A huge thank you to everyone who's reviewed—chrnoskitty, Alix Blair, and Esquirella. I realize the chapters a very short, and I feel your pain, Alix! The natural breaks are just in small sections at this time. Hopefully, they'll continue to get longer.

Cold Town Blues

Chapter Four

"Gabby! Where are you? We need to talk," Tadeas shouted in the general direction of the living room. He grinned when Gabby's head, covered in dreadlocks, popped up over the edge of their worn purple couch.

"What now, Tadeas? I'm busy editing. You promised me that you'd be silent and out of my hair for at least an hour, and yet here you are. Can't you make your own sandwich, or go out for lunch, or something?"

"Something came up. And this isn't about lunch, which you'd realize if you stopped complaining for two seconds and listened to me."

"Well I'm sorry that someone in this house actually cares about having enough money to pay the heating bills and put food on the table! If you have such a problem letting me do my job, you can just move out!"

"Hey! Gabby, that's not fair! You know I do what I can. Anyway, mom and dad left the house to both of us—you can't just kick me out!"

"Whatever, Tadeas. Just…whatever," the girl said, and sighed audibly. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

Aiken was hanging back in the shadows, trying to avoid Gabby's eyes. He didn't want her yelling at him, too. She obviously knew the man, and had called him Tadeas. They appeared to be siblings, if the talk of "mom and dad" was any indication. They certainly looked alike—they could be twins. He jumped as shivers raced up and down his spine. God, it was cold here! And Tadeas claimed it was heated!? Lying bastard. Aiken focused in on the other's conversation again. Tadeas was ranting about trash, and the other one—Gabby?—was bent over, trying to contain her laughter. She looked up to say something and caught Aiken's gaze, stiffening in shock as she realized that Tadeas had a guest over.

"Tadeas!" she hissed, trying to get her brother's attention as she kept staring at Aiken.

"Eh?" Tadeas said, stopping mid-rant to look at his sister. She was making weird faces, staring off into the shadows where Aiken was hiding—oh. Aiken. That was right. "It's fine, Gabriella. He's a guest."

"How did he get in?" Gabby gritted out between clenched teeth as she turned to eye her brother. She hadn't heard anyone use the door, and she had been upstairs since breakfast.

"You see, that's our dilemma. He says he went through his bathroom and ended up in my studio, and I don't quite believe him. But he didn't hurt anything, and he's slowly turning into an ice cube, so I thought I'd ask you."

"Ask me what?"

"If we can keep him, of course!" Tadeas drawled, grinning slyly.

"Don't be a dolt, Tadeas. Ask me what?"

"If you believe his story, and, if you do, what we should do to help him," he responded with a smile. Gabby sighed in exasperation and turned to Aiken for help.

"You—what's your name?"

Aiken smiled to himself in the shadows. "I'm Aiken, from the other world. You're Gabby?"

Gabby found herself smiling despite herself. "Yeah, I'm Gabby. He's—" jerking thumb to point at Tadeas, "my brother. As he's decided to be an ass, I'll probably have to repeat the questions he's already asked you. Try not to get too annoyed, and feel free to blame dear old Taddy for everything."

Aiken gave a startled laugh in response to her quips, and nodded to show he was ready.

"So where is this other world you're from?"

Aiken shrugged as he stepped out of the shadows. "Wow, you don't pull any punches, do you? That's too complicated for me to answer, or even really know. Let's see…I dunno. We're one of the nine planets that orbit the sun, which is the center of our solar system…and then there's stuff with galaxies and the universe, which I really hope I'm still in. So, somewhere. This whole magical insta-travel by bathroom door is kinda a new experience for me."

"What exactly happened?" Gabby asked, ruefully smiling at Aiken as she repeated questions he'd already answered. He grinned back and set to re-explaining something he had no clue about.

oOoooOoooOo

"So that's it?"

Aiken thought about the question before replying, "Yeah, that's it. Hey, um, sorry to bother you and everything, but do you have any blankets? Or something? Cause I'm freaking freezing."

Gabby glared at her brother. "You could have given him a little more clothing, you know! Way to start rumors about us killing our guests, Tadeas, you moron! C'mon, Aiken, we'll take you shopping. You can borrow some of Tadeas' clothes until we get you some of your own."

Aiken smiled gratefully. "Thanks."

Aiken suffered through a whirlwind game of dress up, and, when it was over and he was sweating under seven layers of clothing, they ventured outside. Filing through yet another door and down a few flights of steps, they reached Madison Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Hielos Glace.

Aiken stared around in wonder. Everything seemed familiar, but was off-kilter just the slightest bit. There were skyscrapers surrounded by older, shorter buildings, which was normal enough, but the architecture here was completely different. He'd been to New York once, and the buildings there didn't have this Renaissance feel. The streets were cobbled and cleaner than the ones he was used to. People stopped to talk to one another, a sea of mismatched colors as they strove to keep warm in the frigid weather. And it was just about as frigid as it could be without being uninhabitable. They had passed at least three different snow plows, but snow was still piled in four-foot drifts by some of the buildings. Everyone he passed wore at least five different visible layers. Aiken thought he was ready to believe Tadeas about the whole heating thing if they could just go inside again. He couldn't feel his legs anymore!

Gabby laughed at his open-mouthed wonder. "Come on, dopehead, you wanna freeze? We have to walk at least three blocks to get out of the ressies and to a decent store!" Aiken just smiled shakily and let himself be towed along, trying to take everything in and hoping his legs would cooperate long enough to get him inside again.

Hope you enjoyed! I'm nearing the end of what I've already written, so updates may soon become farther apart. Please stick with me! And please review!