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WARNING: If you haven't read the warning on the index page, go back and read it. If you don't, and you don't like what you find here, don't come crying to me.

Title: A Quiet Life

Author: Eleanor K.

Fandom: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer

Pairing: Rupert Giles/Ethan Rayne

Rating: NC-17

Posted: 15 May 2003

Spoilers: None

Email: emungere@gmail.com

Disclaimer: Not mine, all hail Joss.

Warnings: Violence

Notes: Thanks as always to Cab for betaing above and beyond the call of duty.

..___..


I've got to get out of this country. At least out of this city. No, definitely out of this country--where would I go besides good old London Town? Bloody Manchester? Liverpool? No, thank you.

The Rig's crowded tonight. Lot of working stiffs drinking their boring lives away, and good for them, too. Nothing else for them to do; they're dead already. Sitting there on the bar stools, at the tables, talking about The Job, The Wife, The Kids, and rotting, rotting, rotting. Skin and muscle being eaten away while I watch.

Of course, it's not just them. There's the kiddies in the back, thinking they're really living 'cause they're out past their curfews.

Why is it that wherever I go, whatever I do, I'm surrounded by these walking, talking corpses? So deadly boring it's a risk to life and limb even to let one of them buy me a drink, which means, worse news, I have to buy my own.

"What do you want, Ethan?"

I swivel my stool around to face the bar. "Tanq and tonic," I tell the bartender and swivel back to watch the room.

The walking dead are heading home to their two bedroom crypts for the night, and the kiddies are starting to look nervous about being out at this hour. The late crowd is starting to filter in.

I'm blending better now with this lot. Pretty boys who don't want to *look* like David Bowie, not really; they want to *be* him. Soft skin and sparkles and unsteady walks in their high-heeled boots. A few non-glammers, looking tough as they can in black leather and jeans they haven't washed in a month clinging to their hips. And nothing at all to interest me.

I turn back around to accept my drink from the bartender, wondering if I should get drunk tonight, wondering if I have enough money to get drunk because there's nothing worse than getting caught short on your fourth drink and having to go home half-sober.

The rain's started up again, so hard you can hear it over the din, sheeting down the windows and probably leaking in the men's room like always, right over the sink, which makes it convenient for the management.

There's Pansy, wearing some kind of stretchy red thing, arms around Kent's neck, hair falling in his face. In a minute he'll shove her this way to get him a drink. I could go home with her.

Yeah, like I'd submit myself to that torture more than once.

There's Robby over by the jukebox, putting in a shilling to hear 'Strawberry Fields Forever' for the hundredth time. And him just come from his gig, too. For shame, Robby boy. Anyone'd think you like the Beatles better than the cutting-edge stuff you were wailing out tonight. Can't blame you, though. It all gets a bit wearing after a while.

I look around and spot the other members of Robby's band. Davey, bass guitarist, permanently attached to Deirdre, girlfriend of bass guitarist and practically a band member herself with all the hanging around she does; Kip, percussionist, with about the amount of talent and brains you'd expect from a guy who bangs things with sticks for a living; Ben... But, no, I forgot, no Ben, because Ben Weild overdosed last week.

New guy, talking to Robby at the jukebox, and I recognize him now. Saw him play last night, and he made everyone else look...invisible. New guy, plays guitar, what was his name? Don't think Robby ever told me.

Some arsehole jolts me halfway off the stool, and I stumble. "What the fuck! Watch it, wanker." I give him a shove and start to climb back on my perch.

"Who's a wanker?" he slurs at me. "Little bastard fairy queer, with your drugs, an', an' your poncey bloody music."

Bastard fairy queer? Insult overkill, it seems to me, but never mind.

He grabs a fistful of my shirt, and pulls me to my feet. And further up so I'm standing on my toes.

"Get your paw off my shirt," I say calmly. Calm is good. It'll piss him off faster. He's so drunk he'll probably miss by a mile if he swings, but it'll be more interesting than this sitting around waiting for nothing to happen. "If this is your idea of seduction, love, I'm thinking your technique could use some work."

He lets out a roar, and I grin. This is starting to get fun.

"I mean, you could just ask if could buy me a drink. You're not bad-looking, really. I might consider it." A lie, of course. He's greasy and he smells, and not just of beer.

"You, you bastard, lousy little, ought to just," and he's spluttering now, with two friends watching, laughing over his shoulders.

"Ought to just what, love? You want me that bad?"

That's done it, and his fist goes back and honestly, he's so slow a glacier could dodge that punch. I duck and bring my knee up into his groin, and when he bends over to groan and clutch, I straighten him back up with a fist in his nose. Crunch. Broken, lucky me. Blood on my knuckles, and his mates are just about done seeing if he's okay.

Big, blubbery sides of beef they are, just like my friend now rolling on the floor in pain. Unfortunately, they don't look quite so drunk.

One's almost too fast for me, and the swing takes my shoulder where my face was a second before, knocks me back, and I jump to keep my feet under me, and-- Oh, look. When I've got my balance back enough to look around there's suddenly a lot more of them.

"You know, I'm really glad you're all here tonight, lads. Know why?" Puzzled looks crawl across their big, stupid faces. "'Cause I bet," I get my back to the door, "that your mums could use the rest." I back up two steps, and they're still without a clue. "You stupid motherfuckers."

I don't even wait for them to get it, just turn and run. Out the door, down the alley, with the rain plastering my shirt to my skin and the smell of London's jolly old garbage in my nose, and oh god, it's good. Perfect. Wish I could do this forever.

The running is so easy, free, right, and they'll never catch up. Hell, I can't even hear them behind me. The wind's behind me, and it feels like I'm flying, and my heart's keeping time with triple beats for every step I take. Feels like I could take a leap into the cool air and just take off over the rooftops, leave all this behind.

I dodge round a corner into another alley. Flyers for Robby's band streak by in a long unbroken line. Longer strides now, getting into a rhythm I can keep up for hours, slowing down a little, but that's okay. The dumbos chasing me probably haven't run a block since primary school.

Another turn, out on to the street, and just when I'm thinking I'm free and clear, my luck runs out.

Now I know why I didn't hear them behind me.

All they had to do was head out to the street and up a block where the alley lets out, and I should have fucking known they'd do exactly that--it's not like they haven't had most of their pathetic lives to check out the alleys behind the Rig. Just like I have.

Here they are, a bit out of breath despite their shortcut, grinning broadly, and so very happy to see little old me.

About face, back down the alley, but it's too late. One of them did follow me after all, and here he comes lumbering along like something from the ice age. I run for him full tilt, hoping to get by, but I see his arm coming out and know I won't make it.

I run smack into his arm before I can stop myself, hits me right in the throat, and it's a few seconds before anything but breathing is important. By that time it's really too late because somebody's boot just hit my ribs, and it feels like it came out the other side.

Scrambling to protect my head, I get my arms up and roll away, but there is no away. They're all around me. I get to my knees before a fist like a pudgy sledgehammer hits my face and I get that sickening sharp pain that usually goes with broken bones. Then I'm down again, and hear my ribs break when the next kick comes.

There's nowhere to go to get away. Everywhere I turn, I just get another kick for my trouble, and suddenly it's just too funny for words.

"What are you laughing at?" Vicious boot in my stomach. "Shut your filthy mouth!" Boot tread imprints on my cheek.

I can't stop laughing. All I can think is, This is how I'm going to die? Like this, in the city I've lived in my whole life, three tube stops away from the house where I was born? What a cosmic fucking joke.

And so far from the way it was supposed to be.

They've stopped shouting now. Saving their breath for the exertion of beating me senseless. Stomach hurts so bad, and they just keep going. It's getting hard to breath. Wish they'd stop. Or wish it'd be over.

Might not be so bad to die. And really, what did I think I was going to make of my life anyway? I close my eyes against the grit of the pavement as a foot catches my head and snaps it from right-cheek-in-the-grime to left-cheek-in-the-grime.

Crashing pain in my cheekbone, little stabs of fire all up and down my sides. I open my eyes again to see the first arsehole himself swinging his leg back, looking to do to me what I did to him. I can't even move. Maybe after that I'll black out. That would be pleasant. I close my eyes again.

The kick never comes. I'm lying here on cold, wet ground, same as before. I know time has passed, and maybe I did black out after all. Or maybe I'm dead, and hell is a lot like London.

"Here, are you conscious yet?"

I don't say anything. It doesn't sound like the voice of someone who's going to kick me in the balls, but you never know. Sounds nice, actually. Like someone who's very definitely not going to kick me in the balls. Good quality in a voice, that.

It occurs to me that if I don't say anything, he might just go away and leave me here, and I'm not sure I can walk. In just three tries I get my eyes open and blink up at him.

He's kneeling over me, keeping the rain from falling on my face. The first thing I notice is the knife he's holding loosely in one hand. The rain is washing it clean, but I'm beginning to get an idea of what happened to my attackers. Then I forget about the knife because I look up and see his eyes.

They're green. Dark and light at the same time, or maybe that's just the shadows on his face. There's bits of gold in them, shining just for me. I shouldn't stare--but how can I not?

"Hello," he says. "I thought you might be dead. You kind of look it."

"Not yet," I say, or try to say. I think it came out more like, well, grunting. And Christ, my lip hurts. Blood in my mouth. Hate the taste of blood. Mine, especially.

"Attempts at speech," says my rescuer. "I think it's alive." He wipes his knife on his shirt tail and makes it disappear somewhere. "Time to try standing, Ethan." He holds out a hand.

"How did you," I start, but it's no use. No talking just yet.

Nothing to do but take his hand, expecting a yank that'll make my world spin and give me the fun experience of puking my guts out on his shoes, which will ruin forever any chance I might have with-- Whoa. I've not said a coherent word to him yet. Let's save marriage plans until I know his name. Or at least find out how he knows mine.

The yank never comes. He helps me up slowly, one hand in mine, the other on my elbow and then around my waist, holding me against his side. And no vomiting on my part, hurrah. I blink up at him through rain and wet hair. And blood. Lots of that. Still, he does look a bit familiar.

Then I get it. It's Robby's new guitarist. Bastard Robby didn't tell me his name, for which I hope he, that would be Robby, burns in hell. But this guy knows mine. And he came after me. Lucky, lucky me. And that, believe me, was not sarcasm. I try for a smile, which probably looks pretty pathetic, but he doesn't dump me on the sidewalk or anything. Maybe I could try speech again.

"Hi." Yeah, that sounded like an actual word.

"Hi." He's grinning down at me, looking absolutely...wow. Dangerous. Sexy. And did I mention wow? "That's my boy. Talking and everything. Let's try walking now, okay?"

He takes a step, and I get my legs to move somehow. We are covering ground now, although I think walking is too strong a word for what I'm doing. Shuffling as he supports my weight more like, which means I get the heat of his body all along my side. Nice bonus. Something to concentrate on while the rest of me is in ghastly, nauseating pain.

I'm soaked through, and my teeth start chattering from the cold, which makes my head hurt worse. I didn't even think that was possible. The rain's still falling on us, and his body heat is the only thing keeping me from hypothermia. After about a million years we stop moving, and he leans me against a wall, out of the rain. Much as I'd like to, I can't even find the energy to look up at him, so it's a surprise when he wraps his jacket around me.

"Hold on, Ethan. We're almost home."

He chafes my arms, and I lean forward, fall forward, end up mumbling something against his chest. The jacket is heaven. So warm, and holding the heat next to my skin as he holds me against him. He bends down, and I just have time to wonder what he's planning before I'm in his arms. He sets off into the rain again, but the rolling motion of his steps is lulling where mine was jarring. I close my eyes and rest my head on his shoulder.

***

"Ethan? Come on, do I need to call the paramedics?"

There's a hand patting my cheek, and I'm no longer in his arms.

Horizontal is the best I can do as far as my location goes. Horizontal and in pain. Maybe if I make him realize I'm conscious, I'll get pain killers. He looks like the kind of guy who would keep heavy duty pain killers around his flat. If that's where I am.

Eyes open. He's right there, so close, face just a few inches from mine. I swallow, and my tongue comes out to wet my lips without asking permission. Hope I don't look as hungry for him as I feel. Pain, concentrate on the pain.

"Ouch."

He smiles down at me. "Awake again. That's good. If I take you to hospital, are they going to find out they need to arrest you for something?"

Considerate of him to ask, though it does make one wonder who he's been hanging out with that it would seem like a necessary question.

"No hospital." Cough, cough, etc. Shouldn't be this hard to talk.

He looks down at me, consideringly. "I should, you know. You could be bleeding internally or something. Probably concussed."

I can only shake my head. I don't think the police are interested in me at the moment, but I'd really just like to stay here. It's warm and dry and soft...and it's where he is. Oh god, this has to be the concussion talking. I don't even know his name.

"All right." He grins that dangerous grin again, and it sends a shiver through me. "Guess I'll keep you, then. Here, take these."

Oh, pills, goody. He holds my head and the water glass for me, and I get them down. Hope they were something illegal.

"You rest up. I'll be back in a bit."

No, no. Need to know your name, so I'll know who I'm dreaming about. I cough, and he turns back. "Name?" I croak. Oh yes, very attractive, Ethan. He's going to love you.

He hesitates for a just a second, then smiles. "Whatever you want it to be." He winks and walks off.

That's it. I'm gone. I've got to have him.

As soon as I get some sleep.

***

Nothing much has changed by the time I wake up. I'm still here, presumably at his flat, in his bed. Alone, at least as far as I can tell without doing anything as drastic as moving my head.

Whatever he gave me must have been good. The pain's still there, but I feel warm and floaty, and the parts of me that hurt seem far away, which is where I'd like to keep them.

Maybe I could sit up. I give it a try, but my body doesn't want to bend. I grope my chest and find he taped my ribs up. When I frown at that, something pulls at the skin of my face. More feeling around, and I discover stitches. Well, well. Robby's guitarist makes a pretty good doctor, too.

So where is he, then? More important question: can I talk now? I give it a try, coughing a little, and I still don't get why my throat should hurt so bad. Words come out pretty well.

Oh. And there he is, standing in the doorway. Must have heard me. Wonder what I actually said.

"Morning, Ethan."

"Morning. It's morning?" I feel awfully bleary, not at all like I got a full night's sleep.

"Most definitely morning. How do you feel?" He walks across the room to stand at the foot of the bed...or mattress, I guess it is. My head's about level with his shins.

"Like shit," I croak. "How do I look?"

He laughs, coming around to sit on the floor by my head. "Like you died and someone forgot to tell you."

"Wonderful." A pause to cough. "Why does my throat hurt so bad?" I ask, mostly to myself.

There is silence for a moment, serious-feeling silence, and I look up at him.

"You were screaming. Rather a lot. That might have something to do with it."

"Oh." I feel heat rising to my face and look away, hoping I'm not now blushing in addition to screaming like a girl last night over a little beating. I tried to fight back. I did.

He pokes my shoulder, and I glance at him, not really wanting to see his face if he's laughing right now. He's not.

"I came at them from behind. I wouldn't have had much of a chance if I'd been in your position."

"Thanks." It's nice that he's lying to make me feel better, but it would be nicer if it wasn't a lie. I think he could have taken them from any position at all. Change of subject needed. "I didn't slip into a coma or anything, so no concussion I guess."

"Guess not. Looks like a few broken ribs and not worse than that. You were lucky."

Lucky he came along, anyway. "They hurt enough to make up for not being anything more serious."

"I might be able to do something about that."

"Are you a doctor or something? I noticed the stitches." My hand comes up involuntarily to touch them again, and he catches it and replaces it on my chest. With his hand still covering it. I wonder if he can feel my heartbeat as it speeds up.

"No." He smiles with one corner of his mouth. "Not a doctor. But something."

"Yeah, you're definitely something," I mutter, and then realize that muttering at this distance isn't exactly going to keep him from hearing it.

I wince and close my eyes for a second. When I look back up at him, he's looking me over with a sort of slow, lazy drawing of his eyes up and down my body. Assessing. Possessing. I gulp and stare, unable to look away.

His eyes meet mine again with that half-smile. "And don't you forget it."

He stands in a single motion, like he's being pulled upward and his muscles aren't involved at all. Almost unnatural looking, and again I can't look away. Don't want to look away.

"Hang on a second." He leaves the room and comes back with something steaming in a mug and a blue candle. He sets both of them on a table behind my head and comes to squat beside me. "You trust me, Ethan?"

Trust him? I don't even know his bloody name. But... "Yeah. Sure."

"Sure? You don't want to go giving out your trust so casually. But never mind." Slow smile that melts my insides. "I think I like you trusting."

One quick move and he's straddling my waist, leaning up to light the candle behind the bed and then settling his weight on me--all before I can even think to protest. Not that protesting is exactly number one on my list of things to do just now.

He's got the mug in his hand. "Drink up."

Whatever it is in the mug is too hot, bitter and sweet at the same time, and it burns my mouth. I drink it all and return the mug.

He closes his hand over mine on the mug and licks away the droplet hanging from the rim. His smile is wicked, and my hand feels boneless as he takes the mug away and sets it down.

He trails warm fingers down my cheek, down my neck. I'm having trouble breathing with him so close. The air feels heavier, electric. I lick my lips nervously, an echo of his tongue cleaning that drop away.

The hand moves down to my chest, over the bandages and tape he's put on, and his other hand joins it. He pauses there, and then there's a knife in his hand and he's cutting the tape away before I even have a chance to be scared. He places both hands on my newly bared skin.

I watch his face as his eyes slide half shut, and I feel the patterns his fingers trace over my chest. I shift under him, feeling my cock stiffen, but he doesn't look like this is foreplay for him.

Both hands flat on my chest now, and he's pressing down, hard, harder, and oh *shit* that hurts. "What-- Ah, Christ, quit it, will you, Jack? That hurts!"

"Hush, Ethan. I'm helping."

His lips move silently, and the pressure doesnÍt let up. The pain gets worse until the only thing stopping me from shoving him off me is that moving would hurt even worse. Then I feel it.

Strangest sensation. Like...like warm wind blowing down from his hands into my body. Or water seeping through stones, finding the water table--assuming the water table is somewhere in the vicinity of my lungs. An invasion of my body, but not unpleasant. I start to feel the pain ease, feel things *move* inside me. Parts of me.

I almost push him away and bolt, it's so creepy. The look on his face is rapt and far away, and his hands are hot now on my bare skin, pressing the heat inside me.

His silent words gain form and sound until the last two are audible, but not in any language I know. His body stiffens, and his back arches, like an electric current is going through him.

Then it's over. He slumps forward, bending over me, resting his forehead on my chest for a second before sitting up to rub his face. I look down and see two red handprints on my chest, already fading.

What the fuck is going on here?

He looks down at me, utter exhaustion on his face and in the stoop of his shoulders.

"Questions? Comments?"

I think about that for a second. "Yeah. Number one," and halfway through the sentence I falter a little because I realize it doesn't hurt to talk any more, "I want to know your name, for real this time, and number two...just... What the fuck, man?"

He rubs his palms down his thighs, showing no sign of wanting to stop sitting on me. "You called me Jack a minute ago." He tips his head to one side. "Why Jack?"

I point to my stitches. "Doctor stuff. And with your knife, last night..." I trail off and shrug. That probably wasn't too clear, and for a second I think he won't get it, but then his face clears.

"Jack the Ripper. You named me after Jack the Ripper." The way he's grinning, you'd think it was the biggest compliment I could have given him.

What have I gotten myself into?

"I like it," he says, like I couldn't tell. "Jack will do just fine."

"Yeah? Well, that still leaves the 'what the fuck' part."

"How do your ribs feel?"

That requires a little internal checking. I shift slightly, trying not to seem like I'm wriggling under him. I take a deep breath. No pain.

No pain at all.

"Well, fuck *me*."

He just laughs. "You should see your expression. Feels better, I take it?"

"Um, yeah. Throat, too."

I put a hand to my face, but the stiches are still there. Well, of course they are. I don't know where I thought they'd go. The cut still hurts, though. So does the scrape on my cheek and my whole face still feels bruised.

"Sorry about your face." He pulls my hand away and pushes it gently back down to my chest. "Didn't have enough left in me to do anything about that."

He braces both hands on the table behind my head and leans forward to blow out the candle, putting his stomach above my face. For a tempting moment his shirt draws up as he stretches, and I get a glimpse of pale skin against the olive green of his T-shirt. My hand is at his waist before I realize I've moved it.

A soft puff of breath, and I can smell the smoke from the extinguished candle. Jack settles back down, smiling at me, not objecting to the hand at all. My thumb rests against his bare side.

"What did you do to me?"

"Fixed you."

"How?"

He leans down, his chest almost touching mine, propping himself up with a hand on either side of my head. For a second I think he'll kiss me, and my lips part, waiting for it, wanting it. He pauses, mouth an inch from mine, and then bends to the side to whisper in my ear. "Magic."

"M-magic?"

"Mm-hmm." It comes out as a sigh, and I feel his breath against my ear. "Want to thank me?"

Oh, god, yes. I slide the hand on his waist up under his shirt.

His face moves against mine, and there is the roughness of his stubble against mine, friction and tension and even pain as it rubs against my banged up face.

His lips find the corner of my mouth, teasing as I move for more contact. He won't let me, evades the kiss, licking at my bottom lip and then at the scrape on my cheek.

His tongue probes the depth and breadth of it, licking at the scab. He must taste blood. My blood. How can he... Why would he...? Fucking psycho, fucking Jack the Ripper, why the hell does it feel so good? I can just barely hear the whimpers I'm making, but I can't stop.

My hips twist up against his, and he moves down so our cocks rub against each other, and I can feel how hard he is even through all that fabric. I want my jeans off, but more than that I want to keep my hands on him.

His skin is cold to my touch, and I don't know how his hands could have felt so hot. I feel him shivering, and I slide my hands up to his shoulders and pull him down to me.

Finally he stops worrying my wound and moves to my mouth. Even his lips feel cool as they meet mine. I open to him, and he thrusts his tongue into my mouth as he thrusts down with his hips, working me, riding me, and all I can do is hold onto him, try to breathe, try not to come too soon.

He warms against me finally, his lips on mine, his back under my hands, and the kiss goes on forever. Finally, I have to break it as my neck arches back by itself. His teeth nip at my exposed throat, and all I can manage is gasps and tiny noises that want to be his name.

His hands are at my waistband then, opening my jeans. For a second my sensitized cock is rubbing against the leather of his pants, and I sob once, just needing, needing so damn bad. He says something, don't know what, and then his pants are open and we're moving together as he sucks on my neck.

"Now, now, now, please..." Must be my voice, but it doesn't even sound like me. I push up against him hard as we slide together, and his teeth close on the side of my neck. That does it.

My mouth opens wide, but I can't make a sound as I come. My body goes stiff, and his hands close in my hair as I feel him grind against me once more and come as well.

His fingers are still woven in my hair as the tension goes out of both of us and he collapses over me. He's still sucking gently on my neck where he bit it.

"Ethan." Just my name. He's panting a little as he says it.

An inquiring, "Mm?" is about all I can manage.

He lifts his head up and kisses my throat, behind my ear, my mouth, but briefly.

"What is it?" I ask, getting more coherent after a minute or two.

He hums a little into my neck, then pulls back and sighs. "Ethan..."

"Yeah?" I like the way he says my name.

He shakes his head. "Nothing. You have a place to stay?"

It takes me a minute to answer. Not that I haven't been kicked out after sex before, but it usually takes longer than this. "Er, yes. I've got a place. I'll just be going then."

"Yeah."

"Yeah. Okay then." Except he's still lying on top of me, and he's lowered his head back down so his stubble prickles my chest.

"Jack?" Silence. I try again. "Jack?" More silence. "If you don't like Jack, you could tell me your real name, you know."

"I wonder why they called him that. Jack the Ripper. Why Jack?"

"Jack was a term of address used for a social inferior. So he was offing hookers, so they must have thought he was, you know, inferior. Somebody who would hang around with hookers."

He lifts his head and looks at me. "How'd you know that?" He sounds faintly outraged.

"S'in the dictionary."

"Is not."

"Is so."

A long pause, and he lays his head back down. "You looked up Jack the Ripper in the dictionary?"

"I was bored."

"Not sure I like being addressed as a social inferior," he says, but he sounds more amused than upset.

"Jack doesn't really suit you anyway. Bet your real name suits you much better."

"Not really. Supposing you pick something else if Jack doesn't suit me."

I consider that for a little while. He's letting me name him, but he's kicking me out of his flat. Uh-huh.

"Can't think of anything else right now, sorry."

He pushes himself up so he's sitting again. "Well, you'll just have to give it some thought." Wicked smile, quick kiss on the corner of my mouth, and he's up and walking out of the room, picking up the candle on his way. "Better get dressed, Ethan. I'm throwing you out."

All right. That's direct. I hear a shower start up and try to clean myself up a little with the sheet before zipping up my jeans. Getting out of bed is hardly painful at all, but I'm trying not to think about that.

Maybe I wasn't hurt as badly as I thought.

Maybe I just won't think about it.

My shirt is hanging on a chair, but it's in bad shape, torn and bloody. I put it on anyway, not really wanting to ask him if I can borrow one of his. It's black, so only the rips show. Next thing I know, it'll be a new trend.

It's tempting to sneak out while he's in the shower, but it's more tempting to poke around and see what I can find. The bedroom is bare of anything but table and bed, so I try the next room.

There's a sofa, a grubby rug, and a small bookshelf filled with tattered paperbacks. And one leather bound, gold-edged book almost under the sofa. Title: Billbauer's Compendium of Pain and Healing. I lean over and look under the sofa.

In the shadows and dust, there's a pile of old books that look like they should be in a walnut-paneled library on some estate somewhere. I wonder briefly if he stole them, but I care more about seeing what else he hides under his sofa.

Behind the books, there's a box. I pull it out, checking to make sure the shower's still going. It is. I open the box and almost drop it. The bones inside are animal bones, not human, but it takes a minute to register that, and I'm not completely sure that animal bones are that much less disturbing.

Along with the bones, there's a grey silk drawstring bag; a few bottles of colored powder; some candles, including the blue one. There's also a letter, unopened, but the stamp's been cancelled. It's addressed to a Rupert Giles at an Oxford address.

Suddenly I register the absence of a shower running. Everything goes back where it was, and quickly, too. I'm just flipping innocently through his record collection when he appears, towel-clad.

Something by Cream is in my hand as I stand up, gaping just a little, and he walks over and takes it from me.

"Planning to abscond with my favorites, Ethan?" He leans over to replace it, and I take the opportunity to ogle his ass. He turns and grins, catching me at it, but still seems to be expecting an answer.

"Give me a chance to look up abscond, and I'll let you know."

"Well, you are the man with the dictionary." Still grinning, leaning up against the wall. Hips thrust forward just a little, arms crossed over his chest.

"Thought you were kicking me out." It's a dumb thing to say, and I'm kicking myself as soon as it's out of my mouth. The last thing I want is to remind him of that. Much rather stay and get invited back to bed.

He steps closer, running light fingers down my ruined shirt. "What was I thinking, keeping you here like this?"

His mouth is inches away, and I lean forward and close the distance. He won't open for me, so I lick and nibble at his bottom lip. He chuckles into the kiss.

Then his hand is in my hair, pulling my head back, holding me still as he drives his mouth hard against mine. I open my mouth to say I don't know what and he's sucking on my tongue, biting down gently until I shiver. Then he's pulling back, pressing his lips to the wound on my cheek before stepping away from me.

He smiles with one corner of his mouth. "There's the door, Ethan."

I'm breathless, hard, speechless, and he's kicking me out *now*? I open my mouth to say something, but he shakes his head.

"Out," he says, not harsh, but insistent.

"Yeah, sure," I say after a minute more of speechless staring. "Be seeing you."

It isn't until I'm down on the street that I start shaking, realize how much I still hurt, how tired I am, how goddamn much I want him. I will be seeing him. He's not getting rid of me this easily.

But even as I think that, it doesn't sound right, or rather he didn't sound like he was blowing me off. Not permanently anyway. Just wanted me out right then.

Am I fooling myself? Am I really that obsessed with this guy after one night?

And more importantly, can my rescuer with his black leather and bloody knife really be named *Rupert*?

Too many questions. On the other hand, life isn't boring any more. I grin to myself and start the walk back to my flat. Robby's band is playing Friday at Tower Four. If nothing else it'll give me a chance to stare at him.

Oh, shit.

I am that obsessed.

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..end..
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