Title: Same Clan, Different Vintage
Rating: PG (slight implications of child abuse)
Keywords: XOVER HL/BtvS
Characters: Don Salzer, Adam Pierson, Wesley Wyndham Price
Notes: Sorry about canon issues with time, chalk it up to me being an idjit.
Disclaimers: Don and Adam are R/P/D's personal property, they probably have the shirts to prove it, too. Wesley is the toy of Joss Whedon and co.
Thanks: To Nar4nia (sorry if that is not your real screen name, I lost the email) for my lyrics. To Amand-r, for doing this in the midst of a very stressful period of her life.
Neither man behind the counter of the tiny bookstore bothered to look up from their argument as a boy of no more than nine or ten slid frantically inside and pulled the door safely shut behind him. He went unnoticed still as he worked his way deeper into the store, seeking a place where anyone who entered the place would not hear him panting. He found what he was looking for in what was considerably less than an alcove cluttered with books both dusty and new as well as a computer. The boy checked to make sure he was completely hidden from the rest of the store and eased his way into the furthest recesses of his hiding spot. Once there, he made himself as small as possible, wincing when the ankle he had twisted and the knee he had bruised in a fall found fault with his actions. He wasn't sure when the tension finally melted from his body, or, for that matter, when he fell asleep.
Adam noticed the darkness outside the front windows and suggested to Don that he close up shop. The day had gone quickly in a lazy sort of way. Adam was ready to head to the back and work on the database he and Don had been creating for the Watchers for over a year. Admittedly, it had taken something more than a little gentle persuasion to get Don to help in the first place, but once convinced, the man's help had been invaluable. Adam may have had the computer skills and patience it took for such a project, but Don had the research savvy and back knowledge of years spent as a researcher.
Adam headed back to the "computer cubby" while Don locked the door and flipped the open/closed sign in the window. He heard the erstwhile shopkeeper open the register and smiled at the sigh that followed. "It's a good thing HQ pays for this place, huh Don?"
"It's not exactly the world's best entrepreneurial venture, that's for sure," the man yelled back to Adam from the front.
Adam had only heard the first couple of words, his instincts having alerted him to the fact that he was not alone. It was only marginally lit in the area and he narrowed his eyes to scan the shelves for a rodent or something equally obsequious. He was not prepared for the small human that seemed to be more limbs that anything else curled face-down in the corner of his and Don's "back room."
Cautiously, Adam approached the sleeping boy and laid a hand on one of his shoulders. The child consisted mainly of skin stretched thinly over a skeleton. He woke immediately to the touch and darted up almost before Adam could back away. The boy looked around in panic and tried to run past Adam before he was caught up in the man's arms and held in place. He struggled and started to scream: "Let me go, I wasn't stealing anything, let me go!!"
Gangly limbs flew in each direction in the attempted escape and already-large gray eyes grew monstrous behind glasses that were too big for the boy's face. Adam couldn't decide whether the shudders that wracked the boy even in his fervor were from rage or fear or cold. It could have been all three.
"I'm not going to hurt you." Adam yelled it loudly enough that the kid stopped struggling and chose instead to turn a wary expression on his captor. Don had rushed back to see what was going on by this time and, in return, was looking at the boy as if seeing a pod person or something equally preposterous.
Cautiously, Adam set the boy at arm's length and catalogued the cut that graced his left cheek amidst swelling down to the tear in his pants directly below his left knee. The boy was still shaking but was now giving off a defiant air.
His next words were anything but defiant. "I'm sorry, I meant to be out of here before closing." The two men staring at him were silent. "I just lost track of the time."
"Why were you back here in the first place?" Adam let go of the kid but gave him a look that made him aware he was still a prisoner for the moment.
"It's a good hiding place. My friends and I, we were, well, you know, playing tricks on each other. They're probably worried sick-" The kid attempted to walk past the two Watchers but was stopped when Adam put out his hand to meet with the injured side of they boy's face. The boy gasped sharply and brought his hand up to protect the spot.
Adam pulled his hand away. "Your friends give you that?"
The boy did not look up. "Yes, um, like I said, we were playing and-"
"Be careful, you might dig a hole in my carpet with that toe of yours." Don said it softly, aware that compassion was not often Adam's best trait.
The boy's eyes never left the ground, "Sorry, sir."
"Are you cold?" Don was aware that the kid was still shaking.
Don squinted at him and changed tactics. "What's your name?"
A head popped up and a surprised voice spoke: "Wesley, sir."
Don nodded. "Mine's Don, his is Adam," he pointed to the boy's former captor. "Would you like something to eat, Wesley?"
Wesley looked like a child who couldn't remember which direction his house was in. "That's alright, I really ought to head home." His voice wavered at the end of the pronouncement.
"You've probably been here for the better part of the day anyway, what's another hour or so?" Don hadn't expected Adam to jump in and help him, but he wasn't going to complain. Adam just continued on: "Stay for a bit, Don and I were just going to order out."
Wesley stayed perfectly still for a minute or so before shrugging his consent. Don walked to the front where the phone was and called for dinner. Eyeing Adam suspiciously, Wesley eased his way toward the bookshelf and began peering at the books curiously. Soon, he was too engrossed to have noticed if thirty men had been watching him, let alone one.
Adam walked silently out to where Don was waiting for the delivery man. "You're a softie."
"Why, because I believe in feeding kids before sending them home to abusive families?" He sounded disgusted with himself.
"Oh c'mon, you don't know if that bruise is from a family member." The part of Adam that was Methos was very proud of the new heights to which the fictitious grad student was taking naivete.
Don satisfied himself with giving Adam a "you're a retard" look. Adam gave him a dirty look in return. "If you're so positive, why don't you take him down to the police station?"
"Because if he won't say anything to the average person on the street about it," Don motioned back and forth between the two of them, "I don't think there's a chance in hell he'll tell the police."
Adam didn't say a word, just got up to open to door for the food. Don paid and the two of them went back to where the boy was sitting on the floor, legs folded into a pretzel, nose near to touching the pages of a book.
Don smiled. "What've you got there?"
Wesley looked up quickly, startled by the question. He glanced longingly at the food Adam was setting on the desk and held up the cover of the book without making a sound. Don held himself back from laughing, he recognized the book as one a fellow Watcher had given him.
Even within the Watchers, very few knew about a branch of the organization that was little more than an offshoot. Among those who knew of them, they were jokingly termed the Demon Eyes. They kept watch over all vampiric and demonic activities, as well as searching out and guarding over the human child called the Slayer. Don only knew about it because he had been offered a job as researcher for the branch.
A friend whom he had graduated with from the so-called Watcher Academy had recommended him upon being recruited. It was that same friend who had given him the book. He had described it as "your-basic-all-you-could-ever-want-to-know-about-the-non-human -element-that-walks-this-earth book." DDon had found it fascinating reading, if somewhat beyond his ability to believe. That was how the Demon Eyes stayed so secretive, nobody from the main branches cared to believe the stories, so they stayed lore.
If the look in Wesley's eyes was any clue, though, Don would guess that the boy was perfect recruiting material for that particular branch. He would have to tell his friend to keep an eye on the kid.
Adam finished with the set-up and all three inhabitants of the shop hastily grabbed their plates and began piling food onto them. It was not until he was in mid-chew of his first bite that Wesley looked up with horrified eyes and stuttered out an, "I'm sorry," through his mouthful of food. The apparent disregard to manners caused his cheeks to go an even deeper red until Don worried the kid was going to pass out right there.
"We invited you to eat with us, not sit and watch us eat, don't apologize." Don tried to make the statement as gently as possible, gruffness was probably the last thing that would help calm Wesley. He was glad of the effort when Wesley resumed chewing and swallowed, some of the heat leaking from his cheeks. The boy smiled at him weakly.
"I really appreciate all this. Hiding spot, food, free trip through your merchandise," his hand waved in the direction of the book he had been flipping through.
Don smiled and looked up to see Adam with a somewhat bemused expression on his face. He sympathized. It was things like this that had alerted him to the fact that he would be a terrible field Watcher. He had a complete aversion to sitting by and watching wrong take place. He also, unfortunately, realized the praticality of non-interference as a policy in most situations. As he had told Adam earlier, trying to help the child would probably just earn him a more severe beating than the ones he had already endured. Which didn't make him like the situation anymore than he did without understanding the logic behind it.
When they finished eating, Adam headed back to the cubby and Wesley helped Don to clean up the area quickly before beginning to fidget. "I really, really must go now."
Don fought his inner urgings to keep the kid there, were he was safe, knowing that the longer he did, the worse it would be on Wesley when he did have to leave, or, worse yet, was found. He walked across the room and picked up the demon encyclopedia. He turned back and handed it to Wesley, "Keep it, I can't really see myself reading it again -- too much else to do."
Wesley eyed the offering skeptically. "Are you sure?"
Don came up with the hint of a smile. "Quite."
Wesley brought his hands up to wrap semi-reverently around the gift. His fingers touched Don's for a mere second before he drew them back. With a sheepish smile, he drew the book against his chest and held it more protectively than most parents hold their children. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Maybe you'll stop by again some time, see if something else interests you."
"Maybe." Wesley's eyes were sad, as if the offer made it all the harder to walk away. Don walked to the door and unlocked it, allowing the boy to step by and out into the well-lit Paris street. He looked after the awkward figure until long after it was less than a shadow. Ruefully, he turned back into the shop and flicked off all the lights with the exception of the fluorescent flat caffeine lights he had had installed in the back so that he and Adam could work well through the night. He saw the necessity in those lights, but just like sending Wesley home, hated them all the same.
Standing behind the man busily working at the minutiae of the longtime Watcher database project between them, he spoke softly. "I know what you meant now, your response when I installed these lights."
Adam looked up, confused, worried about the note of melancholy in his friend's voice.
"You said, 'my night is colored headache grey.'"
Adam's lips quirked, remembering the caustic comment thrown out at three in the morning after having searched out some tiny bit of information for hours under those lights. He almost would have preferred candles. The smile receded as he realized Don was not looking back in amusement. "I was just frustrated."
"Not near as frustrated as I am right now. Not even close." With a frown, Don settled into another chair, slightly further back but facing the screen. Understanding more deeply than Don could know, Adam turned back to the screen, and willed his fingers to regain the click clack rhythm of before. Headache grey or no, there was something to be said for routine in the midst of uncontrollable -- and unalterable -- obstacles.