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Vex was going to kill him, Percy was sure of it.  He didn’t even have an excuse, that was the worst part.  It had always been Vex who went out and came home with kittens and squirrels to nurse back to health, she was the reason they had an incubator in their dining room for the little animals.  She’d brought home all manner of wild and domesticated creatures; at this moment she was rehabilitating a litter of puppies who had been found in a ditch, a beautiful falcon, and a skittish, abused two-year-old dog.  

 

But even with their revolving door of creatures, which Percy and the others had long since gotten used to, Vex had never done this.  He was pretty sure it wasn’t his fault; he had simply gone down to the farmer’s market to get some fresh veggies and meat that Keyleth was planning on cooking for dinner.  The twins usually went, but today Vax was helping take care of the very sick week-and-a-half old puppies, which meant that Percy had been volunteered to go, alone, since Grog and Scanlan were asleep after drinking the night away and Pike was at work.  

 

He’d finished getting the peppers when he saw it.  The farmer’s market was fairly large, so Percy had spent some time perusing and buying a cool necklace that he found for Keyleth, before going to actually get what he needed to buy.  He was carefully settling the food in his bag as a flicker of movement caught his attention.  A small figure was creeping about in the area behind the stalls and Percy moved forward, hurrying forward as quietly as Vax had taught him to. 

 

The dark-skinned girl was reaching for a loaf of bread when Percy got close enough.  She was very thin, with an undercut that had the longer parts of her hair tied up, and a blue coat with combat boots and black pants.  Percy stepped forward, one hand coming down to drop onto the loaf and forcing down a grimace as the teen jerked back. “Hey, calm down, unless you want the guy to see you sneaking around back here.”  There was something hostile in her eyes, but he could see the layer of fear under it, so he softened. There was something wild on the girl’s face as Percy walked calmly back out to the front of the stall.  The girl hung back a few steps, clearly ready to run for the hills as Percy bought the loaf of bread, and a bundle of sandwiches.  He calmly walked over to a picnic table and grabbed one for himself, leaving the rest on the other half of the table.

 

Slowly, the girl crept over to settle down on the bench and grab two of the sandwiches, watching Percy with a look of hostility.  He didn’t even bother to stare back, humming to himself as he pulled out his phone to check his email and calmly ate his own food, relaxing once the girl began to gulp her own food down greedily.  She barely stopped to breath, which was rather concerning to Percy, and she finished her three sandwiches before his one was completed. “My name is Percival; it’s very nice to meet you.” The girl’s eyes flickered to his face, and he tried to not be intimidated by the hostile look in her eyes, tried to focus on the raw fear that it was masking.  “What’s your name?” 

 

The girl didn’t speak, not as Percy did his best to get her to, not as he moved from booth to booth to finish buying the meat that Keyleth wanted, or as he pocketed a bundle of dog treats for trinket.  But while she didn’t speak, she followed him all the while, casting sharp, fearful glances at everyone they passed. Percy had no idea what to do about this, not until he started in the direction of the parking lot and watched the girl freeze.  He turned to glance at her, seeing the violent trembling of her fingers as she pulled her thin coat tighter around herself.  “Do you have somewhere to go?”

 

The moment she shook her head, Percy knew he had no other choice.  “I don’t...me and a few of my...friends own a house just down the road.  They’re...they’re better at this, at people, then I am. Some of them. Kiki isn’t better.  But we have hot water and Kiki is making stew for dinner and we can figure out how to get you where you want to go from there, if you’d like.  I’d also be happy to drop you off somewhere, if you’d like.” The girl gave him a sharp look but, slowly, crept towards the car with a look that said “If you try anything I will murder you.” 

 

Percy drove home probably a bit more quickly than was advisable, but the girl in the passenger seat looked ready to jump out of the car at a moment’s notice. He pulled into the driveway, grabbing the bags and clambering out and towards the house.  They lived on the outskirts of the city, close to both the forests and stuff that Vex loved and the city where some of their party worked. It also meant they had enough land to keep the many animals that Vex was always bringing home, so it was sort of perfect. 

 

Vax met him at the door with a kiss and a grin, grabbing the bags before glancing over Percy’s shoulder and freezing.  “Uh, Perce? Who’s that?” Percy sighs, glancing at the girl, who looked five seconds from bolting into the forest with just the clothes on her back which was not something Percy wanted to have happen.  “This is...well, not sure on a name at the moment.  I met her at the market.” He gave Vax a meaningful look and the black-haired man nods, turning and moving to let both in.  Percy sits on the couch with a groan, stretching out aching legs as the girl hovers in the doorway.

 

In the end, it’s Vax who finally realizes that this isn’t helping anyone.  He disappears for a moment and comes back with a bundle of clothes, which he tosses to the girl.  “Bathroom is the second door on the left. It locks. Feel free to take a shower.” The girl blinks incredulously and darts off before Vax can change his mind, and he flops onto the couch with Percy.  “Dude, seriously.” Percy flushes, ducking his head down with something nervous in his eyes, and Vax softens as Percy explains the events of the morning.  

 

Keyleth and Vex get home not long after Percy, grinning and holding hands as they duck into the house, pausing at the sight before them.  Percy and Vax were snuggling, which was adorable but not that weird, but there was also a new figure curled up in a chair intently watching the episode of West Wing that was on.  All three jumped as the door opened and Percy perked up. “Kiki! Vex! Kiki, your ingredients are in the fridge.” Keyleth grinned, tucking herself into his side with a wide smile before setting off for the kitchen.  Vex flopped down on the couch with the two, glancing over at the girl with a questioning look on her face. “Hello dear, my name is Vex.” The girl hesitated, eyes careful. “ ‘m Beau.”  

 

They don’t get much more out of her, except that she’s fifteen, and that no one was looking for her.  They don’t quite believe that, but they all know what it means to want to get away so none of them question it.  After a while, Percy moves into the kitchen to help Keyleth cook and to his surprise, Beau follows.  Keyleth puts them to work, slicing veggies and herbs. Pike is home from work now, helping the puppies with the twins, as Scanlan and Grog play video games in the living room.  It’s just about a normal day for them, and he can see Beau slowly starting to loosen up a little. 

 

Dinner is stiff.  Beau snatches her bowl with trembling hands, but she doesn’t eat till the rest of them are and curls around the bowl like she’s ready for it to be snatched. Pike blessedly keeps up a steady conversation about the puppies who Vex was caring for, and the others can see the way Beau perks up when they mention the animals.  Trinket, the two-year-old pit-bull she was caring for was also the subject of much conversation, because he was the most adorable creature in the history of the world, if you listened to Vex. But Grog and Scanlan were still watching the teen who was hunched in a chair next to Percy in confusion, and Beau still refused to speak, which made dinner very awkward.  

 

Afterwards, Vex grabbed Pike and Vax to help with the animals, since the falcon had taken a liking to Vax and to no one else, which left Percy and Beau in a room with Scanlan and Grog.  Scanlan hesitated, seeing the concern in Percy’s face as the white-haired man opened his mouth to try and convince them to not say something rude, and he turns to the dark-skinned girl hovering a step behind Percy looking lost.  “Hey there, I don’t think I ever introduced myself. The name is Scanlan Shorthalt, it’s nice to meet you.  Want to play some video games?” He doesn’t give her time to actually answer, moving over to turn the TV back on and tossing a remote to Percy and another to Grog, dropping one onto the couch next to Beau.  Percy’s heart swells with love for the gnome, giving him his most grateful stare as he turns his attention to the game of Mario Kart.

 

They learned quickly that Beau was good at video games.  The girl absolutely demolished them in three series in a row, and slowly started not staring at them like she was ready for them to start yelling when she did.  After three games, Scanlan declared that “We have to get her to play against the twins, cause they might finally lose!  But I’m never gonna win so let’s play some monopoly or something.”

 

When the twins came back out, they found Percy curled up on the couch with Scanlan sprawled on his chest, both sound asleep.  Beau was curled up in an armchair, which didn’t look terribly comfortable , as Grog dozed against the wall. The girl jerked upright as soon as they entered, sending a nervous look in their direction but settling back down once they moved towards the kitchen.

 

Beau woke up slowly, warm blanket tucked around her.  She stiffened, blinking slowly around the room and relaxing once she recognized the red-painted walls of the room she’d fallen asleep in the night before.  Her legs ached from their curled position but she wasn’t quite willing to get up yet. The smell of bacon wafted into the room, along with something sweeter that she thought might be pancakes.  Out of the corner of her eye she could see the white-haired man she’d come here with, curled up cuddling the male gnome who had bright purple hair.  She curled even smaller, trying to fall back asleep.  This place felt warm, in a way her old home never had, and if she just didn’t get up she could convince herself that this was going to stay.