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Even after everything that had just transpired, Amber giggled a little. It felt as if a massive weight had been lifted from her shoulders after hearing Jaina and Isa's story. She was glad that it was all one big misunderstanding, even if it had caused her so much grief over the last few days. Just as she began to think about what to do next, the door to the guild opened and Rift stepped in. "Hey guys." He mumbled, a large grin growing on his face when he saw Shelly and Amber. "What's up?"
"What took you guy's so long to get back?" Davin asked.
"Oh, you know... Leo had us running 'round town looking for her." Rift said, pointing at Shelly. "About a minute after we split up, got wise and decided to give it a rest. Geno headed home, so we decided to stop by here for a while." He quickly joined Peltin at the bar, but spun back to face Jaina after remembering something. "Oh yeah, uh... You might want to hunker down a bit, Axel's got a bone to pick with you."
"Me?" She repeated in surprise, stepping away from the table to join Rift and Peltin at the bar. "The hell for?"
Suddenly the door burst open, and everyone turned just in time to see Axel storm inside. Amber hunched over and covered her ears for the noise, slowly looking back as Axel leveled an arm at Jaina. "You! I am so pissed at you!"
After slowly glancing at Rift and Peltin on either side of her, she spun around to lean on the bar top and rested her hand on her hip. "What are you on about now?"
Zeke swooped though the door and Landed on Axel's shoulder. "You told Shelly that he did something perverted to Amber!" He spat, earning the attention of everyone in the building. "She got mad at us because of it."
All eyes fell to Jaina, who simply laughed his accusation off. "You're full of it. I never said anything like that."
"Yeah you did." Amber cut in. She shied away when everyone turned to look at her, but slowly built up the courage to speak again after Shelly gave her a reassuring nod. "I heard you the day we left, just before we came inside."
All eyes slowly shifted to Jaina again, who stood absolutely still with a confused look on her face. "Wait, before you got there I was just having some fun wi-." Her single eye suddenly shot wide open, having remembered exactly what she had said at the time. "Oh, you heard that... And it's been on your mind ever since, hasn't it?"
Amber's face grew red, not very fond of discussing the subject in front of so many people. "Yeah... Kind of..."
Davin let out a heavy sigh, shooting a disappointed look across the room, while Jaina slumped her shoulders a little. "Wow. I'm sorry honey, I was just trying to mess with Axel a little. I didn't think you'd heard me." Jaina's lips began to curl into a grin, despite her best efforts, and she slowly glanced up at Axel. "Or that the pair of you would ganged up on him for it."
"It's not funny, dammit!" Axel yelled.
"Aww, it's a little funny." She shrugged, annoying Axel even more. She glanced back at the bar, then asked. "Come-on, it's at least a bit funny, right?"
Rift shrugged, grinning as Axel turned to look at him. "Sorry dude, she's got a point."
Axel took a deep breath to retort, though Davin's booming voice cut him off before he could say anything. "Alright, alright, don't pick on him. Just leave it alone." It was already too late by then to stop a fight from breaking out, though he at least succeeded in ending the argument right then and there.
Hearing all this, Amber was torn. On the one hand, she was relieved that nothing happened. On the other, she had exhausted herself worrying about it and it turned out to be nothing more than Jaina having some fun. She didn't know whether to be furious or grateful, but she didn't have time to decide before Jaina spoke up again. "Wait; if this has been bugging you that much, why didn't you ask that familiar of yours about it? It would have seen if Axel got grabby, right?"
"I-I..." Amber stuttered, failing to see how she could have overlooked such an obvious solution. "I didn't think of that." Almost everyone present began to laugh, further adding to her embarrassment.
"Well, now's as good a time as any, right?" Isa said hopefully, trying to help.
Despite already having an answer, Amber thought it best to go along with it anyways. After making such a big fuss about it, she might as well do this one last thing if only to clear Axel's name. "H-hey, Armeria?" She asked, tapping at her belt. "Come out for a sec'."
Her belt dissolved, flowing back together to form Armeria standing on the table. Watching her multicolored eyes stair up at her, Amber suddenly didn't have the words. Shelly gave her a nudge, trying to encourage her. "Go on, Amber. Ask away."
"Do, uh... Do you remember when we met Axel?" She began slowly, trying to work out what she was going to say.
Armeria nodded. "Yes."
"Did he do anything?" She asked flatly. "After I hit my head, did he do anything?"
Armeria glanced at Axel and Zeke, unable to tell what was wrong. "He carried you to the one armed woman. And she bandaged your head."
"I mean before that." Amber huffed.
She turned her head to the side, apparently becoming confused as to what all these questions where about. "Zeke flew us all out to a boat, and it took us here."
Jaina grunted. Apparently hearing the retelling of their adventure in Johdine seemed to be getting on her nerves. "On the way here, did he do anything funny?" Amber's face went red, feeling everyone's eyes at her back.
"He threw up a lot." She said, glancing at Zeke. He giggled a little as she mimicked what he had told them back in Treetop. "It was kind of funny..." Amber took a deep breath; somehow this was becoming much harder to do that she'd ever imagined, and Armeria seemed to be making this difficult for her on purpose.
This was hopeless; she'd barely had the courage to tell Shelly about what was going on, and they were alone back then. She couldn't bear to ask in front of all these people, even if it was now just to clear Axel's name. "Did he-KYAA!" Her question was suddenly interrupted when she felt a sharp pain on her butt, causing her to squeal in shock. She quickly spun away, holding her behind and backing into the table. Much to her surprise, she found Jaina standing behind her with wide grin on her face. "What was-?"
"There, did he do anything like that?" She interrupted, looking down at Armeria.
"Jaina!" Both Isa and Davin shouted in unison.
"What? She was beating around the bush, so I thought I'd speed things up." She said, waving them both off. Amber rubbed her behind, growing more and more annoyed with Jaina's mannerisms, but soon they all looked onto her familiar for an answer. "So? How about it?"
There was a brief pause before Armeria answered, in which a somewhat annoyed look grew on her face. "No. Nothing like that."
"There, you see? Nothing to worry about." Jaina said confidently.
"Yeah, nothing like a bit of sexual harassment to make her feel at home." Peltin quipped, making both he and Rift chuckle.
Amber continued to hold her behind, hating that she'd been made the center of attention in a situation like this. Thankfully for her however, Davin offered an escape when he stood up and said. "Well, you all have certainly had a busy few days..." He paused a moment to shoot a glair at Jaina, who simply shrugged him off. "I suppose you'll be wanting a bit of shuteye, wouldn't you?"
"Y-yeah." Amber nodded, sinking back into a chair as Davin headed for the back of the guild to retrieve something. Suddenly she remembered that before their job she'd spent a few nights in this man's house, and figured now was as good a time as any to show her appreciation. "T-thank you for letting me use your guestroom." She called quickly. "I really appreciate it."
Davin stopped in the middle of the hall, half turning around with a confused look on his face. "Guest room?" He slowly shifted his gaze to Shelly, who abruptly turned away just before their eyes met. "What does she mean by guest room, Shelly?"
She didn't answer at first, her eyes fixated on the front door as if she expected someone to enter. She wasn't so lucky however, and after a moment she lowered her head. "Leo's..." She mumbled. "It was a room... She was a guest..."
Davin sighed yet again, apparently growing a bit of a headache over the day's events. "Shelly, when you asked if she could stay overnight, I assumed you meant on the couch or something."
"I wasn't going to make her sleep on the couch, Dad." Shelly said defensively. "Leo was out of town, so I figured nobody would notice."
"Yes, but now that he's back your friend doesn't have a bed to sleep in tonight." Davin added. Amber quickly glanced at Shelly, who from the look on her face hadn't taken that into consideration. She just couldn't seem to catch a break today.
Just after Amber called out Armeria, Axel sat down at one of the corner tables with Zeke, grumbling to himself about how Jaina was always getting him into trouble. He wasn't paying much attention to the conversation the others were having, but Zeke had listened to the entire thing and just had an idea. "She can stay at our place, we've got a spare bed!" Before anyone had a chance to give an answer he spun around to look up at Axel hopefully. "We don't mind, right?"
Axel glanced back up at the others, noticing a somewhat hopeful look in Amber's eye. "Sure, I guess so."
Hearing that came as a surprise to Amber, who had expected Axel to be bitter about being the object of all her problems. Unfortunately though, Jaina cut in before she had a chance to think on it. "No, no freakin' way. Not a snowball's chance in hell."
"Why not?" Zeke asked, a little saddened. Amber covered her mouth, realising she had almost asked the exact same question.
"Well, there's a butt-load reasons, fur-ball. First of which being that she's a girl and you two are guys." Jaina grumbled, sitting on the table next to Amber and placing her hand on her shoulder. "Besides, she's got to be sick of you two by now, given what she's had on her mind for the past few days."
Amber blushed, but it began to bug her that she wasn't being allowed to make a decision for herself. "Ms. Jaina, its ok I-." Jaina twitched slightly, making Amber remember her apparent age complex. She slowly leaned away to get out from under Jaina's arm, then took a deep breath to correct herself. "Jaina. It's fine; you said I should start trusting you guys, so why not start now?"
"This isn't exactly what I had in mind, hun." She said slowly. "I meant get comfortable hanging out here, not move in with the guy who brought you unconscious to my doorstep." Amber blushed again, growing tired of Jaina trying to decide everything for her. "You can come with me for a few nights. I'll help you find a place in the meantime."
"But Jaina, I..." That's right, even Amber thought it was a stupid idea. Stupid, irrational, but perfect. Something she could do to show that she still wanted to be a part of the guild. And even with everything that went on between them, despite being nothing more than misplaced paranoia, Amber wanted to give Axel another chance. Just as Jaina hopped off the table, Amber muttered. "I want to be able to trust you guys..."
Jaina froze mid step, apparently not expecting to hear that. Her eye watered a little, but she quickly wiped her hand down her forehead to conceal it. After a long silence, she sighed. "God, new girl. Way to aim for the heart." Her voice sounded different somehow, like she was on the verge of laughing. Or crying, depending on where you stood. She spun around quickly and looked past Amber to a table in the corner, where Jon had been silently listening in with a snoozing Elligr sitting next to him. "Alright Jon, you say something. He's your kid, and they ain't listening to me."
Jon sprang up from his chair to join the others, slowly glancing back and forth between Amber and his son. Stopping just a few steps from the table, the edges of his mustache curled upwards slightly, which Amber couldn't help but imagine was a grin. "Now Axel, I expect you to behave yourself in the presence of a lady."
"You people are unbelievable..." Jaina moaned, returning to the bar to get a drink. Amber was unable to hide her smile; she had a place to stay no matter who she went with, but for some reason she was happy to go with Axel and Zeke. Especially now that Jaina was beginning to annoy her.
"Though Axel; it may be a good idea to clean up a bit first." Jon suggested, rocking back on his heels. "Last time I stopped by, I noticed a fair bit of junk laying around your house."
"Uh... Y-yeah..." He nodded dumbly, his face growing a slight shade of red. "Yeah, I should go clean up a bit first." He stood up and began walking to the door, but stopped to look back at Zeke for a moment. "Can you show her how to get to our place?"
"Sure!" Zeke said excitedly, sprouting wings from his back and flying to Amber's shoulder.
Shelly suddenly grabbed Amber's hand when Axel stepped out, pulling her to her feet rather abruptly. "C'mon. While he's doing that, we can finally go shopping." She said excitedly, dragging her to the door.
"Wait Shelly, we still need to talk about your-." Davin trailed off, stopping himself when Shelly spun around with a big smile on her face. He suddenly couldn't utter the words, and simply waved them off with a sigh. "Forget it, we'll talk later."
Isa giggled to herself, then waived goodbye as well. "See you tomorrow."
The pair of them rushed out, and the door slammed shut behind them. Elligr abruptly shot up from the noise, stretching his arms over his head with a long groan. "What's all the commotion about?"
"Nothin', fatso." Jaina spat, finishing her beer with one final swing. "Go back to your nap."
A strange silence fell over the guild, even as Elligr returned to his snoring. After a minute, Rift finally got sick of it and spoke up. "Something buggin' you Jaina?"
"More than one thing..." She mumbled, returning her attention to their table. "You are such a sucker for your little girl, Davin."
Davin sighed and crossed his arms. "Yeah, I know..."
"Oh, let them be." Jon moaned. "They've had a rough few days, it'll be good to let them unwind a little."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say." Jaina rolled her eye as both she and Jon sat down together. "Well, admittedly that's kind of my fault she got all worked up. But at least she's settling in nice enough." She took another drink from her beer, formulating a thought in her head. "If I can, I'll see if I can get to know her better."
"You shouldn't bug her Jaina." Isa suggested. "She'll open up when she's ready."
Jaina shrugged, taking another sip of her beer. "Didn't you have somewhere to be, sis?"
Isa was slow to catch on, but suddenly she shot to her feet and grabbed her bag off the back of the chair. "Oh, Leena and the others! I forgot!" She quickly ran around the others and through the door, slamming it shut behind her.
The silence returned, though Rift quickly brought the conversation back to his last question. "So, what's got you so bugged?"
"Well, my back starts to hurt if I'm on my feet for too long." She said with a shrug. "That kind of bugs me sometimes."
"You know what he means..." Davin grumbled. "You've got a look when something's on your mind." She slowly turned to face him, and he pointed at her. "Yeah, that look. Right there."
"Well, I’m a little bugged that the new girl wanted to go with Axel instead of me." She mumbled, slumping down in her chair. "Given what they've all told us about their first little adventure together, I'd have figured she'd want nothing to do with him for at least a week."
"Aww... Your little bird leaving the nest too soon, boss lady?" Peltin quipped.
Davin, Rift, and Jon all chuckled as Jaina spun around. "Screw you, smartass!" She spat. "I'm her doctor, and after the rough ride they've had I want to make sure she's alright." She spun back to Davin, trying not to raise her voice. "You all saw that bruise on her arm, right? If I find out Payla did that there's going to be hell to pay."
"I think she'd have told us if that where the case. Shelly said they got into a fight, so I'm sure it must have been from that." Davin sighed. Jaina could be impossible sometimes, especially when the Magic Council was involved. "Look Jaina; despite what you think of her, Payla isn't stupid. She knows that if she did something like that Zepher would give her the boot in an instant, even with all her authority."
Jaina slumped down even more, resting her good leg on another chair. "Yeah, I know..." A somewhat somber air fell over the group, though Davin had settled for Jaina not going start a fight. "Still though, that girls been dragged through me and my sis's feud with that old bat. And apparently because I have a loud mouth, she'd been on edge for the past week." She muttered, a small grin creeping across her face. "I'm going to have to make this up to her, somehow."
"Just don't do anything that might put her off." Davin begged. "She's had a hard enough time already."
Jaina snickered. "Oh relax. It's me, remember?" Something about the way she said that put everyone on edge, but in a way that none of them seemed able to explain. The silence was enough of an indicator for her to catch onto this, and she sighed heavily. "Fine, fine, I'll tread lightly."
"Do you even know how to do that?" Peltin quipped again.
Jaina flipped him the bird in lieu of a response, then pushed against the door with her back to leave. An early silence fell over them once she had left, save for Elligr's snoring, of course. It didn't take Davin very long to begin worrying though, that he might one day regret letting Jaina get away with such things forever.
Next Chapter – A Place to Call Home