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When she had accepted her assignment, she had known it was going to be interesting.

A Michael imposter was a rare treat. His intentions were fuzzy but intriguing, and he had caught Serah’s interest almost immediately. The girl he had dragged into his mess catches hers .

Abby folds her hands beneath her chin, inclining her head to watch as “Michael” tugs the strawberry blonde in behind him and sits her on the couch.

It will be fine.

I’ve got you.

Don’t worry, Autumn.

All hollow reassurances, if anyone would have bothered to ask her, but it was none of her business. She tests out the name silently on her tongue, and decides she likes the way it feels. But it doesn’t seem to fit.

Autumn the month is bold, a kaleidoscope of a million changing colors before shedding them altogether. Autumn the girl is huddled in on herself as her companion abandons her, dressed in muted colors and showing as little skin as possible for the occasion.

Abby briefly mourns such nice legs being obscured by dark tights with a desolate sigh. She’s quick to shrug the thought off, though. It’s so rare to get such a cute girl in her neck of the woods, she supposes she ought to just appreciate the view while it lasts.

The first guy slithers up next to her and Abby rolls her eyes, slumping against the bar. Autumn doesn’t seem too keen on his introductions, shying away from him and laughing nervously at his advances.

Sweat beads on her forehead and she glances up at the clock on the wall, then over her shoulder. Her fingers tap restlessly against her thigh.

She’s stalling, Abby realizes, right before the shooting starts. Before she can blink, Autumn is on her feet, ushering all the women in the club outside. Curious, she follows, covering her head and quickening her steps to blend into the screaming crowd around her.

Abby stands among the throng, waiting for something to happen. Autumn pulls the doors shut behind the last of them, and stands with her forehead pressed against the wood for several long moments. The gunshots cease, and Abby watches the tension drain out of her shoulders.

You poor thing, she thinks with pity, what is he putting you through?

She takes several steps back from the door, and it opens to her companion. They share a look and Autumn smiles breathlessly at him, but the moment he looks away, it falls. She moves behind him and wraps her arms around herself, but Abby doesn’t have the time to reflect on it before “Michael” is working the women around them into a stupor.

She slumps to the ground with the rest of them. The two heroes are distracted, speaking in low voices even though everyone around them is unconscious, and Abby slips her phone out from the garter hidden under her dress.

The picture she snaps is right before they turn away, and she types out a quick message to Serah before hitting send and tucking her phone back into its slot.

Her eyes follow them to the end of the alley, “Michael’s” hand hovering over the small of her back, then she sits up, running her hands through her hair and looking around her.

“Kind of rude of them to just leave us out here on the street,” she mutters as she climbs to her feet. “Might as well have just handed us over to the sex traffickers.”

She steps over the bodies littered on the ground, and lifts her dress as her phone buzzes against her thigh.

Get them here .

Abby bites her lip to hide her grin. Oh, with pleasure.

***

She watches from a safe distance as they walk up to the movie theater, Autumn looking uncertain and her companion sporting a wide grin. He pats her shoulder and jabs a thumb behind them at the box office, before leaving her standing alone.

He does that a lot, Abby notices, tugging her ballcap lower over her eyes as Autumn looks around. Gives her reassurances and leaves her alone.

If she were her date, she wouldn’t let her out of her sight for two seconds. She looks so sweet, Abby would be worried someone would come along and snatch her up.

She taps her nails against the back of her phone as she lets her eyes wander.

Tights again , she thinks with pursed lips, but it’s a cute little number that Abby would be hard pressed to say looked good on anyone else. Her date doesn’t deserve it.

Autumn’s hands flutter restlessly. First she brings them up to the collar of her turtleneck, where they hover for a few seconds before she winces and wraps her fingers around the strap of her bag instead. Abby’s eyes narrow at the dark material around her neck, wondering what she was hiding.

She doesn’t have long to linger on it, though, because Autumn glances back towards the box office, then turns her gaze up when thunder rumbles across the sky. Abby’s lips twist into a pleased smirk as she watches the imposter rush back to his date, tickets in hand, and freeze.

His eyes dilate and she watches with equal parts glee and disgust as he ignores Autumn, looking around wildly. First to the sky, then around them.

The color drains from his face.

Abby briefly considers following his gaze, but she already knows what he’s seeing and she decides his reaction is much more entertaining.

He takes Autumn’s wrist, finally looking back to her and nodding frantically in agreement to whatever she’s saying. He then spins on his heel and takes off, pulling her behind him, the forgotten tickets fluttering to the ground.

What a pig, Abby scoffs, and stands up. She pulls the cap from her head and fixes her hair, before finally looking to the spot that had “Michael” shaking in his boots.

He’s at the other end of the park, and hard to miss. A giant of a man, cloaked in yellow, his face concealed with a dramatic mask, would certainly draw a lot of attention if his glamour didn’t deter unnecessary attention from his person. Abby has always thought it was a bit of a silly ability for the archangels to possess, but in his case, she can see why it might be more beneficial.

Crowds unwittingly part around him like a sea, and he strides forward with purpose. There’s no rush to his step, and it gives Abby an indescribable amount of joy that he had chosen to make an appearance here and now.

She waits until he’s closer, then she steps out in front of him. He stops, looking down at her, and she thinks she can reconstruct the expression he must be making beneath the mask from the few times they have crossed paths prior.

“Boss has a proposition for you, Hesediel.”

***

She can’t remember the last time she got this much pleasure out of an assignment. The fraud was interesting enough on his own, but Abby can’t stop thinking about Autumn.

It’s easy to justify paying more attention to her than her bumbling partner. She’s his best asset, and he seems to have taken a shine to her that goes beyond her visions. Autumn was the perfect tool to drop him right into Serah’s hands.

And if that means spending more time around her than her companion, well, that’s just fine with Abby.

She decides the jig is up, and it’s time to make her move. Hesediel and Serah are waiting, and as much as she’d love to be a little selfish with Autumn, she has a job to do.

Rounding the corner, the first thing she notices is that Autumn is lost in thought, looking up at the shelves but not really seeing anything. Abby uses the moment to take stock of her.

The turtleneck is gone, but Abby can still see bits of yellow flesh cutting a line across her throat. The rest of her appears to be intact, though it’s hard to tell with the baggy clothes she’s decided on today.

Abby pouts. It’s really not fair how she can make anything look so darn cute.

She only takes a second to admire her, then she molds her expression into one of pleasant surprise and rushes forward. Autumn is taken aback by her enthusiasm, and Abby can’t say she’s not just a little disappointed that she doesn’t remember her.

It’s not surprising since she’d been in the background all night, just part of the herd. Blending in was what she did, when she wanted to.

Still! she thinks, even as she grins with all her teeth and lunges for Autumn’s hands, pulling her in close.

She wants her to remember this.

To remember her.

It’s only fair after those big brown eyes have plagued her thoughts for weeks. And now that she’s staring right into them, Abby’s sure she’s only digging herself a deeper grave, but that’s alright.

Autumn’s fingers flex in her grip, and she sees the conflict in her eyes. Abby’s earnest expression must win her over, though, because she’s sighing and smiling and agreeing to meet Serah in the next breath.

Abby’s grin only widens, and she tucks Autumn’s hand into the crook of her arm, pulling her out of the library and down the street. She talks animatedly about Serah and what she’s done for her and how grateful she is the whole way to the little corner shop, because Autumn is tense again and Abby almost feels bad for lying to her.

Almost. One look at her neck and the memory of Autumn curled up alone pushing off unwanted advances in that club is enough for her spite to return tenfold. Bodan has had his fun for long enough, with the sweet, unwitting girl at her side being a victim to his schemes.

She doesn’t care a lick for his intentions or otherwise, especially not when they include Autumn as his pawn.

It’s strange, Abby thinks, looking sideways at her as they round the corner to the street Serah’s shop is nestled on, how defensive she’s become of this girl she’s only been following for a few weeks.

Maybe it’s her kind heart, or maybe it’s how easily she’s deceived. Maybe it’s something of both. Regardless, Abby has always loved a good story about a damsel in distress and if there was anything that Autumn needed, it was a savior. Bodan certainly wasn’t doing the job correctly with how often he’s endangered her in the short span they’ve been in contact.

Not to mention she’s always fancied herself something of a knight in shining armor, except she’s a demon in a red dress and killer heels.

Armor was far too stuffy, anyhow.