Ethan's legs drew him through the sand. He moved slowly and clumsily, as if an external force were dragging him forward. Behind him... Ethan stumbled, half-falling before continuing on. Nothing chased after, but Ethan continued to flee. How long had it been? Minutes? Days? Salt itched his skin where the tears had dried.
The sun had risen out over the sea. The sky, bright and blue above him, gave lie to the surrounding fog. There was a thick mist, not quite visible, between Ethan and the world. It pushed everything away, creating such an unimaginable distance that nothing could touch him. He'd left the Slayer and her Watcher behind him. The Watcher who wasn't Rupert. Ethan's legs gave way below him. He fell onto the sand.
Rupert was gone. Dead. Gone forever.
The first time Ethan had seen him, Ripper had been laughing in delight. Ethan's heart had broken that night. That first Ripper – the one who'd become Ethan's lodestone, always drawing Ethan to him – that Ripper stepped out of the mist but didn't stay. He became another Ripper and then another, shifting from form to form, always Ripper but never the same Ripper. He was the Ripper who'd stared, wide-eyed, after they'd taken ecstasy and fucked till dawn, the Ripper whose face said Ethan was beautiful, was beloved. The Ripper who'd lied. The Ripper who'd abandoned Ethan. The Ripper whose punches, sharp and precise, were more than just physical pain. The Ripper who'd given him to the toy soldier boys. The Ripper he'd loved. Each and every one of them was the Ripper he'd loved.
Ethan reached out, yearning. It felt like a knife tearing through his heart. Oh Gods. The pain.