"I don't like this," Ethan groused as Tod's house filled up with eight of his friends, all of them people Rupert and his friends had met during the house key party. "You didn't mention anything about your own little coven, Tod. Wouldn't it be a good idea to actually know a little magic before organizing a play group?"
"Who said anything about a coven." Tod laughed. "They're just interested in what you can do. They want to see for themselves. I don't see the harm in that."
Rupert did. If the book was as powerful as he thought it might be, it could be dangerous to have completely magically-naive people about. Randall's death had proven that even experienced people could be killed. Funny, it was the first time he had thought about Randall since the time in Central Park. At least maybe he was getting a handle on his grief, that had to count for something. "If things go wrong, Tod, we might not be able to protect them."
"What could go wrong? Let's just try some small spells," Tod said then his eyes narrowed, his voice going rough. "They're not leaving."
Rupert felt Gemma tense beside him. Ethan's thin face twisted with fury and Deirdre looked ready to bolt. She might have the right idea but Rupert had a feeling Tod would shred him and his friends to keep the book from leaving.
Ethan glanced outside at the full moon. "Think we should get started then?"
"What spell do you actually think is safe?" Gemma asked.
"How about this one?" Tod pointed to a spell three pages in. "It's supposed to make pictures cry. I can't imagine what good that is but what could get hurt? Pictures aren't alive."
Ethan picked up the book. "I hate reading in Greek."
Rupert agreed. It wasn't just a different language but a completely different alphabet. It was lucky that he and Ethan were both natural polyglots. "At least it isn't Chinese," he offered.
"You'd be out of luck if it were." Ethan hesitantly read the spell. A cool wind suddenly shot in through the windows and all the pictures in the living room, humans and animals alike, started weeping.
"Wow, it worked. It really worked," one of Tod's friends said. Was her name Cynthia? Rupert thought it might be. It was the girl he had gone home with.
"It's as simple as that? Just reading out of the book?" Tod tried to get the book back from Ethan but the taller young man had a death grip on it.
"Not all spells are that easy," Gemma said, annoyed that Tod thought magic could be that easy. "Some require a lot of spell ingredients to make them work."
"And it takes a certain amount of control," Rupert added. "With some spells, all you need to do is read them but if you don't have the control to direct them, things can go bad."
"People die," Deirdre whispered, obviously thinking of Randall and the terror they all went through trying to exorcize Eyghon.
"Try another one," a pudgy young man demanded.
"Here, Ripper, you try." Ethan surrendered the book. He had a strange look in his eye. Rupert almost could have sworn it was fear, like he knew they were in over their heads.
Rupert thumbed through it. A few spells were harmless-looking upon the first read through. Others were terrible, dealing with pain and death and flaying of people alive or causing unrelenting sorrow. What had they unearthed from the Moundalexakis' grave? He knew better than to continue this but if he quit now, could he and his friends wrest the book away from Tod and his companions? They outnumbered the English spell casters two to one. Maybe another spell would put them at ease, satisfy them, and then they could put the book aside and rationally think about what to do next. "Okay, here's one. If I'm reading it right, it'll make a pyrotechnics display with no heat. It seems like it was for entertainment at ancient theaters, like a special effect or something."
Rupert prayed he hadn't made a translation error. He chanted the spell and the room seemed to hold its breath. His heart skipped a beat, then balls of light started dancing on the ceiling. They exploded with little pops and brilliant colors rained down, some like falling jewels, others like crystalline flower petals. Others broke into rain drops and lightning bolts in every color of the rainbow. It was one of the most beautiful spells he had ever seen.
"Talk about your transitive nightfall of diamonds," Gemma breathed.
Rupert reread the passage, trying to memorize the spell for later. It was harmless and wonderful to look at. He got up and touched the falling petals of light. They fizzled against his skin like a feather-tickle. Suddenly, he was brought back to earth by Tod, yanking the book from his hand.
"I think maybe it's my turn," Tod said, a look of pure greed in his eyes.
Rupert tore the book out of his grip. "This isn't for beginners, Tod. This spell is just a harmless light display but others in here are deadly. This isn't a toy."
"I don't think you get to decide that," Tod growled.
Rupert handed the book to Deirdre, getting ready to fight if he had to. "Look, Tod, you don't have the skills for this. It's why you asked us here. I'm telling you this spell book is beyond your abilities."
"He's right. Maybe after we do a little of those training sessions we talked about, you'll be able to cast some of the easier spells but not yet," Ethan said, more placatingly.
"I'm tired of this shit," Cynthia whined.
"No shit," the pudgy guy said, getting up.
Before Rupert or Ethan could react, the fat man punched Deirdre in the face. As she went down, nose pouring blood, he grabbed away the book. He wiped the blood spatters off in Deirdre's hair.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Rupert lunged at Tod who kicked a chair into him.
"Here's a little spell I already know." Tod chanted in French and a silvery web lashed out of his hands, wrapping Rupert, Ethan, Gemma and Deirdre into a tight little bundle. They crashed to the floor like a felled tree.
"What is going on here?" Ethan thrashed against the bonds.
"I sort of lied to you, ol' buddy." Tod squatted down in front of them. "See, during my research I also discovered this book was written by supplicants of Penthus. Zeus made him the personification of sorrow. His favorite type of grief is the kind caused by death. When Ethan told me about your problems with Eyghon, I realized you were perfect."
"Perfect for what?" Rupert snarled, trying to free himself.
"I lied about us being a coven, too. We are. Penthus is our patron and we've made this brownstone his temple." Tod beamed like a proud papa. That explained the weird feeling the building had been giving Rupert but knowing there had been a good reason didn't make him feel any better. "I also learned that if we sacrificed sorrowing wizards we could gain even more powers, straight from Penthus. We'd become his right-hand men so to speak. We could become gods. We wouldn't even need this damn book but the sacrificial spell is in here so we needed it for that. It would be better if we had more sorrowing wizards but I'm betting four is good enough for a start. Penthus should be happy."
"Ethan, remember what I said about your plans blowing up in our faces," Rupert growled, struggling against the webbing.
"Not helping, Rupert." Gemma thrashed as Tod and his companions turned away from them to concentrate on the book.
"We all have our samples of their hairs or fluids for the spell?" Tod asked.
"It's been in the freezer," Cynthia said, producing a condom in a bag from her purse.
"Are you as nauseated as me?" Ethan mumbled.
"Worse. Got an idea," Rupert whispered. "Join hands."
"What do you have in mind?" Gemma fumbled for his hand.
"Let them get started, get their minds off us. We all know Marin's Unlocking spell. If we cast it in unison, we might be able to undo this," Rupert replied.
It didn't take long for Tod and his friends to find their spell and start it, the room filled with the foul odors of burning hair and latex as the sacrifices were loaded onto a fondue cooker cum cauldron. Rupert and his companions locked fingers as best they could in the tangle they were in. The first time through, the spell didn't work so the quartet tried again griping harder, daring to be a little louder as they chanted.
"I think it's coming!" Tod screamed, dancing around the room.
Rupert ignored it and his growing fear as their bonds dissolved. They all scrambled to their feet, racing for the door, to hell with the book. Rupert saw the entity forming near the ceiling, vaguely man-shaped from the waist up and, from the waist down, vapors, weeping tears so salty the apartment suddenly smelled like the sea. Penthus had come for his sacrifices.
"They're free!" Cynthia shouted, pointing at the quartet.
Rupert punched the nearest of the group in the face as he made for the door. He didn't worry too much for himself or Ethan in a fight. They were capable of handling themselves. Gemma was probably even more capable than Ethan was. Deirdre, with her broken nose and swelling eyes, worried him the most. He snared her arm, propelling her toward the door. Someone grabbed Rupert's long hair, yanking him back. Deirdre jumped forward, tearing the door open. She didn't wait. She thundered down the brownstone stairs.
Rupert broke the hold Tod had on his hair and kneed the man hard. Gemma was being dragged back towards Penthus by two of the coven members while Ethan slammed Cynthia face first into the wall. Rupert tried to get to Gemma but he was tackled by three of Tod's friends. They were outnumbered too badly. Gemma screamed as Penthus' vapor rained down on her. Spurred on by her cries, Rupert bit the arm closest to him, tasting blood as he shoved his elbow back into the person but he still couldn't get free. Ethan kicked one of them away from him and hauled Rupert up. Together, they tore Gemma away from Penthus. Some tears hit Rupert and for a moment he thought he'd never be anything but anguished again.
He shook off the horrible sorrow, stumbling after Ethan who was trying to drag them both out. Rupert started running, pulling Gemma who was still screaming, her face a mask of tears. Ethan dodged one of the women and managed to scoop up the grimoire in the same move. Rupert was nearly yanked off his feet by Tod who had another death grip on his long hair. Gemma fell to the ground. Screaming, Rupert grabbed Tod and shoved him through the window onto the fire escape. Tod moaned and whimpered, bleeding everywhere. As much as the Ripper part of him wanted to 'help' Tod off the escape the hard way, Rupert turned and fled through the apartment, managing to dodge Penthus who was enveloping Cynthia in his vapor, obviously not caring who was a supplicant and who was sacrifice.
Rupert lifted Gemma up and half carried, half dragged her out of the apartment. Ethan was waiting on the stairs and he took Gemma's arm. They carried her down the street between them. Deirdre was three blocks away. Panting from exertion, they eased Gemma down onto the filthy sidewalk. The street was deserted and eerily quiet until the screams started coming from the brownstone. Gemma curled up, sobbing.
"It's turned on them," Ethan said, staring at the brownstone.
"What's wrong with Gemma?" Deirdre asked.
Rupert knelt beside his weeping lover. He brushed her hair back, looking into her wet eyes and saw no sparks of her intelligence behind them. "I think the sacrifice wasn't our deaths. It's our happiness."
"What do we do now?" Deirdre sat down, putting her arms around Gemma.
"We take this damn book and we lock it back up where we found it," Rupert snarled but he knew that would do no good. It would be the first place Tod would look.
"Are you nuts? Do you know how much power is in that book?" Ethan brandished it.
"And look what it did to Gemma." Rupert stood up, getting in Ethan's face. "We can't keep the damn thing, Ethan."
"Well, we're not stupid enough to call down an ancient God," Ethan argued. "I'm not giving up something this powerful."
"The hell you aren't."
"Let's see you make me, Ripper." Ethan tossed the book onto the grassy spot that made up the front 'yard' of another brownstone. He threw a right hook that Rupert dodged.
They went at it, street rules, and Rupert went all out. All they needed now was the cops on top of it all. Deirdre was crying for them to stop then she was pulling on Rupert's arm. He hadn't even realized he had gotten Ethan down and had been whomping him at will. He staggered up to his feet.
"Are you happy now?" Deirdre shoved him.
"No, I'm not, Dee, but we can't keep this book, and you know Ethan's not going to give it up." Rupert turned, looking back at Tod's brownstone. It had fallen silent. "I think Penthus is done with them."
"Look!" She pointed to the roof. They watched in horror as three of Tod's companions leapt off in unison. Deirdre crushed her face against his chest as they hit ground. "Oh, god."
"Shit." Rupert couldn't look away. "What did Tod say? Penthus likes the sorrow of mourners for the dead?"
"We have to get out of here," Deirdre said, tugging at him.
He pulled free. "We have to get back inside."
"Are you insane?"
Rupert wasn't sure of the answer at this point. "Deirdre, we have no money, no clothes and worse, no passports. We need our stuff. The cops will be here shortly. Even if Penthus took out everyone in the brownstone, someone had to have heard the jumpers. We don't have much time."
Her pale face twisted into a rictus of terror. "What if Penthus is still in there?"
"I don't know." Rupert tried to keep the fear out of his voice. "Help me get Ethan and Gemma out of sight."
They pulled them into the doorway of the nearest brownstone. It wouldn't hide them from sight for very long but it was better than nothing. He and Deirdre went back to the brownstone and at his suggestion, climbed the fire escape. He peered in the broken window. The sea-salt smell was gone replaced with a coppery one. There were no signs of Penthus but all of the remaining supplicants other than Tod had slit their wrists or throats. Blood was everywhere. Tod was huddled on the floor, weeping like Gemma.
"Stay here. There's blood everywhere. We can't leave footprints. I'll get the stuff and start handing it out to you," Rupert said.
As quickly as he could, he gathered up their rucksacks, making sure he had some of the money, the passports and everyone's ID other than Ethan's, whom he assumed had it in his wallet. Rupert put the book in his rucksack before going back out the way he came. Tod hadn't even noticed Rupert had been in the apartment. He and Deirdre hurried back to their friends. Ethan was still unconscious, and Gemma still curled into the fetal position, crying.
"Now what?" Deirdre asked, shaking so hard Rupert didn't know how she walked.
"We have to get them off this block. We can't hail a cab here. We might be remembered. If I can get Gemma on her feet, think you can guide her?" he asked and Deirdre nodded.
Rupert managed to get her to stand and she followed Deirdre meekly, silent tears streaking down her face. He pulled Ethan up, and dragged him along, hoping anyone who saw them thought Ethan was drunk. That was exactly what he told the cab driver several blocks away.
"Where will we meet up?" Deirdre asked as they stuffed a semi-conscious Ethan into the back seat.
Her eyes took over her face. "But Ripper--"
"Dee, Ethan won't let the book go, and I need to get help for Gemma. I need to get her to the Watchers. When Ethan wakes up, tell him I stole the book and you couldn't stop me. I'll see you back home."
Deirdre put a hand on his arm. "Are you sure?"
"Positive. Be careful, Deirdre." He kissed her cheek and shooed her into the cab before the irritated driver changed his mind about his late night fare.
Rupert found a pay phone, swallowed his pride and called the local branch of the Watchers.
Rupert looked back at the Blackhorse convalescent home, wishing it had gone better. Three months after the Watchers had private jetted him and Gemma back to England, there was little change in her status. She was catatonic, spending her days weeping almost endlessly, going until her body couldn't make any more tears then recharging for a fresh bout. She couldn't speak and barely reacted to the world around her. Rupert went once a week for a pointless visit, like pulling on a hair shirt, pertinence for this latest misdeed.
"Watch where you're going, Ripper, or you might knock someone down."
Rupert's head snapped around and he found himself face to face with Ethan. "I don't have time for you, Ethan."
Ethan curled his lip. "So I gathered since you've been ignoring my calls."
"Take the hint." Rupert almost turned then thought better of giving Ethan his back.
"Don't get shirty with me. We're going to talk, Ripper, here or do I have to do something unpleasant?" Ethan's voice never changed from its cheery tone but Rupert heard the threat just the same.
He followed Ethan into the nearest pub and they both got a pint. "What do you want, Ethan?"
"That was dirty pool you played back in New York," Ethan said, sliding into a booth. "What did you do with my book?"
"It wasn't your book, and I did what had to be done."
"You gave it to the bloody Watchers, didn't you?" Ethan grabbed Rupert' wrist. "You stupid wanker."
Rupert yanked his hand way. "That book is safe. The Watchers know how to handle it. You don't." He paused for emphasis. "I don't."
"I can't believe you threw it all away. We had power at our fingertips," Ethan hissed, slamming a hand on the table.
"Tell it to Gemma, Ethan. Why don't you go visit her and tell her about that power?" Rupert took an angry swallow of his ale. "We're just lucky the New York City police think Tod was the head of a suicide cult and they're not looking at us as murderers."
"You got scared, Ripper." Ethan stabbed a finger at him. "You threw it away because you were too busy pissing your pants."
Rupert's lips thinned. "Damn right I was scared. You'd have to be an idiot not to be."
"Well, I'm going to give you another chance, Ripper." Ethan sat back, taking a magnanimous tone. "I've got a line on something that will make us-"
"No!" Rupert snapped and Ethan's eyes widened.
"You and I are done, Ethan. I'm not going to help you do whatever it is you think is going to gain you power and riches, or whatever the hell it is you're looking for." Rupert leaned forward. "We killed Randall. Thanks to us, Gemma may never leave the mental hospital. How much more death and destruction will it take before you wake up? Magic isn't to be played with."
Ethan snorted, tossing back some of his pint. "Look at you. I don't even know you any more, Ripper. Did you go running back to Mummy and Daddy? Look at your hair."
Rupert touched his hair. After turning the book over to his father, the first thing he had done was cut his hair. Not into the rebellious mohawk Gemma had suggested but into something conservative and preppy. When his long locks hit the barber shop floor, it felt like something in him had died.
"Look at how you're dressed. You going back to Oxford, Ripper?" Ethan sneered. "Or can't I call you that any more. Hope you're still up on all the nobby hand shakes and butt pats you need to do to get to the top. You're disgusting."
"No, Ethan, you are. I'm done with you. We're not friends any more." Rupert tossed back the rest of his pint and got up. "Don't call me with any of your schemes. Don't come around looking for me. Leave Deirdre the hell alone, too. She asked me to tell you that next time I saw you. We're all done with you, Ethan."
Rupert turned and started walking out. Ethan called after him, "Done with me you prissy little shirtlifter? Oh, I'm not done with you, Ripper. I know what you are, killer. You can't hide that. You run along back to your Watchers. Sit around stroking your wire, while you let a little girl do all your fighting for you. Next time we meet, Ripper, I'm going to have something special for you, make you wish you aren't pretending you don't have a bad side. You should have kept me as a friend, Ripper because you don't want me as your enemy."
Rupert shot him the two-fingered salute and kept walking. Ethan was mostly bluster and always had been. Still, he was wily and just petty enough to come looking for him some day. Rupert couldn't worry about that. He would have to hurry to get to his Roman Occupation of Britain classand tonight he was meeting Jiao Zhao so she could work with him on his martial skills, something in his Watchers training he was actually enjoying. He resisted looking back at his one-time friend, not sure he could resist the temptation to join him in his next quest for power. Rupert pictured Gemma's empty eyes and Randall's headstone and his decision to rejoin the Watchers felt right. He was where he belonged.
Which Ripper: pre-BTVS Ripper, or Giles with Ripper flashbacks
Setting: Whatever works in the story.
Pairing: Doesn't matter. I have trouble suspending my disbelief for non-canon slash. But if you think you can convert a non-believer, go for it.
Other characters you would like: No preference.
Acceptable rating range: G - R is best. I'm okay with NC-17, I'm just not dying to hear about Giles's throbbing man-parts. I prefer passion to porn.
Two or three things you want in your story:
1) a character-driven piece or a plot driven-piece (or both).
2) a story from Giles's past that gives us new insight on a moment from the show
One or two things you don't want in your story:
1) A wandering plot where the beginning has nothing to do with the end (unless it's some sort of farce where that's the point.)
2) Making him a Mary-Sue. Giles shouldn't be the perfectly wise father-figure and Ripper shouldn't be the perfect bad-ass.
Anything you absolutely will not read: Personal vendettas the author has against a particular character. Don't have Ripper kill Joe Finn so "that jerk" Riley is never born, or have Giles give multiple, long rants about how he hates Spike. Conflict between characters is great, but don't turn it into a soapbox