A Different Kind of Chaos

"We'll take him to our holding facility in Nevada until we determine his status. I'm sure he'll be rehabilitated in no time," Riley said pompously.

Buffy looked at Giles, then at the chaos mage who was being held by three commandos, and then back at Riley. "I can't let you do that," she said quietly.

"Buffy," Giles began sternly, "he's…"

"I know what he is," the Slayer said, quickly interrupting her former Watcher. "But he's human, too."

Riley gaped at her. "But he's dangerous," he explained slowly, as if he were speaking to a small child. "Maggie's expecting us to bring him in. With his magic, he could hurt a lot of people."

"So could Willow," Buffy countered. "Giles can do magic. Are you going to try to lock him up too? What about me? I'm more dangerous than anyone else in this room. Plan on experimenting on me, too?"

The commando visibly faltered, an almost guilty look stealing over his face as if he had thought of these things before. Or perhaps they had been mentioned to him.

Buffy narrowed her eyes. "You know, Agent Finn, I don't think I can be with someone that could do that to a human. Take your solider boys and leave. I'll take care of Ethan Rayne."

Riley looked at her for a few moments and then dropped his gaze to the floor. There was no point in fighting her about this. If they tried to take him by force, she would easily stop them. And there was no point in arguing about their relationship. He knew it was over. It wasn't as though she had really been his to begin with. She wasn't in love with him, as he was with her. He gave the blonde beauty one more sad glance before ordering his men to release Rayne and trudging out.

Buffy turned to her Watcher and grimaced. The rage that was screaming off the man in waves was almost choking.

"How dare you protect him?" Giles growled at her.

"It's not our job to pass judgment on humans. If we just let them take him, who knows what they would have done to him? You heard some of the stuff they did to Spike. Could you really sentence Ethan to torture like that? Or anyone else?" She squinted at him. "Do you really think we have that right?"

Giles held on to his anger for a few more seconds, glancing between his Slayer and the thin man still crouched on the floor where the commandos had dropped him. His shoulders slumped in defeat. Without looking back, he stepped over the fallen chaos mage and strode out the door.

Buffy followed him to the threshold of the hotel room and watched as he disappeared into the night. Not a moment later, she felt a familiar presence. She rolled her eyes. "Come on out, Spike. I know you're there."

The peroxided vampire strolled up to the doorway, eyes still fixed on where Giles had vanished.

"Can you make sure nothing happens to him on his way home?" Buffy asked him softly.

Spike looked at the Slayer in shock for a split second before recovering. Then he smirked. "Guess I owe the bloke that much. I did crash his bloody car, after all."

Buffy stared incredulously at his smug expression for a minute and was very surprised when he sobered.

"You did the right thing, Slayer," he said seriously. "I wouldn't wish what they did to me on my worst enemy." He cocked his head to the side for a second, considering. "Well, maybe Angelus," he amended. "And you."

Buffy gave him a small smile and watched as he too sauntered off into the dark. Shutting the door, she pinned the chaos mage with her gaze.

She folded her arms across her chest. "Have a seat, Rayne," she hissed, motioning to the edge of the bed.

Eyeing her warily, he sat down. He was pretty sure by her impassioned speech that she wasn't going to kill him, but he knew the girl was resourceful and killing wasn't the only thing she could do to him. As he was contemplating a thousand ways to bleed, the Slayer shocked him by sitting down next to him and putting her head in her hands.

"You realize," she said, not looking up, "that had I killed him, all bets would be off and, human or not, you'd be dead now, right?"

Ethan nodded, knowing that even though she wasn't looking at him, somehow the Slayer would know.

Buffy leaned over him and grabbed the phone from its place on the chipped faux wood nightstand. She quickly dialed a number and drummed her fingers on her thigh as she waited for an answer. She wondered momentarily if she was doing the right thing. Ethan had done a lot of crappy things to them over the years, to put it mildly, but what would the military have done to him? Spike hadn't said much about what the Initiative had done to him but, judging from the haunted look in his eyes and some of the incisions and bruises he had been sporting when he had shown up at Giles's place, it had been horrific. As Xander had once said: Generally speaking, when scary things get scared: not good.

"Hello?" The groggy voice of said friend came softly over the line.

"Hey, Xand," Buffy said in a noticeably weary voice. "I need you to meet me at the Sunnydale Motor Inn. Bring your car."

There was a long silence on the line and, for a moment, the blonde thought he had fallen back asleep. Then, to her surprise, Xander regained his voice.

"Huh?"

"It's kind of a weird story, but I'll tell you on the way, 'kay?" she asked. She just wasn't ready to explain, especially over the phone, why she planned to let Rayne go. But, she always tried to trust her instincts and her instincts were telling her that, for good or evil, Ethan still had a part to play, and handing him over to the Initiative would have been wrong.

Xander sighed. "Just give me about fifteen to get over there." He didn't wait for her to say goodbye before he hung up.

Buffy put the phone back on the nightstand and gave the chaos mage a long blank stare.

He looked back at the blonde girl next to him. Ethan wondered for a moment how he had never realized how beautiful she was until then. Perhaps it was because she was now playing the part of the angel of mercy. She could have allowed for him to be carted off and more than likely tortured, but she had stood up to her Watcher and a man Rayne could only guess had been her boyfriend, to save him. Well, not exactly save him in particular but still…she had. Just because he was human.

"So this motel is just a front, right?" Buffy asked the mage. "Like, you really have money?"

Ethan stared at her before realizing she was waiting for an answer. "Of course I have money, you silly girl," he said softly. He had been trying for pompous and arrogant, but just couldn't quite find the attitude.

Buffy gave him another long look and decided to ask him something she had been wondering since he had first shown up in Sunnydale with his ridiculous costume scheme. "Why do you do it?"

He looked up at her, trying to delve back into his charismatic demeanor, but before he could answer, she was talking again.

"I mean, you have so much power and you could do so many things. Do you have any idea how much a Slayer could benefit from a Watcher like you if you weren't…you know…evil? You could help people Ethan! Sure, it's not worshipping chaos, but it could still be…I mean…you never know what the people you save are going to do. One could be a serial killer or a terrorist. Is that chaotic enough?"

Ethan began to snicker. As he watched the Slayer look at him with a wary expression, his snicker evolved into a full-blown laugh. "Are you truly trying to talk me onto your side after everything I've done to you?"

Buffy shook her head. "No, that would be pointless, wouldn't it?" She cocked her head to the side as she looked at him. "I just…you could be so much more. You could be a god man," she sighed. Then the Slayer stood up and she was all business. "Get your crap. We're leaving," she said coldly.

Ethan lowered his head as he finished throwing things into his suitcase. He was perplexed. Now, the chaos worshipper had always thought himself a good judge of reading people, but the beautiful young blonde woman before him confused and astounded him. By rights, she should have let the commandos take him for what he'd done. He had almost gotten her to kill her Watcher, for God's sake. But here she was, telling him he could be a good man and letting him go. Well, presumably.

As he zipped up his suitcase, Rayne heard a car pull up outside. Buffy jerked her head to the door, indicating that he should go first. He didn't blame her. Not that he was going to cast anything at her or stab her in the back with his non-existent knife, but he was proud of her, in a strange way, for not trusting him.

Buffy followed along behind Ethan down to the car, clutching the fake silver letter opener in her hands like a knife. She opened the back passenger side door and roughly shoved the man inside.

"Uh, Buffy?" Xander's voice could be heard floating out from the car. "Is there some reason Ethan Rayne is in my back seat?" he asked in disbelief.

"Just a sec, Xand," the Slayer growled as she grabbed Rayne's suitcase and circled around to the trunk. She knocked on it and her brunette friend popped it open. As Buffy threw the baggage in, she scanned the area. Across the street was a nondescript black sport utility vehicle. She slammed the trunk and slid into the back seat, keeping a watchful eye on Ethan. She turned to Xander. "Can you outrun that?" Buffy asked, pointing to the offending automobile.

Xander stared for a moment. "Isn't that an Initiative car?"

"Yeah," Buffy said softly.

"And why are we trying to outrun them? Which is so not going to happen, by the way," Xander said as he started the car.

"Head for L.A," Buffy instructed. "We're running because they wanted to take Ethan to a military facility and experiment on him," she said as she watched from the rear view window as the SUV pulled out behind them and began following them down the road.

"And this would be a bad thing why?" Xander asked as he eyed the chaos mage in the rear view mirror.

"Xander!" Buffy admonished. "Whether or not he's a pain in the ass, he's human. In case they try to stop us, is there a weapon in here?"

The boy nodded distractedly. "Under the seat in front of you. Broadsword. And a crossbow under my seat." He paused for a moment, as if considering what his friend had told him. "Wait, so we're saving him? But he's a bad guy, Buff. We're not supposed to save the evil guys."

As they pulled out of town, the military vehicle turned back, as if they were only escorting them to the borders of Sunnydale.

Buffy sighed in relief. "We're saving him because he's human," she explained slowly.

"So?"

Buffy turned in her seat to face Xander and the startlingly silent Ethan Rayne. "Where do we draw the line? They don't want him because he's the Big Bad. They want him because he can use magic. And what if they wanted Willow? Or Tara? Or Giles? Or what about Anya? She used to be a demon, after all. Or what about me? Is it alright to save ourselves and damn everyone else?"

Xander sputtered for a moment and Ethan grinned behind his hand. The girl had a point and the poor boy was floundering to come up with a counter argument. The chaos mage also knew that is he opened his mouth to gloat, which was oh so tempting, he would be thoroughly buggered.

"I get it, Buffy, but seriously…Ethan Rayne?! Couldn't you have picked someone else to get all moral about?" Xander snickered, glancing back at his blonde friend.

"Well, I'm supposed to, you know, protect humans, and he's human," the Slayer said with a wry smirk.

"Barely," Xander chuckled.

Ethan grimaced. "I'll have yo know that apart from my opportunistic and chaos loving tendencies, I'm not a bad man," he told them regally.

"Rayne, your mouth is open and sound is coming from it. This is never good," Buffy quipped as she regarded the Englishman. "You do know where we're going, don't you?"

"The airport, I imagine," the chaos mage replied. "I assume I'm on the first flight out of the country."

Buffy nodded. "You assume right. Hope you can pay in cash 'cause you gotta know that they're gonna try to trace you and take you into custody if they can. Any flight that has a layover is a bad idea."

"Do you really think they would go to such an effort for an old sorcerer like me?" Rayne asked with genuine concern. He had figured that once he was on the plane and out of California, he would be safe, and the whole leaving-the-country thing was just a precaution.

The Slayer sighed as she scrubbed a hand over her face. "I don't know, Ethan. You screwed up coming here, but I think you know that. I can't even imagine what they were going to do to 'rehabilitate' you."

"Yeah," Xander agreed, nodding. "I mean, I've got no clue what they did to Spike, but I know it was bad. He doesn't exactly scare easy."

Ethan took a moment to absorb this, fully understanding that it was probable that the Slayer had more than likely saved him from months, maybe even years of torture and unknown experimentation. Him, an enemy.

Other than the low whine of the radio, the rest of the drive to Los Angeles airport was silent. Each was lost in their own thoughts of morality and the insanity of doing the right thing.

They escorted Ethan into the building, keeping a close eye on the mage. There were many dark SUVs in the parking lot and some had people in them. Through pointed looks, the two teens agreed that it was probable the Initiative was there and waiting for them to leave Rayne's side. Buffy kept a careful watch on the crowd while Xander watched Ethan as he paid the exorbitant price for a same day ticket.

They waited patiently, albeit warily, for his flight to be called. When it was, they walked the mage to the terminal, trying their best to look like two teenager wishing their uncle goodbye, or something similar.

When they got to the gate, Buffy grabbed his arm and spun him around to face her. Conscious of the people around her, and keeping up pretenses; Buffy pulled the shocked man into a hug. Well, it seemed like a hug. In truth, the Slayer was squeezing his shoulder hard enough it felt like it would crack.

"I want you to remember this moment," she said softly into his ear. "How it could have gone, but didn't." She pulled away and stood with her friend as they watched the mage board the plane.

"That was a line from Pitch Black, wasn't it?" Xander asked as they waited for the plane to take off.

Buffy shrugged and grinned at the dark haired boy. "It seemed appropriate."