matters of business?" Ethan suggested, hoping to draw the feuding duo apart. They separated, Faith pacing heatedly around the room and Ripper sat upright, grinning at Ethan. "Thank you. Now we've got one day until the next withdrawal. Can we finalize the plan so we don't all end up in leg irons?"
"Why so tense, it's the same old routine, right? Besides, this bank is a shack compared to the first one." Ripper asked and glanced at Faith. She was really bothered by his involvement with the Slayer and he wondered what had brought on the sudden possessiveness.
"I'm outta here. You shits are driving me crazy." Faith grabbed her coat and headed out the door.
After an awkward minute of silence, Ethan stood up and stared down at his callous friend. "Ripper, go talk to her. She needs you."
Ripper sighed, knowing he'd been much more harsh then he should have been. "I can't be there for her anymore." He got up and walked to the door. "She deserves better than us. She's a Slayer."
"But a Slayer who loves us both, the poor girl," Ethan corrected.
"What does she know of love? She only knows desire and lust, those behaviors taught to her by a couple of demented sorcerers willing to take her under their wicked wings. She'll never learn unless we let her go... she'll never have a real life." Ripper opened the door and glanced back at his fellow sorcerer with pleading eyes.
Ethan moved in close to Ripper and stroked his cheek with a soothing hand. "Soon old friend. One more job, that's all I ask. Then you can desert me as the others have... as I've always known you would."
Ripper leaned toward Ethan and rested his forehead against his old friend's shoulder, shutting his eyes in fatigue. "The visions won't stop. I can't ignore them. If there was another way..."
Ethan's face flushed with heat from the contact. He craved so badly to nestle into Ripper's inviting skin, to feel the prickling of his stubble along his lips, to taste the familiar flavor of his old companion, but it wasn't his to cherish any longer. He hesitantly withdrew his face away and motioned out the door.
"I know, go talk to Faith, stay away from the Slayer, and we'll get through this. Once all's said and done, you can be with whom you're fated to be with."
Ripper smiled but it was a sad, empathetic smile. He knew that Ethan was losing the only family he'd had for over twenty years and it was destroying him.
"Faith won't be found if she doesn't want to be." He knew it was a lame excuse for avoiding Ethan's wishes but he had other duties. "I'll be back soon, I promise." He left and Ethan was alone, leaning against the cold door as it closed, cursing they'd ever come to Sunnydale, cursing the Slayer.