Title: "We Go Back": Rupert Giles and Ethan Rayne
Author: trkkr47 (email@example.com)
Spoilers: Through "A New Man"
Personal Website: http://trkkr47.seeking-solace.com/
Notes: I freely admit I did not do them justice. Also, big apologies for being way, way late.
Their first confrontation takes place across a bust of Janus. "Division of self, male and female, light and dark." Chaos and order. Bisexuality. Giles sends Willow away. Perhaps it's to get her away from Ethan. More likely it's to get her away from himself, from what he used to be, from what Ethan still brings to life in him. The tension crackles between them as they greet each other. Giles' voice is low and restrained and already carries a hint of threat.
And Ethan responds, not with fear, but with teasing, with goading. "Hello, Ripper."
An old nickname Giles will not want to hear, because it brings back a past he wants to forget. Ethan represents everything Giles denies himself: jocularity, freedom, unpredictability, violence.
"What, no hug?" Ethan says. A joke, belied by a smile that is forced, is pained.
As they speak, Ethan toys with a mask. Black latex. Suggestive. Sexual. It takes him a moment too long before he can meet Giles' eyes. Then he does, and he continues to press. "I know you," he says.
This is foreplay. Winding Giles up, reaching for the man he knew, teasing the darkness within to drag it to the surface to play.
And it comes to his call. Lunges, in one swift hard rush. Intimate, passionate, fist-to-stomach violence.
I came to the Buffy fandom from the Sentinel fandom. I was a slasher. That said, I loved Buffy, but... it just wasn't very slashy. (I know, I know. Bear with me, here.) Anyway, so I was watching season seven at the time, and parts of season four, and I began to read fanfic. The main slash pairing I knew about, which I'd known about even before I knew anything about the show, was Spike/Xander. Well, Spike/Xander didn't really appeal to me, because what really appealed to me was *GILES.* Mmmm, Giles.
Um, yeah, anyway...
So, I looked for Giles slash, and I noticed that people kept either slashing Giles with this guy named Ethan, or, more often, referring to this guy named Ethan when they slashed him with anyone else. Hmm, I said to myself, I need to see this Ethan.
Tragically, however, the first Ethan episode I managed to see was Band Candy, which, while fun, is really the least slashy episode of the four he appears in. So, I thought, "Eh. Don't really see it, but whatever." However, I was all for the slash, especially the Giles slash, and Giles/Ethan was well-established enough that I used it as part of Giles' background even in my het fic, and would have Ethan show up now and then to antagonize Giles, because, really, he does it so well.
So, for me, Giles/Ethan wasn't love at first sight. Giles/Ethan was more like a casual acquaintance, whom I nodded to at parties. But then, things began to change. I read some good G/E fic. Anything G/E by Te or Sarah T. is wonderful, and I really loved Kindkit's Demons. However, I was still more or less neutral on the subject. Then, I met Phaelstya, who was already an OTP G/E ‘shipper (and who cowrote the wonderful potentials_rpg). Shortly afterwards, I wrote my first G/E fic, for a ficathon. I hadn't written any fic focusing on the pairing before, because I felt shaky on my Ethan characterization. I ended up really enjoying the fic, however. Then, Phaelstya and I began a cowriting project, RPG format, I playing Ripper, she playing Ethan.
And I was lost.
One thing I've found about RPGs is they are very emotionally involving, and to play one character falling in love with another, you must get into their mind and their heart and see that character through their eyes. Thus, you tend to fall in love as well. And so I fell for Ethan. And I think, to truly love G/E, you must love Ethan. It helps to love Giles, of course, but Ethan is what makes or breaks the ‘ship in one's heart. Giles/Ethan is his story, it is his undying and possibly hopeless love and obsession.
This next part is bringing me up short. Because how do I put into words why I love Ethan? He's a hard character to paint in friendly terms, because he is *not* a nice guy, and he would probably never allow himself to be. Honestly, Ethan has few if any clear-cut redeeming features. In some ways, he is darker even than the vampiric characters, because he is human, and he is souled, and yet, he chooses to follow the path of darkness.
However, this does not prevent him from being a fascinating character.
I love his wry sense of humor: "Honesty. Nice Touch." "It's one of my virtues. ... Not really." I love his power. He is one of the most powerful magic-users we see on the show, aside from Willow. The casting scene in Halloween is intense, and, frankly, dead sexy.
However, for me, the greatest things about Ethan are the moments when his mask cracks, and his vulnerability shows through for a split second. In Halloween, when his smile is just a bit false, when he can't quite meet Giles' eyes. In Dark Age, when he stares in something like horror as Giles focuses only on Jenny after Angel has destroyed Eyghon.
Ethan, to me, is a tragic character. He is alone. We never see him interact with anyone except Buffy and Giles and his employers, except to drunkenly hit on a waitress (although, personally, I don't believe he was actually hitting on the waitress, but that's a different story). He is in shadows. We never see him in the daylight, except once, briefly, indoors, at the beginning of Halloween. And, of course, he is deeply in love with someone who has rejected him.
They settle at a table together. Giles is tense, not wanting to be there. Ethan is relaxed, in control of the situation. He has the power for the moment and is enjoying it. When Giles threatens to leave, he sets the hook and tugs him back, doling out hints of information. The wall behind them is red, a color associated with Ethan, the color he wears when he casts in Halloween, the color of the shirt he wears later in this episode.
Giles' apartment is painted green. His eyes are green, his wardrobe tends towards green. His magic, in "Grave," is green. He sits here with his back to a green plant, that is dotted with white christmas lights.
Red and green. Complementary colors on the color wheel.
Across the table, Ethan and Giles exchange light barbs. Ethan smiles.
The scene cuts away to two lovers sparring playfully. Buffy and Riley, smiling as they gently roughhouse.
When it cuts back, they are both drunk. Giles has opened up, is talking to Ethan in a way he never talks to any other character on the show (except, rarely, Buffy) even when he is drunk. Ethan says, "You know, you're really very attractive." Giles looks touched.
Giles begins saying "we," instead of just "me." Talks about "us."
Ethan leans in, and says, "The night is still our time. Time of magic." He purrs the words, and his eyes are soft. Loving.
Giles smiles and raises his glass.
"To magic," he says, and then the scene cuts away.
Cuts to Tara's dorm room. Red walls, white christmas lights, a plant. A similar space, where a couple works magic slowly, sensually. Love and sex nudging below the TV censors' radar. Their spell is interrupted by Ethan's.
The next morning, the camera pans down to Giles' bed, as it would to reveal lovers together, asleep, though Giles is alone. Downstairs, his shirt is in the foyer, and his jeans are draped over the back of his desk chair.
There are many things that appeal to me about the Giles/Ethan relationship.
I think, first and foremost, the thing that gets me about them is the love, or the potential for love between them. I'm actually not a big fan of "darkfic," personally. I prefer to read stuff with happy endings. That said, Giles/Ethan fic is really not given to happy endings, and maybe, at first that was part of what repelled me. However, that said, just because things rarely go well and even more rarely go smoothly between them, there is still a lot of love and devotion in this pairing. Most of that love is old love, perhaps even dead love. But that love *was* there at some point, and it still shines through at times, and I really enjoy those moments when it does (especially in the bar scene mentioned above, when Ethan is smiling gently and Giles smiles back as he answers Ethan's toast).
The next thing that draws me to the pairing is the violence and passion of it. In canon, Giles comes to *life* around Ethan. We almost never see him as passionate as he is when he's around Ethan. Granted, that passion takes the form of violence, but that violence represents, to me, an intense physicality. Giles has no qualms putting his hands on Ethan, manhandling Ethan. There is a familiarity there, a physical ease that to me erases any suspicions that these two could have been "just friends."
Many people, myself included, take this violence and translate it to mean that Giles and Ethan played with bdsm in their youth, which would fit with Giles' rebellion and his exploring of his own pleasures. This potential for kinky fic is another thing that draws me to the pairing. Many fandom couples have kink fic written about them, but not all of them truly seem to be suited for it. With Giles and Ethan, at least *some* form of kink is almost inevitable.
Moving on, however, from kink to something much less basic, another thing that draws me to the pairing is the contrasts and sameness of the characters. Ethan is Giles' mirror, and he represents what Giles once was, and what he might have still been, had he not turned his back on that lifestyle in his youth. In this, they are the same. However, since Giles *did* leave that life behind, now, on the surface, they are exact opposites, perfect opposing principles. Giles is order, Ethan is chaos. They are dark and light. And as is often the case in those scenarios, one principle cannot exist without the other. They oppose and balance each other, and as such would make a very powerful pair together.
They also make for a very dramatic pair, not necessarily in the sense of explosions and fight sequences, but in the sense that there are a great deal of obstacles between them, and how they overcome those obstacles (or don't) is always fascinating to read and to write. There are the big things, of course, such as the fact that Ethan tends to work for the enemy, but even the little things could be fascinating. A friend of mine once commented that it would be amusing to read a fic showing them trying to settle into an everyday routine together, that just deals with small things like who would have control of the remote.
A final pair of related points that draw me to the couple are the characters' age and their long history. Granted, Ethan is not exactly what you would call mature, but he has lived a long time (relative to the show's teenaged characters at least), and so both he and Giles have a great deal more life experience behind them, which colors and deepens their characters. Along with that, they have a history with each other, which simultaneously simplifies and complicates fic about them.
All in all, they are a fascinating, attractive pair of characters.
I think the things recced below explain the beauty of the pairing a thousand times better than I ever could:
Te's fic such as Continuum
Sarah T.'s fic especially All Work and No Play
Your Crooked Heart series by kindkit
Never Entirely Free by K.V. Wylie
Three Words by Andraste
Twenty Years in Exile by kraken_wakes
Like Dead Flowers by loneraven
Responsible Adults (Giles/Ethan/Joyce) by sadbhyl and mydeira
Of Old Mystics by wolfling and mogigraphia
Be Seeing You -- BtVS Writer’s Guild G/E zone
Ripped -- selective archive
Hello, Ripper -- fanlisting
Behind Blue Eyes