Title: People Watching
Author: Meatball (Lynn McEachern)
Rating: PG13
Archive: No
Summary: A guy who's doing some people watching sees more than he really wants to.
Author's Notes: Credit to Mark for coming up with this idea...it's creepy and I love it!

Aaron sat in the corner of the coffee shop, one of the busier coffee shops in town. It was just after two p.m.

He liked to spend his afternoons here. He was a short story writer, a rather successful one, and like to sit and watch people as they came and went. He kept a pad of paper and a pencil with him, and while he chain-drank coffee, he'd observe people, sometimes draw little sketches, or take notes, and use them in stories later. No one really paid him much mind. The staff were used to his habits, and didn't harangue him about loitering. He usually bought four or five coffees in an afternoon, and he tipped well.

Sometimes Aaron made up little stories in his head about the people that he observed. For instance, the frumpy woman with slippers on her feet and curlers in her hair - was she really a glamourous lounge singer, perhaps, just waking up and finding that she couldn't face the day without a large double-double and a honey cruller? And the stressed-looking young woman with the infant twins in a double stroller - perhaps she was meeting her secret lover here, while her husband was at work trying to earn enough money to support his young family.

Aaron took a sip of his medium-triple-triple as he quickly and expertly sketched the twin babies. Lately, he'd taken to another form of people-watching. He'd try to match people to specific characters that he had in his head.

Just the other day, he'd been writing a short story about a retired schoolteacher who'd never had time for anything other than her career, and was therefore alone and friendless in her twilight years. So, he'd decided to see if he couldn't pick out features and characteristics of such a person in the shop's patrons that afternoon. After a few hours and several rough sketches, he'd come up with a satisfactory description, and had finished his story.

Today, however, he was just observing for the fun of observing. He jotted down a few quick notes: lounge singer, young cheating wife with twin babies, distinguished older man with the hands of a labourer. And the fellow over by the sandwich counter had a whimsical look about him, as though he could be a wizard, and the frowning young girl with her diet soda could perhaps be a CEO in the making, and the man who just walked in...

Aaron stared for a moment, trying to puzzle out the man who had just walked in. He was medium height, of small build, and had very nondescript features. Very ordinary. Sort of the type that victims try to describe to police officers, the type that never seems to get caught, because, well, he's just so *ordinary*, Aaron mused. Thinning brown hair, medium complection, slightly shabby, ordinary clothes, a sturdy, sharp knife tucked into a stained sheath that was shoved into the back pocket of his jeans, flecks of blood on his hands and under his fingernails...

...light brown eyes, pinning Aaron with a disconcerting, penetrating stare...

He looked like a killer.

And he was looking right at Aaron.

Studying him.

Memorizing every detail.

And then he smiled.

Aaron stood up, his shaking hands scattering his notes and spilling what was left of his coffee. His heart hammering, he backed out of the coffee shop, ignoring the confused glances of the other patrons. Once outside, he turned to run, though he chanced a quick glance over his shoulder at the interior of the shop.

The man was still staring at Aaron, and he was still smiling. It was a creepy little smile. Almost absently, one hand caressed the handle of the knife in his back pocket.

Aaron ran like hell.

And he never went back.

***