|Brother and Sister
Author: TheCatOwl PM
Andreas is a brooding, temperamental sorcerer. Lizzy is a shy, sweet werecat. The two of them are the unlikeliest and closest of friends. But what happens when one of them is kidnapped? Two-shot.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship/Drama - Words: 7,216 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 06-06-12 - id: 3029812
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is going to be a little two-shot about two characters that are going to be appearing in Tales of a Teenage Sorcerer. I tried a different style for it, so tell me what you think. Reviews are greatly appreciated, as I can't improve if I don't know where I'm making mistakes.
Disclaimer: Anything I reference in this belongs to their respective owners. I only own my characters and the plot.
Look, I'm just going to cut to the chase—magic is real. Yes, magic. As in, bippity-boppity-boo, casting spells and all that crap.
What does that have to do with me?
Well, pleased to meet you. Name's Andreas. I'm a sorcerer.
Yes, a sorcerer. You heard me perfectly fine. Don't make me repeat myself.
I know what you're thinking: "Oh my gosh, just like Harry Potter!" You go ahead and believe that. But actually, you're only half-right.
Truth is, sorcery is a lot harder than you'd think. First off, there are no magic wands. Whatever you do, you do with your own magical reserves. And you can't do everything right away. It's train, train, train; you have to refine your skills until you can manage to do something simple without blowing your head off.
Not to mention the fact that most sorcerers had the added bonus of actually knowing about magic from their parents. Lucky them. I didn't have that luxury. Oh no, I was stuck on the streets of New York for half my life. I don't even remember my parents.
Heh, listen to me. Rambling about my personal life when I'm supposed to be explaining magic. But I digress.
Seriously, magic isn't all that bad. Sure, there's a lot of training, but it's definitely worth it. I mean, it's magic. What kid wouldn't want to be able to use magic?
I actually have friends now. A lot of them are freaked out by me, but I really don't care. It's better than your only friend being an alley cat.
God, I can already tell what you're all thinking. It's not like that. Lizzy's…different than all the other sorcerer kids I know—in more ways than one. She's the only person there who isn't scared of me, not even a little. We have a lot in common; we both love reading, music…and we've both had more than our share of trouble in our lives.
Lizzy…she's like my little sister. She might as well be my little sister. And I know we'll always have each other's back's, no matter what.
There was a light shower coming down on the New York suburb, cloud cover obscuring the early afternoon sun. Most of the inhabitants of the neighborhood were safely tucked away in their homes. Those still out and about were moving a little faster than normal, umbrellas held high over their heads to block the rain. Everyone, that is, except for the pale, teenaged boy who was walking past them down the street.
The boy looked about seventeen, and was both ridiculously tall and painfully skinny. He was dressed in a gray, camouflage-pattered jacket over a dark T-shirt and jeans. His neat, jet-black hair was growing steadily damper from walking through the rain, and his dark blue eyes were fixed on the building just up the street.
Andreas didn't care about the rain, though. He strode down the street at his normal pace, ignoring the water that was splashing down on his head. After all, he'd had to walk through far worse.
The library looked hazy through the rain. Water dripped over the edges of the veranda, trickling down the beak of the stone eagle that adorned space above the entryway. The building wasn't as spectacular as its more famous counterpart in the city, but it suited Andreas's needs just fine. He crossed underneath the entryway, dodging a few people who were sheltering underneath it, and ducked inside.
It was pleasantly quiet inside the library. Book-cluttered shelves lined the walls, and the room was dotted with worn tables. People were grouped around the tables, either reading their books or holding whispered conversations among themselves. A group of older kids sitting at a table near the middle of the room grew steadily louder, and the librarian—a short woman with gray hair pulled into a wispy bun—kept getting up to silence them before trudging back to her desk on the left side of the room.
He walked over and stood by the desk, waiting patiently for the librarian to return from hushing the group. Shaking her head, the woman settled back down into her seat. After a few moments she seemed to realize Andreas was there. She looked up, squinting at him. Then her face broke into a smile. "Hello, Andreas!" she greeted warmly.
"Hello, Mrs. Dupont," he said, nodding politely. "Did my book come in yet?"
Mrs. Dupont cocked her head. "You know, I'm not sure," she admitted. "One moment, I'll be right back."
She got up from behind the desk and headed over to one of the shelves, carefully checking each book while Andreas waited patiently. Finally she returned, a rather large volume tucked under her arm. "Here you are," she said, setting it down on the counter. "King Lear," she said appreciatively, raising one eyebrow at the boy. "That's quite the read for someone your age." She chuckled. "Most teenagers I know wouldn't touch this book with a ten-foot pole!"
Well, I'm not like most teenagers, am I?
Andreas shrugged as he handed her his library card. "I've read bigger," he said unconcernedly.
Mrs. Dupont smiled at him. "Well, I hope you enjoy it," she told him as she handed him both the book and his card.
He nodded his thanks and tucked the book under his arm, already headed for his favorite spot.
Off to the side of the main room was a little alcove with a low ceiling. It was a little darker than the rest of the library, and there was no one sitting near it. Exactly how he liked it. Clustered together on the floor of the alcove were a couple of battered beanbag chairs. Andreas ducked under the ceiling and promptly flopped down into the nearest one.
Before he opened his book, he reached into his pocket and pulled out an iPod in a black case with matching headphones. Unraveling the cord, he stuck the earbuds into his ears and, with a few taps on the screen, brought the device to life in his hand.
He scrolled aimlessly through the song list, which continued to stretch on. Country, rock, hip-hop, classical…he really didn't care what he listened to. So he hit the shuffle button and let it play through.
Then he flipped open the book and started reading.
Not long into the play, he started focusing more on the music than the words in front of him. The song that was playing through the earbuds wasn't very complex—just a piano playing slowly, softly.
Trois Gymnopedies, he identified. He glanced up at the window, watching the rain pattering gently onto the pane. The melancholy song certainly fit the dreary weather outside.
Closing the book, he leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.
It seemed so long ago now, his old life. Only three years had passed since he had been living off the streets—scrounging food when he could, stealing it when he couldn't…and generally avoiding other people. He'd lived like a fugitive—no, like an animal—since he was six years old. Any normal kid never would have made it.
Then again, since when had he been normal?
He'd always known he was different than everyone else. Normal people couldn't do the things he could. Things that could only be explained by…well, magic.
But he'd never known that there were other people like him in the world until a few years back…
He slipped through the door of the coffee shop, glancing anxiously over his shoulder. He was absolutely certain that no one had seen him in that store…did they? That one kid…
But he shook his head. He was never seen. And he was never caught.
The woman at the desk looked up with a frown as the door swung shut again. She got up and walked right past Andreas as if she couldn't see him. After looking the door over, she stalked back to her chair muttering about broken hinges.
Andreas watched her boredly for a few moments before turning around and heading to the table in the corner. It was concealed behind a short wall—no one would be able to see him there. Once he sat down, he made sure that no one was around to see him. Then he closed his eyes and concentrated.
He felt the telltale tingling across his skin, and the next thing he knew he could see himself again. He quickly glanced up to make sure that no one had seen him reappear out of thin air. Still no one.
Smiling to himself, he pulled open his jacket and started counting out his loot: and assortment of chips, candy bars, beef jerky, a couple of sodas—definitely enough to keep him fed for a few days.
He was vaguely aware of the bell over the door dinging as he picked out a chocolate bar and looked it over. He hadn't eaten in a day and a half. His stomach gurgled hungrily.
Without another thought, he ripped the wrapper off and shoved the majority of the bar into his mouth, savoring the taste.
He jerked instinctively, pulling the food spread over the table closer to him and glancing up sharply.
Sitting at the table across from him was a young, dark-haired boy with hazel eyes. The kid only looked about twelve, and he was wearing a black jacket that looked far too big for him. That, and he was grinning like an idiot.
"Who the hell are you?" was all Andreas could think to say.
He started a little at Andreas's hostile tone. But he smiled again. "Sorry," he said. He stuck out his hand. "Errick Bristol," he introduced.
Andreas stared at Errick's hand as if it were a poisonous snake. After a few moments, the boy shrugged and put his hand down. His gaze settled on the pile of snack food in front of Andreas.
"That's a lot of food you got there," the boy commented lightly.
Andreas didn't answer, not sure where this kid was going with this.
He grinned again. "That was cool, what you did back there,"
Andreas stiffened and bristled. "What the hell do you mean?" he snarled.
Errick frowned and cocked his head. "You like that word, don't you?"
"Answer the question," Andreas snarled. He was liking Errick less and less every second.
The boy put his hands up in surrender. "Okay, okay, sheesh!" Once again, he grinned. "I meant what you did at that store," he explained. "Invisibility? That is freakin' sweet!"
That's when it hit Andreas. This was the kid he'd seen at the convenience store—the one who'd seen him, apparently.
He lunged forward and seized Errick by the wrist. The boy leapt backwards with a yelp.
"How—did—you—know?" Andreas ground out, teeth clenched tightly together. He could feel the tingling feeling growing in the tips of his fingers. One mental command and he could be out of here…
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Errick stammered. "Dude, chill! I'm not going to turn you in or anything!" He looked up, hazel eyes wide. Then he sighed. "You want an explanation?" he asked. "It's because I can do magic, too."
That was what stopped him in his tracks.
"Magic?" he repeated skeptically, keeping his grip on Errick's arm. "You're saying you can do…magic?"
Errick nodded vigorously. "Yup!" he said happily, having regained his previous cheer. "And you can, too!"
Andreas was totally silent as he mulled the prospect over in his head. It would explain a lot. Like his invisibility thing. Not to mention the time he'd morphed into a snow leopard in the middle of Central Park.
Slowly, Andreas relaxed his grip. "Okay," he said slowly. "Say what you're saying you saw is magic." He eyed Errick suspiciously. "How do I know you're not feeding me a bunch of bull?"
If the younger boy had been smiling before, it was nothing compared to the ear-to-ear grin he was wearing now. He swelled up in pride. "Give me something small," he said. "Anything."
Andreas thought about it. "A phone," he said.
"You got it," Errick said proudly.
He snapped his fingers. And a silver phone appeared in the middle of the table.
Andreas jumped, eyes fixed on the phone. "How did you do that?" he exclaimed.
Errick leaned back in his chair and winked. "Magic," he said smugly.
Both of them were silent, staring at the phone in the middle of the table. Then Errick broke the silence.
"So," he said. "Now that you know that magic is real…" He pushed the phone towards Andreas. "If you ever want to know more? Just call this number." He pulled a napkin out of the holder, took a pen out of one of his pockets, and scribbled a series of numbers on it, pushing that towards him too.
Andreas stared at him. "You're asking me to call you—some twelve-year-old kid I met not five minutes ago?"
He nodded. "Uh-huh."
"Um…not to burst your little bubble, but—"
A sudden, tinny sound came from Errick's pocket. Andreas blinked at him as the boy pulled another phone out of his jacket.
"Is that…The Phantom of the Opera?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Yep," Errick replied as he glanced at the screen. "Best musical ever."
After another few moments, he stood up. "Gotta go," he said as he dusted himself off. "Just think about it," he added, pointing at the phone he'd conjured.
He suddenly stopped. "One second," Errick said, turning around. "I never did get your name, did I?"
There were another few moments of quiet. Then the pale teen looked up. "Andreas," he said simply. "Just Andreas."
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Andreas," Errick said, giving him a small salute as he walked back towards the door. "See ya!"
The door shut behind him, leaving Andreas staring after him in stunned silence.
The voice snapped him awake again, and he sat up and opened his eyes. Leaned up against the side of the alcove was a dark-haired teen in a black jacket and torn jeans.
Errick hadn't changed much in three years. He'd grown a few inches and his voice had gotten a little deeper. But he was still just as annoying as the day Andreas had met him.
Andreas sighed, pausing his iPod. "Really, Errick?" he grumbled. "Is Andreas really all that hard to say?"
The boy grinned and sat down next to him, hazel eyes glinting mischievously. "Hey, at least I didn't call you Music Man." His smile widened. "Or Phantom."
The taller boy scowled. Errick's liking for Broadway had led to a variety of nicknames for people. His favorite one for Andreas was Phantom. And naturally, Andreas didn't exactly approve of his choice.
"Don't start with that again," he warned Errick. "You're way too obsessed with that musical. And just because I happen to be smart and I happen to take music theory does not make me the Phantom of the Opera."
"You forgot the general antisocial attitude," Errick continued matter-of-factly, still grinning impishly. "And has anyone ever told you that you kind of look like Gerard Butler? And then there's the whole invisibility shtick—"
"Don't you have somewhere to be?" Andreas interjected before the younger teen could go any further.
Errick shook his head. "Actually, no," he said, shifting to a more comfortable position with his arms behind his head. "My dad gave us a free day from magic practice."
Andreas stiffened, glancing toward the table nearest them. Then he turned on Errick. "Oh, sure," he snapped. "Why don't you announce to the world that sorcerers exist?"
Errick rolled his eyes. "God, you're so paranoid!" he sighed. "We're, like, fifteen feet away from that table. I seriously doubt they heard us."
"With your loud mouth?" The corner of his mouth twitched. "I'd be surprised if the world doesn't already know."
The young sorcerer put his feet up on another beanbag. "So…" His eyes settled on the book, which had fallen on the floor. "Whatcha reading?"
Errick raised an eyebrow. "Didn't you read that already?"
"So why read it again?"
Andreas gave him a withering look. "Because I like the play."
Errick ignored Andreas's glare and glanced at the book. "Eh, Shakespeare's not really my thing," he said nonchalantly.
The older boy sighed again. After a few moments of silence, he shot a glance at Errick. "Why are you here?"
He looked up. "What?"
"You heard me. Why are you here?"
Errick looked at him like he had two heads. "Because you're my friend!" he exclaimed. "You're always hanging around places by yourself. You always look so…I don't know. Lonely."
Andreas gave him an exasperated look. "I like being alone," he said.
Errick sat up a little more. "No, you're used to being alone," he corrected. "Not the same thing as liking it." He arched one eyebrow. "You need to be less antisocial," he told the taller boy.
Andreas rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, O Wise Sorcerer."
The conversation was suddenly disrupted by a quiet humming sound. Errick glanced confusedly at Andreas, who reached into his other pocket and pulled out a silver phone, which was vibrating insistently in his hand. He flipped it open curiously.
Gymnastics done early. Want to get lunch?
The look on his face softened noticably. "It's Lizzy," he said. "Gymnastics got done early. She wants to know if I can walk up and get her."
"In the rain?" Errick grinned. "I thought cats didn't like getting wet."
Andreas shot him another sharp glare. "So just because she's a werecat means she doesn't like rain?"
Errick chuckled sheepishly. "Sorry," he apologized. "I know she doesn't mind it, it's just…" He sighed. "Sometimes I don't know when to shut my mouth," he said with a shrug.
"You don't say," Andreas deadpanned, scooping up his book and stuffing it under his jacket.
"Tell her I said hi," Errick said as he stood up, stretching. "Jenna, too, if she's there."
"Mm-hm," Andreas said, tucking his iPod back into his pocket. He dusted himself off and headed for the door, Errick just behind him. Then the two dark-haired boys stepped back out into the rain.
Errick gave Andreas a little salute. "See you around, Andre," he said. Then there was a small pop, and there was suddenly a raven where the teen used to be. With a loud caw, it took off into the rain and flapped out of sight.
Andreas watched the bird circle away with a small frown. "It's Andreas," he muttered to himself as he started walking again.
It was amazing, how much Andreas had learned in the two short weeks since he had decided to call the number Errick had given him. Not only were there more people like him—there was an entire society of sorcerers right under everyone's noses! It made Andreas feel a little less lonely, that was for sure.
According to Errick, there were sorcerers and magic-users all over the world. Each sorcerer was born with certain magical abilities that came to them naturally—usually two to three. The rest they had to train to master. Sorcerers also apparently had a shape-shifting form that came to them naturally, though they could work to assume other shapes if they wanted. Sometimes, an inexperienced sorcerer would end up turning into said animal involuntarily—which explained his snow leopard incident in Central Park.
"Remind me," Andreas asked as the two walked along. "Why am I going to your house again?"
"To meet my dad," Errick answered him. He puffed out his chest proudly. "He's the leader of the city's sorcerers," he declared. He glanced at Andreas. "Did I mention that?"
"Twice," Andreas replied flatly, his eyes on the sidewalk.
Errick blinked. "Oh," he said. "Sorry." He turned down another street, motioning for Andreas to follow.
After a few minutes, Andreas finally broke the silence. "Earlier you were talking about…magical creatures," he said slowly. "Can you tell me more about those?"
The younger boy looked back up at him. "Well, sorcerers aren't the only magical people in the world. There's all kinds of animals and stuff, too. There's the familiars, which are sorcerer's helpers. They're usually small animals, like cats or birds—"
"You already told me about them," Andreas pointed out. "I want to hear about, you know, the legendary stuff. Like, dragons, griffins…those kind of animals. You said those were real, right?"
Errick nodded. "Yeah," he said. "There's two kinds of magical creatures. One, the beasts: you know, like you said—stuff like dragons, griffins, unicorns, et cetera. Then there's the human-like. Those are things like vampires, werewolves, werecats…" He trailed off and cocked his head. "There's going to be a werecat there, actually."
Andreas looked up, interested. "There is?"
Errick grinned. "Yeah. She's kind of shy, but she's nice." He pointed out one of the houses on the left. "Here we are," he announced.
The house was just like any of the other houses on the street…that is, other than the two winged lion statues stationed on either side of the door.
Andreas eyed them uncertainly as he followed Errick up the front step. He paused, eyeing the lions warily. There was something…weird about the statues. They were incredibly lifelike despite the fact that they were made out of stone. And their eyes seemed to follow his every move.
He walked past the statues, still watching them out of the corner of his eyes. Errick was waiting at the top of the stairs.
"There's food if you're hungry," Errick told him, "and there's a bunch of places to sit. If you don't feel like talking to the others, you don't have to."
Andreas stopped dead. "Others?" he repeated dubiously. But Errick had already dragged him through the door.
Inside, the house seemed like any normal living room. But it was filled with kids and teens of all ages—enough to make Andreas start feeling claustrophobic. The youngest looked about nine, while the oldest seemed about the same age as he was.
"Errick," he muttered urgently. "You didn't tell me there were going to be other people here." He shot the twelve-year-old sorcerer an anxious glance. "I am not a people person! How many times do I have to make that clear to you?"
Errick looked sheepish. "Honestly, I didn't think this many people would show up," he said. "Usually there's only about two or three people here." He glanced around. "There's an empty chair off to the side there," he pointed out. "You can go sit there if you want."
Andreas nodded, still glancing around. Then, with the familiar tingle, he disappeared from view.
Nobody seemed to have seen him disappear. Slowly, he began to relax again. There was a table set up on the side of the room, covered with bags of chips, sodas, and a pot of something that was bubbling. Weaving through the kids, he made his way over to the table and started browsing the contents of the table. After a few moments of deliberation, he picked up a bag of Fritos and a can of Pepsi. Glancing over his shoulder, he started walking quickly towards the unoccupied chair in the corner.
He crashed right into a smaller girl, who staggered backwards into the wall with a squeak. Though she looked a year younger than Errick, she was just as tall as the other sorcerer was. She was actually kind of pretty, too—she had long, glossy black hair with faint amber streaks and brilliantly green eyes that almost seemed to shine in the dim light. She was wearing a small earring in her right ear—a small butterfly stud.
"God, I'm so sorry!" he said quickly, grabbing a napkin and trying to wipe up the soda that was dripping down the front of her T-shirt.
The girl jumped about a mile and stared at the napkin that was dabbing at her clothes. "Wh-who's there?" she managed to yelp.
That was when Andreas realized he was still invisible. "Oh, sorry." He materialized out of the air. "I keep forgetting I did that," he explained.
She jumped again when he appeared, but she seemed to relax a little. "Oh, good," she said softly. "I was afraid you were like—I don't know. A ghost or something."
"Well, I'm not," Andreas replied. It came out a little more bluntly then he intended, and the girl flinched at his tone.
Great. Just great. He'd known the kid for five seconds and he was already coming across as a jerk.
Unease roiled in his gut. The girl was making him more nervous than having to deal with everyone in the room combined. He did not do well with girls—the fact that he'd barely spoken with anyone in years didn't help. And if there was anything that reading had taught him, it was that you couldn't exactly be a snarky creep to girls. He was trying to be nice to her. but all he was doing was making himself look like the antisocial freak show he was.
He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Sorry," he said apologetically. "I didn't mean it to come across like that."
The girl hesitated, but nodded. Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced over at the chair he was going to sit in.
The realization hit him. "Oh, were you going to sit there?" he asked. He shuffled his feet. Now he just felt even more awkward.
She eyed the chair again. "Yeah," she said hesitantly. "Why, were you?"
He didn't answer. "Well…yeah, I guess," he admitted.
Neither of them spoke. Then the girl looked back up at him and held out her hand. "Liza Cennevan," she said. "But…people call me Lizzy."
Andreas glanced down warily. Then, slowly, he shook her hand. "Andreas," he said quietly. "Just Andreas."
Lizzy looked like she relaxed a little more. "Nice to meet you," she said. She glanced sideways at the chair again. "Um…do you want to go sit down?" she said, motioning toward the couch.
Andreas glanced over, frowning slightly. "Um…" He shrugged. "Yeah," he said. "Okay."
Lizzy nodded, then led him over, sitting down. She started twisting a strand of black-and-amber hair around her index finger. "Are you new?" she asked. "I haven't seen you here before."
He nodded, eyes fixed on the ground. After a few moments of awkward silence, he looked up, mouth half-open. But he stopped before he could speak closing his mouth uncomfortably. God, why was this so hard?
As the dark-haired sorcerer resigned himself to silence once again, Lizzy brushed a strand of hair out of her face. That was when he noticed her eyes. They were slit-pupilled, like a cat's. Vaguely, he remembered what Errick had said on the way there.
"You're a werecat, aren't you?" he blurted before he could stop himself.
Lizzy looked up, eyes widening in shock. "Um—well—uh…" She trailed off, face reddening. "Yeah," she mumbled, turning her gaze uncomfortably to the floor. "Yeah, I am."
Good job, Andreas, he thought scathingly. Way to fluster her even more than she already is.
"Well, what's so bad about being a werecat?" he asked frankly.
The minute the words left his mouth, he regretted them. She stiffened, still staring at the floor. Andreas mentally slapped himself. Great. Now you look antisocial and stupid.
But before he could say anything else, she sighed. "You're new," she mumbled. "You wouldn't know." When she looked up again, he was surprised to see a look of bitterness in her eyes. "It's because sorcerers don't recognize werecats as…well, actual people."
Andreas stared at her in shock as she continued. "You know how there's two groups of magical creatures? The human-like and the non-human? Well, a lot of times, most sorcerers just group them together. We're second-class." Her eyes narrowed. "Some sorcerers even keep werecats as pets."
The anger on her face suddenly dissolved, disappearing as quickly as it had come. "I mean," she stammered, "it's not all sorcerers who treat us like that. Everyone here is really nice to me, but still." She clenched her fists.
Andreas was silent for a long time. Lizzy looked up hesitantly,
"That," he said flatly, "is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
Lizzy perked up, eyebrows raising. "You really think so?"
He nodded. "Yeah," he agreed, a crease appearing on his forehead. "I mean, who the hell do people think they are, thinking they can decide who's second-class and who's not?" He crossed his arms. "It's stupid," he concluded.
He glanced over and saw that the werecat-girl was staring at him, mouth hanging open. Then her face split into a wide grin. "You know, Andreas?" she said. "You're not half-bad."
Andreas blinked in shock. Not half-bad?
Then he did something that shocked him even more. He grinned right back.
"You know what?" he replied. "Neither are you."
The rain was starting to let up as he walked up the sidewalk to the studio. The building was a little on the shabby side; the paint was peeling off the walls, and litter was scattered all over the unkempt grass.
There were a few benches settled under the walkway. Two girls were sitting on one, talking quietly to one another. One was a short, mid-sized girl with frizzy, dirty-blonde hair and huge blue eyes framed by silver glasses that made her look oddly professional. She kept pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose as she chattered animatedly to the girl next to her. The other girl was a little taller than her friend, with thick, wavy black hair and bright green eyes. She was twirling a strand of hair around one finger as she listened to her friend, nodding and occasionally adding something to the conversation.
As he got closer, he could vaguely make out snippets of their conversation. "…know that, Jenna, but I still think it was dumb luck. Even a werecat would have had a hard time making that jump."
Jenna, the blonde, chuckled. "Okay, maybe a werecat would have a little trouble. But do you see average humans doing backflips like they were nothing? Granted, maybe a cheerleader could, but still." She grinned. "What you did in there was so cool!"
Andreas cleared his throat. Jenna jumped, glancing up in surprise. "Um…hey, Andreas," she said, toying with her glasses as Andreas rolled his eyes. Jenna was one of Lizzy's best friends. But, like a lot of people he knew, she was never comfortable around him. He had that affect on people.
Lizzy, on the other hand, was totally unperturbed by Andreas's sudden appearance. She smiled at him. "Hey, dude," she greeted happily.
Andreas didn't smile, but he gave them a little wave. "Hey, Lizzy," he replied. "Hey, Jenna."
Lizzy stood, brushing off the front of her tiger-striped jacket. "You're mom's picking you up, right?" she asked Jenna.
The blonde nodded. "She's probably going to be here soon, actually." A silver mini-van pulled into the parking lot, and she smiled. "Right on time," she remarked as she stood up, too. "See you, Lizzy!" she called as she jogged across the parking lot.
"Bye!" Lizzy waved to her friend, then turned to Andreas. "So," she said. "What do you want to do for lunch?" she asked him.
The older boy shrugged. "I don't have that much money on me," he admitted.
Lizzy smiled again. "It's fine," she said. "Mom gave me some money this morning." She tipped her head. "How about seafood?" she suggested. "Fish is always good."
Andreas thought about it. "Works for me," he said.
Crusoe's Seafood Shack stood out from the neater buildings around it. Rather than neat, painted concrete walls, it looked like…well, a dingy seaside shack. But, despite the ramshackle exterior, it was actually a pretty nice place to eat. The food was good, and the owner was a friendly guy…not to mention he was a sorcerer. This made the place a popular hangout for many a magic-user.
Lizzy shoved through the door ahead of Andreas, looking for all the world like a happy cat, eagerly awaiting a fishy meal. As the door banged shut behind them, the man behind the counter looked up—a short, silver-haired man with a neatly-trimmed beard. He smiled at the pair of them and put down the glass he was wiping. "Hey, you two!" he said.
Lizzy smiled. "Hello, Mr. Grayson!" she said. "What's the special today?"
Mr. Grayson winked at her. "Anything for my best customer," he told her. "What'll it be, Lizzy?" He pointed to one of the many fish posters that adorned the walls. "Halibut? Tuna? Snapper? Salmon?"
"Salmon sounds good," Lizzy said.
The gray-haired man smiled. "Right away, miss," he said. "And what about you, Andreas?"
"Same," he said calmly.
Mr. Grayson rubbed his hands together. "All right," he said. "I'll get those orders started. You two can go sit down." He jerked his head towards one of the booths.
Lizzy eagerly trotted over to the booth and plopped herself down, Andreas following more slowly. He took a seat across from her, tapping his fingers against the tabletop.
"I love it in here," Lizzy sighed. "It just smells so…fishy in here, you know?"
Andreas nodded, glancing around the room. "How was gymnastics?" he asked, his eyes settling on a large, mounted fish.
Lizzy shrugged. "Same old, same old," she said. "How was the library? You get any new books?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Didn't you read that already?"
He nodded. "I felt like reading it again."
"Oh." Lizzy followed his gaze to the fish. "We're reading Romeo and Juliet," she said.
Andreas made a face. "I didn't like that one."
Lizzy shrugged. "Eh, me neither." She snorted. "Romeo's so emo," she giggled. "And Juliet is, like, what? Thirteen?"
"Not to mention the whole play takes place over a week," Andreas added, the ghost of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
The werecat laughed and rolled her eyes. "Yeah! They're all like, 'oh, I'm going to kill myself over this dude I met a week ago,'" she mocked.
Andreas actually smiled. "Overall? Not one of Shakespeare's best works."
Mr. Grayson walked out of the kitchen, bearing two steaming platters of fish. Lizzy sat up straight in her seat, eyes glued to the salmon. She let out an oddly catlike chirrup, nearly ripping the fish out of Mr. Grayson's hands. She ignored the silverware on the table and dove in with both hands, stuffing bits of fish into her mouth.
Mr. Grayson started laughing. "So much for table manners," he joked.
Lizzy looked up, swallowing. "Who needs table manners when fish is involved?" she replied.
The corner of Andreas's mouth twitched as Mr. Grayson retreated back to his counter. Lizzy picked at some of the remnants of her filet.
"So where were you going to stay tonight?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I don't know," he said, poking his own fish with his fork.
Lizzy's green eyes lit up. "You could always stay with us," she said.
Andreas bit his lip, laying his fork down. "I don't like to be a burden."
The werecat scoffed and leaned back in her chair. "You're not a burden," she laughed. "My mom loves you, you know that? You're practically part of the family."
Andreas didn't say anything, but continued to stare at his fish. "If it's all right with you guys," he said.
Lizzy grinned at him. "Boo-yah!" she exclaimed, pumping her fist in the air triumphantly. "It'll be like a sleepover!"
"Yeah," Andreas deadpanned.
Lizzy chucked, then wiped some grease off her face. "I should go wash this off," she said, standing.
Andreas nodded. "Be careful," he said.
She giggled again. "Andre, I'm just going to the bathroom," she snorted.
"You never know," he said.
As she walked away, it dawned on him what she had called him. He looked up with an exasperated sigh. "Not you too," he groaned.
Lizzy smiled, still chortling as she ducked around the corner.
Andreas rolled his eyes, then started eating his fish again. As he stabbed at a large chunk of meat, he glanced out the window at the street.
It was then that it happened. A sharp pain stabbed at the base of his neck. Ice-cold chills shot down his spine, as if someone were running frigid fingers across his skin.
He leapt to his feet, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end. He'd felt that only a few times before. All three times, something bad had happened to him or someone he knew.
Something was terribly wrong.
And that was when he heard the scream.
Mr. Grayson looked up, eyes wide. The scream had clearly come from around the corner, from the bathrooms.
Andreas was off like a shot, shoving chairs out of his way in his frenzied rush. He was vaguely aware that someone was yelling as he shoved open the door to the bathrooms and tore inside.
On the opposite side of the room, Lizzy was squirming in the grip of a short man in a ratty, sleeveless shirt and torn jeans. Tufts of fiery orange hair hung in his face, and he smirked at Andreas. Two other men stood on either side of him.
"Lizzy!" Andreas practically hurled himself at the three, but the man simply waved a hand and sent him flying. There was a dull thud as he connected with the wall and slid, half-conscious, to the floor. He was dimly aware of someone yelling his name. Glancing up, he saw Lizzy, kicking and screeching, but still wrapped in a bear hug by her captor. The man's face twisted into an ugly grin, brown eyes glinting. Then he snapped his fingers, and the four were surrounded by reddish light.
"No!" He was on his feet in a second, dashing madly across at them.
But it was too late. With a loud crack, the three men—and Lizzy—had disappeared into thin air.
Andreas barely managed to stop himself from crashing into the opposite wall. He whirled around, glancing wildly around the room as if he could somehow find his younger friend. "Lizzy? Lizzy!"
Mr. Grayson standing by the door, looking appalled and staring at the spot where Lizzy had just been. "Andreas?" he asked tentatively.
But Andreas was barely aware of anything around him. His mind was still reeling from what had just happened.
They took her.
They took Lizzy.
The tall boy's face suddenly twisted into a look of rage. His hands clenched into fists. Before Mr. Grayson could do anything, electricity crackled down his arms. Sparks flew, and the mirrors lining the bathroom walls suddenly shattered into bits. There was a deep groaning sound, and the pipes beneath the sink began to shudder violently. "No, no, no, no, no!" he snarled, smashing his fist into the wall.
Mr. Grayson's voice broke through his rage. He glanced up, his hands still surging with electrical energy. The older man was still glancing at the other side of the bathroom. "Andreas," he repeated in a calmer voice. "I need you to stay here. I'm going to go get Will Bristol." He took a step back. "We'll get her back, Andreas," he assured the furious teen. "Don't worry." And with a flash, Mr. Grayson disappeared into thin air.
Andreas stared at the doorway for a few moments. Mr. Bristol—Errick's father, and one of the city's more prominent sorcerers—would help them, no doubt of that. But getting him, rounding up some people to help, and tracking Lizzy down…that was going to take far too long.
So why wait on them? He knew the city better than anyone. He knew all the places people went when they didn't want to be noticed. And he was more than capable of taking care of himself.
He had two choices stay here and wait for a search party while precious time ticked away…or go out and find Lizzy himself.
Needless to say, the decision was a simple one.
He bolted out the door, turning the corner and streaking across the room. Without another glance at the restaurant, he shoved out the front door and back into the rain.
Outside, the light drizzle had escalated into a full-on thunderstorm. A mass of roiling black clouds had rolled across the sky; lightning flashed, thunder roared, and gusts of wind howled through the streets. There was no one left on the roads. Which was perfectly fine with Andreas.
So there was no one around to see that, in the span of a few seconds, Andreas had morphed into a huge animal—lithe, with massive, snowshoe-like paws, flicking whiskers, and a thick, spotted gray coat of fur.
The snow leopard that had been Andreas lifted its head and sniffed at the air. Then it took off, loping down the road as fast as it could. Dark blue eyes were hard with determination as it raced down the road in pursuit of his missing friend.
Don't worry Lizzy. I'll find you if I have to tear this city apart brick by brick.