Playing Dead part 10

The Pause:

"I usually pride myself on figuring these things out but I gotta say I'm drawing a big blank with this one." I stand at the window, staring at the open rooftop across the way. "Will, I think it's time you take pity on me and tell me what in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is going on here."

"Any sign of the fang boys?" Buffy asks as she takes a seat on the floor. I shake my head, just a bit disappointed.

"Not even a peep. Hate to say it but I think they may be off celebrating their victory." Buffy's irritated and decide to ease up on the sarcasm. "So what's with the daylight wasting time out there?"

"I think it's pretty obvious," Buffy answers. "No more sunlight. All night keggers and the vamps have an all access pass to the city. Just a matter of time before they make their next move. I think we ought to sit and wait until the next drop team shows and then we'll crash the party."

"Did you get through yet?" Hopefully the radio silence is temporary.

"Big donut hole. You were right. They have the Initiative Special Forces playbook and are following it to the letter." She glances down once again, making sure she didn't miss any communications.

I look over at Willow who sits quietly, totally still and barely even blinking. Again with the book we'd found days ago.

" Willow ? You still in there somewhere?" She ignores us and I decide it's time she had a break, involuntarily or no. "That must be some bedtime story." I walk over and take the book. I can't read a word of it and hand it back.

"Huh? What?" She stares, confused. "Oh, I'm sorry guys. Just trying to figure this out."

"What's to figure? I thought it was fairly straight forward." Buffy shrugs and places her jacket on the dusty floor.

"The sun... I mean not the why, but the how." Willow shakes her head.

"I think it's called magic, Will. And you call yourself a witch." I can't help the teasing.

"That's the problem. There shouldn't be any."

"You mean here in LA?" Buffy asks, confused.

"No, there are tons of mystical energies to tap into here. And ever since Wolfram & Hart opened the interdimensional gate, it's like an all you can eat buffet for magicks. That's why I'm recharging so quickly."

"I don't get the big question mark then. If it's Christmas for you, why not for them too?" I join them both on the floor but keep a straight view to the nearby building.

"Hello, still Jewish." She teases and we all share a smile. "That's what's wrong in all this. Vampires shouldn't have mystical abilities. It's not possible."

"Why not? Ethan was all sorcery-guy before, why not after?" Buffy digs through her jacket and retrieves a few energy bars, offering us each one. Suddenly I realize just how hungry I am and snap it up. Willow takes one as well but continues to explain.

"It's part of the whole undead arrangement. When you're turned, all mystical abilities are null and void. In some rare instances, raw even, the energies stick around long enough for minor castings. But nothing like this." She gestures out toward the darkened sky.

"So this is Major League casting?" I tearing into my oatmeal flavored plastic bar.

"More like World Series. Ethan never had this kind of power before. I mean, yeah… he was good… very good. But not acting against nature good. That's… this is more like…"

" Willow good," Buffy concludes and that brings an appreciative smile to Willow 's face.

"I guess." She shrugs.

"So Ethan is making with the mucho magicks when he shouldn't and tap dancing in broad daylight to boot. Vote one for him being not of the vampy camp." I suggest.

"But he was turned. I felt the change in him and his magicks."

"He was turned," Buffy agrees and nibbles on her bar. "My Slayer sense was ringing off the hook both times we were near him and that wasn't just their fang-ful leader setting off the alarm. It was both."

"So we have a vampire sorcerer able to walk in daylight and cast spells as powerful as Willow the Red, here. What does that mean?"

"The Gem of Amarra, maybe?" Buffy asks. "I know Angel destroyed it but maybe the power was transferred somehow or maybe there is something else out there like it. Couldn't there be more artifacts out there in the vampire invincibility line of fashion accessories?"

"I thought of that too, but I'm leaning towards no. Besides the incredibly absurd coincidence of such a thing being possible, you saw him. He didn't look invincible to me. Ethan was drained and hurting. If he was invincible, why wasn't he joining the fun in killing us?" Willow shakes her head, contemplating. "Something else is going on."

"Theories? Hypothesis? Guesstimates? I'm ready for anything at this point." I sigh in frustration.

"I don't know yet, but I'm working on it." She wiggles the chaos book. "And I think the answer is in here."

I hear a faint rumbling and jump to my feet. Copters.

"Drop teams coming!" I rush to the window and see one Apache helicopter escorting two armored transport helicopters, all soaring overhead to disappear off into the distance. "Damn it! They're playing an away game. If we are gonna be the cheer squad, we better get a move on!"

The Wanting:

There is an acrid stench of metal and burnt plastics in the breeze. Sparks flicker from the twisted wreckage of a helicopter jutting out from the building. He's done it again, my sorcerer son. They are no match for us now.

"Half of the second and third squad of invaders was spared, just as you requested, Sir," Jacobs' reports and I'm pleased.

"Well done. Gather all the PDA's and radio transmitters and pile them at the stairs. Make sure no prisoners have hidden signals. Leave half the dead and take all survivors under," I order loudly so all can hear. The men nod their understanding and I finally I feel I can turn my attention to Ethan.

He stands atop the protruding structure of the stairway entry, silhouetted by a creamy moon. I wait as the men execute their orders in clearing out the wounded. Some take their prizes of skulls, of hands, of more intimate bits of flesh with them to continue the celebration back at base camp. Numerous depleted carcasses remain. My boys are thorough. Once the others have left, Jacobs approaches and after a moment, places a cautious hand on my arm.

"Are you alright, Rupert?" He asks with genuine concern.

"Fine, Jacobs. Go on and join the others. I'll be along shortly." He turns to walk away and I stop him with a spontaneous revision. "Oh, and Jacobs, send out an invitation to the northerners that we have food for them."

I can see his objection before he expresses it. "But Sir, these prisoners could last us…"

"The men did well tonight. They deserve more of a reward than terrified flesh." I offer the young man a patient but stern smile. "They deserve company."

"I'll see to it, Sir."

"Good man." Though in fact he is only a boy. "You did well, tonight. But then again, you always do."

"Thank you." He nods and seems grateful enough. "I know you don't usually partake, but can I arrange anything special for you, Sir?"

"That will be all, Jacobs. Leave us." My voice comes off much harsher than I anticipated but I let my words stand as they are. Jacobs hurries off and I watch as the door shuts below the structure where Ethan is perched. We are alone.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" I ask quietly, unsure if I am referring to the moon or the man spotlighted by it. Regardless, they make a stunning pair.

"I suppose so." He sounds tired but looks on edge.

"For all your sickness, you did quite well tonight, Ethan." Actually, I'd seen very little of what he'd done, having been rather busy keeping soldiers from him.

"I'm not one of your obedient little lap dogs, Rupert, so don't speak to me as if I were."

"I didn't mean to…"

"Didn't mean to what, exactly?" He turns and stares down at me from above, intimidating eyes washing from black to yellow and back again to black.

"I don't think I understand," I say patiently and more than a little concerned.

"I think you understand far better than me, old friend. I watch you. See all of you in the heat of it… the thrall. The violence is a drug, a part of the sustenance you win with the act itself. You take pleasure in it, every last one of you." He shakes his head and I think I've unraveled what he's on about.

"It comes with time, Ethan."

"Don't tell me that it takes time. It takes more than time. It takes cruelty, ruthless brutality and the utter lack of conscience. All of which you have and I…" his eyes narrow with bottled fury. "You fucking bastard, you knew!"

"Knew what?"

He rips the ring from his finger and tosses it furiously at me. "This… this bloody token is just that… a useless token. Nothing more! It has no more power than a bridal set… you backstabbing bastard!"

Damn it! I'm not ready for this. "I wasn't sure…"

"Liar! You knew the ring was false!"

"Yes, the ring was a cover for the others. How else could I explain you to them?"

"Why? Why can I walk in sunlight, hold crosses, have a reflection? What am I if not a vampire?"

"I don't know."

"You have a damn good notion, though, don't you? You, with your worthless texts and prophecies, you knew what it all meant… what you were doing."

"I gave you the choice, Ethan."

"You gave me damnation!" He shouts I can hear his voice echo off the rotting landscape. It's unwise to vocalize so freely, the night has ears. He rakes his fingers through his hair, biting back whatever words are simmering. Suddenly, he hunches over and I see pain cross his face. I step forward only to be ordered still with his raised hand. "Don't. Just… just don't."

"You're wounded?"

"Few stray bullets." He grunts, pressing at the injury in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding.

"They're not healing?" Blood is pooling beneath him.

"They are but rather slowly. Slower than any of you and yours. Care to explain that? You made it your life's mission to find answers, Watcher. I think you owe me a few about now, don't you?"

It won't be pretty, admitting. It won't be fair, accepting. It won't be easy, forgiving.

"You're not like the others."

"Do tell?" He chuckles bitterly.

"It's why you still have your mystical abilities, why you bleed more, hurt more, and… and feel more." I take a few steps closer, apologizing with every motion and word. "You're the rarest of breeds, Ethan, one of the few who can't be turned. Not entirely."

"But I have the hunger and the lust for the kill that you all thrive on." He's searching for answers when I can only give him more questions.

"Yes, you do. But you don't have the will to act on it. You're still suffering from your humanity, Ethan."

"Am I dead?"

"As much as any of us?"

"Do I have a soul?"

"I don't honestly know."

"Or perhaps I never had one, is that it?"

"I never said that."

"You didn't have to."

"There is much left unknown in the process. I haven't all the answers. I do know you have the demon in you, as we all do. It shows its face in battle, but something of your humanity remains and can't be taken from you."

"Even if I want it gone?" I hear desperation in his tone and can only imagine what it would be like to have that nagging morality eating away at you.

"Perhaps it's an adaptation or mutation… regression of some kind?"

"Punishment is what it is." There's determination with that point. "A killer who can't kill? How am I expected to function like this?"

What else can I say? "Much as you did before, I suppose."

He takes to the air and comes down at me with a pounding blow to my cheek. I'm sent to my knee, feeling the split skin with my fingertip.

"You did this to me!" He roars.

His knee comes up with devastating fury, snapping my jaws shut with a solid strike. It sends me backwards, colliding hard into the air duct work worming from the rooftop. I lift my head in time to see his strike but I resist defense. Blow after blow, he tenderizes me and I feel the rise of the beast within. But I force it down again. Ethan needs this release as much as I need him.

"You knew!" He screams as he pummels me. Every strike is glorious. I never knew he was capable of such ferocity. He claws, he kicks, and he tears into me with a vehemence that's invigorating.

"How could you do this to me?" He grips my shirt, steadying me. Barely a second passes before he gives into his anger again, thrusting me against the piping with each demanding word. "How… could… you…?"

"I need you." I hear myself say it again, like some pitiful mantra. He stops and sweat dribbles from his brow. His teeth clench, fangs waiting to be bared and eyes shimmering wild in the dim light. "I need you, Ethan."

The tension in his features wanes. His mouth fumbles to speak only to falter. Tight fists grip at my shirt, holding me as he examines my beaten face. It's the blood that's tamed him. Then I see his anger evolve into hunger.

"You're one of us but not, Ethan," I whisper as my hand lifts to curve along the back of his neck. "You are so much more."

He's enthralled by the gash on my cheek and longing to taste it. But he resists the urge, eyes closing under the strain.

"How can I live like this?" He whimpers.

"With me," I promise, tugging him in close. He hovers, denying me. Then the textured tip of his tongue skims lightly along the ridge of my jaw. It sends jolts of arousal through me unlike anything I've ever known. He retreats enough for me to see him lick his lips, savoring the flavor. That glorious tongue returns, drawing along the curve of my chin. Suddenly, my head is trapped between his hands as he tends to every crimson drop.

"I should hate you," he snarls in my ear before sampling my split brow. The stinging sets me hard, cursing my mind with images of what that slithering tongue might feel like tangling with mine. He teases near my mouth, licking the trickle of blood in the corner as he speaks daggers. "I deserve to hate you as you must have hated me."

"I never hated you." Lips so close but just out of reach.

He pulls back with eyes black as a starless midnight . "Perhaps you should."

Bloodstained lips crush mine with as much dominion as I claim over my loyal boys. He's kissing me and I can't help but let him, want him. I don't know if I should laugh or cry at the loss of my final innocence. My body chooses its own course, aching to touch him. I groan as his tongue forces its way through my split lips to taste mine. Suddenly my mouth is awash with the tang of copper and magicks. Not satisfied with the lone intrusion, he shifts his hips in, pressing his groin solidly to mine. Our masked arousals wrestle against one another as our mouths continue to wage a wordless war. Another groan slips out and he responds with a satisfied smile.

Ethan has me right where he wants me. Always has, it was only a matter of time.

Broad fingers claw down the front of my shirt, ripping the fabric as they go. His nails score shallow tracks along my chest. Then he parts the shreds and bows down to lap up the beading drops of blood. I tense with his tasting, hurting for that astonishing tongue. My hands remain at my sides, stiff and useless as Ethan discovers my nipple. What madness this is, begging to touch yet unable to act, the sensations being so foreign.

Suddenly, he's gone and my eyes open to his smug smile and shimmering black gaze. "Hardly even, mate, but we're off to a promising start."

I want to object without revealing my desperation but it's futile, as blatant as my breaking voice whimpering his name. "Ethan…"

"Now's not the time, Ripper. We've company coming on the horizon."

Dazed still within a cloud of arousal, I turn to stare off into the distance. Sure enough, there they are, the interfering children racing towards us from the street below. I would curse them dead if only I could do so.

"I'm in no mood to discipline your adopted brats, Rupert. Perhaps we better join your boys in their celebration," Ethan suggests and with a growl I nod. I quickly scan the rooftop and spot what it is I'm after. I hurry over, take it up and smile at Ethan as I return to his side.

"Just let me send them on their way with a little spanking." I press the trigger, the grenade activates and I throw it to the wind. "Spare the rod…"

Crackles of the mystical globe envelopes us just before the explosion sounds. We are gone.

part 11...