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Fan Fiction: Lesser Men
Chapter Four: Voices in the Dark
Wesley snorted softly as he walked into his hotel room. On another night, the spectacle he'd just witnessed might have been rather amusing. A grown man, as tall as Wesley and twice as muscular, in an apparent battle to the death with a door? Well, it was more believable than many other things he'd had the pleasure to witness.
Wesley set his suitcases on the floor by the door. It was a good thing he'd had the extra set, and that he hadn't packed any of his books for the trip to England. If he had, they'd be in the SUV now, wherever Justine had left it. Fortunately, he'd been assuming that Rupert would have anything he would, and more, and that together they might unearth a way to save both Angel and his child.
Rupert! The person on duty at the hotel desk had told him that today was Thursday, or would be, as soon as the sun rose. Giles had been expecting to pick him up at the airport Wednesday night! Wesley hurriedly calculated the hour in his mind, then crossed the room to the telephone.
Bending over made his head swim, and Wesley knew the spell he'd used to block the pain and keep himself mobile was beginning to deteriorate. Hurriedly, he sat on the bed, pulling the 'phone into his lap so that he might dial without having to stretch any muscles.
While Wesley waited for the call to connect, he took in the room around him. The decor was pure Urban American Decay, all must and stain, in faded 1970's coloring. It was quite cheerless, actually. Not where one might expect to find an Englishman of upper-class heritage, but who needed luxury, really?
"Giles residence." The older man's tone was brusque, worried. "That had damned well better be you, Wesley."
"Unfortunately," Wesley agreed. He rubbed his forehead with the hand that wasn't gripping the receiver, trying to focus his thoughts.
"Well? You obviously aren't here. What's happened?"
"Everything." Wesley sighed. What to tell first? Nearly getting caught? Letting his guard down and getting his throat slit? Losing Connor to a madman who had jumped with him through a portal to Hell?...
There was silence on the other end for a moment, then, "Wesley. I'd appreciate a little more detail, if you can manage it."
"Well," Wesley answered. "Do you want the short version? I failed."
"Try the long version. It might make a bit more sense." Somehow, Giles managed to convey both patience and irritation with the same sentence.
Wesley sighed again, bitterly. "I was about to drive to the airport when one of Holtz' minions showed up. She claimed she had seen the light, that she was leaving Holtz' employ, and I believed her. No wonder people think of me a failure; I'm much too gullible. She nearly took my head off with her knife, then took Connor away."
"Wesley! Are you all right?" The distant voice shifted audibly from irritation to concern.
"I'm alive, at any rate." Wesley swallowed, trying to blink the haze from his vision, then cleared his throat and continued. "According to Fred, Holtz took Connor and jumped throught a portal to some Hell-dimension or other."
Another pause. Then, decisively, "You should rest. Give me your address, and I'll be there tomorrow. We can continue this discussion then."
Wesley winced. "Perhaps I'd better solve this one myself, Rupert. I have no doubt that Angel will be hunting me, and I have no wish to involve you further in a mess of my own making."
"Oh, do shut up, Wesley. Don't be dramatic. I'll be there tomorrow morning-- that'll be Friday afternoon by your clock. What's the name of your hotel?"
Was it childish of him, Wesley wondered, to feel a sense of relief at Giles' words?
The conversation wound up very shortly, and he set the phone to one side, staring up at the ceiling. He knew he should clean up, rebandage, and get something to drink before he allowed himself to sleep, but there was no way he was moving from the bed tonight. Exhaustion, drugs, and the after-effects of trauma were dragging him down into a deep, dark pit, and there was no escaping it. With a sigh, he let go and closed his eyes.
"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, I presume."
The voice was soft and mocking, and naggingly familiar to Wesley, but no matter where he looked he could not see the speaker. That was perhaps not surprising, as he couldn't actually see much of anything except himself. He was standing alone, on a featureless, smooth black plain that extended as far as the eye could see. The only light came from the stars scattered across the night sky above, and their reflection on the glossy floor below. It was a curious effect, as though he were alone in the depths of interstellar space, and Wesley knew without question that this had to be a dream.
The voice spoke again, whispering and full of laughter. "You think you know... what's to come... what you are. You haven't even begun."
Wesley frowned. He'd heard that phrase before; something to do with Buffy and the First Slayer. Giles had shared many of his notes in that drunken summer between Buffy's second death and her resurrection. This dream could be using those memories in a construction of his unconscious, trying to deal with the recent upheavals in his life, but somehow he doubted that.
"Don't you have anything original to say?" he challenged the empty cosmos.
Mocking laughter. "It's as true for you as it has been for all the others," it replied. "Why should we change our ways?"
Wesley was abruptly aware of a presence behind him, as if a switch had been flipped in his subconscious. He spun around dizzily on the smooth black surface and found himself face to face with a person he had hoped not to see again, anytime in the near future: Faith. The rogue Slayer. His Slayer, in the days when his name had meant something positive to the Watcher's Council.
She smirked at him, and he realized that she had been the one speaking.
"And why choose her image as your avatar?" he demanded, obscurely upset.
She lifted her hand and blew a kiss at him, then turned and sashayed away. Her footsteps made no sound, but her laughter carried easily to his ears. "Beware," she said, and then she was gone.
Wesley's state of mind upon awakening Thursday afternoon was a lot like it had been in the wee hours Thursday morning. There was the disorientation of waking someplace unknown, mixed with a heavy dose of pain and the distinct sense that there had been an important noise calling for his attention.
After a few seconds, the telephone rang again. The shreds of dream Wesley had been clinging to faded as he fumbled at the 'phone, very glad that he'd left it on the bed when he fell asleep the night before. "Ah... Hello?"
"Wesley, are you all right?" It was Giles.
"As all right as I was when I dozed off, which isn't very," Wesley answered, matter-of-factly. "Is something wrong?"
"Well, I tried to ring your room a few minutes ago, and apparently reached room 21 instead of room 12. The man that answered recognized my voice."
"Do you know who it was?" Wesley asked. His imagination prompted him with images of Angel hunting him down, or perhaps Gunn putting his knowledge of the town's low-rent hotels to use.
Oh, Wesley knew he was being a bit paranoid. They would have confronted him directly instead of taking a room, and he was probably over-estimating their hostility towards him. Perhaps they were giving him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were deep in researching Connor's location themselves. All the same...
"No," Giles answered, interrupting his train of thought. "No, not for certain. I'm positive that I've heard the voice before, but I'm having difficulty recalling the name."
Wesley sighed. "Well, what did he say?"
"Not much," Giles answered. His voice was more puzzled than worried, now. "In fact, he seemed somewhat afraid of me. Nevertheless, I am concerned that this man has shown up just now, in the same hotel. Perhaps you should relocate."
Wesley frowned. "I had hoped to spend the next day recuperating," he said. "But I suppose you're right. How will you know where I am?"
"Turn your mobile on," Giles said. "I'll ring you when we land tomorrow morning."
The conversation wound to a close, and Wesley put the 'phone back on the rickety bedside table where it belonged. He stared at the ceiling for several minutes more, working up his courage, then slowly sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the mattress.
Well. He wouldn't be running any marathons today, but he could perhaps make it to another hotel. He was weak, tired, and his vision blurred with pain every time the stitches pulled, but he had painkillers in his suitcase, and spare bandaging. Surely, it was safe enough here to take a shower before he left? Giles hadn't sounded particularly alarmed.
By the time he turned the water off and reached for a towel, Wesley was feeling a lot more human. He even worked up enough energy to retrieve a razor from his luggage and do something about the stubble shading his cheeks and chin. Then he dressed, taking his time, and packed everything back up.
When all was done, Wesley picked up his suitcases, took one last glance around, and then exited the room. He paused for a moment to lock the door and pocket the key, then looked around, scanning the other doors for the number 21.
When he located it, he blinked, surprised. It was the door he'd seen the young man having trouble with, when he'd arrived. He hadn't felt the slightest twinge of recognition at the time. But the man at the door now?
"Open up," said the older British man standing there, clearly addressing the occupant of the room. "I am perfectly aware that you are still in there, whoever you are."
"Ethan Rayne," Wesley whispered to himself. "What is he doing here?"
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.