Disclaimer: Doritos are not my comfort food.
Warnings: mispronounciation, milk moustaches, shoelaces, and uncertainty
There was a small child underneath the table.
She was wearing dungarees and trainers, and had her hair in bunches.
She grinned. "Hello."
"What are you doing there?"
"I'm reading. See?" She held up a book, and explained, "Because it's a library. You read in libraries."
"Oh, right." There really was no way to answer that. "Good for you." He straightened up, and was about to walk away when a question came:
"Are you a Watcher?"
Wesley paused. And then looked under the table again.
"Who are you?"
"You look kinda like Mr Giles - and he is."
"How did you know that Mr-"
"Buffy said he was fired."
"Are you the new librarian?"
She grinned again. "I like your glasses."
A short pause.
"So - Balthattar's amulet gave him special powers, right? Does it do that for everyone?"
Wesley didn't respond.
"Can I put it on, and see?"
He frowned, and said sternly, "The amulet of Balthazar is now property of the Watchers Council. How did you know about it?"
"Have you been listening in?"
"When Buffy talks about this stuff, she always leaves out the good bits. It's much easier to find out this way."
"You've been sitting there all afternoon?"
"Uh-huh. And last night, too."
Stern voice again. "These discussions are confidential, and not for your ears. I'm afraid I must ask you to leave the room."
She laughed at him. "You're weird."
"Get out of there at once!"
She shook her head, and didn't move.
Wesley contemplated, very briefly, crawling under there and dragging her out by force. A fairly foolish idea, on reflection. After all, children were not his responsibility.
He'd get one of the Slayers to do it for him.
There was a little sister underneath the table.
He knelt down and looked at her. "Shouldn't you be at home?"
"I like it here."
"How long-distance can she go?"
"Buffy. Can she read minds long-distance, or do they have to be up close?"
"From what I've observed, proximity is fairly essential to the process."
A blank stare.
"Not very long-distance," he explained.
"So she can't reach here from her bedroom?"
"I shouldn't think so."
She hugged her knees, looking unsure what to say next.
"Would you like a drink of milk?" ventured Wesley. "I think Giles has some in his office."
"Okay," she nodded.
He poured out a glass, and brought it over to the table. She sipped it happily for a minute before looking up.
"Stuffed pigs can't think, can they?"
"Er… no. Probably not."
"So he won't be able to tell her about me being in her room?"
"Probably not," she concluded. "But that would be really fun."
Wesley just nodded.
She returned to the milk.
He waited a moment, and then asked, "Does your mother know that you're here?"
She shook her head.
"Well, I should probably call her and let her know. Or else I could drive you home, and you could let her know yourself."
"Does Mr Giles have Doritos?"
"Doritos. They're my comfort food."
"I'm not sure. I can go and check…"
"No. It's okay." She crawled out, and handed him the glass. "I'll go home. We have Doritos there."
There was a spy underneath the table.
He almost kicked her accidentally when he sat down, but he managed to keep his face blank so as not to alert the others.
Which was not the correct way to handle the matter - not at all. She should be revealed, and summarily banished from the room before she heard any more of their conversation.
That was certainly what the Council would recommend for this situation. And the Council was correct, obviously. But these days… he was starting to wonder if, maybe, they sometimes got it wrong…
Xander restarted the video.
"See: there we are, minding our own business, and Destructo Dog comes smashing through the window." He shrugged. "Only Sunnydale could make clothes shopping into an extreme sport."
She giggled at that - and Wesley wondered why no-one else had noticed. But they all seemed fairly engrossed in Xander's description.
"He takes out three clothing racks, a full-length mirror, and Tuxedo Guy, and we're all just standing there with no idea what to do, or how to take him down."
There was a whispered suggestion from floor-level: "A flamethrower would have worked…" and Xander turned.
"What was that, Buff?"
"What was what?" She looked blank.
"I thought you said something about flamethrowers."
"Er, no. That was me." Wesley cleared his throat. "But moving on… why don't you play the video again?"
It wasn't as if their discussion was entirely confidential. The attack had occurred in public, after all. In fact, as a citizen of Sunnydale, the sooner she learned the dangers surrounding her, the better… and what was he doing? When had he become someone who came up with excuses like this?
He shook his head, and tried to concentrate.
Giles was explaining the creature's origins: "…bred during the Machash Wars. Trained solely to kill. They feed off the brains of their foes."
There was a soft "eww!"
"Look!" Cordelia exclaimed. "Right there. Zoom in on that."
Xander rolled his eyes, and started explaining the mechanical capabilities of VCRs.
Wesley took the opportunity to slip an open bag of liquorice under the table. It was taken out of his hands, and the underneath-furniture portion of the room lapsed into silence.
The others still hadn't noticed a thing.
Oz sat up. "What's that? Hey - pause it."
The video froze mid-massacre, and they all crowded around the television to look at the young man standing just outside the shop.
Wesley got to his feet. It was unlikely that he'd recognise the boy, but there was always the possibility that his knowledge and experience would prove useful… and his shoelaces were tied together! She'd actually tied his shoelaces together!
He sat down, quickly.
And no-one else had even noticed.
Wesley put his face in his hands, and wondered how many years he'd get for first-degree murder.
There was a friend underneath the table.
He pulled the chair aside, and crawled in too.
It was quieter under here. The chairs and table legs formed a barrier: their own personal cave. You could keep the world away forever in here.
Wesley looked over to her. "So… how are you doing today?"
"Mom's packing lots of suitcases."
"I think we're going to Aunt Arlene's for a couple of weeks."
If they pulled the last chair back in behind them, no-one would ever guess where they were. They could stay there for years, if necessary. And the world, with all its expectations, and responsibilities, and betrayals, and accusations, and insanity - the world would never find them. Never again.
Of course, they'd need supplies…
"What about you?" she asked.
Wesley shifted nervously. "I… think I'll be packing too."
She didn't ask - just nodded. And they both fell silent.
What else was there to say, after all?
"Is Buffy going to win?"
…apart from that.
And that was really the point, wasn't it? Winning, triumphing, doing whatever it took - no matter the cost. No room for emotions, distractions, conflicting feelings. You did the job, and you did it right.
That was what he'd always done.
That was the whole basis for…
"Wesley?" She was still sitting next to him. "Is she going to win?"
"That depends on what you mean."
"With the whole evil-Mayor thing. Will she win?"
"I'm not-" he hesitated, and amended the sentence: "I hope so."
A frown. "Shouldn't you be doing lots of Watchery stuff with her?"
Oh please, can't the world just stay away for a while?
"I don't think that she wants me doing… Watchery stuff… anymore."
"Then what are you going to do?"
And there really was no way to answer that.
He just looked at her - and she smiled reassuringly and handed him the Doritos.
They sat there together, munching quietly, and waited for it all to get better again.