It took Bartimaeus quite some time before he found Rahleigh's house. The voice had remembered her address when he had looked it up the day before.

The warlock hid his bicycle from view, not from Rahleigh's, considering she was blind, but from other people who would be suspicious. Once at the door, Bartimaeus looked around to see if anyone was watching. There wasn't a sign at all, and before he waited too much longer, he muttered a spell at the locked door and it swung open rather quickly.

"Hmm, my spells are getting a bit rusty," he sighed. "That was only just to unlock the door, nothing more."

"You were never good at keeping your spells under control," the voice scowled. "It was a miracle that the spell you cast at that half demon worked correctly."

Bartimaeus closed his eyes tightly and pinched the brim of his nose. "Please, give it a rest, will you?" He walked into the house, shut the door, locked it, and looked around to see if there was a basement. Much to his luck, he found a door that led to lower ground. It was dark, but he found the steps and railing quite easily.

He only found a light switch once he made it to the end. Hesitantly, he turned it on to get a better look. Bartimaeus walked over to a closet door and opened it to find a very large, empty space. He smirked ever so slightly. "This might work. Just for a few days, at least."

--

Rahleigh was relieved when it was finally time to clock out, grabbing her cane up as she fished her keys out from under the glass counter that she sat behind. Today had been tedious, and she looked forward to having the night to relax and listen to the television. But there was always the matter of getting home first, so she refrained from daydreaming and getting too comfortable where she was.

"Shakespeare! Artemis! Come, we're going home!" She smiled a little when she heard two sets of paws headed in her direction, and she reached down, feeling for her guide's halter and her guard's leash. They let out a couple of playful barks as she led them outside and locked up, and she began to walk home upon stuffing the keys back into her shoulder-bag. She had a strange feeling about tonight, but it was nothing she could really identify.

Rahleigh wasted no time in getting home, making a stop at the Chinese restaurant to pick up her General Tsao's chicken. The dogs looked hungrily at it but didn't dare to touch it - they had been trained better than that and knew that they would inevitably get some of it later on. They continued to lead Rahleigh on down the sidewalk, the trip home only taking about ten minutes since they were all in a hurry to get back to the house.

For one reason or another, Rahleigh hesitated at the door, touching the doorknob and suddenly feeling a presence that hadn't been there before, but dismissing it as maybe someone who had gotten the wrong house. She just shook her had and unlocked her door, heading inside with her companions and locking it back. She took a deep breath - a foreign smell.

"Shakespeare, Artemis, you didn't rub up against someone did you?" What a question to be asking her dogs. "No, you couldn't have... no one else was on the sidewalk..."

--

Bartimaeus heard her voice and had finally closed the closet door once he heard the door upstairs open. Sitting himself above the bars that held the hangers, he quietly whispered another one of his disappearing spells, one that would deceive the dogs if they ever caught his scent.

"Only for a few days," he reminded himself, "and things will go back as they were..."

--

Artemis was the first one to start barking loudly, charging for the closed basement door and letting her guttural growls overtake. Yes, there was something definitely in the house, and whatever it was, it was disturbing her. It began to get to Shakespeare, too. He whined and barked until Rahleigh went over to him.

"What's the matter, Shakespeare?" She knelt down on one knee, bringing her fingertips into contact with his ear and scratching gently. From the contact, though, she could see (in distorted black-and-white vision) the basement door. "Something down there?" A quick kiss to the dog's head, and she stood back up, going over and testing the knob, feeling the presence again. "What on earth...? Did someone..." Rahleigh shook her head. "No one would break into her house, would they? Well, she stood as much chance of a burglary as anyone else, but most robbers wouldn't realize that Artemis was a trained killer. "Come on, guys..."

Placing her hand on the wall, she started down the carpeted, concrete steps, Artemis in front of her, and Shakespeare trailing behind.

--

Bartimaeus practically froze inside himself, hearing footsteps already heading down to the basement. Perhaps this really wasn't a good idea after all. "Of course," he added to himself, "I always figure this out when it's far too late."

All at once, Artemis rushed the rest of the way down, heading to the old wooden wardrobe that had been sitting discarded for a long time, Shakespeare rushing past Rahleigh to join his partner in barking and scratching at it. Rahleigh, being blind, wasn't able to figure out why the scent was lingering down here, but what comforted her was that her dogs seemed intent on ridding her of it.

"Come on, guys, what's wrong?" She stepped over and pulled the door open, the musty stench of dust coming out. The woman coughed.

Bartimaeus opened one of his eyes to peer at the two dogs and Rahleigh. He was lucky they couldn't see him, thanks to his spell. He only wished there was such a spell to hide scent. Maybe there was? He would have to go look in his house library later for that.

Unfortunately, "later" wasn't applicable, as it appeared that Shakespeare had latched on to his scent. The dog had jumped up into the wardrobe and was now sniffing around, moving closer and closer to Bartimaeu's hiding spot. Artemis stayed beside of Rahleigh, growling and ready to attack in the event that someone came barging out at her mistress.

"Easy, girl. Shakespeare's gonna take care of it..." She gave a light pat to the female dog, able to get a glimpse into the wardrobe by use of her channeling. It appeared empty, but even a blind person knew that looks could be deceiving - one reason why she felt she was better off being blind. She wouldn't have to try to believe everything she saw, when she knew that most of it didn't apply.

Bartimaeus watched the dog getting closer but dared not to move. If he did, his cover would shimmer and the animal would catch a glimpse of him and his hiding would utterly fail. "Go on...shew, you pesky dog," he thought to himself, considering that he would not blow his cover to snap at a dog.

Shakespeare kept getting closer and closer to Bartimaeus, sniffing around and starting to growl slightly. He sensed something. The scent was there, but not seeing it was throwing him off. He gave a confused bark as he continued to amble forward.

"Go help him..." Rahleigh told Artemis, the other dog starting in with him. It was only a matter of time.

Bartimaeus thought about using a counter attack, but the thought of hurting an animal was beyond him. He couldn't do it, and without thinking, the warlock inched backwards and gave away his cover for a split second. "Damn!" he mentally cursed himself.

Unfortunately for him, that split-second was enough for Shakespeare to start going ape. He lunged forward at the spot where Bartimaeus had appeared. Artemis immediately went back to Rahleigh and started barking.

"What on earth...?" Rahl sniffed deeply again, and it suddenly clicked. She knew who was here. "Well then, what's a librarian doing in my wardrobe?"

"This is your wardrobe? Ooops...?" he commented sheepishly, inching away more from Shakespeare, "Call it off!" he yelped.

"Shakespeare, come," Rahleigh commanded, the dog immediately crawling out of the wardrobe and seating himself on the floor next to her feet. "I thought I smelled someone in the house...what are you doing here? Further more, why did you break into my house?" Her arms were crossed; plainly, Rahleigh didn't look happy. At all.

Artemis let out a high-pitched growl, half-way to a bark. It was a signal for her mistress, and Rahleigh took it, placing her palm upon the dog's head and getting that same distorted monotone view, like looking through an antique television with a wavering, half-static image. She could see enough, though, and confirmed who it was.

"Long story...actually," Bartimaeus answered, cringing at Artemis. "You see...there is this guy...and I'm trying to get away from him. I couldn't really think of a better place to hide myself." It was then, he realized, how completely stupid it all sounded and that it was hardly a long story at all.

"For the record, I don't care how long the story is." Rahleigh removed her hand from the dog's head, placing her palm on her hip. "Get your ass out of my wardrobe. If you were really that desperate for a place to hide, the least you could have done was asked me first."

"Told you," the voice chided. Bartimaeus held in a groan and jumped down out of the wardrobe and sighed, rubbing his forehead.

"Sorry...I just...was in a panic." He rubbed his neck where the light, but painful burn mark was wrapped around his throat.

Rahleigh sighed. "And me without a guest room..." She turned around, remembering most of the things that she had put down here: mattresses, bed frames, boxes of junk - there was even a sink and a garden hose behind all of this grey-matter. She let out a sigh. "Come upstairs."

Without another word, she went to the steps and started back up, one dog going with her and the other dog staying behind to make sure Bartimaeus did as he was told.

Bartimaeus didn't dare disobey. He became increasingly aware that she was not human at all, and that his assumption a few days back was correct. Yet, what was she was the real question. "How could she have possibly known it was me? She can't see...can she?"

Once back at the top of the stairs, Rahleigh waited for Bartimaeus to get up there with her, waiting while Shakespeare sniffed around at the door where Rahl had hung the bag of Chinese food. "What the..." She realized that dinner was still untouched, and she sighed. Would she have enough to feed a fourth person tonight?

"Good going…" the voice muttered to Bartimaeus, "Do you have any idea how lucky you are that she didn't just trash your arse down there?"

"I know, I know..." Bartimaeus thought back, making it up the steps and standing behind her. He suddenly flinched when he could smell the Chinese food. It wasn't that he didn't like Chinese food, but the smell of chicken made him nervous and sick in the stomach. Memories of years ago flooded his mind at that moment and he had to stop himself from shaking.

The voice sensed this and for once didn't try to say anything negative, "I know you are a vegetarian and all...but calm down. Don't have a seizure." He did try not to be negative, but that didn't mean it wasn't going to be.

The warlock gritted his teeth bitterly, "Shut up, you know why I react like this." Bartimaeus finally calmed himself and looked away from the bag of food, suppressing the haunting memories of a life he wished he could forget.

Rahleigh took the bag off of the doorknob and headed into the kitchenette that stood opposite the living room, feeling for a clear space on the counter and setting the bag down. She'd skip the questions for now. "What does your diet usually consist of?" This was a generous offer coming from her, considering that she was catering to the man who had broken into her house.

"Er-what?" He gawked at her, but quickly straightened up. "Oh...I don't eat meat."

"Looks like you're sticking to steamed broccoli and soy sauce tonight then," Rahleigh told him bluntly as she felt around for the cabinet knob, pulling the door open and finding a couple of plates. "I ordered out tonight, and I have no intentions of cooking anytime today."

"Wait-" Bartimaeus looked at her strangely and paused before continuing what he was about to say. "You're letting me stay here?"

"Think of this as nothing more than a personal favor for the replacement of my broken cane," Rahleigh said solemnly as she searched a drawer for silverware. "Don't expect me to hand out these kinds of favors right and left."

"Of course not," Bartimaeus replied, still watching her carefully. "I wouldn't expect you to...but you don't have to trouble yourself. I lost my appetite quite some time ago. I probably should just...go." He remembered that he still had his bag down in the basement. "I'll just get my stuff."

"Don't bother," Rahleigh replied, looking straight ahead as she started pouring the broccoli onto a plate, "I also owe you for saving my life."

Bartimaeus had to take a double take. He did what? It took him awhile to remember and he smiled thinly. "Hmm, yes. That's true, but..." The warlock felt the pain of the burn on his neck, whether it was a memory or he moved his neck too much, it was hard to tell. That led to the thought of Ruaidhri coming back for him. "Forget I said anything," he suddenly added. "Should I just stay in the basement, then?"

"It's either set up a bed frame down there or sleep on a couch up here. Your choice." Rahleigh finished dishing out their meals and motioned toward the appropriate plate. "Whatever the case, this is yours." She pointed to the plate of broccoli and some noodles, while her plate had the chicken and shrimp-fried rice.

Seeing the food on her plate instantly turned him off, as he just couldn't stand watching people eat meat. He stared down at his plate and cleared his throat. "I'll set up a bed frame," he muttered, poking at his food with a fork once he sat down. Bartimaeus didn't want to be rude for once, and decided to eat as much as he could before he really felt sick. "Have you lived here long?"

"Four years, I believe," replied Rahleigh before she took a bite of the rice. "I used to live in California."

"What brought you here?" Bartimaeus asked, not sure if that was an appropriate question, but that never stopped him before.

"The need for change," the blind woman murmured before taking a bite of the shrimp. She seemed comfortable to leave her explanation at that, having not said anymore.

"Watch your boundaries, Bart…" the voice warned.

"I know that," Bartimaeus said mentally, lowering his fork. "Well, thanks for the meal." He stood up and carried the plate over to the trashcan to scrape off what was left, "Do you have a dishwasher?"

The woman shook her head, waiting until she swallowed to answer verbally. "No. Just put it in the sink. I'll get to it tomorrow." She'd have to. She didn't have any more than seven plates, perhaps, and five of them were dirty and also lying in wait for their cleansing by the sink.

Bartimaeus nodded, stopping himself as he had to remind himself that she could not see that motion. "All right." He placed the plate in the sink, his expression more than solemn after the day's sudden events. "I could do it for you, if you wouldn't mind."

"It's really your choice if you want to," Rahleigh commented, standing up and dropping an even amount of her own leftover food into each of the dog bowls on the floor. "Either way, they're going to get clean."

"I know," he said, thinking back at how she had found him in her wardrobe. He hadn't truly realized it before, but when she placed her hand on one of the dogs she could see him. "Rahl is a channel...isn't she?" he asked the voice warily. "And obviously a rare one."

"Glad you decided to finally figure that out,"
the voice murmured, "It would appear that she is one, yes…"

"Whatever the case, I'm going to bed. Try not to break something," groaned Rahleigh as she stretched and started down the narrow hallway that led back further into the house.

"I'll be careful," Bartimaeus told her as he watched her go. He rubbed the back of his neck as he started back to the basement door. "Good night." The warlock started down the steps. "This is going to be a long few days," he thought to himself. "I just hope she has no idea of what I am."