Broadly speaking, she was cursed.
Although not in the sense that most people thought of when they heard the word “Cursed.” ‘Oh, my hair just won’t cooperate! I must be cursed!’ ‘My TV is flickering, it must be cursed!’
No, she really was cursed. If the talon-like nails, the head that swiveled three hundred and sixty degrees, and a host of other little abnormalities were anything to go off of, then probably cursed by the spirit of an owl. Or maybe she was possessed by an owl spirit? Honestly she had never been too clear on how it all worked despite living with it since middle school. It’s not like she’d been given a handbook or introductory pamphlet to help her through those first few rough months. Or the rough years that followed.
The ‘owl horns’ in her hair could be held down by her bow and the talons just looked like well manicured nails, but the red eyes and orange marking around her eyes like a mask were a dead give away. Not to mention the mossy green hair. At twenty two years old, it hadn’t been a long life so far, but it had certainly been full of struggle.
But that was who she was to the people who just saw her curse and decided not to look any further.
More specifically, she was Eerie. Eerie Escamilla, top of her class out of law school, junior detective and intern at the Cursed Special Unit, filled with people with a similar… background to her. A snore drew her attention to her left, toward one such person.
Connor MacThomas was cursed, like her, but with a raccoon rather than an owl. They hadn’t let him bring his favorite pillow with him into their first class seating, but he managed with his soft and bushy tail. She had to bite her lip to keep from aw’ing at the way his little raccoon ears twitched ever so slightly in his sleep. It wouldn’t do to be cooing at someone who was debatably her boss but unquestionably the more experienced detective between them.
Evidently, he could feel her eyes on him since he chose that moment to wake up. He yawned and stretched, his gloved hands grasping at the roof of the airplane. His hands were his greatest strength and his glaring weakness - so sensitive he could read the mood of a person by touch, which also made them so vulnerable he kept them in sturdy leather gloves worn thin by constant use.
His eyes, with their light blue sclera, opened up as he blinked at her, a bleary smile on his lips. Those eyes stood out all the more for the black mask, so similar to her own orange one, surrounding them. Another person might have thought that his crumbled, messy appearance was because he’d just spent the last five hours sleeping curled up on himself. But Eerie knew that was just how he always looked.
He adjusted himself, pulling down his shirt since it had ridden up a little. Her eyes followed the movement and she felt her cheeks heat up. Her heart fluttered and she quickly looked away, towards the window. A bad idea, given her fear of heights and suddenly her heart was fluttering for a different reason entirely. Her eyes widened and her breathing started to come in short bursts.
“Eerie?” Connor seemed to pick up on her panic quickly, if the concern in his voice was any indication. “Eerie. Boss. Look at me.” With a force of effort, she tore her eyes away from the window. “I didn’t pay much attention to the briefing. Why don’t you tell me about this mission?”
That was a blatant lie, but she was too grateful to call him out on it. She took a deep breath and gladly switched into lecture mode.
“We’ve been on this guy’s tail for the last couple months, picking apart his forgery operation back home.”
Connor grinned and stretched his hands. “Most of which was spent convincing rich people to let me get my paws all over their fancy but fake statues and busts.”
“And the rest of it was me doing meticulous art research,” Eerie said, rolling her eyes with a smirk.
“Of course, boss.” Connor didn’t break eye contact as he reached behind him to close the window with one hand. “And then what?”
“Well, I noticed that all the pieces had one thing in common - all the authentic ones are currently housed in the Louvre. And considering a lot of them aren’t even on display for the public-”
“Explaining why the fancy art people didn’t know they were being had.”
“-that means that the guy we’ve been after is in Paris, France and likely works at the Louvre. The local authorities have it up to their necks just trying to handle some crazy stuff happening in the French capital, so when the Chief offered to send the detectives already on the case...”
“...They were more than happy to accept,” Connor finished. “And luckily, we both know French, so this works out à la perfection.”
Eerie made a disapproving sound. “About that last part…”
“Yeah, boss?” A stewardess handed him a package of peanuts which he quickly tore into.
“I learned French because it was the only foreign language they offered in high school and I thought being bilingual would be good for a resume.” Eerie propped her elbow up on their armrest and put her chin on her hand, staring at Connor. “But you never seemed the type to care about stuff like that. Why did you learn French?”
To her surprise, he blushed. “It’s, uh… it’s not important.”
“Really?” Eerie blinked innocently at him. “So you wouldn’t mind telling me then. Right?”
Connor stuck out his tongue at her. “Nosey.”
“Comes with the detective territory, boss. Spill.”
After watching her for a long moment, he slumped his shoulders and groaned. “I did it to impress a girl, alright?”
Eerie’s eyebrows flew up. “Wow, really?”
“It was middle school okay?” Connor crossed his arms as his tail twitched in irritation behind him. “It didn’t work either, obviously. That was, uh, just before the whole curse thing happened. But I stuck with it!” Connor paused. “Well, mostly.”
“What do you mean, ‘mostly’?”
“Well, I’m conversational at least…”
“Connor! You said you were fluent!”
“No,” he replied. “I said I can speak it.”
“That-” Eerie stopped herself and pinched the bridge of her nose. It was a complication, but if anyone could manage to get by without knowing the native language, it was Connor. He was more resourceful than he looked. “Okay, fine.”
Their conversation was cut short as the pilot announced that they would be landing soon. They glanced at each other, Eerie locked eyes with him as he began eating the package the peanuts came in. Both of them reached the same conclusion. With more people waking up around them, it wasn’t as safe to talk about their assignment. It would have to wait until the hotel.
Connor's hand hesitated at the door to their shared hotel room. Knowing their mission designer, he’d half expected her to get them a room with only one bed. Jemina was great and all, but sometimes she was even more pushy about his relationship with Eerie than his own mother was. He opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully, this room did have two beds. With some big business event happening in Paris at the moment, two rooms was out of the question.
“As much as I appreciate being stuck staring at your fluffy butt, can you get a move on?” Eerie’s voice brought him back into the moment. “This stuff is heavy.”
“Right, sorry.” He stood still for another moment and looked behind him. “...So you like what you see back there, huh?” His tail swished back and forth happily.
She rolled her eyes and pushed him with her foot. Snickering, he stepped forward set to work turning the bed into something almost like home. Before long, he heard her speak up again.
“...How did you manage to pack your giant banana pillow?”
“Very carefully,” Connor said in what he hoped was a cool and mysterious way. “I figured you wouldn’t let me build a nest of pillows and blankets-”
“Accurate. I don’t want to get the house keepers annoyed with us. We’ll be here for the next few weeks after all.”
“-so this is the next best thing. Thankfully for me, Nanners here is a cuddlebug.” To prove his point, Connor laid down on his bed and spooned the person-sized banana. He opened one eye to see Eerie hiding a smile with her hand. His heart melted at how cute she was in this moment.
His eyes widened at the thought. She’s your intern, he mentally chastised himself, get ahold of yourself. He quickly sat up and put his legs over the side of his bed, facing Eerie.
“So now we’re in Paris. You remember the next part?”
“Yup, some of us pay attention to the mission briefing.” Eerie rolled her eyes, but a smirk still played at her lips. “Tomorrow, we’ll be setting up our covers. Chief managed to get us some part time jobs. Apparently I’m going to be doing deliveries for a local bakery.”
Connor frowned. “That sounds delicious. Is it too late to switch?” He asked with a hopeful lilt to his voice.
“Way too late. But hey,” she said, squeezing his shoulder. “You’re going to be an English tutor for some rich kid, I’m sure they’ll keep you well fed.” She pursed her lips. “With actual people food. So no digging around in the garbage.”
Connor feigned a gasp. “Boss, this is Paris! They have the finest, most gourmet trash in the whole world. How can you ask me not to try the local cuisine?”
“It’s not- No! We’re going to actual restaurants, I’m not letting you dumpster dive while we’re here. We’re supposed to be undercover, remember? And that’s exactly the sort of thing that will draw unwanted attention.”
“You’re just using that as an excuse ‘cuz you don’t want me eating garbage.” He waggled his finger right below her nose. She gently pushed it aside, but even with that brief touch he could a vague feeling of her emotions - a mix of exasperation and amusement.
“You’re exactly right. Is it working?”
His tail flicked back and forth irritatedly behind him. “...Maybe,” he grumbled.
“Good,” she said with far too much pep for his liking. “Now, it’s been a long day and we don’t start our new jobs until tomorrow. I’m going to take a nap.”
Connor yawned. “I think I’ll do the same.”
“You slept for most of the trip here!”
“And that was very exhausting!”
Eerie stared at the ceiling for a few long moments before laughing and soon enough he joined her.
“Good night, boss.”