"Heat, put that box on the table over there with the others."
"Yes, ma'am," came Baroqueheat's reply, placing the last box on top of the small pile. He turned to face his companion. "Hey, Rahzel-chan. Don't you think you went a little overboard on the spending?" Baroqueheat questioned the girl. "We don't have a lot of money as it is, and I'm pretty sure my wallet is crying right now."
"Of course not. Alzeid has never once celebrated his birthday, so this party needs to make up for that by making it big enough to roll all of his birthdays into one unforgettable party." The girl chose to ignore the second part of his remark, knowing full well that the money the boys acquired wasn't always legal. Rahzel rummaged around the first box that the pair had brought to their room in the small inn they were currently staying in, placing it on the double bed she shared with Alzeid. Baroqueheat knew better than to try anything against the underage witch, especially when the third resident of the room was a trigger-happy gun enthusiast. "Here. You start blowing these up, while I hang up the banners," she says, pulling out a packet of balloons and cobalt blue banners, the words "Happy Birthday" in sparkly silver writing.
"Surely it would be easier if I hung up the banners?" He plucked the folded pile of banners from her small hands. "After all, I can reach the ceiling without a ladder. The same can't be said for you, my sweet little Rahzel-chan."
The girl flicked her long onyx locks over her shoulder and pouted at the older man, cerulean eyes staring up at him. "One day, I'll be as tall as you. Then you'll be sorry."
"Oh really?" Baroqueheat grabbed her chin and forced her to stare into his blue eyes. "Instead of spouting such nonsense, maybe you should put your pretty little mouth to good use," he murmured, never once looking away from her eyes as he spoke. "Perhaps we can take a trip down memory lane?"
"Or maybe you want to remove your hand before I do it for you?" Rahzel replied icily, ignoring the slight warmth of her cheeks that her companion brought upon her. "You'll still have to help out with decorating this place. Besides, I don't think you'll find a woman who wants you with one arm."
"You know that you're the only one for me, Rahzel-chan." Despite his comment, he lets her go, his arm resting by his side.
She waves her hand at him, dismissing his attempt at wooing her. "We don't have a lot of time. Who knows how long Alzeid will stay out for? After all, Branowen isn't his greatest fan, and we need time to get this place ready in time for their return. Now, give me those," she exclaimed, snatching the banners back from Baroqueheat, being careful not to tear them. "And seeing as you're full of hot air, maybe you can use that to blow up these babies." She gestures to the balloon packet in her hands.
"My Rahzel-chan thinks I'm hot," he replied smugly, puffing up his chest with fake pride. "Alright then. Let's make this a night that little boy Al will never forget."
*~*Alzeid's Birthday Surprise*~*
"Could you be any slower!? Even my baby brother could carry these things and you don't even have half of the stuff I need," the long blond haired girl spoke up.
Alzeid trailed behind her, carrying boxes with multiple trinkets in that were needed for her work. Deciding to ignore her remark about Baroqueheat, Alzeid thought back to earlier that day, how Rahzel had practically forced him out of the small inn they had been staying in for the past few days, insisting that Baroqueheat had to help her with today's shopping. She knew that the silver haired man wouldn't have any plans, so she volunteered him to help Heat's sister out with the "few" things she needed to get from specialist shops the next town over, which was almost an hour's walk away alone.
"Hey, are you even listening to me?" She turned around to face the man. When she got no response from him (he continued walking, striding past her easily) she scowled. Her robot companion stopped by his mistress' feet, waiting patiently for her to resume walking again.
Further ahead, Alzeid finally realised that he was walking alone. Curiosity getting the better of him, he stopped walking and tilted his head to the side slightly to glance over his shoulder. After spending these past few months with a teenage witch, he knew that silence usually meant something bad. This time, however, he stood his ground, waiting for the woman to catch up to him.
"I'm surprised you stopped," spoke Branowen when she caught up to the man. They resumed walking, almost walking side by side. "Why did you stop?"
Alzeid remained silent at first, almost contemplating his answer. "If you're anything like that stupid chick, then silence usually means trouble. Even 30 seconds of silence quite often means that she's disappeared. She practically begs for trouble, stupid chick." Despite his harsh words, his statement ends with softly spoken words and distant eyes.
Branowen watches him silently, even smiling slightly internally. As much as she disliked Alzeid, she did have a soft spot for the azure eyed teenager. Her eyes soften briefly, before she clears her throat. "We'd better head back. It's getting late," she said, taking note of the amber hues from the setting sun covering the bodies of the young adults. She knew that Rahzel wanted them to be back before nightfall. Hopefully, they've finished setting up the place.
Alzeid nods. "Okay, let's go."
*~*Alzeid's Birthday Surprise*~*
"Phew, finished at last," spoke Rahzel, securing the last balloon on one of the corners of the wall. She moved slightly backwards, admiring the hard work the two friends had put in over the past few hours.
Baroqueheat whistles. "Gotta give ya credit when it's due, Rahzel-chan. You don't do things half-heartedly."
Since the pair had arrived back at the inn early in the afternoon, they had set to work decorating the place. Rahzel baked a cake and an assortment of goodies, helping to decorate the room during baking and cooling down time, while Baroqueheat blew up dozens of balloons, making cold food platters and moving tables to ensure all of the culinary delights would fit, the table heaving under the weight of it. It was rather unbelievable how much of an effort was put into this party, seeing as it was a very select guest list.
"Never underestimate me, Heat," Rahzel smirked, hands on her hips. She had changed into a long sleeved dress that matched her eyes in colour, its length resting an inch above her knees. Her trademark platform boots were worn over suspender style tights and her hair was mostly down, a blue butterfly clip holding back a few strays. A black ribbon choker completed the look. "But I couldn't have done this in time without your help."
"Aww, my little Rahzel-chan. I always enjoy spending time with you. And I have to say, you've certainly dressed up for the occasion. Little boy Al doesn't know how lucky he is. If it was me, on the other hand..."
"You're not a dog, Heat; stop drooling. Or do I have to teach you a lesson? It will be my pleasure," she says, a dark aura surrounding the girl to match her malicious grin.
"Take it easy, Rahzel-chan. I was just joking, hehe..." The man (who had changed into a slate grey shirt and dark trousers for the party) says nervously, backing away from the girl.
Footsteps could be heard outside approaching the inn. Rahzel snapped out of her murderous act at the sound, her eyes widening in surprise. "They're here. Quick, we need to hide!" She grabbed Baroqueheat's arm and pulled him into the coat closet their room had.
"Mmm, Rahzel-chan. If you wanted us to have some personal time together, you didn't need to stage this whole charade," he whispered in her ear, the warmth of his body bringing her into an uncomfortable sweat.
"Quiet down, they'll hear you! And get your hands off my chest before I break them off," she muttered, swatting his hands away from her, wriggling her body out of his grasp. She ignored the way her heart was beating loud against her chest as she pressed her ear to the door, trying to listen for the fair-haired pair. "I think I just heard the front door close."
"What the hell? I've told those idiots not to leave the door unlocked at night. We'll get kicked out again at this rate..." Alzeid's muffled voice could be heard through the door.
"I'm sure they'd be safer with any intruder than you," came Branowen's reply.
"They would be safer right now with an intruder, now that they've done this too many times." Alzeid's voice was getting louder, his footsteps heavier as they approached the room. The sound of the door opening and the light switch being flicked vibrates softly against the wall.
That's our cue. Rahzel opens the closet door, Baroqueheat almost falling on her in the process, and jumps out. "SURPRISE!"
Alzeid watched the girl with bemusement, although it didn't show on his face. Not much could change his stoic exterior. "What have you done now?" He stared at the mass array of decorations on the walls and tables, various shades of blues and silvers overwhelming his vision. "What the hell is all this?"
"What does it look like? It's a birthday party for you," came Rahzel's reply, a smirk on her face. "A surprise one at that."
Alzeid remained silent in response, but shook his head in the fingers of his right hand. "I told you that I don't celebrate birthdays." He turned to Baroqueheat. "Were you in on this too?"
"Me? No..." Baroqueheat replied innocently. "Although, I did carry most of the decorations. And the food. And she spent practically all of our money." He looked at his sister. "Pretty much like Bran usually does."
"At least you can carry everything I need. I'm going to have to make a second trip now because of him," Branowen muttered bitterly.
"Aww, Bran. Not like you to compliment me." He smiled at his sister, knowing that she wasn't one to give out compliments.
"You did what?" Alzeid seethed at Rahzel, ignoring the two siblings next to him. "That money was supposed to last us until the end of the month. Now what are we supposed to live off?"
"I know I went a little overboard on the spending, but do you not see how much effort we put into this? I was trying to do something nice," she countered. "Everyone should celebrate their birthday, and seeing as you've never celebrated one, I had to put a lot of effort into making this extra special for you."
"I never asked you to do this. Quite frankly, I don't see the point. It's a waste of time and money, both of which could be put to better use."
"You know what? You're right. I obviously don't know how to handle money and I know that you wanted to leave this town and move on three days ago. Forgive me for making an effort to make you smile and to give life to your boring life of seeking out revenge." She grabs her bear bag from one of the chairs in the room. "I've had enough; I'm leaving. I won't bother you again." She reaches the door and slams it, rushing down the stairs. The tears that had been building up inside her threatened to break free. She picked up the pace, running to the canal she had found on her walk the previous week.
*~*Alzeid's Birthday Surprise*~*
"Well done, Al," Baroqueheat spoke up after hearing the girl slam the front door. "She's been planning this for the past two weeks. Do you know how difficult it was trying to organise this without you finding out?"
"She knows how I feel about spending tremendous amounts of money," he replied. "One of the jobs we had done, she spent almost the entire payment on fireworks. Fireworks, of all things!"
"You're such an idiot!" Branowen hissed. "Do you not see what she's done for you? You wouldn't know a nice thing even if it slapped you in the face."
"Easy, Bran," Baroqueheat murmured, placing a hand on her shoulder, who quickly shrugged it off and walked to the window. "But she is right, you know. Would it have killed you to say 'thanks', even if you hadn't meant it?"
"She'll never learn though if I do that."
"Does it matter? That's just who she is. Do you really want to try and change her?" Baroqueheat said, voice soft in thought. "And fireworks? Knowing her, I bet she went all out. I'm sure it was beautiful..."
Alzeid didn't respond, taking what the other man had said into consideration. The fireworks were a bit too loud and bright, the colours hurting his eyes. But she loved them; her beautiful eyes sparkled more than usual, a big, goofy smile on her face. Her smile... Alzeid loved her smile. And after what happened tonight, he probably destroyed his chances of ever seeing her smile again. He sighed. "I guess I'd better go apologise."
"'You guess'?" Branowen muttered.
"If you hurry, I'm sure you'll catch up to her," Baroqueheat spoke up, a satisfied smirk on his face.
Alzeid nodded at him and took off, leaving their room's door open.
After hearing the front door close, Baroqueheat pulled out a cigarette packet out of his pocket and lit one. "He's so naive. Do you think they'll ever get together?"
"Who knows?" Branowen sighed, seating herself at the table. "You guys did well to decorate this place. And the food looks great." She stared at the homemade birthday cake, black writing spelling out 'Happy Birthday Alzeid' on a white vanilla flavoured background covering two layers, and smiled. "Her writing is so neat; It's obvious you didn't do this." She smiled, eyes softening slightly. "Do you think she'll forgive him?"
"Of course she will. She might not do at first, maybe even guilt trip him a little, but she won't hold a grudge against him," he reasoned, before taking a drag. "She might not realise it yet, but those two work well together. Rahzel-chan wouldn't cope well without him in her life."
Branowen didn't say anything in response, but she couldn't argue with him. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
*~*Alzeid's Birthday Surprise*~*
Rahzel leaned forwards on the wall of the bridge and stared blankly into the water, eyes red and glassy. She hadn't cried for a long time, not since the loss of Rayborn, and it left her drained, wishing that the inn was close by so she could sneak back in and sleep on the floor. I can't go back though, she thought miserably. I lost that right after I said I wouldn't see them again...
"Hey," came a voice next to her.
Rahzel didn't move, despite hearing his voice. She knew that if she tried to move, she'd risk breaking down again.
"Are you listening to me?" He tried again, but was met with no response again. He sighed. "Look, about what I said before... I didn't mean it. I didn't mean to hurt you." Despite his words, she still didn't move. "What can I do to make it right? Tell me, what should I do, Rahzel?"
Hearing his voice say her name stirred something inside her. Her eyes flickered, making the smallest of movements, but Alzeid saw it. "Rahzel." Relief filled his voice. "I hope you can forgive me. I understand if you hate me though."
She slowly turned her head towards him. It was obvious that she had been crying, making the young man's heart sink. Rahzel swallowed. "I-I..." she cleared her throat. "I don't hate you, Alzeid," she whispered. "I could never hate you." Her body shook, shivering from the cold. "I won't deny that you said some pretty hurtful things. But I'm just so tired of fighting." She sighed. "All I wanted was to make the day perfect for you..."
Alzeid sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Yeah, I guess I could have handled it better."
Rahzel laughed dryly. "You think so?"
He winced slightly, but smiled, happy to see the girl making jokes again. He glanced at her small hands, noticing that the pale skin had red and purple patches on them. "You should have worn a jacket, stupid chick." He took off a leather jacket he rarely wore and placed it around her shoulders, leaving him with a black long sleeved top.
"I told you to stop calling me that," she muttered. "And you'll get cold now. You get even more grumpy when you're ill." Despite her words, she had a small smile on her face, his small act of kindness making her feel warm inside.
He didn't respond to her statement, but simply said the words that made her agree instantly. "Let's head back."
*~*Alzeid's Birthday Surprise*~*
"I hope they come back soon. It's really dark outside," said Branowen, looking outside the bedroom window into the darkness outside.
Baroqueheat said nothing, stubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray that he had swiped from a pub they had visited recently. As much as he found Rahzel to be attractive (especially when she was angry), he didn't want to anger her intentionally. The ashtray at least solved one problem. He removed the packet of cigarettes from his pocket and looked inside; only three cigarettes remained. As the shops in this town closed early in the evening, he would have to wait until tomorrow to get some more. He sighed, pocketing the packet once more.
Branowen briefly looked away from the window when she heard his sigh, but remained silent. She saw movement out of the corner of her eye, forcing herself to look outside again. "They're back," she murmured.
The sound of the front door opening and closing could be heard from the room, two sets of footsteps walking through. The two walk quietly up the stairs, neither one having a desire to speak. Rahzel opens the bedroom door and steps through, holding the door open for Alzeid to walk through, who closed it behind them.
"Are you okay?" asked Branowen, pulling the girl in for a quick hug.
Rahzel nods. "Yeah, I'm okay now," she replies, her voice slightly quiet. Her eyes are no longer tinted with red, but they don't have the spark that they usually contain, remaining as cool pools of azure water without the sparkle. She turns around and looks at Alzeid. "Shall we try this again?"
He sighs internally. "Okay."
She smiles, a small glimmer shines in her eyes. "Great. Let's get this show on the road."
Over the next few hours, the four of them ate the food that Rahzel and Baroqueheat had put together, conversation flowing between them. Rahzel insisted that everyone wore party hats (even Branowen's robot friend), which was testing Alzeid's patience, but he knew that he couldn't say anything. Despite his thoughts and feelings about how badly tonight would have gone, he was enjoying himself. It was evident how much work had been put in tonight, so he couldn't blame them for wanting him to enjoy himself.
After playing some games, such as pass the parcel (Branowen provided some background music with a little device she had acquired) and hitting a piñata (Rahzel almost hitting Baroqueheat with the bat on more than one occasion), it was time for Alzeid to open up his gifts, which had been placed on a small table at the back of the room. Baroqueheat had managed to get Alzeid some extra ammo (much to Rahzel's displeasure) and a wallet (which she prayed wasn't from some poor schmuck they had robbed). Even Branowen had gotten him a gift, having bought the man a simple pair of black gloves to match the black scarf he wore when the weather was nippy. The last present he unwrapped was from Rahzel; a new khaki turtleneck jumper to replace the one he wore religiously, which had gotten a few small holes. As well as this, she had bought him a birthday card, signed from the three individuals present, and a silver pocket watch, its colour only slightly darker than his hair. His eyes widened at seeing it. This must have cost her a fortune!
Rahzel saw the look on his face. "Before you start, you should know that this is from all three of us," she gestures to the watch. "Open it," she pressed.
He took the watch out of the box it came in, then opened the front of the watch. Inside was inscribed the message 'Happy birthday, Alzeid'. "I...I don't know what to say," he murmured, staring at the intricate writing.
"Well, usually, when someone gets a gift, they say 'thank you'," Rahzel replied.
He snorts softly. "Thanks," he said softly.
"Never thought I'd see the day that you would show your thanks, little boy Al," joked Baroqueheat.
"Today will be your last day if you carry on saying things like that," muttered Alzeid darkly.
Rahzel laughed. "At least have some cake first before you leave us."
Baroqueheat's mouth hung open. "You want me to go, Rahzel-chan?"
The two girls laughed. "She's right; it's time for cake," said Branowen, a small smile on her face.
Rahzel sticks out her fingers and produces a bright light from her finger tips, lighting the candles on the cake. After singing 'Happy Birthday' to the young man (much to his embarrassment), he blows out the candles on Rahzel's command and makes a wish. While it may appear that he doesn't believe in wishes, he did wish for one thing; it wasn't to finally get revenge on the woman who killed his father, but it was that he didn't want to lose his comrades. While he knew that Branowen would soon move on (where there would be no love lost there), he did want to stay with his old army friend and the witch who said that she would make his life interesting. And after tonight's performance, she had stuck to her words and made it a reality.