Chapter 19: Intrusions
"This is a bad idea."
"You need to relax."
"I don't think we should be doing this."
"I go all the time, you two will be fine."
"Are you sure about this?"
"Just trust me, would you Aiden!" Gabe sighed in exasperation from where he stood next to Angela. The young woman gave his partner a reassuring smile as her own partner handed over their disguises for the evening. Used to the current objective ahead, Arthur had already donned his outfit of the evening consisting of a worn out cloak and a strange hat similar to Angela's falling sloppily to the side of his head. Gabe had wrinkled his nose slightly at the stripped hat he had been offered that consisted of what appeared to be cat ears, but he pulled it over his messy hair. Aiden was pulling on the cloak offered to him, but his eyes were darting around cautiously. The group stood in an old shop that led out into a creepy alley way that was the portal to their destination and the answers Gabe was looking for.
"You're certain we won't get found out?" The nervous weapon asked, pulling the hood of his cloak over his head, concealing most of his face. Angela smiled reassuringly and gave a nod as she shrugged on her own cloak, her chameleon moving to hide under the cloth as she did.
"I've got everything under control. Just stick with me." She answered before leading the way. Aiden looked anxiously to Arthur, who held a calm expression on his face, clearly use to this adventure and not at all phased by the fact they had lied to professors about going on an assignment with Stein and Marie. That would clearly come around at some point. Neither senior was gaining anything from this spy game Gabe was attempting, but neither questioned the motives of the teens either. Angela soon moved forward, leading them further down the alley until they reached a dead end. She lifted her hands in front of her, palms facing the wall, closing her eyes and chanting a few words before a warm glow covered them all. It was a strange feeling and became slightly uncomfortable and numbing. Aiden didn't voice his discomfort, but the same couldn't be said for his partner.
"What the…" Gabe had choked out and just as quickly as it began, it had ended. The younger two of the group stumbled forward as they appeared in a street leading into an outdoor market.
"We're here." hummed Arthur, stepping forward and walking alongside his partner. He glanced back at Aiden and Gabe, both who were looking at the surroundings with wide, curious eyes. "Keep your eyes straight and act natural."
"Don't scare them too much, Art. We're just here to find Eureka and get some answers after all." Said Angela with a teasing smile. He returned a smile himself. They seemed to drift closer to one another as they walked.
"So when we find Eureka," Aiden whispered to Gabe, his eyes scanning the area apprehensively. "What are we supposed to do next?"
"She hasn't been around for a while. I overheard my mom talking about how she and Eureka work together in relations between witches and Shibusen, yet no one had heard from her and seen her in weeks."
"And you think you're going to easily just find her here?" Aiden questioned, cocking a brow, face barely visible under his cloak hood.
"No… but there might be some answers." Gabe answered. The market they were strolling through was very similar to the weekend street market in Death City, except for the manner of dress the people around them had donned. Not only that, but their bizarre appearances. It was hard to keep from staring and both teens caught themselves with their jaws hanging and dirty looks sent their way quite a few times. That aside, there was one thing that seemed to be consistent.
"Angela…" Aiden started cautiously, causing the witch to look over her shoulder at him expectantly. He faltered for a moment before clearing his throat. "Who are these people talking about when they say 'The Exceptions'?" He asked.
"They are you two." Angela answered easily. "And Arthur." She added.
"It's a term used for those of us who aren't 'normal'. Weapons and meisters." Arthur explained. "Here you are considered by some magical term, an Exception, or human."
"And humans are…"
"Humans are those who have no abilities. You every day, average citizen." Angela finished. "Its been like this since the treaty between witches and Shibusen was signed. Terms like these made it easier to differentiate between groups during Witch Council Meetings and such."
"They still have those?" Gabe asked.
"Yeah. I used to attend them when I was younger with my first guardian. Then when Shibusen took me in your mom was the one that took me." A slight smile crossed the witch's face. "Tsubaki-niichan and Spikey weren't exactly fit for the position even if they were raising me."
"So you're like Ayame's big sister then?" Aiden asked and Angela finally let out a laugh.
"You could say that." She answered and pointed ahead towards a hole in the wall looking shop. "There's a shop at there with this weird old mage who sells he can tell fortunes and such. Go ahead there and he can tell you where Eureka is." She explained. Aiden looked confused while Gabe nodded in determination.
"Wait, you two aren't going with us?"
"We can't." Arthur answered, his eyes distractedly scanning their surroundings, much to Gabe's annoyance. "They know that I'm an Exception and Angela never bothers with such. Plus we're both tied very obviously to Shibusen and things are rough enough as it is. You two are unfamiliar and no one would really think much of travelers coming to know of fortunes."
"I don't understand how strangers looking for answers isn't strange." Aiden responded apprehensively. Angela waved a hand at him in a dismissive manner.
"Just take care of what you have to do. We'll be out here if anything happens." Both boys faltered, exchanging looks with one another before looking apprehensively at the pair that was now whispering to one another. Gabe wrinkled his nose in disapproval before turned on his heal.
"Screw it. Let's get this over with." The boy muttered, leading his best friend towards the shabby shop. Cautiously, he had pushed open the rickety door, a bell chiming as he poked his head in. It was poorly lit, but at the shop counter there was an ancient looking man waiting. "Uh…"
"Well don't just stand there." The man's voice was raspy and deep as he beckoned the pair in. Slowly, Gabe inched in, Aiden close behind as they approached the tiny man. The closer they got, Gabe could make out his age spots and mass of wrinkles. His hair was nearly as pale as his skin, but what caught the meister off most, was the man's eyes.
"H-he's blind!" Aiden hissed at his shocked partner.
"But not deaf." The man responded, causing the pair to stiffen significantly. He reached up a cane, waving it haphazardly towards the duo. "Now what the hell do two Exceptions want with me? Come to take me away?" he barked out.
"W-what're you talking about!?" Gabe chocked out. "We're mages!" The man's pale eyes narrowed. Despite his blindness, neither of the teens could help but feel judged. The man's nostrils then flared and he took in a deep breath before shaking his head.
"No, I can smell it on you. Not a lick of magic… Though…" he trailed off, his milky glaze falling on a very uncomfortable Gabe. He gave a small sniff. "You do have a distinct scent yourself." Aiden shifted awkwardly and glanced at his partner who was not in the least bit entertained. The brown haired teen turned back to the milky eyed man/
"We just came for answers… We're looking for someone." A brow was cocked.
"And you come here to me by whose direction?"
"Does it matter? We just want to know if you can answer our question." Gabe answered impatiently. "We're looking for a witch named Eureka."
"The frog witch?" The man asked, attention finally sprung. He began humming to himself thoughtfully, nodding his head in confirmation. "Yes, yes. I know all about her."
"Then you can tell us where she is?" Gabe asked hopefully. "It's important business." The old man once again cocked a brow at them. He seemed to blindly size them up and when he opened his mouth the speak, another voice was heard.
"Shibusen business?" The boys blinked in confusion, but the old man chuckled, turning his gaze over his shoulder and looking into the shadows behind him.
"When did you get back?"
"I've been here all day, Baba." The voice answered. There was something familiar about it. Out of the shadows came a cloaked figure, a stack of books in the person's arms. Aiden was intrigued, but Gabe was, as expected, defensive and suspicious. "What're you doing here?" The person asked, voice annoyed. Why was the tone so familiar.
"We came here for answers. Who the hell are you?" Gabe asked. An agitated sigh echoed from under the hood and both boys allowed their gaurds to immediately fall.
"B-Becca?" The blonde continued to glare at them, hands on her hips.
"How'd you two get here?" she asked, annoyance evident in her tone. "And why're you looking for my mom?"
It had been three days since they had arrived at her parent's home and Aimee would be lying if she didn't say she was proud of how well her partner was taking their living situation. Liam had been lodging in her tiny space of a room, the two of them sharing a bed and occasional waking up a tangled mess of bodies. Aimee was never fazed but Liam would be completely flustered and red faced each time. The red head never teased him though, She simply would counter each moment with an anecdote from her childhood. The trip was filled with a lot of those, but there was also the constant visits to her grandmother's. It hadn't taken long for Liam to figure out who she was… What she was. He never told Aimee, but she was certain it had something to do with her grandmother's abilities. Liam went to visit her a lot. To learn more about her premonitions, like he was trying to piece together something larger than life. Aimee didn't always join, but when she did, she was quick to change the topic.
Today was marking day four of their time away and Aimee allowed her eyes to crack open slowly as she peered down at the weight on her chest. She smiled slightly at the sight of messy dark locks that belonged to her sleeping partner. His mouth was slightly agape as he snoozed peacefully. He wasn't necessarily clinging to her, his arm thrown across her midsection, but she enjoyed the cuddly gesture, despite how unintentional it was. She slowly stretched, stifling a yawn as she turned her gaze to the clock on her nightstand.
"Half past ten… not bad." She murmured tiredly and nudged her partner's shoulder, already prepared for his usual morning freak out. "Hey, Li. Wake up." He stirred slightly, mumbling incoherently. The red head smiled and nudged him again. "C'mon now, before Trish comes in." Her partner let out a miserable groan and began to move.
"Why would I care about…" As he lifted his head, the shinigami began to take in his position and surroundings. He processed that, once again, he wasn't sleeping in a bed alone and that, yes, once again, he had found himself sleeping on top of his partner. Springing up, he scrambled backwards, face crimson. "I-I…." He began stuttering and rambling but Aimee ignored him, as she always did, and slid out of bed. She stretched high, her arms above her head allowing her already small top to ride up further. You would think that after nearly a week of this he would be accustomed to waking up on top of her. Maybe she should start switching it up.
"I'm going to see what's the deal with breakfast while you get yourself together." Liam continued to babble as she vanished through the bedroom door. Slipping down the steps leading into the small living area, Aimee realized that her father and step mother were nowhere to be found. She wrinkled her nose. Crossing her arms, the red head let out an annoyed huffed. "Great, now what am I supposed to do about breakfast?"
"I could always take you out." Immediately, the weapon spun around, ready to fight whatever intruder had entered her home, but her defense fell at the sight of the curious, but smiling young man seated in her father's favorite seat. "Damn Aimee, time has done good for you…. Real good."
"Robbie. What the hell are you doing here?" She took in his no longer scrawny appearance. He finally trimmed auburn hair. The fact he still held that mischievous glint in his eyes when he smiled that crooked smile of his. It made her jittery just looking at him. Making no move to leave his seat, the intruder shrugged a shoulder.
"Heard you were back in town. In fact, I heard you'd been here a while and I was kinda shocked you never bother to contact me." They stared at each other, one trying to read the other. They weren't children any more. They had barely left their teens. A few moments passed between the two before Robbie pushed himself up from his seat, causing Aimee to stiffen.
"So you haven't missed me?" he asked, closing in the space between them. The red head frowned.
"Not like you made much of an effort to stop me from leaving. Or to even find me from what I've heard." She countered. He raised an eyebrow at her.
"What's that mean?"
"I heard what you were up to… What you've been up to since I've been gone." Aimee answered, taking a step back. When had he gotten so close? "You're playing a dangerous game getting involved with those people, Rob. You could end up killed. We almost did before!"
"It's nothing like that, Aimee. It was a misunderstanding." The man informed confidently. "I can protect you better now. I'm not a dumb kid any more. Can't you tell?" Silence filled their space again. He was taller and broader. He was confident. They weren't children any more… He could…
"Aimee? Oh… ummm" Heart skipping a beat and face going pink, Aimee spun around and met with the confused gaze of her partner. He looked between the pair and raised a brow.
"Ah! Um… Liam…" He frowned at her nervousness.
"Am I interrupting?"
"No." "Yes." Both Aimee and Robbie spoke at the same time, the red head sending her ex lover an indignant look while he seemed to be fighting to hold back his own annoyance.
"Who's this guy, Aimee?" Robbie asked, eyeing the defensive shinigami critically. "Went and found yourself a weirdo while you were away I see."
"Excuse me?" Liam growled but Aimee was quick to get between the two, sending a glare at Robbie.
"Robbie, this is my-"
"Room mate." Liam cut off in a challenging manner causing his weapon to redden.
"Very good friend of mine from school!" She offered up to the glaring, opposing male. "Liam, this is Robbie, my-"
"Ex!" She practically screeched, but it didn't matter because the pair paid her no mind. No, they were focused on glaring holes into each other's souls. "Boys, seriously." She moaned and moved to stand in front of Liam, placing her hands on his shoulders and looking into his eyes. "Stop, please. Come on, go finish your morning ritual while I make breakfast, ok?" His eyes narrowed.
"And him?" he asked.
"He… he's gonna just leave." She answered and looked back at Robbie who cocked a brow. "Right?"
"No." He scoffed, causing the team to stare back with wide eyes. He strutted past them and dropped into the rickety kitchen chair, looking back at Aimee expectantly. "No, I think I'll just stick around for breakfast."
"The hell you are!" Liam yelled, moving his partner out of the way. "Who the hell do you think you are, barging into someone else's home uninvited! Especially with what you've done!" He was fuming, hands clenched at his sides and hair disheveled, standing in a faded old tee and basketball shorts. He looked different. His shoulders were wider. His jaw was tight and more defined. He almost looked… adult. "You put Aimee in danger back when she was here. You didn't think anything of her safety and LEFT HER! Was gives you any right to think you can just come walking through these doors as if things changed. As if she's supposed to stay here with you?" Robbie was standing now.
"What do you know about that night? We got away eventually."
"Together?" Liam asked and Robbie faltered. "You left her. When it got real and blood was in the air, you were gone. You panicked and let those men take her." His voice had dropped and now Aimee was standing back, eyes downcast and arms wrapped around herself. When she had gotten comfortable enough with her meister, she told him in full detail about her last week home. About how weeks prior her boyfriend had found out about transforming abilities and from then, things seemed to go downhill. They had ended up mixed up in some gang business and while Aimee isn't certain about all the details, between the panic, fear and strange faces that had closed in on her, she had blacked out and woke up in a room covered in blood and Robbie nowhere in sight. She had assumed he was dead. Her father had been the one to find her. Robbie hadn't come for her until days after the incident but by then she had learned about Shibusen and was one her way.
"Listen ass hole," Robbie started defensively. "When your girlfriend goes bat shit crazy and starts to blow everyone in the vicinity away, how do you respond? I'm a normal human being, now some-"
"Some what?" Aimee finally spoke up. He had frozen, mouth hanging open. "A weirdo? A monster? A… freak?"
"I think you need to leave." She ordered, holding her head high and arms crossed. She was fighting back tears. "And I don't want to see you ever again." Opening his mouth, Robbie seemed to struggle with what to say, but a defeated smile crossed his face and he let out a hollow laugh.
"Guess that'd be for the best, huh?" There was no response. He continued to smile, it turning sad. Clearing his throat, he walked up to her and leaned forward, placing a feather like kiss on her cheek. "Don't change, ok ginger?" He whispered with a wink.
"Yeah… I won't, dirt ball." She answered back in a strained voice and watched as he walked out the door. When it clicked closed behind him, she let out a shaky sigh and her head dropped in defeat. "Why…" Arms wrapped around her and she allowed her face to bury into her partner's chest. "I don't understand why."
"Hey, it's ok to cry." Liam whispered. "I'm not going anywhere… ever."
"Promise?" The red head choked out, tears finally pouring from her eyes. Liam rested his chin at the top of her head and she felt him chuckle.