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leaves and drizzle
by Raven

PG-13, slash, Giles/Ethan. Morning in London.

On the twenty-first of October, Ethan Rayne awoke at entirely the wrong time. Accordingly, he dealt with the situation the best way he knew how.

“Wake up, Ripper.”

Ethan was petulant, and having sudden flashbacks to when he was five years old and dragging his siblings out of bed. “Ripper.”

Ripper rolled over. “What time is it?” he mumbled through a mess of pillows and crumpled sheets.

“Almost six.”

“Six?” Ripper rolled over and yawned. “What’s up with you?”

“I’m bored,” Ethan said, and it was the simple truth. “Get up, I want to go outside.”

Ripper sighed in exasperation, but he sat up and pushed his hair away from his eyes. He shivered, blowing on his hands, and saw his breath rise as white mist. “Fuck, it’s cold.”

Ethan was at the window, looking out. The first of the morning sunshine was white and bleak, barely breaking through the clouds. Ripper frowned for a few seconds, still rubbing his hands together. “Ethan.”


“Ethan, it’s six in the fucking morning. Why the hell have you got me out of bed?”

Ripper was staring at him through blurred eyes, and Ethan had a mental flash of movement and air whistling past his ears. It was only the cold and lingering sleep that kept his lover from threatening violence. Ripper didn’t like being woken up, and Ethan liked playing with fire. “What were you doing last night?” he asked, in dulcet tones of disapproval. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“That’s because I didn’t.” Ripper yawned. “Was on the windowsill with the radio.” That made sense; their battered and stolen radio only really worked if you aimed the aerial straight at the sky.

“Come on, we’re going outside” – and he pulled and pushed and dragged and cajoled until Ripper had no choice, save grievous bodily harm, but to follow.

Once they were outside, Ethan didn’t have to push. Ripper woke up in the cold air, his eyes suddenly brighter and more quick to make contact. He didn’t resist when Ethan wrapped an arm around him, and they drew together for warmth. It made walking slow, but Ethan didn’t mind and doubted Ripper did. “See,” he murmured sleepily, “mornings can be good.”

“I generally see them from the other side,” Ripper replied, thoughtful. “I’ve only been asleep for three hours.”

“Terribly unhealthy,” Ethan said, mock-sanctimoniously. “You’ll do yourself permanent damage.”

“Ethan, do shut up.”

They were still walking slowly, to destinations unknown as Ethan mentally put it, and the city seemed theirs and theirs alone. The air was clear from traffic smog, the streets were almost quiet and minds attuned to magic could make out the moving presence of the river close at hand. Ethan sighed deeply, contentedly, letting his head sink onto Ripper’s shoulder. “It’s autumn, you know,” he said conversationally. “It’s November next week.”

“So what?” asked Ripper without scorn.

“So it’s been a year.”

“A year since when?” asked Ripper slowly, and the way his voice trailed off told Ethan he could answer his own question. A year since a cold morning just like this one when Ripper left the dreaming spires of Oxford, told destiny to fuck off, and shock shock horror horror, the world didn’t end because of it.

And Ethan was glad. Glad of the warmth behind his head, glad of the magic, glad of Ripper. Even glad it was autumn, in a way. The days were shorter, and he and Ripper, night-dwellers both, had things to do with the darkness.

The reverie was interrupted. “Hey!”

One of the bin men, pausing with a black bag over his shoulder. He looked directly at Ethan, jerking his head towards Ripper. “You do know that’s a bloke, right?” His mates sniggered a little, waiting to see what Ethan would do next.

Ethan merely glanced at Ripper, long-haired, eyes still smudged with kohl from last night, and smiled ferally. “Yes, he is,” he agreed. “Rather pretty, though.”

They shared a kiss. The bin men seemed mostly speechless. As they jerked away down the street, Ripper laughed softly. “Nicely played.”

“Did you know there are laws against sodomy in this country?”

“Let’s move to Hawaii.”

“Not today, love.”

They carried on walking. Fallen leaves drifted past, were crunched underfoot and dragged along with Ripper’s trench coat as it trailed over the ground. Maybe Ripper had a point, Ethan thought; Hawaii must be nice this time of year, endless sand and sea and those colourful flower-garland-type-things, people with no objection to a little sparkle in life. Light years removed from London, certainly, complacent in its grey-skied smog and bleak autumnal chill.

Still. They were here, and this was now, and there was Ripper. Ripper, who seemed unnaturally quiescent, despite only three hours’ sleep and people heckling at his sex life. “What’s wrong with you, then?”

“Nothing. Just thinking.” Ethan felt Ripper sigh, and saw a sudden, blurred vision of another city, less bleakly grey than this one. Thought transference again, he decided. It happened occasionally – they were in each other’s bodies and souls often enough – and it flashed up again, clearly.

Ripper was thinking of Oxford and Ethan felt strangely betrayed.

“Ethan, what’s wrong with you?

Apparently, it had been a two-way transference, and while it was delivered in that patented exasperated tone of Ripper’s, Ethan understood it had been a real question. “Nothing,” he said, a trifle snippily, and Ripper’s disbelief was a palpable cloud.

Impulsively, Ethan snuggled closer. Ripper paused a moment, then let it happen, making no comment at Ethan’s hands drifting below the leather coat. His hands were cold, but they warmed up quickly.

“Nothing,” repeated Ripper under his breath. “Nothing wrong with this at all.”

Ethan couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic. He withdrew his hand for a moment to pick a leaf out of Ripper’s hair, and they walked on.

Rush hour was beginning. The streets filled up, and the occasional rumble signified a passing Underground train. People were up and about now, some ready to start the day’s trading, and Ripper nicked a newspaper off a stand when the owner looked the other way. He tucked it under his coat along with Ethan, and they arrived home just as the city had woken up.

Ripper went back to bed, burying himself under the pillows. Ethan let him sleep, then woke him to play, then fell asleep himself. He awoke momentarily when Ripper pulled the newspaper out from under him, but he went back to sleep and didn’t stir until hours later.

In the afternoon, Ethan found Ripper by the window with the radio beside him. He was lying on the floor, listening to Radio Four and the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Ethan paused, smiling at the radio dialogue and staring down at Ripper. He looked like that when he came, sometimes – loose-limbed and comfortable, eyes darkened and bleeding black with magic. Ethan got down on the floor and lay down beside him. Sinking back into the dim light and familiar voice of the Guide, he let himself relax. Ripper stirred, sprawling provocatively, and Ethan responded.

Outside, the north wind blew. It brought leaves and drizzle, spattering against the window, and the chill of changing weather. And it was the first of the winds of change, that autumn, but all that came later. For now, they were safe.

“Ah,” said Arthur Dent, “this is obviously some strange usage of the word ‘safe’ that I wasn't previously aware of.”

Ripper’s voice was low, too low to be heard, and Ethan felt his familiar, steady weight, opened his eyes to see Ripper’s, dark green and enticing as Ripper straddled him. Ethan let out a breath. They were awake, and there would no doubt be dirty, rough sex in the immediate future, and this was the floor and it was cold and it was London, but this was it, this was their safety.

The wind howled as Ripper cried out. The seasons turned. The world changed.


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