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Fan Fiction: Lesser Men
Chapter Five: Recognition
Jonathan stepped slowly towards the door. On the one hand, he was happy that he'd managed to finish dressing before disaster happened. On the other hand, well, disaster! What was he going to say to the guy? How was he going to explain this?
He paused with one hand on the doorknob, thinking things over again. No, no use hiding; surely a Watcher had magical ways of knowing if the room was empty, and there weren't any other exits except for the windows, which incidentally were next to the door. Maybe he could fake a name and make up some bogus story, but would he be believed?
And perhaps he'd better make sure it was the Watcher, before he just threw open the door. He knew of at least one vamp with a British accent, and obviously, there could be more. Hotels didn't come with the same invite-only protection that homes did, unless you lived in the same room for a real long time. Jonathan stretched up on tip-toe, and put an eye to the peep-hole set into the door.
The man on his doorstep wasn't what he expected. The stranger wasn't the Watcher named Wesley, or anyone else he knew. Jonathan didn't recognize him at all. He looked maybe Giles' age, not all that physically impressive. He was lean and wiry, not overly tall, with brown hair that was starting to recede and brown eyes that were currently narrowed in irritation. He didn't look like a vampire, since he seemed to be breathing, but Jonathan had a creeping feeling that the man had strength far beyond what could be seen.
There was only one way to tell what was going on. Jonathan took a deep breath, wrapped a hand around the stake in his pocket, and opened the door.
"Riley Finn?" the man exclaimed, then started to laugh. "This is totally unexpected! And possibly quite delightful. I've been looking forward to the opportunity for payback."
Jonathan blinked, and instinctively retreated a few steps into the room. His disguise had been recognized? And not in a good way, apparently. There was something about that smile, something in the tone of the laughter that made his skin crawl.
He cleared his throat and raised his hands palm-out in front of him, trying to ward off trouble. "Look, I don't know what you're here about, but..."
The Englishman laughed again, cutting him off. "Don't try to play innocent with me, you Initiative bastard. I spent nearly two years in a cell in Nevada because of you. Now, tell me where to find Jonathan Levinson, and I'll cut the torture in half."
Jonathan stumbled backwards again, and collided with the edge of the bed. He sat down hard, trying desperately to think of a way out, and could find none. Maybe this was the universe's idea of justice. Fess up, and be punished for his own crimes. Fake it out, and be punished for someone else's.
"Uh, what do you want Jonathan for?" Jonathan crossed his fingers mentally. There was still a fraction of a chance that the guy didn't work for either Warren or Mr. Giles.
"Does it matter?" the man asked him. "Let's just say I have a birthday present for him. And here you are, occupying the very room I tracked him to. I was mildly confused when the manager gave me your description instead of his, but now it all makes sense. One more punishment for old Ethan. Well, you're not going to get the better of me this time."
By the time Ethan had finished his little speech, his face had twisted into a snarl, and his tone of voice had gone from mocking to bitter. It was all very confusing to Jonathan. So this guy might be on Jonathan's side? But why? What reason could there be for anyone to punish a complete stranger by kidnapping Jonathan?
"Look, this isn't making much sense to me," Jonathan said, gathering his courage together. "And I'm not really Riley Finn, so I'd appreciate it if you back off. I'm just borrowing his face for awhile."
"Borrowing his...?" Ethan stopped short. His eyes narrowed, and he looked Jonathan over a little more carefully this time. "But that would mean..." Then suddenly, his expression cleared, and he started laughing again.
Jonathan raised his eyebrows. There was no menace in the laughter, this time, that he could hear. What was going on?
Finally, Ethan stopped for a breath. "Ohhh, I should have been watching for this. Blood will tell, after all, and you have been learning magic."
"What?" Jonathan gaped at him. "What do you mean?"
Ethan smiled at him. "I think I saw a bar across the street. I have a lot to explain, and I don't really want to do it in some filthy hotel room."
"But I..." Jonathan tried to protest.
"Oh, come on. You'll be 21 tomorrow, Jonathan, that's close enough." Ethan turned and walked out into the hallway again, throwing a mischeivous look over his shoulder at Jonathan. "Or don't you want to know what this is all about?"
What the hell, Jonathan thought. He was doomed regardless. And what else did he have to do?
He sighed, then followed Ethan out the door, shaking his head as he went. "Next time, I'm going to be more careful picking my disguise."
Ethan chuckled. "Oh, I would have found you eventually," he replied, glancing briefly over his shoulder at Jonathan as he walked. "But, you're right. Riley Finn wasn't a very good choice. What made you pick him?"
Jonathan wrinkled his brow, studying Ethan's profile, wondering how much he should tell. If he said it had been prepared in the interest of distracting Buffy, he'd be pretty much admitting what he was running away from. But what other excuse could he use?
Suddenly, he realized that he had seen Ethan before. Back in the year the swimming team had gone whacko. Back in the year he'd finally noticed that everything was going whacko. "Wait a minute," he said, alarmed again, and stopped walking. "I have a question for you first. You're the guy from the costume shop, right? The one that sold me a frog costume?"
Ethan stopped a few feet ahead of him and turned around, wearing a strange expression on his face. "Yes, actually. I'm rather surprised you remember."
"How could I forget?" Jonathan's voice rose in horror. "I was picking bug parts out of my teeth for days! Ugh!" He shuddered. "I should have taken the knight costume I wanted first!"
Ethan chuckled. "But you had a lot less chance of being injured as a giant frog, you must admit."
"You did that on purpose?" Jonathan couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Well," Ethan shrugged, "I was there in the interests of chaos, but chaos is, after all, a balancing force. Someone had to be the frog. Why not you?"
"That isn't really an answer." Jonathan scowled at the Englishman.
"Oh, but it is," Ethan said, laughing. "I may be a servant of Janus, but there's nothing stopping me from mixing business with personal matters."
"Who are you, anyway?" Jonathan demanded. "Seems like you already know a lot about me."
Ethan turned and started walking again, up to the edge of the street. "I could hardly avoid it," he said. "Since..."
Abruptly, he cut himself off and squinted back over Jonathan's shoulder. "We're being followed, and... well." He smiled, the dangerous smile Jonathan had seen first. "Well, well, well. Someone else is about to join the party. Come."
Jonathan scowled again, but followed Ethan anyway as he set out across the street. "Whatever, man. I'm getting sick of the mystery routine."
Ethan didn't comment. He hurried into the bar, then stepped to one side and gripped Jonathan tightly around the upper arm. Just when Jonathan was about to protest, Ethan began chanting quietly in Latin, and the world began dimming around them. It stopped at about half-light, but all of a sudden people weren't noticing them anymore.
"Whoa," Jonathan whispered. "That's pretty cool."
"Shhhh." Ethan admonished him. "Being invisible doesn't help if they can hear you."
"Duh," Jonathan said, rolling his eyes. As if he didn't already know that from the whole invisibility-ray disaster. Just thinking about it made his skin smart where Buffy had pulled his chest-hair.
They waited there a moment, then the door swung open once more and their pursuer stepped inside. It was Wesley. Jonathan still didn't know the Watcher's last name, but he knew what illness looked like, and uneasiness, and the guy looked like he was weighted down by both, even without the neck bandage.
Ethan was grinning again. Jonathan frowned at him. What was so funny about this? Wesley was pale and sweating, and the bandage was showing spots of fresh blood. He obviously wasn't here for the hell of it. He looked worried. And, given Ethan's attitude, maybe he had a right to be.
"Well, if it isn't the little Watcher," Ethan finally said, grinning, leaning over next to Wesley's ear.
Wesley sighed. "Well, there goes that idea."
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.