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20 August 2006 @ 08:46 pm
A New Watcher  
Dawn frowned as she checked the street to see if cars were coming. Hadn’t she seen that black one a few hours ago? She remembered the license plate – 2L8 4U. That was strange.

An hour later, she thought it was more than strange when the car was waiting down the block from the store she’d just left. Her stomach flipped as she walked toward it. Letting out a little scream of nervousness when it suddenly peeled away from the curb and barreled past her, she turned her head to follow its progress.

Wasn’t that the guy from the club? Anthony?

Despite the car being gone, she was suddenly scared. Why was he following her? She looked around nervously, wondering if there was anyone else watching her.

She couldn’t go back to their apartment – hello, leading the bad guys to where you lived was stupid – and she couldn’t call Andrew and Xander, they’d have less of a chance than she did against these guys. Buffy was still in signal-less parts of Scotland, so that left one person. And really it was his fault anyway.

Ethan pretended he wasn’t highly annoyed with the young girls in his store, giggling over a book on love spells and snickering over the pictures in a sex magic book. He wondered how old they were. Covertly, he studied them, wondering if he would find them as attractive as he had—“Dawn?”

She didn’t spare the other shoppers a glance as she slipped past the counter and strode towards the back. Her arms were crossed protectively over her chest and she could feel her hands shaking though they were pressed to her sides.

She waited for him to join her, looking at him with a bit of anger. “Why is that sketchy guy from the club following me?”

“What? Anthony? You saw him?” Ethan narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, taking in her frightened appearance. “You’re absolutely sure he’s following you?”

She threw him a look. “You act like I’ve never been kidnapped before,” she said, rolling her eyes. “He was in a car down the street from where I was shopping all morning – different places, and when I realized it, he sped off.”

“Ah, yes. The car with the ridiculous vanity plate,” Ethan said with a wince. “Well, now, poppet, I have no idea why he’d be following you, but clearly you do. Why don’t you let me get rid of these giggling schoolgirls, and I’ll see what we can do about the matter. You may wait for me upstairs, if you wish.”

She headed for the steps, nodding. Of course she knew why he was following her – hello! It was because of him! Why else would he be after her?

She worried for a moment, wondering if somehow Anthony knew about her, but that was silly. He couldn’t have.

Ethan used a bit of magic to “encourage” his hapless shoppers to leave, then went up to his flat and went to make tea. He carried it over and handed her a cup, sitting next to her. “It’s not drugged, I promise. Now, I assume you think it’s my fault Anthony is following you. Perhaps he merely wanted to see if we did indeed know each other, and if he saw you come into my shop, he’ll be convinced that we are…associates…and leave you alone.”

“Well, call him and tell him to leave me alone. It’s creepy!” she said, taking the cup. What was it with the English and drinking tea at every opportunity?

“Oh, yes, I’ll just do that right now, shall I?” He rolled his eyes at her. “Dawn, one doesn’t play the game that way. If you want him to leave you alone, we have to make sure he has no further interest in you.” He sipped his tea thoughtfully. “Perhaps he’s learned who you really are.”

Her eyes widened and she stared at him. “Who I really am?” she echoed.

Ethan stared at her. “The sister of the Slayer?”

“Oh. Yeah.” She probably shouldn’t be upset that being Buffy’s sister was the only reason anybody wanted her, especially considering what had happened when somebody had wanted her, but she was a bit put out. Would she ever get out of Buffy’s shadow?

He cocked his head consideringly. “Or, he doesn’t have a clue who you are, and he thinks you’re just my…friend. Either way, it seems best if you don’t venture too many places on your lonesome. Perhaps you stick close to your sister for the time being, mmm?”

She sipped her tea and looked at him over the edge of her cup. This was a turning point – to trust him or not to trust him, that was the question. “She’s still in Scotland. I think,” Dawn admitted. “And Xander and Andrew wouldn’t stand a chance against them.”

“She’s not here?” Ethan blinked at that, though it made sense now why she had been out alone at the club. “That is indeed problematic. Though I think, if you and I remain…in contact…for the next few days. Until we ascertain what it is they want.”

“I can’t go home – if they’re following me and try to get me, Xander and Andrew might get hurt,” she said, getting a bit angry. “And they’ll wonder if I cast a bunch of protection charms and stuff.”

“Then you shall stay here with me.” He looked at her carefully, finding himself staring a bit too long at the way the t-shirt she was wearing pulled across her breasts. He wondered why she could have such an affect on him where those young women downstairs earlier had inspired only irritation. “You may take the bedroom, and I’ll sleep on the sofa.”

“Stay here?” she asked. “I can’t do that! I have … things to do! And … and how would I explain it to Xander and Andrew?”

“You may do whatever you like,” he said, slightly exasperated. “And you just said you couldn’t go home, did you not? As for your young guardians…could you perhaps claim to be staying with a sick friend?”

She snorted. “Yeah, that won’t work. I’ll … tell them my friend’s parents are going out of town and she doesn’t to stay alone.” Was she actually considering this? It appeared she was. “I need some stuff, though. And I need to tell them face to face.”

“If you wish to go home and gather your things, I’ll accompany you. I’ll wait round the corner, however.” His mouth twisted. “I don’t believe Xander would be happy to see me.”

This was insane. Absolutely insane. Dawn nodded, buoyed by the idea that she might be able to convince him to teach her more magic. “All right. Thanks,” she said. “And … sorry about this. I can bring a sleeping bag if you don’t want to take the couch.”

“I slept on a cot in a cell for a year, poppet. The couch won’t bother me at all.” He stood up, looking down at her seriously. “I won’t…you mustn’t worry about a repeat from the club, Dawn. I’ll be a perfect gentleman, I promise.”

She gave him a little smile. “Thanks,” she said, wondering briefly how strange it was that she was actually turning to him for protection. Well, they’d done the same with Spike, hadn’t they?

An hour later, two bags over her shoulders and another in Ethan’s arms, they returned to the shop. Xander had seemed skeptical – especially about the amount of stuff she was taking – but she’d just explained it as a ‘mega sleepover’. He had her cell, though, so he could get in touch with her if needed, and he promised to call if Buffy surfaced.

“Be careful with that – Willow will kill me if I hurt the laptop,” she cautioned.

Ethan pretended to drop it, then smirked at her expression. “My apologies. You make it so very easy,” he said, carrying her things to his bedroom. This was likely a spectacularly bad idea, and one that would end with his neck broken if her sister were to find out about. Chaos, indeed. “Are you hungry?”

Dawn glared at him. “If she comes after me and tries to filet me, I’m pointing her in your direction,” she said, not entirely joking. She trusted Willow to not get out of control, but memories were hard to ignore. “And a little. Have any snacks?”

“I have some…cheese and biscuits, I believe. I mostly eat out. I’m not a terribly good cook.” He went into the kitchen and began searching for something to eat. “Wine? I have wine. Perhaps you shouldn’t have that, though.” He rummaged through the pantry and pulled out a container of biscuits, then went for the cheese.

“Bet you’ve never tried to make a peanutbutter and banana quesadilla,” she said, though she scowled at the comment about the wine. “Yeah ‘cause you had such a problem with my age when you were feeling me up.”

“Wine it is,” he announced, pouring her a glass. “You like red, I hope? And no, I don’t believe I even the ingredients to make such a concoction.” He handed her the wine, one brow raised. “And do stop reminding me of my descent into pedophilia. Though, it is very strange—why do you not seem as young as you are?”

“Mature for my age, I guess,” she said, taking the wine with a pleased smile. Surreal. That was the word for this, but she wasn’t not having fun.

“Is that so,” he murmured, looking down at her with a warm expression, wondering if she was going to hit him. Oh, this was a ridiculous idea, and it couldn’t possibly lead to anything good. He grinned and toasted her with his wineglasses. “Cheers.”

“Cheers,” she said, ignoring his disbelief. Her lips twisted as the liquid flowed through her mouth. It wasn’t too bad, though, she decided after a moment.

He set about slicing the cheese into manageable slices and arranging biscuits on a plate. He carried the plate and the wine bottle over to the table between the sofa and the chair. “There we are. I’m afraid we’ll have to order take-away for dinner. This represents the last edible thing I have in the flat, it would seem. I do, however, have a great deal of wine.”

She sipped at her glass, already feeling the effects of it. She shouldn’t have any more for a while. “Do they deliver or do we have to go pick it up?” she asked, beginning to crave crab rangoon. “Oooh, can we get Chinese?”

“I suppose we can,” he said, smiling a bit at her enthusiasm. “I know a place that delivers.” He poured himself some more wine, and set the bottle on the table. “You may get pissed if you wish, though I must warn you, wine gives one a terrible headache in the morning.”

She shook her head. “No, be stupid to get drunk with the goons following me,” she said, setting the glass down and reaching for a piece of cheese as she sat down at the table.

“I don’t think they’ll follow you up here. The house is warded against intruders.” He shrugged. “Though if they’re any good, that won’t matter. It’s a good thing I’m a light sleeper.” He reached forward and took a biscuit, smiling rather darkly. “I almost do hope they break in. That bastard deserves something rather nasty, I do believe.”

Dawn sighed and gave him a glare. “You’ve jinxed it now. Good job,” she said, grabbing a cookie. “Don’t you know anything? Didn’t you live in Sunnydale for a while?”

“That I did. Though I’ve a fondness for chaos, remember?” He leaned back on the couch, eyeing her thoughtfully. “It surprises me that you’ve agreed to stay here with me, Dawn. Granted, I helped your sister, but that can hardly exonerate me completely for all my past crimes, mmm?”

“Lesser of two evils,” she said, shrugging. “No offense, but I’d rather put you in danger than Xander and Andrew – especially since it’s your fault.”

“A practical girl,” he said approvingly, nodding. “And I am very sorry to have put you in danger, but it was hardly my fault you showed up at that club and decided to speak to me when you did. Pure coincidence,” he said airily. “I shall make some inquiries into why Anthony or his ilk are following you. I’m not convinced it isn’t because they’ve found out you’re the Slayer’s sister.”

“Still your fault,” she judged, shrugging and taking another piece of cheese. “So, what about this Chinese food you promised? Maybe they can bring a soda too.”

“You’re an awfully demanding houseguest,” he said, standing up to find the phone. “And how is it my fault you’re the Slayer’s sister, running off to clubs while she’s fighting evil and consorting with dangerous men?” He smiled. “What would you like for dinner besides your soda?”

“Sweet and sour chicken, sauce on the side, and an egg roll,” she said, nibbling her way around another cookie. “And if you hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have noticed me. Simple as that.”

Ethan ordered their dinner, then turned to her with a raised brow. “And if you hadn’t been sneaking into clubs—that you are not old enough to enter, I may add—he wouldn’t have noticed you either.”

“I am old enough,” she said, adding the ‘technically’ quietly to herself. If she did things this body was really old enough to do, she’d still be in pre-school. “And besides, there are lots of worse things to do.”

“Believe me, poppet, I know all about that,” he murmured. “I only meant that you shouldn’t be so quick to cast blame on me for this…situation.” He studied her carefully again.

Dawn rolled her eyes. “You’re the one with the sketchy friends,” she said, dismissing it. “How long until the food gets here?”

“I assure you, they’re no friends of mine.” He paused. “I haven’t got any friends, I don’t believe. Giles, for a time, but that clearly ended badly.” He looked at the clock. “Twenty minutes. It’s only down the road a bit.”

Looking around the room, she nodded as she studied her surroundings, taking more time to do so than she had the last time. “Friends usually don’t turn each other into demons or try to get them killed,” she noted.

“Clearly why I have none,” he responded, watching her as she examined his flat. It was very boring, really. He’d returned home to find his former “friends” had mostly destroyed his magical possessions. As if power were so easily vanquished.

He needed a decorator, she determined. Or at least to paint or put up some nice curtains. “Well, everybody needs to have goals.”

He rolled his eyes at her and went to answer the door, which announced the arrival of dinner. He found some plates and mis-matched utensils in the drawer and carried them to his dining room table, covered with books and a lot of papers. He found a glass for her soda and motioned her to the table. “There we are. Forgive my sad lack of matching kitchenware. Someone broke all the things I used to have.”

“You guys need a Target over here. We bought three sets of plates for twenty bucks each after Sunnydale collapsed,” Dawn said as she began serving herself.

“You don’t need that much dinnerware when order takeaway as much as I do,” he said with a shrug, beginning to eat. “Saves on doing the dishes as well.”

Dawn shrugged as she began to eat and before she knew it, the dishes were washed and she was looking at him expectantly. “Do you have a tv?”

“In the bedroom,” Ethan said, drying his hands on the towel. “I’ll show you.” He motioned her to follow him and headed towards his bedroom.

She followed him, looking around curiously for things that could tell her more about him. There weren’t very many. His television was very small and she sighed a bit, already missing the one she and Buffy had in their apartment. It wasn’t too big either, but it was bigger than this one. Reaching for the remote, she flipped it on and tried a few channels. “Do you get HBO?”

“Sky News, a few BBC channels, and some movie channel I never watch. There are a lot of static channels,” he said, stealing a pillow from the bed and searching through his closet for another blanket.

“Static – sounds fun,” Dawn commented, wondering if all this was really necessary. How likely was it that Anthony would follow her home? Then she thought about Andrew and Xander and nodded. “You’ll talk to Anthony soon, right? I don’t know when Buffy’s getting home, but …”

“I shall attempt to speak with him tomorrow.” He raked a hand through his hair. “The bathroom is through there. If you need another blanket, there’s one in the top of the closet. If you open the third drawer down on my dresser, I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you very painfully.” He winked at her. “Only just joking. It’s my sock drawer.” With that, he left her alone and went to make his bed on the sofa.

Shutting the door, she shook her head and began to get ready for bed. He was a bit weird.