The Watcher that Never Was part 8/10
"They're hitting another bank. I know it!" Buffy said edgily, hoping the others wouldn't ask too many questions. "We need to figure out which one and fast. Where's Will?"
"She had a few things to do this morning. You could buzz her, I think she took her cell with her." Xander watched as Wesley tried to navigate the web on Willow's laptop. He didn't possess the natural talent Willow had in such matters but he could hold his own in the digital arena. He’d reminded Willow many times that the Council required technological training as well as defensive and research tactics.
"I'm not sure where to begin," Wesley said quietly as he typed. "Are you quite certain they would attempt another bank? Striking two banks within the same town sounds a little risky?"
"I wish I was there. That is so cool." Xander seemed suddenly enthusiastic.
"Oh yeah, so cool when they get all shot up and dead!" Buffy huffed.
Wesley's cell phone began to ring and he fumbled it out of his trousers pocket. He thought it odd; it wasn't a call but rather just a text message. Wesley pushed a button and watched the message scroll across the small display:
"Hi.. Hometown Bank... robbery... help... love Willow..."
"I think I know what bank they're robbing," Wesley said reluctantly, completely astonished by their dumb luck. He handed the phone to Buffy and Xander peeked over her shoulder as the message scrolled once again along the display.
"This is so not fair! I want to be there to watch. It’s probably better than the movies," Xander said impatiently.
"You might get your chance. We have to go!" Buffy headed for the door and Wesley stopped her.
"Buffy, wait. We can't just storm in there..."
"Yes, I can," she responded bluntly and pulled away, leaving in a hurry.
Wesley cast a worried glance to Xander. "I think I know why Ripper is robbing this particular bank."
"Money, Wes, why else?" Xander walked to the door and watched as Buffy drove precariously off on the motorcycle. "She's gone... and since when can she drive a motorcycle?"
"I believe there is more to it than money, Xander." Wesley gathered the laptop, a newspaper and his gun. "Let’s go. I'll explain on the way." He handed the paper to Xander and rushed out the door. Xander followed the Watcher as he read the headline of the Arts and Entertainment Section, "Rare Artifact Leaving Sunnydale for New Antiquities Museum in Prague."
"Why is this taking so long?" Ethan gasped for breath and looked irritated over at Ripper. He removed his gloves and tossed them to the floor. Ripper tore his mask off and wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"Haven't a bloody clue," he mumbled and followed Ethan's lead, removing his gloves. But Ripper did know what was hindering their progress with the vault door. It was his fault. His encounter with Buffy had taken its toll on his capabilities. He was unreliable. Ethan leaned against the nearest desk and rubbed his fingers agitatedly over his face.
"What's going on?" Willow stepped into the back room with casual curiosity. "You should have that door off by now?"
Ripper glanced at Ethan who smiled at her familiarity of their game plan. She obviously knew much more than she had offered.
Ripper threw his mask uselessly at the vault door. "Nothing, go back out to..."
"Precisely, nothing. Not… a… thing." Ethan's gaze grew suspicious as he stepped up to Ripper and cocked his head to the side. He raised an brow as he examined his friend from head to toe, sizing him up. "And I think I know why. You were with her last night..."
"Who?" Willow asked with anticipation. "Buffy?"
"Back off!" Ripper rumbled.
"I can't believe..." Ethan waved a arm in frustration and stepped away, trying to control his temper. It was a pointless attempt and he spun back to confront his reckless cohort. "You had a taste, didn't you? Took a little dip in that Slayer bitch..."
Ripper rushed forward and ferociously grabbed hold of Ethan's neck, pinning him to the brick wall as his other hand, clenched back tightly in a fist, waited eagerly to strike.
"Why?" Ethan let out a distraught chuckle, completely submissive against the wall. "One more bloody night... that's all we needed."
Ripper stared angrily into the wounded eyes of his old friend and couldn't bring himself to strike. Ethan was right; he had no will, no self-control. And now his impulsive behavior would cost him his objective. He loosened his grip and lowered his head. Leaning closer to Ethan, Ripper dropped his hand to the shaken man's chest and pressed it over his heart.
"I love her. It's as simple as that." He patted Ethan's chest in a feeble attempt to apologize and wandered out of the vault, dispirited.
Willow cautiously walked up to Ethan and took a quick look at his neck, checking for any injury. Finally she understood why Ethan couldn't be intimate with her that night and it was clear that he'd had good reason.
"I'm afraid I believe him," Willow said sympathetically as she soothingly caressed his reddened skin.
"So do I." Ethan pulled Willow in close and hugged her, needing to be consoled.
"I think we got company!" Faith yelled with urgency in her voice.
Ethan lurched forward, resting his forehead to Willow's for a moment. "This just keeps getting better."
She could tell Ethan was exhausted and now this simple little robbery just became a nightmare. They needed to get out in a hurry or they’d risk capture.
"Um... tell me about the vault spell," she said quietly as she stroked his back.
When Buffy arrived at the bank, she was shocked at the number of cop cars surrounding the small facility. They had the place sealed with heavily armed officers at every possible angle. She pulled the motorcycle in across the street and waited impatiently for Wesley to show up. Some officers where starting to close off the surrounding streets with tape and barricades. Buffy knew she didn't want to lose her good vantage point so she took refuge on the rooftop of the burger place opposite the bank. As she hid behind the restaurant's sign, she pondered her options. She had to get in there, but how?
"I believe Ripper's intended to acquire the artifact reported in that article," Wesley explained as he maneuvered his car through the streets of downtown Sunnydale. "The Eye of Lamna."
"Why? Is it valuable?" Xander asked.
"Well yes, it does hold some monetary value but the legend of its mystical worth is why Ripper seeks it."
"I'm still placing my bet on money!" Xander said and noticed the street ahead was blocked off. "Looks like a donut convention."
"Yes, I'm afraid this robbery might be their last. Can you see Buffy?" Wesley pulled the car to the shoulder of the road and stopped as they searched for any sign of the Slayer. Wesley caught a glimpse of a waving hand from behind the burger restaurant’s sign. "There... on the roof. We need to get to her before she does something drastic."
They watched as Buffy dropped down to the ground and took off at top speed, sprinting swiftly across the street toward the bank. She jumped the blockade, dodging and weaving through the bewildered officers, and dived through the side window as glass exploded around her.
"Like that," Wesley winced.
"That's the sign of a hyperactive little Slayer. Perhaps we better cut down on the Wheaties?" Xander quipped.
Faith had tracked her movements, watched her brazen approach. The slight sized blonde had to be Ripper's girl, but she was stunned at how different the Slayer looked from her expectations. And with a deafening shatter of glass, the only other Slayer in the world lay huddled on the floor at her feet, blanketed in shards of glass.
"Nice entrance. Bit messy on the landing." Faith hurriedly pushed a bench to cover the exposed window. Ripper rushed to the fallen Slayer’s side as Faith continued to barricade the windows with chairs and desks to prevent another prospective hero from making such a grand entrance.
Buffy rolled over and began to brush the slivers of glass off her clothes. Ripper quickly examined her for injuries and picked out some remaining shimmering specks from her hair. She smiled at his concerned face staring down at her.
"Buffy, what are you doing?" Ripper stared quizzically at the crazy young lady. "You could have been shot!"
"Hey Buffy." Willow walked over to her and smiled shyly. "Sorry to get you involved but something told me you wouldn't want to miss this."
"Wouldn't miss this for the world." Buffy got to her feet and looked around the bank lobby. "Things aren't really going as planned huh? Got the vault open yet?"
"No. Does everyone know our routine?" Ripper sighed.
"Just call me the all knowing Buffy. So, didn't expect the surprise party outside, I guess?"
"Not quite, but thanks for asking." Ethan strolled up. "You must be Buffy, pleasure to make your acquaintance." He offered the Slayer his hand and Willow blushed as he casually wrapped an arm around her.
"Ethan Rayne I presume?" Buffy grinned at Willow's shy expression and shook his hand very businesslike, quickly turning her attention to the approaching brunette. "And you are?"
"Not pleased to meet you." Faith landed a punch square on Buffy's nose and Buffy blocked a second just before it connected. Ripper stepped between the sparring Slayers.
"This isn't going to happen." He shot a warning glare to Faith.
"But little miss pep squad is probably here to stop us!"
"She's right. Can't let you guys pull this off." Buffy pushed Ripper aside. "Wanna discuss the matter?"
"Not much for talkin." Faith struck again, a series of quick jabs, each blocked by Buffy as she twisted around to leg sweep the swift opponent. Faith jumped and planted a shin to Buffy's cheek, making Buffy spin around and dodge just as Faith came down with an elbow.
"She's as strong as Buffy," Willow gasped.
"She's a Slayer." Ethan stepped forward to interrupt the battle. "Please, this isn't helping the situation..."
Buffy pushed Ethan back as Faith rushed forward to tackle her. Buffy fell onto her back and vaulted Faith into the air with her feet, continuing to roll with momentum to return upright. Both Slayers landed with grace, facing off and ready for more. Ripper came up behind Faith and took hold of her arm. She instinctively swung around and struck him hard in the chest, sending his hurling to the wall. He hit the brick and tumbled to the floor.
"Fuck!" Faith cursed remorsefully and went to him, carefully lifting his head from the tile.
"Don't..." he pushed her away and pressed on his bleeding brow as he stumbled to get to his feet.
"I'm sorry... I didn't mean..."
"Didn't you?" he challenged sorely as he staggered toward the vault. Buffy watched her opponent's regretful expression as she contemplated joining Ripper but decided against it.
"Ready to talk surrender, or what?" Buffy asked.
"Never!" Faith advanced and Ethan stopped her with an arm.
"Enough of this. Take a breather for a moment and let’s talk," he suggested calmly.
Willow stood beside him and looked pleadingly to Buffy. "Yeah, I'm with Ethan."
"Obviously!" Buffy hissed.
"Hey… now, that's uncalled for," Willow said. "I just don't want anyone hurt, is all."
"So side with the bank robber... that's rich Will!"
"What side? I don't want them to rob a bank but I'm not going to let them be taken to jail either." Willow's voice cracked under the strain of defiance toward her friend. "You said it yourself, Buffy, you're not a cop."
"No, but I don’t need to be one to know this is wrong," Buffy countered.
"Oh, drop the holier than thou bullshit, Barbie!" Faith walked to the window and peeked outside. "You're not sitting too pretty yourself right about now. Those cops aren't going to know a white hat from a black hat when they come storming in here."
"She's right. The cops might arrest everyone and sort it all out after the fact. Why can't we just help them get out of here?" Willow pleaded.
"Something tells me you've already helped them," Buffy said, suspicious of Willow's defensive behavior. With a quick glance to the back room, Buffy marched to the vault with Willow and Ethan in tow. As she entered the small entryway before the vault, she paused at the sight of Ripper rummaging through the contents of the safe deposit boxes within the open vault.
"It was just a little spell," Willow mumbled nervously.
"You did this?" Buffy interrupted.
Ripper ceased his search and looked back at Willow with a broad smile. "Thanks red!"
Willow blushed as Ethan gave her a little hug of appreciation. "She's quite the gifted wicca," He smiled.
"And that's so vital for those long, hard nights in the big house. Will, this is serious!" Buffy stormed up to Ripper and pulled him from the vault. "And you! What happened to making up for lost time, righting misdeeds and all that shi-- stuff?"
"This is the first step, Buffy," he explained.
"It's your fault!" Willow accused loudly, pointing to Buffy. All eyes fell on her and she quickly shrank behind Ethan. "I mean... you did... um...well..."
"Did what Will?" Buffy waited impatiently.
"Ripper couldn't perform the spell so I had to help... just a little," she said shyly.
"And how is that my fault?"
"You were... with... him..." Willow squeaked and raised a trembling finger toward Ripper.
"Huh?" Buffy glanced at Ripper who seemed to want to hide behind Ethan as well.
"What your friend is trying so carefully to avoid saying is that you had sex with Ripper. Sex and magic don't mix well," Ethan explained indelicately. Buffy's eyes widened with embarrassment as she looked at Ripper.
"You told them?" she growled.
"He didn't have to. He couldn't perform the spell so I deduced as much." Ethan could see the fury in the Slayer's eyes.
"This is... I can't... " Buffy stormed out of the vault as the others watched her go.
"That went well," Ethan smiled awkwardly at Ripper who hurried after the upset Slayer.
"What scene were you watching?" Willow winced.