See Chapter 1 for disclaimers.
by Mike Dewar
I guess it’s in moments like these that Watchers really shine. I have to hand it to Wes, within five minutes of us getting back to the office, he was rocketing around on crutches, reading as he went. Of course, when you move at speed on crutches while reading books, disaster is almost guaranteed.
“ Ouch!” Wesley’s distressed voice came from the main body of the apartment, accompanied by a teeth-rattling crunch. I stared longingly at the pork sandwich I was making, and then, with a sigh of surrender, I went to help the beleaguered Watcher. So much for my late-night research snack-fest.
Fortunately for Wesley, he’d managed to land on one of the cardboard boxes of assorted research stuff he’d had brought in earlier. The books inside were probably a bit worse for wear, but Wesley’s skull was still intact. As I reached down to lend his feeble figure a hand, a crutch nearly took my head off.
“ Hey, watch it!” I yelped. “Save the stunning blows to the head for the bad guys!”
“ Oh, um, sorry,” Wesley apologised, giving me a distressed look. Grabbing hold of his arm, I heaved him to his feet. “ Thank you, I...um...slipped.”
“ I never would have guessed,” I answered dryly, glancing at the flattened box Wesley had landed on. The Watcher, following my gaze, gave a little yelp of dismay and began to prod gingerly at his precious research supplies.
“ Oh dear…” he said, inspecting the label. “That had quite an interesting set of tomes on fire demons in it…” From the scholarly look on his face, I could just tell a lecture on how useful knowing about fire demons would be to our operation was approaching. “Because after all, fire demons are surprisingly common and remarkably perilous…”
Who says you need to get mind-numbing visions to see the future?
I broke in. “ As intriguing as this is, man, don’t you think we should focus on the big, angry demons we’re supposed to kill?”
Wesley nodded as if I had made a very radical, yet interesting, point. “Yes, of course. They’ll be time enough for fire demons later.”
“ Can’t wait,” I told him, laying on the irony with a big trowel.
“ Anyway, back to the matter at hand…” Wesley sniffed eagerly. “Do I smell pork?”
“ I’ll make you a sandwich,” I said, praying for strength. “You get with the research, I’ll start buttering.”
“ Thank you very much,” Wesley replied, pottering towards my table. I turned and headed for the kitchen. “Could you add some lettuc -" I ignored the rest.
I spent the next fifteen minutes in a happy little world of my own, slicing pork and spreading mayonnaise, ignoring the constant muttering and occasional thuds coming from the rest of the apartment.
Unfortunately, I finally reached the point at which I had made as many pork sandwiches as was humanly possible. Plus, I ran out of mayonnaise. As I wandered out of the kitchen, carrying two plates with badly constructed sandwiches stacked high, I saw Wesley over by my table speaking urgently into the phone.
“ Yes, I understand that!” he said sharply. “Yes, resources are limited…that’s all very well, but I have a serious situation here…no, there’s no other way…Watchers aren’t exactly common in California, you know! Well, Rupert Giles lives on a Hellmouth and I can’t very well get to him with a broken leg, can I? I’m doing the best I can…you have to contact them, I -"
Wesley started violently, dropping the phone. As the receiver banged against the side of my table, I heard an irate British voice say tinnily, ”Hello? Are you there, Wyndham-Pryce?” There was the click of a disconnecting line.
Wesley shook with adrenalin. “You gave me a terrible start,” he said nervously. “I nearly lost control of my bowel movements!”
“ Well, we can all be thankful you didn’t,” I said easily. “Who was on the phone?”
“ The, um, Watcher’s Council,” Wesley said, taking a step back, like he expected me to clobber him for consorting with his Watcher pals.
“ Oh? Anything interesting to say about our friends the Torunaks?” I asked, plonking the sandwiches down on the table, which seemed weighted with a few too many books just for researching one species. I guess Wes was still trying to order my collection at the same time.
Wesley seemed quite surprised at my reaction, as if he’d expected something quite different. He obviously thought that I agreed with Faith about the usefulness of Watchers. To be honest, I’d never thought about it much. “Uh, no, not really.”
Looked like Faith had a point.
I shrugged and clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, nice try anyway.” Wesley flinched; obviously he was still shook up from the fight. “Sorry,” I apologised.
“ No, no problem really,” he said, bending over the sandwiches and prodding at them.
“ What’s the matter?” I asked cheerfully, trying to boost the mood a little. “Don’t you like my cooking?”
Wesley stared at the curling sandwiches in vague horror. While he gingerly nibbled at one staring into the distance, I let my eyes roam over the table. Lying shoved off to one side, left over from Wes’s filing, was a book with a cursory drawing of a Brachen. I hastily slammed it shut, hoping Wes hadn’t seen it. “So, what do we have on our new bestest pals?” I asked, sitting casually down on the corner of the already creaking table, circumspectly pushing the book off the edge as I did so.
Wesley’s eyes refocused on me. “What? Oh, yes. Torunaks…there really doesn’t seem to be anything of interest beyond what we already know. They like darkness and tunnels, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a demon who doesn’t. They’re also very in favour of vengeance. Wrong one, and the entire clan comes calling.”
“ Wonderful. Do you think chopping one of them up into chicken nuggets qualifies as ‘wronging’?” An entire clan of those things. I really missed Faith about then.
“ I see your point,” Wesley said soberly. He perked up a little. "I could probably simulate their mating call with some accuracy, though.”
“ Great,” I said. ”If I can’t get a date on a Saturday night, you’ll be the first man I call.” Wesley shot me a sharp look. “Kidding.”
I bit into one of my own sandwiches with a mixture of displeasure and resignation.
I can’t cook, I know this. However, over the years, I’ve learnt to shut down my taste buds when necessary, so as to make it through a full meal when I can’t afford takeout. From the fact that Wesley hadn’t made it halfway through his sandwich, I guessed Watcher training hadn’t taught him this valuable skill. “So what now?” I asked through a mouthful of pork.
Wesley shrugged, daintily placing the rejected sandwich down on its plate. “I could ask you the same question. I’m drawing a bit of a blank.”
“ Well, let me lend a hand. Double the brainpower and all.” I picked up a book at random and something white and thin slid off the table from beneath it. I bent down to scoop it up and froze.
It was a faded picture of Harry and me at a picnic. I’d finished my classes early that day, so we went to go and pick up some lunch, to eat on the beach…I felt sick to the pit of my stomach.
“ Where did you get this?” I asked Wesley quietly, holding the photo cupped in my hand.
“ Where did you *get* this, Wesley?” I demanded furiously. “Have you been poking around my stuff?” I could feel the tingling on my skin - I was on the edge of the change, but I was so angry I didn’t care.
“ No,” he answered with quiet dignity, but there a hint of fear in his eyes. “I went to fetch a book from your bedroom. I bent over to pick it up off the bed, rather too hastily, I fear, and lost my balance. I grabbed onto your bedside table for support and pulled a drawer all the way out, spilled everything. The photo must have slid inside the book without my noticing.”
I deflated slowly, the urgent tingling reducing somewhat. “I…sorry, man. Didn’t mean to jump down your throat like that.”
Wesley peered at the picture. ”Who is she?” he asked gently.
I stared at Harry’s curly hair and her pleasant smile. “Who *was* she, Wes. That’s Harry Doyle.”
“ Your sister,” Wesley guessed.
My throat burnt as I spoke. “No, Wesley. My wife.”