A/N: For those of you who remember my half-finished story, "Harry Potter and the Runaway Slayer," this is going to be "not quite a re-write." Some similar ideas, but I'm going to try to fix some ugliness from that story, which is now shelved for good (and, honestly, for the better).
The Buffyverse belongs to Hellgod Joss Whedon. The HPverse belongs to J.K. Rowling. This site belongs to Jinni. I don't even know if my computer is wholly mine.
The unexpected voice behind her made Buffy jump, and if she hadn't had the reflexes and balance of a Slayer, she might have dropped the plates she was carrying.
"You have a customer waiting at Table Four," the manager continued, ignoring her troubles. "If you're not there in ten seconds, you're back on graveyard shift for a week." Unsurprisingly, he didn't stay to watch the effect of his pronouncement. She knew very well by now that Jerry would know whether or not she made it to Table Four on time, whether or not he actually watched her.
She also knew that he wasn't singling her out for torment. Jerry treated everyone in the same heavy-handed, abrasive manner. It was whispered among some of the waitresses that anyone who got a smile out of him left the place very quickly -- usually upon finding some fabulous new job paying three or four times what they made here at Little Nick's. "If you can please Jerry, you can please anyone," the legend went.
Buffy sighed, finished depositing her load of dirty plates in the appropriate pile, then turned and headed for her section. She automatically reached for her pad and pen, and as usual kept her eyes on them rather than on her customer as she approached the table. It made it easier to keep on going with her robot-like routine day after day if she kept herself at a distance -- and, of course, it also discouraged the creepos who thought that making eye contact meant you wanted to go to bed with them.
But her crisp-but-bland CanItakeyourorder?
was met with an awkward silence, then a quiet, "Actually, I could use a little help, ma'am."
Buffy glanced up sharply, not just at being called "Ma'am" at age seventeen, but at the soft British accent. Her initial fear -- that the Council had somehow found her -- was quelled almost immediately. The young man seated in front of her was her own age, or maybe a bit older, and there wasn't a scrap of tweed in sight. In fact, his clothes were shabby in the extreme -- baggy, faded blue jeans and a wrinked T-shirt that had probably been an eye-tearing orange once, but was now reduced to a rather dismal shade that Crayola would probably call "burnt peach."
In contrast, though, he was clean -- only a smudge or two on his far-too-pale-for-Southern-California skin -- and didn't have the half-dead expression of the homeless or the drugged-out. His black hair was messy, but in the I'm-a-guy-so-I-don't-care-what-it-looks-like way; it wasn't greasy or dirty or overly long, just a bit wild. And his eyes . . . She had never seen eyes like that on a boy. They were a bright, intense green -- even Willow didn't have eyes that green.
The stray thought brought a spasm of pain. That was another reason why she didn't like looking at people; every now and then, she would see something that would remind her of Willow, Xander, Giles, Jenny, her mom . . . even Angel. Better just to stay distant, numb . . . dead.
For now, though, she was stuck dealing with the young man with the Willow-y eyes and the Giles-y accent. Forcing a smile onto her face, she took in his bewildered, slightly lost expression, and leaned over to see what he was looking at on the menu. "Hm. That's the Greek stuff. The original owner of this place was Greek, so they still keep gyros and moussaka on the menu."
Without thinking, she turned back towards him as she added, "My advice? Don't. There's no actual Greeks working here anymore--"
Her voice trailed off as she found herself staring into those big green eyes again, and the pain behind them finally registered with her.
He didn't look lost and bewildered because he didn't know a souvlaki from a burrito. He was just plain lost
Hell, he looked like she felt most days.
Compassion and a Slayer's instinct to protect fought with fear and suspicion . . . and soundly kicked their asses. "How hungry are you?" she asked, dropping all her guards and hoping she wouldn't regret it.
The young man seemed to go through a struggle similar to the one she'd just endured. "Starving, actually," he finally admitted.
"Can you pay?" She hated to ask that so bluntly, but she'd been stiffed once this week already, and Jerry had taken it out of her paycheck. She was resigned to eating nothing but Ramen Noodles for the next few days.
"Yeah," he answered, sounding a bit surprised that she'd asked. Maybe he didn't realize what he looked like -- and that only added to the "lost and bewildered" impression she got from him.
"Okay, then. We'll start you off with a bowl of the chicken noodle soup. Then . . . "* * *
"Starving" turned out to be far more accurate than Buffy had realized. By the time he had finished, the young man had put away more food than she usually ate in two or three days. In between mouthfuls, he had introduced himself as "Harry," and thanked her profusely for helping him, and -- while looking incredibly embarrassed -- asked her if she knew where he could "rent a room."
She frowned, then checked the clock. Her shift was over in five minutes, and there was no one else left in her section, so she settled herself into the seat across from him. "You have a job? Even crappy places can cost a lot in L.A. People who come here to get into show business end up living in their cars, and you don't look like you have one of those."
He shook his head. "But I have money--" he started to say, pulling out his wallet.
"God!" she nearly shouted, clamping her hand down on his arm, making him wince in pain. She looked around, making sure no one had seen -- fortunately, the only people nearby were arguing over some relationship thing and wouldn't have noticed if a bomb had gone off in the booth next to them.
She turned back to him, shaking her head at their dumb luck. "Don't do that again. You'll get yourself robbed -- and I'll get fired 'cause Jerry'll think I'm trying to earn some extra money on the side."
Harry looked confused, then suddenly flushed bright red as he realized what she was implying.
She leaned in a little closer. "Now, quietly
, how much money do you have?"
"About two thousand pounds."
Now Buffy was the one who paused in confusion. But when she worked out what he meant, her face went pale with ice-cold fury. "Are you saying you haven't got any actual
dollars on you?
" she growled.
He gulped, and nodded shakily.
Without a word, Buffy turned sideways in her seat so she could check her tip pouch. Thirty dollars. I can cover it, but just barely.
She whirled back to face him, and snarled, "Okay, Harry
, I'm going to pay your check, and then we're going back to my place. I'm not letting you out of my sight until you can get your money changed so you can pay me back."
He bit his lip, and said, "I could just give you a fifty pound note, that would more than cover what I owe you--"
She rolled her eyes at him. "I'm sure it would, but it's pretty obvious by now you're either incredibly naive or incredibly stupid -- or both. And believe it or not, even after this screw-up I still don't want to see headlines about your robbery and gruesome murder in tomorrow's paper. So like it or not, you're coming home with me."