November 16, 2011
Desmond is used to coming home at odd hours. Sometimes it's his own fault- working at a bar in New York, he meets a lot of people that like to party. And the alcohol, the music, the crowds, the lights- they all keep him from thinking about memories he'd rather forget. He can't count the number of times he's stumbled home after dawn, drunk or hung over or both at once.
But sometimes it's not his fault- working at a bar in New York, he meets a lot of people that can't hold their drink. And sometimes those people like to make a mess all over the bar. The only thing that's kept Desmond out late more times than his own attempts at drowning his past in a bottle is the parade of drunken morons he has to deal with at work.
Today is one of those days. A couple of tourists- young, probably too young to be allowed in the bar- stumbled in about an hour before closing, already pretty much wasted and clearly looking for trouble. Sure enough, within ten minutes they're pushing at each other, shouting and taking swings.
It's all downhill from there- one of the kids pulls a knife on his friend and a couple people end up a little bit stabbed. Nobody dies, but one of them ends up in the hospital. That means the police have to come down and check out the scene, talk to people, all the usual stuff. It would have been fine if Desmond wasn't working under a fake ID and trying to stay off of everyone's radar.
So while the cops set up shop in the back office, Desmond spends his early morning hours cleaning the bar until no sign of the fight remains. After that, he loiters in the area until no one's paying any attention, before finally hopping a fence in a back alley and heading home.
It's almost six in the morning by this point, and most of the people on the street are going to work, not walking home. Desmond's eyes are burning- it's been almost twenty four hours since he last slept, and he's practically tripping over his own feet by the time he makes it back to his apartment.
It's a cheap unit, the kind where the landlord won't care if his tenants pay cash, so long as they pay on time. But it's not the worst place he's stayed since coming to New York. There's hot water in the shower (well- warm water. Usually), the neighborhood is mostly quiet, and nothing's falling down or apart.
The door is locked when Desmond gets in, the lights are still off, and all his stuff is exactly where he left it the night before. Just like it always is. Once upon a time, when he first came to the city, Desmond would have done a more careful check of the apartment, but it's been almost a decade since he left the Farm behind, and he's not as paranoid as he used to be.
He wanders into his bedroom- barely more than a closet off the main room- strips off his work clothes, and is halfway through putting on something he can sleep in when he hears something move behind him. For one long moment, he freezes. Every piece of training he can remember from when he was younger flashes through his mind, and he's surprised by how little that actually is.
He should be dead by now.
Or at the very least, something should have happened. Desmond turns around, wishing he had something in his hands to use as a weapon, but all he has is a balled up T-shirt. Thirty seconds ago he was ready to drop into bed and sleep like a log for the next twelve hours, but now he's wide awake, a hundred thoughts battling for dominance in his brain. Then he takes in the details of the scene in front of him, and his whole brain just gives up in self-defense.
There's a child on his bed. It's a boy, his dark hair cropped close to his head, wide eyes staring at Desmond. He doesn't look older than four or five years old, and his skin has a Middle Eastern tint to it. His face, though… one look at the boy's face and Desmond knows they're related. It looks so similar to Desmond's at that age that they could almost have been twins. Give or take about twenty years. And that means there's only one explanation for why this kid is here.
Four years old. Obviously a relative. The boy would have been born when Desmond was nineteen or twenty, and most of that time is a blur of cheap alcohol and women he can't remember. It's a lot like his life now, to be honest.
"Perfect," Desmond growls, and kicks at the thin bedroom wall. "Just perfect." He digs through his memory, trying really hard to remember who he might have been with five years back, someone that might have kept the baby if they found out they were pregnant, then tracked him down and left the kid in his bedroom when- what? When she ran short of money? When she got tired of taking care of him?
The boy doesn't blink when Desmond turns and glares at him, but his body, wrapped in a blanket taken off Desmond's bed, tenses up. He's clearly trying to hide it, but Desmond can tell he's afraid. The boy's young, and he hasn't learned to keep his emotions off his face yet.
They look at each other for a long time, then Desmond sighs and rubs a hand across his face. Whatever reason his mother had for leaving him here, it's not the kid's fault, and Desmond has enough experience with distant, impossible to please fathers to have any desire to become one himself. He feels his expression soften, and as though that's some kind of signal, the boy bursts into tears and launches himself at Desmond.
It takes him almost an hour to cry himself out, but eventually he falls silent. By this point, Desmond is sitting on his bed, half leaning against the wall, cradling the kid in his lap. "Are you alright?" Desmond asks, and the boy squints up at him with eyes red from crying. He mutters something, the words running together so that Desmond wouldn't be able to make them out even if they were in English. Just another strange thing about this kid, who shows up out of nowhere wearing clothes that look about a thousand years out of date (the blanket slipped off the kid while he was crying, giving Desmond a better look at him).
"You don't speak English?" Desmond asks, and the kid mumbles another answer he can't understand. "Alright." He shifts a little so that the kid is looking at him, and says, "My name's Desmond." He points to his own chest, and repeats, "Desmond."
The kid nods, wiping the back of his hand across his nose. He says something, pointing to himself. Only one word comes out loud enough for Desmond to hear. "Altair?" he asks, and the boy smiles at him. Alright then. Of course he'd have a weird name to go with all the other weird. Altair yawns, and Desmond can't stop himself from doing the same. It's half past seven now and now that the shock of Altair's arrival has worn off, he can feel his eyes drooping. He is so ready for sleep.
And that's the last thought he has before letting his eyes close- just for a second.
March 16, 2012 (Later)
He opens them ten hours later, and for a second he can't remember how he came to be lying in bed with a kid curled against his stomach. Then it all comes crashing back, and Desmond groans, shifting in bed slightly. He's not trying to wake Altair, but the second he moves, the kid's eyes slide open to stare at him. Desmond forces a smile he doesn't really feel onto his face, and says, "Morning."
He knows Altair doesn't speak English, so the greeting is mostly useless, but if the kid's going to be staying with him, he's going to have to learn the language at some point. And he is going to have to stay here, Desmond is certain of that now. It's like his mind has been working at the problem while he was asleep, because everything that seemed so confusing before falling asleep is crystal clear now. He doesn't have any idea who Altair's mother is, and it's pretty clear she doesn't want him back anyway. He can't call the police, because they're going to end up a lot more interested in his fake name and job history than in Altair. The only other option is straight up abandoning him, and Desmond doesn't think he has it in him to do that.
So Altair will have to stay with him.
"You want breakfast?" Desmond asks, then glances at the clock. 5:30 PM. "Or- dinner?" he corrects himself. Altair doesn't answer, but when Desmond starts rooting around in the fridge and pulling out anything that looks like it might still be edible, he hears small feet on the floor behind him. Altair is hovering in the bedroom doorway when Desmond turns around, half a loaf of bread and a packet of lunchmeat in his hands.
He doesn't say anything while Desmond slaps together a couple of sandwiches, doesn't even move. He stays completely still, watching, waiting for- something. It actually reminds him of something, but it takes him a few minutes to dig the memory out of the hole in the back of his mind where he puts all the things he doesn't want to think about. A few embarrassing morning afters, an exceptionally psycho ex-girlfriend, and most of his childhood.
He remembers being small, standing in the corner of the kitchen, waiting for a chance to sneak in and eat, remembering his dad- "It's all part of your training- when you're hungry enough you'll learn to get it quietly-"
Desmond half turns, looking at the half busted microwave on the counter. Sure enough, as soon as he takes his eyes off Altair, he hears the kid bolt for the sandwich. When he looks back, Altair's standing in front of him, food in hand, a huge, proud grin on his face. So whoever's been raising the kid has been training him as an assassin. Not good. Maybe they don't know who Desmond is or where he came from, but that doesn't mean they won't figure it out.
"Good job," Desmond says, because Altair seems to be waiting for something, and watches the boy's smile get bigger. He bites into the sandwich, makes a face like he's not quite sure what to make of it, then keeps eating. Desmond watches him until the food is gone, then stands up. "Alright," he says. "We're going out."
Altair cocks his head and lets out a stream of words that sound like a question. Desmond hesitates, but he really doesn't know how to answer, so he just puts on shoes and gestures for the kid to follow him out the door.
The first thing they need are clothes for Altair. In Desmond's experience, most people are willing to overlook a few oddities, especially in a kid, but that's not going to last forever. If Altair's going to be in the neighborhood for more than a few days, he'll need to look like he fits in. They'll also need food- he hasn't gotten groceries in too long, anyway- and probably a dozen other things Desmond doesn't even know about.
It suddenly strikes him how little he knows about kids in general, and this one specifically. Like- what do kids do all day? He's not going to be happy just sitting around the apartment. And is he toilet trained or still on diapers? Desmond glances down, but as far as he can tell, Altair's pants are dry. Still, he should probably pick something up.
There's a grocery two blocks from Desmond's apartment. It's not the place he usually goes, but there's food there, and the owners don't know he doesn't usually have a kid with him. It's a small place, not a lot of options, but Altair stares around at everything like he's never seen any of it before. But he stays quiet, which is good enough for now.
"Did you find everything you need?" the lady at the counter asks when he's done. She smiles at Altair, who grabs for Desmond's hand and hides behind his leg.
"Yea," Desmond says, and pulls out most of his cash to pay for the supplies. The back of his mind notes that he'll have to pick up some extra hours to make up for it, before he remembers that he might not have time in the foreseeable future. "Thanks."
Altair keeps a tight hold of Desmond's hand the whole way back, which makes carrying his bags a little difficult. He can't bring himself to pull away, though. Altair's starting to drag a little, still staring at everything, and his expression is equal parts curiosity and fear. He doesn't relax until they get into the apartment. As soon as they're inside, away from the noises and confusion of the city, he perks up and almost immediately starts getting underfoot. There's not really enough room to keep it up for long, and after about five minutes Desmond lifts him up and sits him on the counter next to the microwave.
"Stay there," he says, and Altair laughs, but stays put. Desmond can't stop himself from smiling a little in return. He can't pretend that his life isn't going to get more difficult from now on, but maybe it won't be all bad. There's just something about a four year old's smile that's incredibly contagious.
Taking a temporary break from my ongoing stuff to write a quick Kidfic. I blame spring break. It's too hard to focus.