A/N: The very first glimmerings of "Promises" started out with the stuff below. I originally had some thought of writing out Koen's backstory-Kolyat and Thane weren't involved at all. But then somehow I got the idea of Thane entrusting his son with Shepard and melded the two ideas together. The below scene was recycled to Chapter 5, though shortened and rewritten to be from Koen's POV.
It's a good thing, actually, since the below scene ended on a rather boring note. But, hey, that's what deleted scenes are for, yes?
Josiah grimaced at an ache in his back as he bent over to pick up a piece of crumpled paper from the common room of the small church. Late morning sun peered through upper windows along the back wall, but aside from the drone of traffic outside, it was quiet. Too quiet.
"Lord, if there's something important I'm supposed to do today, better let me in on the secret."
Josiah, or Reverend Joe, as the neighborhood kids liked to call him, walked to the back of the common room where the small kitchenette waited. He noted with a little pride the smaller, dextro-amino fridge: that had been quite an investment of the church's limited funds, but Josiah had stood his ground with the church board. The day that poor quarian boy had wandered in, half starving and injured, was burned forever into his mind. He'd given what aid he could to the kid, but without any dextro-amino food, the quarian had to leave. Josiah wondered about him to this day.
Stomach rumbling, Josiah decided it was as good a time as any for a late breakfast, and set about making an omelet and brewing a fresh pot of coffee.
The coffee drip had barely stopped when the front door that led directly onto the street burst open. Josiah looked up, startled, in time to see a small, grimy child slam the door shut and lean against it, breathing hard. A small cut on the boy's head bled, but not heavily and there was a bruise just starting to darken on his cheekbone.
"You chose a good place, kid," Josiah said, coming out from the kitchen so that he was visible, but staying back, cup of coffee in hand—a non-threat. "The church is neutral territory."
"So?" The kid's voice was bold, ringing loudly across the space between them.
Josiah smiled. "Tenth Street Reds, right?"
The kid gaped at him and then narrowed his eyes. "How'd you know I was a Red?"
"The red paint in your hair kinda gives it away."
The kid's face blanked for a moment and he put his hand up to his short-cropped hair, and looked at it. Drying red paint streaked his palm. "Stupid Digg," he muttered. "I knew he was doing something. They wouldn't tell me what."
Josiah sipped his coffee, considering. The kid was clearly what neighborhood slang called a "scrub"—a young, new initiate to the gang. The streak of red paint was his gang's particular favored method of hazing. He'd seen it before: the scrub would be branded a Tenth Street Red in an obvious way, blindfolded, and then dumped inside a rival gang's territory. If the scrub got out alive—he was a full member. If not, well, the weak didn't deserve to be a member anyway—or so the gang mentality went. The kid in front of him couldn't have been more than ten or eleven years old, with the pinched, bony look of a boy not fed enough to meet his body's growing needs.
Josiah gestured to the omelet he'd made still sitting on a plate. "You hungry, kid? I just made myself some breakfast, but there's plenty here for both."
The boy turned a wary gaze on him, fingers twitching toward the ragged pocket. "Are you a perv?" he blurted out, body tense and ready to flee. "Digg said pervs trick you by giving you food and then they catch you and... do stuff."
Josiah held up his hands. "No, I'm not. But if it'll make you feel better, I'll sit on this side of the table, okay?" The kid considered this a moment, and then nodded. The plate was barely on the table before the kid started tearing into it, eyes wide and hungry.
"Want anything to drink?"
"Cof-ee," the boy said thickly around a mouthful of egg. He swallowed. "With sugar? Do you got that?"
Josiah nodded, inwardly wondering where a boy this young would have gotten a taste for coffee, but poured out a second mug without hesitation. He tried not to stare at the kid for fear of making him run, but the boy was a good example of the increasingly mixed ethnicity of Earth. Narrow, almost almond-shaped eyes proclaimed Asian ancestry somewhere not far back, but the irises were a shade of green that made him wonder if perhaps one of his parents was pure Nordic. His skin, while not as dark as Josiah's, was a warm, toasted brown, and not just tan from being outside all day. Even his hair was an oddity—it was too red to be called brown, but not red enough to be a true ginger-haired either.
"Who are you anyway?" the kid asked as the last crumbs from the omelet disappeared into his mouth.
"Josiah Shepard. You can call me Reverend Joe, if you like."
"Weird name." The kid gulped at his coffee, green eyes darting around the common area. "What's that?"
Josiah followed the kid's pointed finger. "That's my office. You can go look inside if you want." The kid looked excited and then suspicious. "I'll stay right here, if you want to look at it."
The kid scampered from the table. Josiah could see straight into the office from his seat and, amused, watched him look at the bookshelf with a mixture of awe and confusion. "What're these things?"
"This ain't a book," the kid scoffed, poking one grimy finger at the leather binding. "Books are on data-readers. Digg showed his to me once, though half the screen don't work."
"These are old-fashioned books. You have to flip the pages manually, not read them on a screen."
"Weird," the boy said again, but seemed fascinated by the way the page flipped back and forth in his fingers.