Worth It
written by Laura Shapiro

Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Minor ones for The Dark Age, Halloween, and Band Candy.
Summary: Ethan and Ripper, London, 1974.
Thanks: A thousand thanks to Spike for patient midwifery and insightful suggestions.
Feedback Author: Laura Shapiro
Author's LJ: Laura Shapiro

London. 1974.

"Are you sure you're not coming?"

"Ripper --" Ethan hesitated, the "darling" on the tip of his tongue. Ripper abhorred the use of pet names, and when Ethan needed to he could usually catch himself, often just in the nick of time. "You know I'd love to, but this headache is just murder."

Ripper turned away. Ethan watched him bend and heft the amp on his shoulder with a quiet grunt. "Could take a bloody pill," Ripper muttered around his cigarette, reaching for his guitar case with his free hand.

So strong, Ethan thought. Mine.

"I have done, but it's not working." Ripper didn't turn around. "It's not as if I *like* to miss your big gig." Ethan rose, moved toward him. "Look, I'll try a few cantrips and see if I can't get rid of the thing. If it works, I'll be there in time for your second set." He met his lover's dark green gaze." All right?"

The tight little upward twist of Ripper's smile warmed Ethan to the core. He could be a brute sometimes, but oh yes, it was worth it. Ethan allowed himself the briefest glimmer of a smile as well, then turned back to his desk. No need to go all gooey.

"Knock 'em dead."

The door banged.

A few cantrips. Yes indeed.

* * * * *

Ethan collected the few items he needed, spread them out on the floor in the appropriate pattern, and began lighting the candles. He couldn't quell the bouncy feeling of anticipation, familiar enough when preparing to cast, but more intense than usual. He couldn't wait to see the look on Ripper's face.

A less complicated man might have been satisfied with his lover's body, which bloomed with the natural magnificence of youth blessed with good genes. Broad shoulders, sparkling grey-green eyes, strong hands, and sweetly curving cock were enough for some. Others would have been contented with the unrefined but powerful workings of Ripper's mind, flourishing under Ethan's tutelage into something finely-honed and dangerous, though frequently hidden. But Ethan wanted something that Ripper would not willingly share.

It had to do with the band.

Ripper rarely spoke to him about his music, and he was especially guarded about the band. The few things he had let slip indicated his frustration with Arn, the lead singer. Ethan inferred from this Ripper's deep desire to have more control in the group, to step out into the spotlight, to lead. And to take them all the way to the top.

Not that Ripper had said as much in so many words. Ethan had gleaned this information primarily from observing the high that washed over his lover in bright glimmering waves after every gig, when Ripper would forget himself and rhapsodize about how it felt to be onstage, how soon they could get that record deal, and how they were going to be famous. The man positively glowed with power and pride, and once dragged home from the pub, he would take Ethan with rare intensity.

Ripper clearly envisioned a future in his music. A future, his lover suspected, without Ethan in it.

This was precisely why Ethan had prodded him away from his studies at Oxford and led him instead into the black arts. Anything that Ripper did by himself could only give him the keys to an Ethanless future. And now he'd simply replaced scholarship with grotty rock and roll.

Ethan had to be a part of this, needed every speck and shred of Ripper's life, needed every word casually dropped, to hoard and gloat over in secret -- Ripper's beautiful voice, his incredible facility with language, when he chose to speak! But of course the direct approach was no answer. Though it obviously mattered very much to Ripper that Ethan appear at his deafening concerts, any direct inquiry about his plans or goals was met with noncommittal grunting or stony silence. It was maddening.

Ethan paused to clear his head, lifted a pinch of leaves and dried insects from the small brazier, and chanted over them. He then replaced them and set them alight with one of the candles. Carefully, he upended a small bottle over the burning mass and, with a few harshly spoken words, captured the potent smoke.

If Ripper craved stardom, Ethan would give it to him. Ethan was certainly eager to give Ripper anything and everything he longed for... provided Ethan as well would reap the rewards.

He stoppered the bottle, put it in his pocket, and blew out the candles. This next bit required proximity.

* * * * *

As he had promised, Ethan arrived in time for the second set. The band had not yet reappeared, and he pondered heading backstage to wish them good luck. No. Nothing that might break his concentration.

He skimmed the crowd, shoving his way down front. Just approaching the bar was the anticipated record company executive, unmistakable with his tidily clipped hair and "look, I'm cool" ill-fitting suede jacket, stiff with newness and entirely stain-free. Ethan watched him order a drink and surmised that he, like Ethan, had missed the first set. So much the better.

This was by far the largest venue they had ever played, and that in itself would have made Ripper nervous, even if Mr. Megadeal hadn't been scheduled to appear. No worries, though -- the place was packed. Ethan allowed himself a moment of pleasure at the thought of the manic energy Ripper was doubtlessly attempting to conceal from his thickheaded and sincere bandmates as they prepared to take the stage for the most important gig of their lives.

The club owner appeared at the mic and shouted something more or less unintelligible, and the papered house exploded into raucous cheering as Ripper and the others strode out, half cocky and half abashed.

Arn took center as he always did, the self-involved bastard. As the thumping and grinding of a Bowie cover filled the room, Ethan forced himself to bide his time. Let them compare. Let them see how much better Ripper is than this poor sod.

The audience moved languidly to the beat, swaying a bit, generally interested but not enthralled. Just wait. You will be. Ethan pulled the bottle from his pocket and edged just a bit closer to the stage. Soon. And then you will all see.

The song ground to a halt and the audience cheered and clapped and stamped, and he watched Ripper make a minor adjustment to one of his guitar strings. He was looking at Arn, waiting for the cue. Arn approached the mic.

"This next one's an original by Ripper here. It's called 'White Darkness'." Oh, perfect.

Ethan uncorked the bottle and spoke a single word, just as the opening chords drizzled out of the amps. The smoke swirled like a live thing out of the bottle's neck, growing and pulsating to the beat of the drum as it sped to the stage. Ethan watched in quiet confidence as the ethereal being, invisible to all but its creator, wrapped itself around the lead singer.

Time seemed to slow for Ethan, as it always did when he watched one of his laboriously crafted spells take effect. The rush was beyond mere pride, was almost sexual; bitter, harsh, and warming like the first drag off a cigarette. It never failed to thrill him, or to please him, watching the fruits of his labor. And this time more than ever, for never yet had it meant so much.

The wraithlike creature slid against Arn's neck, and when Arn opened his mouth to sing, it dove in, shooting down his throat and disappearing. Arn's first note, barely formed, died in a rasping gargle and then silence as surprise and alarm formed over his thick features.

Ethan was only too glad to shift his gaze to Ripper, who moved forward to the mic. Even as he searched Arn's face with concern, he didn't miss a beat. The silken notes slid out from between Ripper's lips, his throaty baritone making Ethan vibrate down to his toes. The show must go on, thought Ethan. Oh, very good, my love.

Ethan now moved backwards and into the crowd, the better to observe their reaction. His lover glowed like a god in the club's garish lighting, his eyes closing occasionally in emotion or concentration as he soared to a high note. His corded arms gleamed as he caressed the instrument slung across his hips, and power flowed off the stage and into the audience in waves. Ethan knew Ripper could feel that power, saw him become drunk with it as it rushed back to him flavored with the audience's adoration, their lust, their screams.

Pleasure zinged hotly through Ethan's veins. Now you will all see him as I do, he thought, and felt an unpleasant twinge. But I won't lose him to you, oh no. He will owe it all to me.

Ethan took a deep breath. He had nothing whatever to worry about. He headed back to the bar to enjoy the show.

* * * * *

"Did you hear that crowd? Did you *hear* them?" Ethan raved, struggling to fit his key into the lock. It was rather difficult with Ripper leaning against him, breathing beerily into his neck. Not that he actually minded, but...

Finally the knob turned and they fell into the room. Ripper threaded his hands into Ethan's hair and kissed him hungrily, if sloppily. Ethan smiled into the kiss, savoring his lover's thick, sour-sweet tongue. This was more like it.

Ripper's hands rose to Ethan's collar, struggling with buttons. Ethan broke the kiss and breathed into his ear, "You were incredible tonight."

A roguish grin twinkled across his lover's face, and Ethan's heart shattered predictably into a million pieces. True smiles, the ones that hit his eyes, were rare. "Not yet. But I will be. If you'll get your sodding clothes off."

"Not yet? My dear, you utterly destroyed them!" Ethan removed his shirt. "Didn't that silly record company man give you his card?"

"Don't call us, we'll bloody call you," Ripper murmured into Ethan's chest. He briefly tongued one nipple and Ethan shivered. Ripper could disarm him with a touch, even when drunk. Especially when drunk, when his passion knew no barriers. Ethan would take passion over precision any day. "Besides, it was Arn he really wanted to hear."

Now *this* wouldn't do at all. Ethan pulled Ripper closer, basking in his ripe scent, and slid his hand down his belly to cup the growing erection. "That is entirely untrue," he purred. "Certainly, he may have assumed that Arn was the front man, but when you --"

The other man broke contact suddenly, and threw himself at their dilapidated sofa. He bent to remove his boots, and Ethan enjoyed the line of his back. Ripper was quiet, but Ethan could feel the eros draining out of him, along with pride and adrenaline and everything else that had made the night electric. He just looked tired.

Ethan joined him on the sofa. "You're not worried about Arn, are you?"

Ripper ran his hand through his sweat-damp blond hair. "The bloke's never been sick a day in his life. All of a sudden he can't sing, can't speak...you should have seen his face."

Ethan hadn't counted on Ripper having any sort of feelings for the lead singer. "It's probably nothing. I'm sure he'll be fine." Eventually. Once Ripper had the success he wanted, they could afford to be magnanimous to the overbearing git.

"It didn't look like nothing. He looked...he was afraid." Honestly, his lover's occasionally soft heart could be positively tiresome. Ethan stroked Ripper's back, began kneading the muscles, and was rewarded with a sigh.

"Darling, I'm sure he *was* afraid -- afraid that you'd show everyone who should really be leading the band." Carefully. Carefully.

Ripper turned to face him, searchingly. He swallowed. "Do -- do you really think so?"

Ethan almost let himself relax. I was right, he crowed to himself. "I know it. Come on, Ripper, you know it too. You took that stage like you owned it. You are going to be a star."

Good lord, was he blushing? He was! Ripper ducked his head, seeming to look for a distraction. He found Ethan's thigh next to his and began stroking it, first softly and then with a purpose. Ethan felt the small hairs rise all over his body. He took Ripper's face in his hands.

"I was so proud of you tonight," he whispered. And then his lover's mouth was on his own, tongue stabbing roughly and exuberantly. Ripper's hands slid over his bare chest, pausing to thumb his nipples and then clutching his arms and pulling Ethan against him, almost into his lap. Ethan responded breathlessly, rubbing himself against Ripper like a cat. Ripper broke the kiss to drag his teeth none too gently across Ethan's throat.

"Oh yes," Ethan breathed, and Ripper sucked hard enough to bruise, the sting-ache of it forcing Ethan's eyes closed. For a moment he could do no more than feel, be there in the intensity of it, and then he was grappling with Ripper's jeans. "I want you, lover. I want you now."

He got the zipper open, snaked his hand inside, felt Ripper hard and raging, felt himself surge in response. He leaned forward to take Ripper in his mouth, but the other man stopped him.

"Tell me again how I looked tonight."

Ethan stroked Ripper's cock and murmured, "you were a god, bathed in golden light. They adored you."

"Uhh...go on..."

With delight, Ethan watched desire transform his lover's face. He moved his thumb up to capture moisture from the tip of Ripper's cock and then smoothed it over the swollen shaft. "They worshipped you, and well they should. You were a blond Apollo. Gorgeous. And they hung on every word you sang."

Ripper had leant his head back against the sofa, eyes closed. His hips were moving slightly now, his hand rested on the back of Ethan's neck, fingers digging into the meat of his shoulder. His lover's beauty and that hard pressure against his neck made Ethan's cock strain almost painfully.

And *I* did this for him.

"They couldn't get enough of you." I can't get enough of you. Oh Ripper, I will never, ever have enough of you.

Breathing fast and hard, hips rising to Ethan's strokes, Ripper was close. Now the coup de grace.

"It was a magical evening. I'm so glad I could be a part of it."

Ripper's hand covered Ethan's, stopped it moving. "What do you mean?"

"Just that since my little cantrips worked, you won't have to worry about Arn anymore. Now it's *your* band, and everyone who sees you will know that you're the star." Ethan tried to resume his caress, but Ripper shoved him roughly away.

Startled, Ethan met eyes that shone acid green with suspicion and fragmented lust. "What have you done?"

"Only the most sensible thing in the world, my dear. I summoned a wraith to take Arn's nasty voice away." Ripper started, stood awkwardly, shoving his erection back into his jeans. Not quite the reaction he'd been hoping for. "I must say, I had perfect timing, too. Just when you were starting 'White Darkness' -- haven't you told me he wouldn't even let you sing your own songs? I couldn't have done better."

Silence. Ethan looked at Ripper's sweatsoaked back. Come on, love. I did it for you. You know you wanted it, you just didn't know how to ask. Now we both can have what we've always wanted.

Tell me how wonderful I am.

Ripper turned on him, redfaced, shaking with rage, his face a demon's snarl. "What the hell did you do a thing like that for?!"

Ethan met his eyes and his rage, measure for measure. "What do you think I did it for, you stupid bastard!"

Oh, excellent, Ethan. Lay all your cards on the table. Now you've got nothing left. All this he thought while keeping his eyes firmly on Ripper's, while making sure his face was an equal mask of rage.

And held it. And it was enough. He watched in triumph as Ripper's face softened in comprehension, and something that Ethan couldn't fathom. Guilt? Oh, gods, let it be guilt. Then I'll know just how to handle him. Then he'll never leave me.

Ripper turned away again, leaned against the wall for a moment. "I'm sorry, I've -- I'm a bit knackered. I think I'll go out, get some air." He reached for his jacket, and Ethan intercepted him with a hand on his arm, a hint of a caress.

"Shall I wait up for you, then?" Show me your eyes, lover.

"No, don't -- don't bother." Ripper lifted his glance and, reading the need there, Ethan could relax.

"You really were wonderful tonight, you know. And would have been, spell or no spell."

Just a breath of a pause, to let Ethan know that he'd heard, and then Ripper was gone into the night.

He'd be back, though. When Ethan was asleep, he'd feel Ripper crawl into bed, chilled with the night air and reeking of smoke and sweat. He'd feel those strong arms reach for him, pull him close in the darkness.

A little energy spent, a few boons owed to chaos. Perhaps the faintest smidgen of risk, but it was amply rewarded, and the fear had heightened his senses so pleasantly. When Ripper returned, there would be no more doubt, no more words.

Oh yes. It had all been worth it.