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Chapter Three: Jonathan
Fan Fiction: Never Look Back
Chapter Three: Out of the Frying Pan
SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 3:47 AM (11:47 AM, GMT)
They stopped the car a few miles outside of Vegas, at a gas station still in sight of the glow of the strip but far enough out that they were sure no one was chasing them. Jonathan, as the only one in the bunch still presentable in public, was tasked to go into the convenience store and buy a few essentials-- ice, Ziploc baggies, a few snacks, and a box of Band-aids. He paused over the limited spice shelf on his way to the register, remembering a box of garlic powder in another convenience store a month ago, then sighed and shook his head. He'd yet to make a road trip that didn't either begin or end in some kind of adventure. Sometimes both.
Fred took the ice from him as he got back into the car, and transferred some of it into several of the Ziploc baggies. Gunn hissed in pain as she applied one to his bruised cheek and handed him a second one for his damaged knuckles, then gave her a weak, grateful smile. "Thanks, girl. Don't know what I'd do without you."
Lorne, ensconced in the front passenger seat with a fedora to hide his horns and unusual skin tone, chuckled a little and looked back between the seats at the two of them. "I don't know what I'd have done without all of you," he said, animatedly. "It's a good thing the three of you were there with me; he wasn't going to let me go without serious persuasion."
Jonathan started the car and put it in gear, then eased out of the gas station parking lot and back onto the highway. "Hey, that's what we're here for," he said, giving Lorne a brief smile. "You said you needed someone to take care of the baggage on this little trip, right?"
"Baggage." Gunn snorted. "Right. Yeah, and 'persuasion' is what I do best. What did he want you for, anyway? I thought we were just here to touch base with your contacts and buy some stuff for your club that you couldn't get in L.A. What's this DeMarco guy to do with that? I thought he ran the shows at the Tropicana, and we didn't go near there the whole week we were in town."
Lorne sighed. "Oh, he did. Does. It's complicated. I heard about him awhile back, when he was still just a second rate lounge magician; that's pretty common in Vegas, you know, with all the free-floating magic in the air. Rumor around town is that he got his hands on something legitimately mystical several months back, and then he suddenly started moving up the food chain. Until today, though, I had no idea what he was up to."
"And?" Fred prompted. "I mean, it was easy to tell there was something wrong with the people in that casino, to me at least, but they weren't drunk or drugged or sick or anything. Just apathetic, kind of blank."
"Destinies," Lorne said, sounding disgusted. "Stealing destinies. He was running a big scamola with that million dollar prize wheel, capturing people's future blessings on those little chips and sucking them in. The thing's enchanted, of course, with the old black magic so it's rigged to never win. The only problem is, until recently he didn't have a way to separate the really valuable destinies from the rest-- wealth, power, fame, yadda yadda. He found out I could give him that."
"Ouch," Jonathan said with a wince. "That would have sucked. Helping that guy to hijack people's destinies, when all the time he was messing with yours, too."
"I don't really get it, though," Fred said, with a frown. "How do you borrow somebody's destiny? I mean, say you were going to be a gazillionaire because you invented some part that ended up revolutionizing space flight. Only you don't, because he stole your destiny. So what happens next? Does he sell it to some guy who just so happens to have the same talent and knowledge to invent the part? Or could he sell it to anyone and have it still happen? Or does the part just not get invented?"
Lorne frowned, deep in thought. "The first one, I think. DeMarco wouldn't do it if he couldn't make money from it, but Newton's Laws apply to magic as much as everything else; it would be a lot easier to propel a guy already near the goal to a better destiny than a guy who was, say, frying doughnuts at a greasy spoon and never even finished his high school education."
"That's a pretty specialized kind of theft," Jonathan scowled. "Sounds like a buyer's market to me. Makes sense he'd want a way to pick out the kind of destinies people are asking for, not to mention avoiding people who are going to go bankrupt or break their necks skiing."
"Well, he won't be doing it anymore," Gunn said, then moved the ice bag from his knuckles so he could lift a hand to cover his yawn. "Speaking of avoiding people, did anybody call Cordy in the last couple days? Her number showed up on the missed calls on my cell phone this morning, but things have been pretty messy ever since."
Fred shifted on the seat next to him, trying to adjust the microscopic outfit she was wearing for better comfort. DeMarco's men hadn't had Lorne for more than a few hours, but they'd had time to lock him up backstage at the Tropicana and Fred had been forced to go undercover as a dancing girl to find out what room he was in. "I didn't," she answered, distractedly. "I think I left my phone with my suitcase, and since we had to leave without going back to the hotel..."
"Ain't nothin' there we can't replace, Fred," Gunn assured her. "We already had the merchandise and the weapons in the car, and they was chasing us, so... well, we'll be home pretty soon."
She sighed. "I just wish I had something nicer to wear. This is pretty embarrassing, and it binds in some pretty uncomfortable places."
Jonathan glanced up at the rearview mirror, taking in the unhappy frown on her face. "TMI. But you know, I put my duffle out here because of the magic supplies in it, and I think there might be some clothes in the bottom. I don't know about nicer, but they'd at least come closer to fitting than anything these guys might have."
She blinked, and then a relieved smile began turning up the corners of her mouth. "Really? That would be wonderful. Thank you, Jonathan."
"No prob. Next time we stop, I'll get it out of the trunk for you." Sometimes, he thought, being a short guy actually had its uses. Chalk up another one for Jon-o on the Life vs. Jonathan scoreboard; his side was getting higher every day. At this rate, he actually might break even in 2010 or so.
"I don't suppose you had your phone in that bag, too?" Lorne asked hopefully, breaking into his musings. "I don't think any of us have more than two quarters to rub together right now, and it costs more than that to dial Los Angeles from a payphone."
"Actually, I put it in the glove box for emergencies," he said, shrugging. He was still baffled that they'd given him one to start with; it wasn't like he did more than hang out, shift boxes, and cast the odd minor spell. That wasn't much compared to most of the others on the team. "Anybody that called me would call you guys first, so..."
Lorne gave him a thoughtful look, then opened the glove box and started digging through the papers, gum wrappers, and other detritus stuffed inside. "I don't know about that," he said. "I've never even heard of half the spells you use; you're pretty specialized in your own way. What was the one you used to get into my room, by the bye? And why did it only work for you and Gunn? Fred was camouflaged, but I kind of stand out, you know. It would have made getting out a lot easier."
"Oh, just a tempus fugit kind of thing," Jonathan said, shrugging. "Makes time go faster, in a really limited area. I couldn't expand it to cover more than the two of us without burning myself out or attracting notice, and it only really works when no one is paying attention. If they saw a blur and freeze-framed the cameras, they'd still find us."
"Wow," Fred put in, her voice suddenly alive with excitement. "Hey, you're getting pretty good at time manipulation. Can I borrow you sometime next week, after we've finished moving everybody in? I've got some physics theories that are really hard to test unless you can alter time to see the effects better."
"Oh, you're in for it now," Gunn groaned, sounding amused. "You'll never get rid of her once she gets started."
"Charles!" Fred objected, laughing, and pretended to slap him upside the head. Jonathan grinned at the image in the rearview mirror, glad that the tensions of the last twenty-four hours were over and done with. They needed this little break, between Vegas and the Hyperion, to unwind before they had to help all the Sunnydale people unload. The moving van was supposed to arrive sometime this afternoon, and it would probably take several hours to empty it.
"Aha!" Lorne pulled his arm out of the glove box, the cell phone clutched firmly in his green-skinned hand. "Okay, guys, quiet. Princess is going to be upset enough as it is, I don't need you distracting me."
Gunn sighed. "Oh, gimme that. She doesn't scare me." He reached forward between the seats, and Lorne gladly dropped the phone into his hand.
Gunn started to dial the number for Buffy's house in Sunnydale, then glanced at his watch and frowned. "Damn. It's pretty late, isn't it? What was the number at that hotel she's sleeping at?"
"555-2739, same area code," Fred told him. "It was pretty easy to remember; the last four digits spell CRDY."
"Cosmic irony, you think, or did she pick that hotel room on purpose?" Gunn asked, rhetorically, as he finished dialing. "Okay, ringing through."
There apparently wasn't any answer; after several seconds of waiting Gunn sighed and killed the call. "Guess they're out. Hope she didn't leave her cell behind." He dialed again, but once more, there was no answer.
"Buffy's house again, I guess," he finally said, and tried the number he'd originally meant to dial. "Didn't want to wake 'em all up, but maybe they stopped there after patrol?"
"Probably," Jonathan commented. "When we were stalking them, there were lots of times Buffy was up and around at this hour."
Silence filled the car again from Gunn's corner, and Jonathan frowned. No answer at any of the three phones probably meant something big was up, and that wasn't a good thing. He glanced down at the speedometer, then pressed his foot down a little more firmly on the gas pedal. There wasn't much traffic at this hour and they could take highways for most of the distance; no point in being leisurely about it.
"Oh, hey, Angel," Gunn suddenly said. It sounded like someone had answered, after all. "We've been out of contact for the last couple days, and I know we missed at least one call from Cordy. Mind filling us in?"
He was pretty quiet for several minutes after that, punctuating the buzz of Angel's conversation with a few Uh-huh's and No-shit's and a "This is bad, man." When Angel's monologue finally came to a halt, he heaved a deep sigh, and asked a question.
"So, is it bad enough that we need to find an airport, or should we come out there and help you guys? I know we got a limited rental on that truck."
Jonathan glanced over at Lorne and then in the rearview mirror, meeting Fred's puzzled gaze. Yep, something big was up. He frowned and let the speedometer creep up another few mph, hoping there weren't any cops in the area. The last thing they needed was to get pulled over looking like this, but major trouble back home took priority.
"'Kay," Gunn continued, replying to whatever Angel's answer was. "I don't like it, them being all the way out there without us, but if we hurry it up we can probably still fly out sometime Sunday. No way they can rush the Council before then, right? Besides, I don't like the idea of you alone with the chipped wonder, either."
There was another brief pause while Angel said something. Jonathan wished briefly for the enhanced hearing the vampires had, or Wes, or Xander; this was frustrating. One more thing for him to research in his magic books, or to pick Ethan's brain about if he ever came back.
"Yeah, see you in a few, man." Gunn turned the phone off, and sat still for a minute, staring at the back of Jonathan's head. From what Jonathan could see in the mirror, he looked pretty disturbed about something. Which only made sense; 'Council', 'over there', and 'fly out' added up to a trip to England, rescue-style. In no universe did that translate to a good thing.
"Charles?" Fred finally prompted, hesitantly.
He sighed, and shifted on the seat, turning to look at her. "Well, looks like we're going to Sunnydale. Faith's kidnapped, Wes went after her, and the whole Sunnydale gang upped stakes and followed, except for Angel and Spike..."
Good grief, Jonathan thought, as Gunn continued his explanation. So much for sleep anytime soon; who ever said 'no rest for the wicked' had it all backwards.
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