Things at the station had gone well. Ezra’s competence and calm assurance smoothed over any fuss with the issue of Abby’s guardianship. Xander had not managed to avoid a stern talking to in regard to removing himself and Abby from the scene early, but the officers were satisfied to leave it there.
Xander had tried to keep things light between himself and Chris’s team mates. He couldn’t help the building fear that they would view him the same way as Chris, if they had more details. Chris had accurately drawn some conclusions as to Abby’s calling and Xander’s involvement; he dreaded to think of the reactions of the other men, if they had the full story.
His ability to keep up the joker’s mask was slipping, and while that was part of the reason he’d left the Scoobies, right now it was all he had to hide his guilt. Vin and Buck had been keeping Abby distracted, but he could tell the young slayer was picking up on his state of mind. It was the last thing she needed: she was meant to be here to get away from it all, not have Xander’s personal life drag her down. With a silent curse he straightened and pushed his fears and feelings down, plastering a smile on his face as Abby returned to his side.
Ezra had watched in concern his son had become more withdrawn as the afternoon went on. It had started with Josiah and Buck’s arrival. No doubt, their presence -- and Buck’s words -- had dredged up Chris’s attack from the previous evening. Part of him wanted to ask for Josiah’s help. The damage Chris’s callous words had caused was evident in the dark circles under his son’s eyes, the pinched look in his face when Abby wasn’t looking.
However, Ezra had to admit that the knowledge of the dark underside of the supernatural world was oppressive. He wanted to shake Josiah and Buck, to scream at them: did they have any idea of what was out there? Any idea of the horrors his son and this bright young woman had faced and would continue to battle? That everything they held dear could be snatched away in a moment at the whim of an evil being? That their very existence was being protected by children!
Seeing a concerned glance sent his way from Josiah, Ezra forced himself to step back from the thoughts swirling through his mind. As much as he’d like to lean on his friends, he couldn’t do that to them. Not expose them to further depravities of the world; he feared the loss of Buck’s joviality, JD’s naivety, or Josiah’s serenity.
Some things were beyond his control. A difficult lesson he’d learnt the hard way during his childhood. As much as there were times he resented the way that Maude had raised him, he also appreciated it gave him the edge he needed in his job and to deal with situations like this. He worked on mentally setting aside his fears and the issues that he could not affect directly. His focus needed to be on the present, not the ‘what ifs’ of the past: helping Xander, and now Abby as well, and ensuring his friends were protected as far as possible.
Ezra smoothed his jacket, and straightened his hair. Looking over the people standing beside him, he was surprised to find that it wasn’t hard to bring a smile to his features.
True, there was the previously unknown, unnatural malevolence that lurked in darkened corners, but he’d also been shown the light and knew it had the strength to withstand the horrors. He had family
At the call Ezra turned with a smile to greet the jovial face of his so-called father figure. “Josiah,”
“When are you coming over?” the big man asked.
“I hadn’t realised I was expected.” Ezra was puzzled. While he did, on occasion, go over to the profiler’s home, he’d never dream of dropping by uninvited.
“I’ve been looking after Gabriel for you.” Josiah had enjoyed looking after the beautiful kitten. He’d been astonished to hear Ezra had gained a pet, although less surprising was the method by which he’d obtained him.
“Gabriel…?” Ezra was momentarily stunned. He’d not given the kitten much thought, what with all the shocking revelations the past few weeks had brought, and had assumed Mr. Tanner would have found a proper home for it.
“Vin asked me to look after him until you were back.” Josiah smiled at the rush of emotions over the undercover agent’s face. Once again Vin had been astonishingly accurate in reading their secretive brother and his desire to keep the kitten for himself. “You just tell me when you want to pick him up, son.”
Ezra pulled himself together, frowning at the unwanted appellation. “Josiah…” He paused in his automatic rebuttal of the familial term, having caught sight of Abby. He beckoned the girl over.
“My dear Abby, I just wanted to make sure Xander introduced you properly to Mr. Sanchez.” Ezra gave the girl a quick wink at her puzzled look. “Josiah, meet Abby, Xander’s charge -- his step-daughter, if you’d like. Abby, meet Josiah…
“You can call him ‘Great-gramps.’”
A/N – Sorry for the delay, I am an idiot. I thought I’d already finished posting this one!
Thanks to RevDorothyL for the beta and to *you* for all the lovely reviews!