Conversations Part 6

Buffy could feel the magic coursing through her, entangling her in a Closter phobic embrace with Giles. She focused on his eerily blackened eyes, the only sign of his control over the supernatural storm surrounding them. A tear trickled down her cheek as he smiled at his hostage. She couldn't read his face, it seemed alien to her. How could he be so wicked, so monstrous; using Dawn as bait to trap her, steal her away? She had to close her eyes; it hurt too much to see him like that.

The magical tempest surrounding them finally quieted and Buffy welcomed the calm. She cracked open her eyes and immediately shut them, wanting the dizziness to end and the queasiness in her stomach to settle before she dared to moved. Buffy knew she was at a great disadvantage with her vision blurred and her balance off.

“Where’s Dawn?” She dropped to one knee to steady herself, waiting eagerly for a response from her kidnapper.

“She’s safe.” The soft voice seemed to swirl around her, echoing in her mind. “Welcome home.”

Buffy shook her head, trying to clear out the haze in her mind. As she looked around the dark clouded room, she could see movement but her eyes failed to clear. "Where's Dawn?" She insisted on a clearer answer.

"Buffy...please, she's fine. You'll see her soon enough." Giles breath tickled her ear and she scooted away timidly.

“Giles…I-I can’t see.” She felt panic rising in her gut. Was he blinding her or was she suffering after effects from the strange journey?

An odd scent of something scorched wafted past her nose followed by the touch of rough skin on her cheek, making Buffy jerk away and scamper a few feet to safety.

“The blindness is temporary, your sight will return soon." Giles voice sounded more normal, grounded. "You’re disoriented from the trip. Let me help you,” His tone was gentle and calm; he was obviously trying to ease her fear.

Buffy could hear him approaching her again. 'Don't touch me, you bastard,' she thought and listened carefully for his footsteps, wanting to stay out of his reach.

“Don’t! Just...just stay away!” She struggled upright and stumbled over her own feet a bit before coming to rest against what felt like a wooden chair. Her eyes strained to clear and she could make out bits of the scenery before her. Even though she could only make out forms and shapes, the hazy layout of the room looked familiar. It smelled of musty old books and wood. “Where did you take me?”

“It's not so much a place as a state of mind, Buffy.” Giles voice startled her, he was right beside her.

“Great! Whose mind…yours? Cause I gotta say, not wantin’ to see the décor.” Buffy tried to move away from him, blindly stumbling along, hitting her knee on furniture and tumbling to the hard wood floor. It was then that she recognized the setting; it was a recreation of the Sunnydale High School library.

“We can be wherever you want…wherever you feel most comfortable.” The landscape shifted around them and she tried to get her eyes to focus. The setting shrank, growing dimmer, still smelling of books and antiques and the unmistakable scent of Giles. It was his old apartment, how she’d missed it. “This is all for you.” His warm breath made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

‘Dammit! Just stay away from me!’ Buffy thought as she stepped forward, trying to get away without showing her obvious intimidation. She could hear him follow.

“I can’t stay away,” he whispered seductively in her ear and Buffy took a wild swing in the direction of his voice, striking nothing but air. “I need you.”

“Why are you doing this to me,” her voice cracked under the growing feeling of panic overtaking her. She couldn't mask her fear; he was reading her mind, revealing every emotion she tried so hard to hide. Or was he planting thoughts there, like he did in her dreams? Buffy couldn't trust her own thoughts or feelings. Giles was capable of altering her perception. She began to doubt her instincts; she was starting to crack under the stress.

"You gave me my freedom...for that I am grateful..." He'd given her space.

"Not intentionally!" She said defensively, wrapping her arms around her knees, comforting herself. Giles voice was coming from above her now; he was pacing around the room. Buffy needed her sight back, she needed to see him, see his expressions so she could read him.

"I need so much more...something only you can give me," His tone was somber.
"Something only you can grant me."

Buffy took a deep breath, trying to relax and regroup. "What might that be? I don't think I'm in any position for gift you?" She decided to play it cool, get some answers, get to Dawn.

"Oh, but you are," Giles footsteps stopped and he let out a sigh. "The Slayer, my Slayer."

"What are we going to do? We can't just wait." Xander stormed into the Summers home and paced around the room as Willow followed behind, watching Ethan creep in after her. He closed the door behind him and leaned against the door to catch his breath.

"We can try to track them...trace the trail left behind by Giles." Willow suggested optimistically, looking to the more experienced sorcerer for support. Ethan shook his head.

"Ripper's smarter than that. I'll bet he's not risking an earthly hideout. My bet's on another realm, alternate dimension. Harder to trace." Ethan dragged his tired body over to the couch and spread out on the cushions, exhausted and shaken from his flaming encounter with Giles.

Xander saw the message on the machine and pushed the button, hoping it was word from Buffy, though he realized it was highly unlikely. After they listened to the awkward message left by the camp counselors they paused in an anxious silence, finally comprehending why Buffy did what she'd done.

"Dawn?" Willow yelled upstairs, running up the stairs with Xander rushing to catch up. They burst into Dawn's room and froze at the sight of her resting peacefully in her bed. She opened her eyes and smiled.

"Hey guys. Did I miss anything?" She sat up, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

"Wha...why are you back? What happened at camp?" Xander went over and sat down beside her on the bed.

" boring. Waste of time. I was so glad when Giles showed up..."

"Giles?" Willow glanced uneasily at Xander, knowing Dawn needed to know what was going on.

"Young one doesn't know?" Ethan made his presence known, stepping into the doorway and rubbing his temple.

"Know what? Who's he?" Dawn felt a bit uncomfortable when she saw the ashen face of the stranger peeking at her from under his dirty fingers.

"An," Willow shrugged, not really wanting to get into the history of the Buffy/Ethan/Ripper relationship.

"Friend...really? I'd think it best not to rush into things a bit. Let's just say acquaintance..."

"Shut up...friend!" Xander hissed his defiance of the term Willow had chosen.

"What did Giles do...what did he say?" Willow wasn't sure how to approach relating the troublesome happenings to Dawn.

"He just showed up! Damn! I messed it all up." Dawn shook her head.

"What?" Xander asked.

"It was supposed to be a surprise party. I ruined it," Dawn sighed.

"Um...Dawn, it's really important you tell us what happened. Every detail," Willow urged.

"Bloody 'ell, we haven't time to tread lightly here." Ethan nudged into the room and knelt down in front of Dawn, amazed at how much she resembled Buffy. Not her outward appearance, she was one of a kind in that arena. has her aura, her spirit. Dawn had a hidden strength, a hint of the Slayer about her. "Listen up little one, Giles is evil. He's gone all wicked with the dark side of the force and he's kidnapped Buffy." Ethan hoped he'd summed things up into terms the youngest Summers could understand. "Now, tell us everything...from the beginning."

"Wha...Giles is evil?" She looked to Willow who nodded hesitantly. Xander lowered his stare to a note partially exposed from under Dawn's pillow. He reached over and pulled it out. It was Giles writing. One short sentence:

"Ethan, you know what to do!"

Under the words was an odd symbol Xander didn't recognize. Ethan glanced at the note and stood up, suddenly uncomfortable.

"What do you know?" Xander jumped up and pushed the sorcerer back.

Willow snatched the note and examined it. "Ethan, you have to tell us. What is Giles telling you to do?"

Ethan caught a glimpse of something under Dawn's bed, something metallic and he knew what was being asked of him. He stared into Dawn's moistened eyes and smiled. "Don't fret my dear. You hold the key to this mystery." He knelt back down in front of Dawn and took her hand in his. "Just be quiet, for a moment...think of Buffy."

Xander didn't like Ethan's sudden familiarity with Dawn. He gripped Ethan's shoulder and tried to pull him away from her. The sorcerer raised his other hand with a slight motion and Xander's hand burned from the touch. The young man released the hold, waving his fingers until the burning ceased. Willow took a step forward and raised her hand; ready to retaliate for Ethan's attack.

"Leave us...both of you. You can't help." Ethan looked back at the others. "If you want to see Buffy again...leave."

Xander pointed a finger at Ethan. "No way am I going to let..."

"Please," Ethan smiled reassuringly.

After a quick exchange of worrisome glances, the friends stepped outside the room.

"If you hurt her..." the slammed shut before Xander could finish his threat.

Ethan turned his attentions back to the young girl, placing his other hand over hers. He could see her beginning to loose her composure, starting to cry and pull away from him.

"Enough with all won't help us with the task at hand now will it?" He flashed his Cheshire cat smile, the one that always broke the ice. "You have to help have to think of Buffy," Ethan's voice was steady and calm, hypnotic.

"When did Giles..."?

"Work with me here, my sweet. Buffy.... only think of Buffy," Ethan began to rub the backside of Dawn's hands, sensing her emotions settling with his caress. This had to be difficult for her, having a strange and charbroiled sorcerer intruding like so but Ethan knew time was short. He had a responsibility to fulfill. He concentrated as he repeated Buffy's name to Dawn, trying to help her clear her mind to only one thought. In a flash, the image was there in his mind. He had his directions. His fingers slid off Dawn's hands and fell to his sides.

"What happened?" Dawn waited, bewildered at why he'd stopped what he was doing. She looked at the worn man, grimy and looking distraught, kneeling by her. "Did I help?"

"Yes luv, you did great. It's up to me now." Ethan reached beneath the bed and pulled out the object that had caught his eye, a rather plain sword that had been placed there specifically for him to notice. He slowly stood up, gazing apprehensively at the sword within his grasp. "Let the others know it will be over soon. They will know when."

Ethan began to mumble incantations as he stood still in the center of the room. Dawn watched, utterly dumbfounded with what the stranger was doing. A buzzing sound filled her ears and sparks surrounded the sorcerer's form. In a flash of what looked to Dawn like lightning, he was gone.

Dawn sat motionless, trying to take in the emotional jumble that had been the last ten minutes. The door burst open and Xander and Willow stumbled into the room.

"Are you ok?" Willow asked, rushing to Dawn.

"Where is he?" Xander looked around.

"He said it would be over would know when," Dawn's voice choked as she tried to relay the message. "What's going on?"

Xander and Willow looked at each other with distressed expressions.

"I wish we knew," Willow mumbled.

Part 7