Chapter 6

Conversations and Explanations, pt 1

Xander contemplated the sudden turn his life had taken in the past two days as Johnny drove them back to Giles' house. Deemed innocent by a flaming skeleton, meeting the skeleton when he had flesh and blood, fighting alongside said flaming skeleton, getting visited by a devil… what did he want anyway? Xander was so lost in his train of thought that he didn't notice when Johnny pulled Grace up the driveway of their destination.

"Hey, Xan. You alright back there?"

"Huh? Yeah… just thinking. You said something about a call and so did that mephi-guy yesterday… what did you mean?"

Johnny looked at him as the door opened. "I'll explain it when we're inside."

"Tea?" Giles offered his guests as Willow, Xander, Buffy, Spike and Johnny were gathered in clusters around his living room. From where they stood, Giles could tell who supported who. Buffy obviously did not like the newcomer and stood as far from him as possible- claiming his presence was giving her 'wiggins'. Spike, of course, leaned against the wall near her. Willow sat on the floor in front of the couch where Xander was sitting. Johnny stood behind him, trying to stay in the shadows where Zarathos would leave him in peace.

"No thanks, G-man." Xander said, only to correct himself at the glare Giles sent him. "I mean no thanks Ripper." Giles chuckled as everyone else quickly declined. He sat in his custom chair, giving him a good view of all those present as the silence reigned.

Several minutes later, Xander broke the uneasy silence. "So…. Ripper… What's the story 'bout the flames last night? What's the real story about Ripper?"

"Yes, well. I think that's what you three want to know. I'm sure we've lost Buffy and Spike by now." Sure enough, when Giles looked over to the pair, they both had a puzzled expression and were staring at the rest of the group.

"Yeah… what flames, Xander?" Buffy asked for the two of them.

"Oh… remember that flaming skeleton I told you about?" at her nod, Xander continued, grinning as Spike realized what he was talking about and paled further. "Well, it seems that at night, or in the presence of extreme evil, Johnny here turns into Zarathos- or rather the flaming skeleton. Willow and I found out that Ripper's been blessed with the same ability."

Giles muttered. "Cursed it more like it."

A look of terror crossed Spike's face and his gaze flew from Giles to Johnny and back in a cycle. "Bloody 'ell."

"Language Vampyre." Ripper grinned.

"Giles… what are you going on about."

Willow grinned at the cluelessness of her friend. "Johnny and Ripper are bounty hunters. For higher level demons. They exist to keep the demon's underlings under control. In fact they make it so that there is only need for one slayer at a time."

"Ghost Riders…" Spike whispered, terrified. He battled with himself for a moment before deciding to ask what was on his mind. "But for who?"

"Mephistoles. Unfortunately."

Buffy looked at Johnny with suspicion. "Was that the Memphis guy who showed up right after you did?"

Johnny nodded, "Yeah. He considers himself something like a devil and controls a large amount of the demon population that resides in this dimension."

Buffy studied him for a moment and turned to Giles. "Do you both work for him, then?"

"No, ah… the one I work for is considerably more powerful than Mephistoles actually."

"And it would be who, Giles?" Willow prodded.

Giles looked pensively down at his teacup, as if seeing something in it no one could see. After a long moment of silence, he said quietly, "Eyghon…"

"What?" Buffy squawked. When Giles turned to her she said, "Sorry Giles but I thought you just said you were this bounty hunter thing for Egghon."

Giles sighed. "I did say that Buffy."

"Wai'… wasn' this Eyghon the demon tha' Ethan fella was tryin' ta raise?"

"Eyghon was a mistake in my past which is still with me today." Seeing Spike's somewhat skeptical face and knowing Buffy copied him, Giles suggested, "Pehaps a demonstration outside would help you better understand."

"Bloody 'ell, Rups! It's th' middle of th' day! I'd be fertilizer?"

Giles grinned at him. "Ah, but you already know what I am and believe me, vampire. That is why you need not come."

"Ok… Giles… what's with the 'y'? I thought we cracked you to the tweedy musty words." Buffy shot at him, confused at his hits at her boyfriend and slaying partner. "And what's with Ripper? Do I really need to put in this is way too band candy? You aren't doing my mom again are you? Cuz that's just…ewwwwww…"

Johnny looked over at Giles from his place next to Xander, a question on the tip of his tounge for his fellow ghost rider. Giles caught the expression. "There was an incident with some candy being sold at the school where Ripper had reign of my earthly body."

Johnny nodded in understanding. "That's the difference between us, I think. I never originally had Zarathos' tendencies."

"What are the two of you talking about? Still with the having of no clue here!" Buffy reminded them.

"Buff… why don't we go outside so Ripper can show you." Xander stepped in to try to make peace between the volatile Slayer and equally volatile ghost rider who had seemed to come to play.