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Fan Fiction: Lesser Men
Chapter Six: Shades of the Past
Wesley stared across the hallway as if transfixed. This was stretching the bounds of coincidence. Now there were two people in the hotel besides Wesley that had something to do with Rupert, one of whom was definitely dangerous. What on earth was going on?
The door opened, and the tall young man from the night before was framed in the opening. Wesley still didn't recognize him, but the name Ethan exclaimed was definitely one he knew.
"Riley Finn?" Wesley murmured. "Buffy's ex-boyfriend, in contact with Ethan Rayne? This can't be good."
Hurriedly, he pulled the key from his pocket again and unlocked the room door. Forget relocating, this business with Ethan and Riley was too important to ignore. It was unlikely that it had anything to do with Connor, but he had most of a day before Rupert would arrive to help him. In the meantime, this was definitely something Rupert would want to know about.
Wesley moved his suitcases back inside the room, then stood there a moment, staring at the telephone in indecision. Should he let anyone else know about this? He didn't exactly want to speak with any of the Angel Investigations staff, but there wasn't anyone else he could inform. Rupert was already on his way, and there really was no point in calling the Slayer unless things got catastrophically out of control.
Well. He could call Cordelia's apartment. She might still be on vacation, and if not, she was likely to be at the Hyperion. Being Cordelia, however, she would probably check her messages often, and would therefore be able to pass the warning along in a timely fashion. Yes. That would work.
Wesley stepped quickly over to the 'phone and dialed Cordelia's number, then carried the instrument back over towards the windows. While it rang, he parted the Venetian blinds at eye-level with finger and thumb, watching the conversation taking place across the way.
After three rings, someone picked up at the other end. "Hello?" Cordelia asked, in a quiet, depressed tone of voice.
Blast. "This day just keeps getting better," Wesley muttered under his breath.
"What? Wes, is that you? Where have you been?" Cordelia spoke much more loudly now, with worry in her tone. The 'phone picked up another voice faintly in the background, asking questions that Wesley couldn't quite hear.
"I can't talk," he said, quickly. "Ethan Rayne is in town. I thought someone should know."
"Wes, where are you?" Cordelia asked again, a little sharp of tone, but also pleading. "Fred was upset. She didn't mean it. We do need you here. If you're still the Wes I thought you were, then you have to fix this. If you don't, I think Angel will go off the deep end."
Wesley swallowed, then resolutely put the receiver down and cut off the call. He was dismayed to find that his hands were trembling. "And what if I can't?" he asked the empty air.
He was uncomfortably reminded of the days after the Blim incident. Despair, guilt, shame; old friends, all three. No. He would not return this time, not until he found Connor again on his own, and perhaps not even then. It was time he moved on, before he caused any more hurt to the people he cared about.
He peered through the Venetian blinds again, and saw Ethan exiting the room, closely followed by Riley. It was time to justify his "private investigator" title. Wesley waited until they were halfway down the corridor, backs to him, then stepped outside, relocked his own door, and followed.
It was more difficult for him to keep pace than he'd hoped. By the time he reached the the sidewalk in front of the bar, he desperately wanted a glass of something numbing. He knew it was stupid to drink with painkillers in his system, but since the painkillers weren't adequately doing their job...
Ah. Door. Wesley entered the bar quietly and stood in the entryway for a moment, carefully scanning the main room for his quarry. In all likelihood, Ethan had no idea what he looked like now, so he wasn't much worried, but instinct told him to be careful. He hadn't the energy to defy Ethan at the moment, and Ethan had a reputation for holding grudges.
Wesley had only been eleven or so the last time he'd seen the man in person. He'd accompanied his father on Council grounds and noticed the young sorcerer hiding in the Library building. Many years later, he'd found out that Ethan had been visiting Rupert that night, trying to coax his old friend back to the streets. Instead, due to Wesley's discovery, Ethan had been forcibly ejected from the property and it had been firmly warded against him.
Wesley frowned. He didn't see Ethan or Riley anywhere visible. That wasn't good. Still... the investigating could wait for a moment. He would sit down, order a drink, and then make every effort to find them and eavesdrop on their conversation. Just as soon as...
"Well, if it isn't the little Watcher," someone said, grinning, in his ear.
Wesley sighed. "Well, there goes that idea."
Ethan laughed. "Sneaking up on us? That wasn't necessary. Why don't you just join us for a drink?" He muttered a few more words, and appeared next to Wesley, accompanied by Riley.
Riley blinked at each of them, nonplussed. "Is this some kind of game?"
Wesley turned to look at them. "I could ask you the same question, Riley Finn. I wasn't aware that you knew Mr. Rayne."
Riley rolled his eyes. "I don't. And I'm not really Riley Finn, either. If I were, I'd be with my wife in Nepal."
"Nepal?" Ethan said, sounding interested.
"Wife?" Wesley asked, confused. If that was meant to be an explanation, it was the weakest one he'd ever heard.
"Let's just get a booth, guys," the Riley look-alike said. "I'm getting impatient here. Let's skip ahead to the explanation part of this little outing."
"Yes, let's," Wesley said, turning his gaze on Ethan.
"All right, all right." Ethan threaded his way to a little table near the left edge of the room, studying him as they went.
Wesley heaved a sigh as he sank into a seat and immediately flagged down a waitress. He was aware of Ethan continuing to watch him, with that little smirk on his face. The youngest member of their party watched them both. Apparently, he didn't want to speak first.
Finally Ethan broke the silence. "You've grown in strength, haven't you? It's really too bad I didn't just borrow you that day, instead of waiting for Rupert. If I'd had a chance to teach you, before the Council sank its teeth into your psyche..."
Wesley snorted, and tilted back his first drink. "Not possible, considering who my father is. I was indoctrinated from the cradle."
Ethan frowned at him. "Oh? Oh! Right. Wyndam-Pryce. One of the senior Watchers."
Wesley gave him the raised eyebrow, and Ethan chuckled.
"That day you got me kicked out wasn't my first visit. I was determined to be a bad influence on Rupert, it's true, but that wasn't all I did on Council grounds. I picked some things up, and I've kept an ear out since." Ethan paused, studying Wesley again. "You know, it's surprising, really; you're nothing like him."
"Who, my father?" Wesley asked, starting on his second glass. "Thank God for that."
"Speaking of fathers who don't resemble their sons..." Ethan drew the sentence out, glancing at the faux Riley.
He grumbled in reply. "I don't know why you're bringing up my dad, but whatever it is, it doesn't matter. I'm adopted."
Ethan nodded, as if something had been confirmed. "I'd been wondering if they ever told you that."
"Why?" The young man shifted in his seat, gripping the table with whitened knuckles as if he wanted to leap right out of his chair. "You've been hinting around at something ever since you knocked on my door. Give me the reason already!"
There it was again: Ethan's trademark dangerous grin. "All right. Ready, then, Jonathan? How's this. I'm your real father."
Wesley choked, spraying alcohol over half the table. Neither Ethan nor the one he'd called Jonathan seemed to notice. Ethan Rayne had a son?
"Say what?" Jonathan seemed just as startled. "But, you're, you're British."
Ethan chuckled. "And you live on the Hellmouth. I didn't just visit the place for Ripper's sake, you know. There's something about it that draws all who have touched the darker arts. When I found out you were going to be born, I meddled with your adoption papers and made sure you went there. It's a handy training ground, isn't it? Now you're almost 21, with power of your own, and a distinct tendency to chaos already. I couldn't be happier."
Jonathan blinked at him. "What are you, Darth Vader?" he said. "I don't believe this."
Of course, if Ethan were Vader, that would put Jonathan in Luke's role. Interesting choice of imagery.
"Look, Jonathan," Ethan said. "I don't expect you to trust me immediately. In fact, I'd be disappointed if you did. I'm just asking that you spend some time with me and decide whether you like what I do. I'm fairly certain you will."
Jonathan fidgeted in his chair for a moment, then stood up. "I'm going to take a break and think about this," he said. "Don't go anywhere." Then he strode off in the direction of the restrooms.
Wesley watched the young man leave the table. Well, that had been informative. Why had Ethan let him sit and listen to the whole thing? What was his role in all of this?
"Ah, he's a good boy," Ethan said, following Jonathan's progress with his gaze. "He'll come around."
Wesley shook his head. "Pardon me if I rather hope otherwise," he said.
Ethan turned back to the table with a smirk and downed his own drink. "So what are you really doing here, Wesley?"
Wesley sighed. Well, was there any point in lying? "It's a long story," he said, gesturing at the bandages on his neck. "I lost Angel's son."
Ethan raised an eyebrow and leaned forward. "Angel has a son?" he asked. "Really? But he's a vampire. I thought that wasn't possible."
"Oh, so did everyone else," Wesley said, waving a hand in the air. Dimly, he was aware that the alcohol was starting to react with the painkillers, and that he'd be better off shutting up now, but it was hard to care.
"You remember all those demonic prophecies," he continued. "The ones about the miracle child, the golden child. That's Connor. He's Angel's son by Darla."
Ethan stared at him. "Fascinating. Yes, I've heard the tales. In fact, I ran into a chap a couple of days ago here in town with a bizarre story about the miracle child and a time-travelling demon. Do you think they might be related?"
Wesley froze, paralyzed by a sudden stab of hope and disbelief. "I... Oh God. I know what this is! I knew there were too many coincidences! It's all... it's all..." He shook his head, trying to find the word, but could only come up with Fred's bit of nonsense. "It's all conflue-y!"
"Ah, Wesley?" Ethan frowned at him. "Are you all right?"
"Not in the slightest!" Wesley exclaimed, suddenly excited. "Do go on! What did he have to say?"
Ethan smiled. "I can do better. I didn't believe his tale, so I captured the events out of his memory. Here." He pulled a small, oval mirror out of his jacket pocket, and faced it towards Wesley. "Watch."
A few words in Latin, and the mirror stopped reflecting Wesley's pale face. It began to glow, with shapes moving softly under a haze of color, and then cleared to show a patch of English countryside.
Wesley watched as a swirling portal sucked all the color out of the scene, then dwindled away, leaving Sahjhan and Holtz standing in a country lane, next to the gate of a private drive. He gasped as he recognized Connor in Holtz' arms. Holtz looked awful, as though he'd been folded, spindled, and mutilated on the passage through the portal, but what Wesley could see of Connor's face was still unmarked and peaceful.
"Good," Wesley sighed. "The protection spell held. I only meant it to last for 48 hours, until we were safely in England, so they can't have been in the Hell dimension for long."
"Shh," Ethan said. "Listen."
Sure enough, there were voices quietly accompanying the scene.
"Where is this place?" Holtz was asking. He sounded a little disoriented.
"This? Sahjhan answered. "Oh, it's the world you jumped from, some number of years in the past."
"In the past?" Holtz flinched. "How far into the past? And, why?"
"Oh, a few decades or so. Not to worry, you'll run no risk of meeting yourself here."
"But, why?" Holtz repeated.
The demon shrugged casually. "Why what?"
"Why bring me here, now? I thought you wanted the child dead. It would have been easier to leave us in that place."
Sahjhan snorted. "Quortoth? Quite the place, wasn't it? Shame how it didn't touch the little nipper, though."
Holtz looked down at Connor, and rubbed the infant's smooth cheek with one rough, singed finger. "How is that possible?"
"I'm not sure," Sahjhan said. "There's a protection spell on him, but I'm not sure how long it will last, or who cast it on him. It might even be the Powers; I've heard that Darla tried to rid herself of him several times, but was never successful."
"That's an interesting theory," Holtz said, straightening his back and speaking with more confidence. "But it's not very helpful to my cause. What happens now?"
Sahjhan laughed. "Well, for starters, we're going to leave the tyke here, at this gate."
"To what purpose?"
"Well, there's no getting out of the prophecy. It states pretty clearly that the father will kill the son. What's more, the confluence of events will make sure that happens in L.A., back in the week you jumped out of. I can't pin down the exact day, but I'm sure of that week. I have sources the humans don't."
"And?" Holtz interrupted the demon's speech. "Get to the point."
Sahjhan obliged. "When you jumped, I had a brilliant idea. Why not send him to the past, and let him grow up as part of a community that hates Angel, souled or not? He'll be an adult now, not an infant, and Angel will have to defend himself. Maybe I'll even get two deaths for the price of one."
Holtz nodded. "And if Angel survives, it will maximize his anguish. Not only did he take his son's life, he missed out on everything that made his son into a man."
Sahjhan smiled. "Exactly. So how about it? Put the kid by the gate, ring the bell, and let's get back to L.A. pronto."
"One last thing," Holtz said. "Why not let me raise him myself, as I intended?"
"Are you kidding?" Sahjhan said. "You'd get attached. You wouldn't want him to die, and everything would get all tangled again. Go on. Put him down."
Slowly, Holtz did so, caressing Connor's cheek one more time as he settled the blanket-wrapped infant on the grassy verge. As he reached for the button that would notify the owners someone was at the gate, the plaque on the gatepost came into view.
"Travers Residence," Wesley read, horrified, as the scene faded back into the original reflection.
Ethan chuckled. "Thought you'd like that. And now that I've done my good deed for the year..." He raised the mirror higher, holding it insistently in front of Wesley's face.
Wesley was puzzled, but he looked again anyway... then gasped. "What have you done?" he exclaimed.
"Oh, it'll only last a few days," Ethan said, laughing. "At least I didn't turn you into a Fyarl, like I did Ripper."
It wasn't Wesley's face reflected in the mirror, anymore. It was Holtz's.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.