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Turning Tricks
Ripper come home
by Raven

R, slash, Ripper/Ethan. A sorcerer, a rose, and the vampire Ripper; or, Ethan gets shades of Anne Rice.

Ethan was floating a rose.

At least, he was trying to; as he well knew, the spell needed the sort of focus only two people could provide, and the flower remained stubbornly inert. He and Ripper had the sort of bone-deep connection the magic required, and they could do it without thinking, sending petals shooting upwards at a brush of their fingertips, but he was alone and the rose was still. He concentrated, drew on residual remnants of Ripper’s power in the room, and tried again. The rose shifted slightly, its petals beginning to unfurl, and moved the merest distance to the left. Ethan exhaled slowly and turned his hands over. There was a suggestion of further movement, a few bare stirrings of the leaves, and then a soft rustle as it left the ground...

There was a knock at the door.

Ethan jerked and cursed as the slowly levitating flower dropped back into the crucible. “Randall, go away!”

“Not Randall.” The voice was low and muffled by the door. “It’s me.”

Ethan stood up, no less aggravated. “Use your key once in a while, why don’t you?” He moved across and opened the door. “Oh, for fuck’s sake come in.”

Ripper was swaying on his feet, white-faced, with one hand pressed to his neck. He didn’t say another word, just fell heavily into Ethan’s arms.

“Fucking melodrama,” Ethan muttered, but he shouldered Ripper’s weight easily enough, laying him gently onto the ground. “What happened to you?”

He didn’t expect an answer. Sighing, he pulled Ripper’s hand away from his neck and found two neat puncture wounds beneath. They were still bleeding heavily, and Ethan looked for something to cover them. The chances of there being anything antiseptic in the flat seemed slim at best. For the time being, he tugged off Ripper’s leather jacket and pressed the t-shirt below to the skin. It was already dark and soaked with blood.

Something about Ripper’s glazed-over eyes struck him, and with the ease born of much practice, Ethan began turning out Ripper’s pockets. There were no tabs or pills, but he did find a hypodermic syringe, a whittled wooden stake, and something that felt like paper. He yanked it out and found-

“Money?” Ethan held out five twenty-pound notes between finger and thumb. “Ripper, what the fuck have you been doing?”

Much to his surprise, Ripper stirred. “Turning tricks,” he whispered, smiling, and his eyes closed.

Ethan didn’t ask questions. Instead, he found cotton wool and hot water, he cleaned the wounds, bound them with torn-up strips of material, and finally carried Ripper to bed and laid him down with a thump. “Now let that be a lesson to you,” he said severely. “Don’t talk to strangers.”

“No,” replied Ripper drowsily. “I won’t.”

Before he stripped Ripper of the blood-soaked clothes, Ethan remembered to go through the pockets in the jacket, too. He found more notes, crisply purple and crumpled carelessly together. This time there were six of them, and a handful of fivers as an accompaniment.

He put them on one side. “Ripper?” he tried, and Ripper rolled over to face him. His eyes were steady and calculating, and there was something set about his expression. Ethan saw the blood in his mouth, on his lips, looking at it for a whole minute before realising what it meant.

He backed away. “They suck your blood, you suck theirs,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.

He lingered five seconds longer, then fled. Once outside, he leaned against the wall and thought about it. If he had any common sense, or instinct for self-preservation, or anything approximating either, he would rummage through the kitchen drawers, find a wooden spoon, and march right back in there and do the deed.

His feet twitched. It would be easy. No mad struggle and fight to the death, merely a small explosion into dust.

But he couldn’t help but turn to look at the body on the bed, and felt the idea shot to hell. Just one look at a sleeping Ripper, radiating a sort of carnal innocence, told him he couldn’t do it. Ripper, his best friend and lover and a force for Chaos in his own right, and Ethan couldn’t destroy that. A thing of beauty is a joy forever... and, as Ethan realised with a start, forever was exactly how long it would be.

Morning came and went. The day wore slowly on, but Ethan didn’t dare move from the flat.

After sunset, Ripper stirred and Ethan’s ears pricked up. He kept his silence, knowing all the while that attempting to be stealthier than a real creature of the night was misguided at best, but not quite able to care. He needed to stay close, and he lurked in the shadows as Ripper emerged from the flat and made his quiet way out into the street. He seemed to scent the air, turning his head this way and that, and eventually settled on a direction. Ethan followed at a safe distance.

In other circumstances, he would almost have enjoyed it. There was something delicious about Ripper moving as though no-one was watching; every step he took and every toss of his head, was natural, not designed for effect. And yet, he was still utterly compelling, still drawing Ethan’s eyes through the shadows, still perfect, still Ripper.

He led Ethan down back streets and back-alleys, where only cats yowled and sirens wailed vaguely in the distance, and Ethan had to linger, take slow steps as not to be seen. The dark places after nightfall were the natural habitat for the pair of them, and Ripper would soon know he was being followed.

Not too soon, Ethan dared to hope. Wherever Ripper was going, wherever his eyes turned to through the darkness, Ethan wanted to follow because that was what he did. Ripper glittered at the periphery of his consciousness, until Ethan could follow him just by feeling for the moving presence of magic.

Ripper was slowing down, and presently, Ethan realised he could see lights. They were approaching a house with a hole in the roof, and a lot of people. Squatters, he thought briefly – then changed his mind. Ripper’s footsteps were sure, and so were those of the others in the vicinity. Ethan saw them through dim light, mostly coming from fires lit in dustbins and bare electric bulbs, and noticed the dead-pale skin and bloodstained lips. Vampires, all vampires, and Ripper walked through the thick of them with the light of the flames flickering yellow in his eyes.

Ethan found it harder and harder to stay hidden, and hung back. Ripper paused on the threshold, then entered. Ethan hesitated only a second before following.

The sight that awaited his eyes inside was one of total debauchery. Covered in flickering shadows from small flames, there were people on every surface, moving with the slow, rhythmic movements of steady, heated lust. They lay on ancient, abandoned furniture and among rubble; there were broken bricks underfoot and stars above, and Ethan began to understand. It would take a bomb – probably the entire force of the Luftwaffe – landing on a house before the need for an invitation was nullified. The vampires had moved in some time after 1945, and made it a home.

A hand on his shoulder made him jump. “Ethan?”

Ethan whirled around to see wide, frightened eyes in a pale face. “Randall!” he growled. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Randall looked uncomfortable for a second, then his expression changed to one of smug defiance. “Getting a piece.”

“You’re... what?” Ethan blinked, realised, then peered into the dim light. Randall was here, and Ethan himself was here, and that meant – and yes, he could see them – there were humans here. Humans rolling in lust beneath vampires, having blood drained from them in return for their money.

“Isn’t that why you’re here?” Randall asked, and Ethan had absolutely no urge to explain.

“Get out of here,” he snapped.

Randall smiled. “Was just going, anyway.”

He suited the action to the words, and Ethan sighed and rolled his eyes and hit a wall in frustration. He’d been distracted for a moment too long. Ripper was gone. He was somewhere in this mess of people, one among many, and Ethan had to find him.

“Looking for someone, sweeting?”

Ethan looked up. A vampire looked back at him, pale and beautiful with the merest hint of blood on her lips. “What?” he said waspishly.

“Because I could help you find them, you know. I could help you.”

Ethan was impatient. “You can’t help me.”

“I can.” She licked her lips and took a step closer. “I can make you feel.” Her arms snaked around his neck, her hair tossed elegantly over her shoulder. “I can make you feel” – and now her tongue was on his skin, licking in long, slow sweeps – “like you’ve never felt before.”

Her fingers crept over his cheek, and Ethan shook her off. “I am looking for someone,” he said, edgily.

“Oh?” She took a step back, inclining her head. “And who might that be?”

Ethan scowled and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “He’s got long curly hair, green eyes, and he’s wearing a leather jacket.” He paused, and because it was the truth, he added: “And he’s a bit of a tart.”

“That doesn’t narrow it down much, round here.” She laughed. “Although, I might know who you mean.” Her fingers curled into the eternal come-hither gesture. “I might.”

“I’ll find him myself,” Ethan snapped and turned away. He struck out blindly into the mass of people, undead and otherwise, and got in the way of another vampire, currently engaged in feeding off a wide-eyed goth girl. It broke off to snarl violently, spitting blood, and Ethan moved quickly away.

He immediately stumbled into someone else and was whirled round, forced to go back the way he came by a push from a heavy-set vampire who barely glanced at him before it lashed out. Ethan spun, helpless, feeling unaccountably vulnerable and filled with an urge to get out of this place.

“Ripper,” he called softly, but there was no reply.

Eventually, he found himself on the floor. He had more blood spattered on him and had been the recipient of several snarled curses by that time; the smoke in the air was making his eyes burn and he was tired of all this. The ground was hard, but he found an ancient sofa cushion leaking stuffing and leaned gratefully against it, sighing deeply. Although he knew it was only a precursor to the barrage of emotions he would have to face in the morning, he enjoyed the strange, numb silence inside his head.

His eyes were closed. Perhaps he could have fallen asleep, there in a hot, smoky den of vampires, but something prevented him; something being the slick, cool feeling of someone licking at his arm.

He jerked up. “Stop it!”

It didn’t stop. Ethan peered through the smoke to see the vampire at his side, head bowed, ready to feed, and the numbness prevailed. “What the hell,” he murmured, and its teeth broke his skin.

All at once, there was clarity. Ethan felt the pain, felt the blood leaving his veins, but with it came the thrill, the sheer sensuality of the bite and spreading warm liquid. There was something about it after all, he thought through the haze; something that meant people would pay, would risk horrific death for this. It was like being numb, but more alive than he had ever felt; like pain in ecstasy, like death and life as one.

He shuddered convulsively, and the vampire twisted its head round, pushing its hair from its face. Ethan caught a glimpse of its eyes, glittering in the smoke, and then he saw nothing more. With animalistic grace, the vampire was on its feet, grabbing Ethan and lifting him. It scratched at his skin with careless swipes, it twisted his arms behind his back until he groaned in pain, all the time taking long, graceful strides and carrying Ethan along with it.

He was swept through the crowds of humans and vampires and taken outside. Silence and cool night air made themselves known even through the haze of pain, and Ethan felt himself allowed to fall, hitting the ground with a sickening thud. He scrambled awkwardly to his feet, staggering a step forward, but got no further before he was pinned against a wall. Two hands were on his shoulders, another body pressed against his.

Ethan opened his eyes. For the first time, the face of his
attacker was clear.


The answer was a brief growl, and Ethan screwed his eyes shut as tight as they would go and took a breath and made peace with his life. This was it. The last sight he saw would be Ripper’s eyes burning yellow.

But it seemed to Ethan that the end was slow in coming. Silent seconds stretched into minutes, and there were no teeth tearing at his neck. And gradually, he became aware of something else. Creeping through night air, through layers of cotton, denim and leather, was a feeling of warmth. Comforting and steady, incongruously like lying in bed wrapped up in...


“Oh, god,” Ethan moaned. “Oh, fuck.”

“Serves you right for following me,” Ripper said, and let him go. Ethan sank down the wall and landed in a heap on the ground, breathing heavily. Ripper watched him for a minute, then sat down next to him in companionable silence, one arm draped languidly around Ethan’s shoulders.

After a few minutes, Ethan felt able to talk. “Oh, fuck,” he said again, and groaned. The sounds of the city, traffic noise and sirens wailing, suddenly seemed much too loud, and he pressed his hands to his ears.

“Hush, love,” said Ripper softly, and stroked his hair. “Did you really think I was a vampire?”

“Can you blame me?” asked Ethan, more angry now than anything else. “You were bleeding, Ripper. So fucking much. And I found the money in your pockets. It made sense. And now” – he paused – “it doesn’t.”

“Ah, yes.” Ripper smiled, his fingers still idly stroking. “This was all a bit of a money-spinner, wasn’t it? People – bloody stupid people, I should add – pay vampires to suck their blood. It’s easy enough, and it made me some cash.”

“But people know you’re not a vampire!” Ethan protested.

“Do they, though?” Ripper looked thoughtful. “Did you?”

Ethan conceded the point. He asked: “What happened to you last night?”

“You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Ripper shrugged. “Some vamp bint twigged. Still, she got a free feed. And a stake through the heart.” He looked faintly pleased with himself.

“But you sucked her blood!” Ethan burst out, standing up. “And she took yours! Isn’t that how vampires are created?”

Ripper paused, then nodded solemnly. “That’s right. But you’re forgetting something.”


“Vampires are dead,” said Ripper simply. “I was never dead. She took my blood, but not down to the last drop. Hence my humanity remains, or some semblance of it.”

“Oh.” Ethan sat down again with a thump.

“Come on.” Ripper pulled him up to his feet. “Let’s go home.”

“Right.” Ethan fell into step beside him, realising that it would soon be dawn. There were faint streaks of red in the east, set in a purple sky, and the vampires must be going back below ground. For a moment, Ethan allowed himself to consider a vampire Ripper, a real creature of the night, cold and ruthless but forever beautiful...

It was just a thought.

“Are you going to keep doing this?” he asked after a while.

“What do you think?” Ripper replied.

“I think you’re just a tuppenny whore, Ripper mine,” Ethan said lazily, his fingers pulling at the leather of Ripper’s jacket.

“Well,” said Ripper thoughtfully, “my mother never said I’d grow up to be anything else.”

Ethan grinned, and this time allowed himself to think of going to bed, sleeping the day away in sticky warmth with Ripper. The thought was reality soon enough. They let themselves into the flat, finding their way to bed through the grey light spreading across the floor. The rose Ethan had been attempting to float lay abandoned on the floor, as did the money Ethan had taken from Ripper’s pockets.

Ethan ignored all of it, getting into bed without taking his boots off. But Ripper paused before joining him. He stood there for a few moments, his expression settling into one of intellectual curiosity.

“What?” Ethan asked.

Ripper was blunt. “You’re disappointed.”

“What?” Ethan blinked. “No. No, I’m not.”

Ripper smiled, eyes sparkling with savage amusement. “You are. A part of you wishes I was really...”

He broke off; Ethan was smiling back at him. Ripper moved with careful nonchalance, clambered in and sank down beside Ethan, his arms wrapping around his lover’s neck. “I know what you want,” he purred, his lips brushing Ethan’s ear. “Love.”

At the touch, Ethan let out a shuddering sigh and the rose shot straight up into the air. Ripper’s long curls were soft against his skin.

Ethan took a deep breath. Rose petals were beginning to float downwards.

And Ripper dropped his head, and bit.


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