"Thanks, Uncle," she said, smiling, and kissed him on the cheek.
Maddalena, called Maddie by nearly everyone but Desmond, was not precisely his niece. They were family, and, more importantly, comrades and friends, but the blood relation was quite a bit more distant than anyone would have guessed. Desmond had known once exactly how distant, but it no longer seemed important. Here and now, she was his niece, student, handyman, link to the world, and a treasure of warmth and kindness.
He watched her with the teenagers, offering them sandwiches, chips, cookies, shooing them toward the next small alcove to get themselves sodas or water from the small fridge, or coffee, tea, hot cocoa from the various pots and urns tucked away there, settling down on the floor at one end of the low, broad coffee table to tuck into her own sandwich and somehow also begin a conversation with the kids. She was much better at that sort of thing than he was; most people were slightly intimidated by Desmond in spite of themselves, and this particular group... He sighed slightly. All of them were gifted, to one degree or another, which was hardly surprising in Angels Fall. More surprising was that only one of them seemed to realize it, and all of them thought the slightly odd "vibe" they got from him was due to nothing more than his being their grandparents' age and owning a book shop filled with "occult" materials. He didn't particularly care to be social, but it would have made it easier to manage his tasks. Maddalena was an excellent intermediary, but he didn't like being so dependent on her.