A/N: Hey guys! I wanted to apologize in advance for my strange transitions when it comes to flashbacks...I try to avoid flashbacks unless I was going to use it for dramatic effect (which I haven't done yet). I just have these scenes that would've ruined the pacing if put in chronologically. For the story itself, I'm super excited to be almost finally getting out of Arcolia, even if it is just for a few "in story" days! Can't wait to unveil to you the beginning of awesomeness. For now, let's see what Rem's got to say in a composed manner (yeah right, this is Rem we're talking about) to his student...enjoy!
Man to "Man"
Rem raced through the alleys of West End immediately after leaving the Agora. His traveling cloak fluttered through the humid night air, his normally sharp face now preoccupied. Speaking to Nez through the water wasn't doable in the safehouse, but of course he had to contact him after meeting with Kalo.
Enezi expectedly had lectured him about placing a talisman on Aneska so he couldn't lose her…but after his talk with her (him?) talk last night, Rem knew she'd make at least an effort to be back before dawn. He sighed as he turned, walking almost against the buildings out of habit even though he had entered the safehouse detection spell radius. Since when did he think about one person so often? Well, besides Nez and Set…and it had only been almost a couple months. It was nice in the beginning, him not having to worry like a fool…although he should've seen the signs. And now she was even more isolated…this was bad. Rem frowned to himself as he thought back to their more carefree days…hades, even the very day before that stupid Takis showed up.
That day was only three days ago. What was he doing then? Coming back to the safehouse, he guessed. As for her…she (yes, he missed that gender) was sitting here in the yard, her legs pulled up against her chest and head on her knees. The sun had almost finished setting, and Rem himself had just walked into the house, looking around for her.
He poked his head into the yard, his messy hair bobbing once as his face lighting up. "Oi! Whatcha up to?" The herby smell of the green bushes he had planted wafted in the air. They made a decent smoke, but the Halfling wasn't interested in that right now…yet.
Aneska lifted her head, her blonde wavy locks falling back as she smiled faintly at him. "Not much. I'm not tired enough to go to bed, but…" She shrugged, looking off as her smile faded. "I dunno."
Now if that wasn't the face of boredom, Rem didn't know what else it was. He walked over to her, smiling faintly. "You got nothin' left to do? C'mon…you've explored 'alf of West End—nothing catch your eye?" He grinned. "Or no one?" Then he winked.
Aneska raised her eyebrows. "Hey, one question at a time!"
Rem rolled his eyes. "You're a good multitasker with those tentacles, so let's hear it! Maybe I'll hafta take ya somewhere else for better pickings, eeeehh?" His grin grew more rascally by the second.
The human woman just stared confusedly back at him. "Why bother?" She stood, stretching a little and looking neutrally to the side. "I don't need anybody."
He gave her a look. "But yer bored. Don't ya have anythin' to do?" He plopped down next to her. "You could always go ask Xuan for recipes from a book so you can cook for me," he said with a grin before continuing, "Or go volunteer at the temple o'Hestia since you like kids…"
Aneska chuckled at the onslaught of suggestions. "You want me out of here that badly?" She looked off to the side. This was her they were talking about, and she was barely any fun in her normal state…"Yeah."
Rem's eyes widened, finally thinking about the possible implications of his words…for once, but he quickly shrugged it off in case she was looking. "If it means you'll be distracted." He shot her a cheeky grin. "And you COULD be distracted with me~!"
Aneska shot back at him an incredulous glance. "Yeah, how? Going to the pub?" And watch him flirt with everyone? "No thanks."
Rem heaved a tortured sigh. "I don't just go to the pub! The city outskirts are really fun, too, all kinds of junk and treasure…" He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Or ruffians." Then he grinned at her. "But we can take 'em on."
Aneska laughed. "Now we're talking." She gazed curiously at him, mood a little lighter. "Is that really what you do when you're out?"
He shrugged. "Only if I'm with you. On my own, it's a different matter."
She smiled. "Then what do you do when you're by yourself?"
He lifted his small chin, smirking away. "I taught you 'ow to be sneaky. You'll hafta find out by yourself—if you can!"
Aneska rolled her blue eyes. "Forget it."
The Halfling nudged her with his small elbow, chuckling. "Nah, I think you can do it. I go and 'ang out wif buds wherever they are, or go bug Nez and Set. Nez can hear me comin' though and so it's not as fun…" He trailed off. Speaking of his buds, what about their students? He glanced over at her, smiling confusedly. "Why don't you go 'ang out with yer friends?"
"I don't have any," she immediately replied as she stared expressionlessly at him. Then she looked away. "But it's better that way." She chuckled softly, amused for some reason. "It sounds pathetic, but I honestly don't care. It'd be nice to have someone to talk to again, but…" She turned away, any expression in her face fading. I've said enough. I don't know why I bothered saying that much.
Rem blinked in confusion. "But whaddabout the other lasses? One knows a bunch about the forest—" (he was already getting bored) "—and the other knows a lot about the world. 'aven't you wondered where we came from?" He looked up at the sky, seeing some stars starting to emerge. "I know I 'ave from time to time…" He grinned. "Surprise. Nez told me Halflings came from the hills up north, but…I dunno. I get cold really easily…"
Aneska's silence stretched for a long minute, and Rem waited. She was a thinker, and he'd give her space. A dumb cricket started to hesitantly chirp before quickly shutting up at the sound of voices. Aneska finally spoke up, her voice even. "I don't wonder about things like that; I wonder why people act the way they do. Mostly because…I just can't understand them."
"At least you even wonder in the first place!" Rem exclaimed with a grin of relief on his face. He swung his feet a little. "Sooo who do you wonder about the most?"
Aneska smiled down at him. "Probably you." She looked up in thought. "I wonder about Aine occasionally, but…" Then she looked back at the small man, her eyes narrowed slightly. "I'm more interested in you."
Rem smirked. "Who can resist me?" Then he got more serious (which meant less sleazy) and asked, "What about me? Like, what happened to make me who I am?" He shrugged. "Life."
Aneska brushed off that vaguely philosophical (lazy) answer and shifted her position, leaning toward Rem a bit. "You're a relatively selfish person, right?"
"I guess," Rem said with another shrug. "I just do what I feel like, and I don't really think about how it'll affect other people…except Nez and Set. Maybe that's 'cause they can beat me up." He glanced at her. "And you, since yer my responsibility. And sometimes the stuff I do isn't even fo' me! Like…swapping people's coinpurses for the hades of it—I dunno!"
The woman leaned back, losing some interest. "Then what determines what you wanna do?"
He grinned at her. "Looking out for maself, what else?"
She just nodded and looked away. "Yeah." What a simple answer...how disappointing. Aneska stood and headed to the door.
Rem continued to sit there, smiling faintly at the back (yes, just the back) of his departing student. "And findin' someone to get through my bullshit—just like what yer doin'." He smiled to the side, eyes alighting on the bushes growing. Maybe he should ask Set for some to soak in ale…that'd be a nice flavor twist.
Aneska opened the door. She had a long way to go in that regard. She glanced over her shoulder at the daydreaming Halfling. "I hope you're worth the effort."
Rem immediately pointed at her with a grin. "I hope you're worth the effort!"
And now, three days later…Rem shook his head as he quietly entered the safehouse, no trace of grin on his somber face. He pulled off his cloak. It really was gonna take effort to help her. He couldn't do it alone…and the thing is, she really did have friends to help him and help her. But what was the point if she didn't see it that way? He couldn't risk other lives for someone who wouldn't do the same for them…or at least, stay out of trouble. Maybe seeing was believing…and after the others heard of what news he had, there was definitely gonna be action happening up in here.
"Aneska?" Rem moved through the house, looking around for the lug.
The burly man lifted his head from the tabletop, his blonde waves shifting out of their hairtie. Guess I fell asleep. "Yeah?"
Rem strode into the kitchen/dining/living room and stood next to the sleepy man. The Halfling's brown eyes held no twinkle as they gazed at him. "We need to talk."
Nico dropped his head back onto the table. "Yes, sir."
"Sit up straight and get yer head off the table!" Rem snapped with a frown.
At that the human man sat up, frowning slightly back at him.
Rem crossed his small arms, the loose sleeves of his shirt bunching up. His tone lessened in severity but still held some annoyance. "I've got a few questions for ya. How much do you wanna get better?"
Did he mean…to go back to his original body? Nico bit his lip and looked to the side. "I don't know how to quantify it."
Rem scowled. "Do you want it enough to not risk your life at the wrong moments?"
Nico gazed back at him for a few moments. This didn't seem like the right time to be a smartass… "Yeah."
Rem's brows lowered as he leaned toward Nico, eyes narrowing. " 'ow can you prove it? What's changed in the past week, to make you so "less reckless," hmm?"
Nico just smiled faintly at him.
The Halfling continued to frown demandingly at him. "Well? Knowin' yer friends, they'll probably go with us to get your cure—which I'm not positive is real but it's worth a look." His frown deepened at the man. "And I won't have 'em dyin' under my watch thanks to MY student that we're all tryin' to look out for!" His gaze intensified to a glare.
Nico rested his cheek on a fist and averted his own gaze. "Just trust me."
Rem stomped up to the table and leaned over it, a foot away from Nico as he snapped, "Look at me and say you won't be reckless!"
His grey-blue eyes met Rem's. "I'll try not to be reckless."
Apparently that wasn't enough for the half-pint, as he whipped out a hand and pointed at his student. "And why will you keep it up after you get better? Are you gonna return to your stupid normal?" He almost sneered in his frustration.
Nico's golden brow furrowed a bit. "You know I can't answer that. Not accurately, anyway…" He muttered, "That's where the whole trust thing comes in."
Rem conceded and crossed his arms again. "Well, yer not dead yet…so there's that." But he frowned anew at his student. "I already told you 'ow much others depend on you…but it's true. We don't 'AVE to get the cure for you, but we will. Why? 'Cause we care about you." He threw himself into the companion rickety dining chair and frowned to the side. "People are all y'have in life…'specially when you begin with nothin'." He looked over at the man. "Innit what got you down? You lost your family. Like when I lost mine…" Rem trailed off as he frowned at nothing.
Nico stared expectantly at him.
Rem snapped out of it and renewed frowning at the human. "Bein' an orphan isn't the same, but it's close. I knew my parents before they died, and yes, they were shitty. But y'know what stopped me from going to hades early? My friends. They're my real family, and if you don't stop throwin' yerself into danger yer not gonna get any family!" He frowned to the side, his arms crossed now as he murmured, "And…you won't get to be mine, either…" Then he glared at her, a bit defensively. "So be careful, okay?"
Nico nodded slowly as he continued to stare at the Halfling.
Rem's glare lessened to a frown. "I'm gonna be meaner 'bout this next time I see you phrike up. Set and Nez had to with me, and I'm not gonna let them down with you! Got it?"
At that the human man nodded again, a faint smile on his lips. The bouncing messy hair and flashing brown eyes…he looked quite adorable when he was riled up.
The Halfling immediately scowled. "Whatcha smilin' 'bout?" he demanded. "Haven't you got anythin' to say?!"
"No," Nico replied before standing. He stretched his arms. "Not with words."
Rem stood as well, hands balled into small fists as he glared up at the man. "Well then, with what?!"
"I'll save it." Nico just patted that curly mop of hair.
Rem moved his head away, frowning still. "No—tell me now! I deserve SOME kind of response!" This brat was getting on his last nerve.
Nico bit his cheek, eyebrow raising as he looked down at the Halfling. "Eh. I don't think so….you wouldn't like it."
"Tell me what you were gonna do!" Rem crossed his arms, frowning so much his lower lip was almost jutting out.
At her mentor's strong insistence Nico succumbed and sat back down. "Why should I? I said you wouldn't like it." A smirk crept onto Nico's lips, rendering his next few words a bit dubious. "I'm being chivalrous."
Rem fought a smile as he glared at the human. "If you couldn't tell, I'm not usually one for chivalry, being a—oh, I dunno—a THIEF and a ROGUE to boot!" His brown eyes narrowed. "So tell me."
Nico smiled faintly. "I have to whisper it."
Rem's brows lowered as he frowned. "Then get it over with. Better than nothin'."
Nico stared at him, eyelids lowered in slight annoyance. "You won't be able to hear it from over there."
Rem rolled his eyed and stomped up next to him, then glared expectantly at the human seated a foot away from him.
Nico sighed. "Listen closely 'cause I don't like repeating myself." He leaned toward Rem, hovering near where a pointed ear poked out of the messy curls to whisper, "Thanks." Then he gave the Halfling a grateful, quick peck on the cheek and swiftly stood. "Night."
Rem's brown eyes widened in confusion, his brows knitting slightly as a faint blush crept onto his cheeks. "A-Aneska!" He sputtered, blinking confusedly. "What was that for?"
"Weren't you listening?" Nico asked before walking out of the room.
"You're phriking welcome, idiot!" Rem yelled after him with a smile. He had to remember the human was still a woman…and his student. He smiled to himself and ran a hand through his messy hair. To be shown such gratitude definitely countered against his own vulnerability during that lecture. Not to mention it was a bit flattering…damn girl. He chuckled.
And that woman inside a man chuckled as well as he turned into his room. Hopefully that wasn't a mistake…
Not that he cared. Aneska was obviously more reckless as Nico…but where was the line between original woman and new man drawn? The gods and goddesses sometimes toyed with mortals in this way. Fortunately for Rem and Aneska, only one man (or two) were responsible for this change, and unlike gods, men could be cut down. Tomorrow they would all find out what such man this was, and be one step closer to breaking this curse.