"Well… I don’t honestly know how I could describe the taste to you. It’s, um… soft, warm, a bit heavy in your stomach. Especially with the cheese. You don’t need to eat a whole lot of it to get full quickly. But the taste… With this you’ll taste mostly the cheese, I guess. It’ll be creamy and a little salty, but not as strong as the cheese on the pizza."
He kept a close eye on the boy, watching and trying to read his face as he stared at the photos on the phone, as he listened to every word out of the Sergeant’s mouth with undisguised interest.
"And cheese is great for all sorts of things, really, melted or not. It’s good for snacking, just eating by itself. Or with crackers or pretzels or meats, like pepperoni…"
He frowned, realizing Devon likely had no idea what these things were either. he certainly had a job cut out for him, alright.
"I suppose I should start making a list of things you should try. Cheese sounds like a good starting point, don’t you think?"
He smiled again, each time the expression coming easily and simply, hoping it would continue to be reassuring and friendly.
However… he had a job to do, after all. And sitting here chatting wasn’t quite doing it.
Not the way he’d been instructed, anyway. As far as he was concerned, as long as Devon was safe and secure - he was doing his job perfectly fine.
"But… listen… I heard that there was some trouble earlier today with the other guard. I want to make sure your day gets better from here, alright? But I’m going to be upfront with you - I’m not gonna lie, I’m not gonna try to manipulate you like they do. I was instructed to try to get you back into the Lab and see if you can manage for a few more hours.”
He paused, ready for a temper - but steeled himself and continued after a moment anyway. He hoped his honesty would earn him points, at least, and preferably not ruin the happiness he’d seemed - so far - to instill in the boy just by being around.
"However, I’m leaving that up to you, Sir. I’m not them. I will not force you into anything.”
Soft and warm and heavy.
With open mouth and open eyes, the boy sat over the tiny screen. He didn’t touch the phone – not only were his fingers still feeling greasy from the cold fries, studies had also shown that those surfaces were full of bacteria and most people didn’t care about disinfecting them – but he stared at the picture in obvious fascination and awe.
From a safe distance.
He himself didn’t own a phone.
There was simply no need or point in having one.
The genius boy wasn’t one for long talks and simple conversation.
But right now, staring at the pictures of rich and heavy food, salty and delicious without any doubt, listening to stories of tastes he couldn’t imagine like other boys would listen to stories of knights and kings and dragons… it occurred to him that maybe, from now on, it would be convenient to own one.
“You… have a phone. Will you give me your number?”
Again, he blushed hard, changing the subject quickly as if nothing had happened.
“A list… yes. That sounds… reasonable. Very logical. Cheese should be on it. And… the other… things… you were mentioning. What… were they? Are they… good?”
The mentioning of the guard and the previous events let his heart freeze again. And with his heart, his smile as well. The rush of anger didn’t come, though.
He was too confused and surprised by Ashford’s… honesty.
None of them had bothered before.
None of them had bothered to ask.
He didn’t care about work right now. He’d worked every day. Every week. For years now.
It hadn’t bothered him. It had been his life and passion.
But now, there were more interesting things to discover, more interesting things to do.
For a moment, the boy was lost.
Work was all he was, so far, wasn’t he?
And if Ashford didn’t succeed in making him work, they might fire him, to use the Sergeant’s metaphor from earlier. It clearly would not be helpful to refuse to work, in this case.
Even if he didn’t want to.
“Oh. There… was no trouble. He… was rude.”
His voice sounded listless and low, but he nodded anyway, showing clearly no desire to leave this chair and this table, this little bubble of happiness and excitement.
“Yes. I… think… that… is what I… should do. You will be able to tell them that you got me to work. This will be good for your report.”
He had no doubts whatsoever, that his work would be fruitless.
If there was a night ahead of him with the bodyguard by his side… work would only be a nuisance.
More questions this time, questions that were quickly overshadowed before he’d had the chance to answer them.
Clearly, Devon was not at all interested in going back to work, and quite frankly, William didn’t blame him one bit.
"Well, if he was rude, that’s trouble enough for me. What did he say to you? They… didn’t exactly tell me."
He frowns, eyeing Devon, hoping to get rid of that sudden listlessness in his voice.
He had a feeling it might work - maybe - since it would cater to Devon’s curiosity and his clear loathing to go back to work right away. Because at the moment, it certainly seemed like the only way he’d be willing to was to keep William from being fired.
Admirable. Not entirely altruistic, but it was still good of him to think of William’s job security as well.
He did have a feeling it was less about his own security, though, and more about Devon’s interests. Which he could certainly deal with. The boy deserved it, anyway, after all the shit he’d clearly had to put up with from everyone else.
"How about… We stay here for a while longer, first. We can keep talking and you can still enjoy yourself for a bit, yeah? Then a few hours of work and… I won’t say anything if we happen to leave the Labs early, too. Does that sound reasonable to you?"