Summary: A chance encounter between Giles and Ethan
Pairing: Giles/Ethan
Set after S7.

Ice

They run into each other in an Italian ice-cream parlor in Germany. Of all places. Giles is about to walk inside to ask for directions, when the door opens and Ethan strolls towards him, licking an ice-cream cone.

"Ethan?"

Ethan's head snaps up and he stares at Giles, all color draining from his face. The ice-cream cone tilts, slips from his grasp, and lands splat on the floor, unheeded. Two seconds tick away, tick, tock, then Ethan bolts; tries to rush past him. At the last moment Giles grabs the thick fabric of the other man's winter coat and hauls him around, slamming Ethan face first against the glass wall. Inside, the other patrons look up from their lattes and espressos, gaping.

"Ripper," Ethan chokes out. His breath paints a misty patch on the glass. "Long time, no see."

"What are you doing here?" Giles demands. Heidelberg is a city with strong connections to the occult. Secret societies, hidden libraries, covens of witches and warlocks, places of power—there's no telling what kind of havoc Ethan is up to this time.

"Would you believe me if I said I'm here for the view?"

Giles's answer is a rough shove.

"The beer?"

Giles increases the pressure.

Ethan starts to squirm, then his entire frame is racked by a coughing fit.

On the other side of the glass, people are staring, appalled, scandalized, and just a little bit titillated. The waiter behind the counter slowly picks up the phone and starts to dial.

Giles steps back, frowning. He's got Ethan cornered; he can give the old mage a bit of room to breathe.

Still gasping, Ethan turns until he's standing with his back against the glass. He's older than Giles remembers him, thinner, but his eyes… Ethan's eyes are still the same, that odd mix of young and ancient, of brash and cunning. Still wicked. Still beautiful….

"Answer me!" Giles barks, running out of patience.

Ethan flinches. His hands fly up as though to protect his face, and somehow the gesture stings. Granted, Giles's hands are balled into fists, but he's made no move to hit his erstwhile friend.

"Running away," Ethan says, with a quirky, lopsided smile that's full of self-mockery. His black eyes gleam with something much darker, though.

"From who?"

"Does it matter? You know me, Ripper, always running from this or that."

He knows he can't trust the old mage, not as far as he can throw him, but something about Ethan's eyes, the way he's avoiding Giles's gaze, makes him think that Ethan is telling the truth; just not the whole truth.

Another coughing fit. Unable to speak, Ethan gestures towards his coat pocket. Giles nods, and Ethan fumbles out an old-fashioned handkerchief. A moment later he's holding it to his mouth, muffling his cough.

"Stupid cold," Ethan finally says with a shrug, and quickly stuffs the crumpled handkerchief back into his pocket – but not before Giles has spotted the red stain. A chill trickles down Giles's spine.

Heidelberg. They have a famous clinic full of famous lung specialists.

Giles shakes his head. He's jumping to conclusions. Or Ethan is playing him. Either way, they can't stay here. The police are doubtless on their way, and, like most Germans, they are not exactly renowned for their cordiality or sense of humor. Only, he can't let Ethan go, not without questioning him further.

With an inward sigh, Giles grabs Ethan's elbow and steers his erstwhile friend-turned-enemy away from the ice-cream parlor. "You're coming with me."

Ethan does not struggle. On the contrary, he falls into step. "Whatever turns you on, my friend."

Maybe it's the word 'friend', or maybe it's the tone in which Ethan says it—weary, and mellow, without irony, like he actually means it—but something inside Giles melts just a little.

END