Title: A Window To The Past
Characters: Luke, Galvin, Mina, Jay, Ruby
Pairings: None explicitly – basically gen.
Summary: ...a photo fell out, landing face up on the desk.
Beta read by fififolle (because she's lovely and puts up with my bursts of productiveness)
If there was one thing Luke hated about the life of a smiter, it wasn’t the fighting for his life, the stupid hours or the hard training. It was the research.
It was bad enough to have to do it in the first place, but to spend long boring hours looking through dusty old books, only to go home and find a pile of homework waiting for him that he didn’t have the energy to do... Well it was taking the piss a little. Hadn’t these people ever heard of the internet? Even demon hunters had to move with the times, surely.
Yes, Mina had agreed when he’d complained about it, but it would take several lifetimes to enter the amassed information of the Stacks into a computer. Time that maybe even she didn’t have. Besides, it was awfully difficult to get an internet connection down in the sewers.
That was why he found himself yet again, on another Friday night when he’d planned to go to a party, sitting at the large main desk, surrounded by yellowing scrolls and musty books. He wasn’t the only one of course, Ruby, Galvin and Mina were all there too. They were searching for the name Groaath which, according to the half-life Galvin had threatened for information, was the thing that had been stalking and attacking young blondes in the area. It wasn’t a name familiar to Galvin or Mina, although they argued that the half-life contained hundreds, possibly thousands of demons and even with their years of experience there were always going to be ones unknown to them. Hence, research had started.
Hours had passed though and nothing useful had been found. Galvin said they needed to keep looking until they did find something, stating that he would not let Luke go up against an unknown opponent. Luke was beginning to think though that even being unprepared for a fight to the death had to be better than this.
He was moments from saying that this was hopeless, that he’d rather just go out there, find it and see if he could kill it anyway, when a book finally grabbed his attention.
Not because it contained the name they were looking for. No, it was as useless as all the others he’d checked in that department. It was because when he opened it up a photo fell out, landing face up on the desk.
He didn’t even bother to look at the book, dropping it to one side as he picked up the picture instead.
It had yellowed a little, obviously quite old. Dogged-eared too, like it had been handled a lot. It showed three people.
One was Galvin, looking much younger, with slightly longer hair and dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a denim jacket, a stark contrast to the more formal suits he went for now. On the other hand Mina, the second person, looked precisely the same. Same hair, same make up, same style of clothing. Like she was timeless and nothing affected her.
Between them, on Galvin’s lap, was a kid. Not even one year old by the looks of him. Neither Mina nor Galvin were looking at the camera, their attention focussed on the baby like the photo had been taken without them knowing.
The kid was him. Luke recognised that from the video he’d seen of him and his dad. The same pendant was grasped in his hands.
“What’s this?” he blurted out aloud, before he’d considered that maybe he should have pocketed the photo and kept it secret.
“What’s what?” Mina asked from the sofa, suddenly seeming interested where she’d been lying back in bored frustration before. Some of the resources in the Stacks had been reproduced in Braille for her but most hadn’t. She’d gone through all that she could before having to hand the research over to the rest of them, resigning herself to just offering tips on where they might come across the information.
“A photo. Old one of you, Galvin and me.”
Galvin himself looked up from the book he’d been studying. The expression on his face was hard to read.
“Let me take a look,” he said, holding out his hand for the picture.
Luke passed it over, watching carefully to see if he could judge Galvin’s reaction to it.
He seemed kind of sad, but there was a fondness in his face too.
“I didn’t even know he’d got this developed...”
Galvin let go of Mina’s arm as they reached the door to the Stacks, directing her to go ahead of him. She reached for the light switches as she entered the room but paused when she found them already on, Galvin stopping himself just in time to avoid running into the back of her.
“Jay?” she called with a slight frown, apparently having come to the conclusion it must be him. Galvin hoped she was right. He knew she couldn’t have just left the lights on because Mina simply wouldn’t do that, always saying that it was terribly wasteful. He’d teased her about it, reminding her that unlike the candles from her day, electricity didn’t run out. She’d told him not to be so facetious.
No, it had to be Jay. The only other explanation was that they had an intruder and Galvin would hate to come across the creature that could break into the Stacks. Fortunately, he knew he wasn’t about to meet one when Jay appeared from in between two of the high shelves at Mina’s call. He smiled up in their direction.
“Been out working without me?” he joked. “I thought I was supposed to be key to this whole operation.”
“We went to see Father Simeon,” Mina explained, walking down the stairs once more. “He was his usual unhelpful self.” She paused at the desk, frowning as if she’d sensed something unexpected. “Is Luke with you?”
He was. Jay was holding his young son, who seemed oblivious to all the strange things around him, far more interested in the amulet he’d been given to play with than the odd items on the shelves.
“Yeah. He just wanted to come and say hello to his godfather and Aunt Mina,” Jay said with a broad grin.
Mina raised a disbelieving eyebrow.
“Okay,” Jay conceded. “I told Jenny I’d look after him so she could go shopping and get her hair done in peace.”
“I hardly think bringing him down into a sewer constitutes looking after him,” Mina said with mild scolding.
“I had some things I needed to look up,” Jay admitted, before looking at Luke with a fond smile. “Shame you’re so rubbish at research, eh?”
Galvin frowned. What could Jay possibly need to look for so badly? They’d already exhausted all the resources they had here for the current hunt, that was the reason they’d gone to that old fossil Simeon in the first place. And Jay had never been the type to trawl through a load of old books unless he really had to. What was he up to?
For a moment Galvin’s gut twisted in apprehension, but he forcefully pushed the thought away, angry at himself for his suspicion. Jay was his friend for Christ’s sake. They’d fought alongside each other for years. He knew him.
No, Galvin told himself firmly, he’d just been a paranoid son of a bitch ever since Maggie had died, looking for the bad in everything. And that was all well and good when applied to half-lives, but he shouldn’t extend it to those he cared about. It wasn’t fair.
“Here,” Mina said with a sigh, holding out her arms.
Jay grinned, handing Luke over to her without reservation.
She seemed so at ease with the kid, Galvin thought as he crossed to the sideboard, Jay disappearing amongst the shelves again. But, he supposed Mina had once been a mother herself. Still was technically.
He poured himself coffee, feeling that bourbon wasn’t appropriate when Luke was around.
Sitting at the desk, he watched silently as she paced back and forth, jiggling Luke up and down, muttering soppy words at him. She really was good with kids, he mused, smiling a little. She always had loved children apparently. And whilst she’d maintained that she should stay out of Jay and Galvin’s home lives, reminding them that she’d only cause awkward questions from their loved ones in the end, she did seem to light up on the few occasions Jay brought Luke here. It was nice to see. Mina really should smile more.
After a few minutes more, she came and sat down beside Galvin, the boy contentedly gurgling in her lap.
Galvin momentarily stroked a finger across his godson’s soft cheek, wondering painfully if he’d have been a father himself by now had Maggie lived. They’d not been married long enough to contemplate having kids. He’d just kind of assumed it would happen one day.
Not now, of course.
“He likes you,” he commented quietly, seeing the boy smiling adoringly at Mina.
She smiled too.
“That’s because he has impeccable taste,” she reasoned lightly. Then a slightly uncomfortable look came over her as Luke’s hand reached out and grabbed at her earring. “And an unfortunate liking for shiny objects. A little help?”
Galvin grinned, carefully unwrapping Luke’s tiny fingers from around her earring and letting them grip his own finger instead. Strong grasp for a kid his age. That was to be expected though. He was a Van Helsing after all.
“Perhaps,” Mina said gently after a moment, “he’d like to say ‘hello’ to his godfather now.”
Galvin recoiled a little, like she’d just offered him a live snake to hold. “Hey, you know the kid doesn’t like me that much.”
Which was stupid really, he figured. Luke wasn’t really old enough to make those kind of judgements. Yet every time Galvin had ever held him, the kid had wailed in protest until he’d been ‘rescued’. Clearly, unlike Mina, Galvin wasn’t a natural.
“It’s not a matter of liking you,” she reasoned. “You just make him nervous.”
“Because I’m so powerful and intimidating?” he joked.
“Because you hold him like he’s a box of live grenades.”
She lifted the boy across, placing him on Galvin’s lap before he had a chance to get up and leave. Galvin tensed, not comfortable in the slightest. Luke didn’t seem much happier about it either, an uncertain frown going across his face, clearly not as at ease in his godfather’s lap as he had been in Mina’s.
“Relax,” she insisted with a smile that seemed amused, resting a hand lightly on the boy’s back as if to reassure him.
Galvin could have done with some of that himself.
Still, he tried to do as she asked, deciding this was stupid and the last thing in the world he should be scared of was an eight month old. But, to be honest, he wasn’t really sure what to do with a kid. He didn’t have much experience. So, after a moment of looking at him rather blankly, he didn’t the first thing that came to mind and pulled a stupid face.
And Luke laughed.
“I trust you did something to amuse him,” Mina said dryly, “and he’s not just laughing at you in general.”
“Apparently I’m a regular comedian.”
He did it again, a different face this time, and Luke laughed once more, waving his arms about in apparent delight before grabbing onto a handful of Galvin’s jacket.
He was a cute little thing really.
“See?” Mina said with a smile. “I knew you two would get along in the end.”
Galvin jolted a little as a bright flash came out of nowhere. He turned to see Jay pointing a camera at them, a slightly odd smile on his face.
“Didn’t I tell you where I was gonna shove that camera if you kept pointing it at me?” Galvin warned, still seeing coloured dots in front of his eyes. “What is it with you recently? You think you missed your calling as a photographer or something?”
“Got to get mementos of moments like this,” Jay explained with a shrug. “You don’t know when they’re going to happen again. Or when they’ll end.”
“And I thought I was meant to be the pessimist.”
Jay smiled, but there was still something odd about it. Sad almost. Galvin meant to ask him about it but he was distracted once more by the kid tugging at his shirt, demanding more entertainment.
Galvin stared at the photo for a moment longer, the same thoughtful expression on his face. For some reason, even though it was part of his own past, Luke didn’t feel like he had the right to ask what Galvin was remembering.
“Your dad took it,” Galvin finally said, handing it back. “You might as well have it.”
“Don’t you want it?”
“I remember those days, you don’t.”
Luke wasn’t sure whether that was supposed to be a good or a bad thing. Whether Galvin wanted to remember or not.
“I wonder what it was doing in this book...” he mused instead.
“A bookmark, I’d assume,” Mina piped up, not having moved from her seat. “Your father probably put it there.”
And never got round to taking it back out, Luke added silently. Because he’d died.
Luke picked the book back up again, wishing he’d taken note of the page it’d been marking, wondering if it would have somehow revealed something important. Like why his dad had done it for instance. He doubted it though. It was probably just to do with some case he’d be working on at the time. Besides, there was little point wondering; Luke couldn’t find the place it’d been marking anyway.
“So,” he said to Galvin, after studying the photo for a moment himself, “you playing the doting godfather here, hmm?”
“Oh you hated me,” Galvin joked with a chuckle, not looking up from the book he’d returned to. “Adored Mina though.”
“Obviously I’ve always had good taste.”
“That’s what I said,” Mina replied and he looked across to see she was smiling fondly too. Good memories apparently.
“Better than Galvin’s,” Ruby interrupted, looking over Luke’s shoulder. “At least his taste in clothes. You look like an explosion in a denim factory.”
Galvin gave her a dry look. “With your eclectic fashion sense Ruby, you really think I’m bothered by that?”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” She scrunched her face, giving him a very unimpressed look.
“I hate to interrupt the start of such a fascinating discussion,” Mina said hurriedly, with some measure of impatience, “but we do have a demon to identify...”
Ruby grumbled something but went back to work.
Luke didn’t look at the photo again until he got home, slipping it in his pocket but certainly not forgetting about it.
Sitting on his bed, alone, he studied it in silence.
He looked at Galvin, seeing that no matter how much younger he appeared, there was still that same old air of all too serious preoccupation in his manner. He would have been a widower by this point, Luke realised. He wondered if his godfather had been any more carefree before that.
He looked at Mina too, her hand resting on his back, as though she was reassuring the younger him. It was like he’d brought out the mothering instinct in her. He couldn’t help but wonder if the smile on her face was tainted by sadness though, remembering her own son that she’d all but lost.
Then there was him, innocent and oblivious, gripping onto the edge of Galvin’s jacket and looking at his godfather almost curiously, like he couldn’t quite work him out. Nothing had changed much there, he thought with a smile.
The smile faded when he considered his dad, standing in his position, watching the scene in front of him. What had been going through his head? Had he taken this to remember them all being together, already knowing what he was going to do a few months later? It made Luke shiver to think he’d been planning it that long, thinking for months about how he was going to betray his friends and family. Stringing them all along.
Luke pushed the thoughts away, knowing it was pointless to ponder such things. He’d never know and it wouldn’t make him feel any better to wonder about them.
It was weird though, to really think about how Galvin and Mina had been part of his earliest life, that they’d held him as a baby and looked out for him but he’d never really known them until a few months ago.
He’d always thought it had just been him and his mum.
It seemed his family had always been bigger than he’d been aware of and, despite all the other bad memories, that really did make him smile.