Family is.. official [4.16]

ourIceMain.jpg Scheming is both inherently evil and implicitly childish for most people.

If you're actually trying to be evil then you plot instead; it's much more efficient.
If you're actually trying to be childish then you.. eat crayons or something? I dunno..
It takes a special type of person to actually 'scheme' effectively without going too far one way or the other in my experience.

Two guesses what Hannah's doing today?

Events unfold including but not limited to:
Bottles falling off walls,
people having problems with just calling John by his name
(how hard are three little letters honestly?),
and Hannah reconsidering her career choices.


 

“Oi Sarah!”

She jumped in surprise, which was pretty funny in itself.
It’s not often I manage to catch my sister off guard like that.

“Han?”
She gaped at me in awe as I made my way over to her.

It’s not a conscious thing but I’m practically skipping as I walk at this point.
Having a plan, having a reason to not bow down in fear and having John at my back is making me a little giddy honestly?
It’s like old times back in school but a thousand times more fun just because we’re adults and we have magic to play with!

“Sarah, darling ever so helpful and loving sister of mine, I need a favor?”
She flushed slightly but stood practically frozen in worry with a look of mild confusion on her face.
She’s always taken too long to get in gear if things change quickly around her, I don’t know why I’m so surprised now to be honest?

“Long story short I’ve got a little over a hundred-thousand ex-husbands worldwide and I don’t feel like becoming the new chew-toy to the powerful and insane of magical society, SO, until further notice I’m ‘Hannah Cooper’.”
Despite her stalled state her eyebrow twitched incredulously.
Maybe I should have phrased that better?
“I’m not ‘Arista’, I’m not ‘Mother’ and I’m nothing but what I appear to be.. your rather cute little sister Hannah with naturally blue hair who only just found out she’s a mage a few days ago.”
Her other eyebrow twitched up to join its mate.

Oh come ON Sarah, keep up!

“With that in mind I need you to make sure Mum, Mrs Jones, Gran, the werewolves, the mages and my ‘children’ all know that they should treat me as such until further notice on pain of getting the Grace treatment in a public place.”
Her mouth dropped open.

..maybe I’m talking too fast?..
I can’t help it, I’m just feeling so.. I’m SO ready for this!

“For reference on what the Grace treatment is you should go into the golden palace of excess and find the dining hall of excess, she’s currently stuck to the ceiling naked in human form with leather straps restraining her.”

John snorted to himself quietly but I don’t think Sarah was quite in the right frame of mind to notice at this point.
She’s looking at me like I’ve grown another head or something?!

“Sorted? Great! Keep an eye on Eris for me ‘till we get back okay? See you later Sare, we’ve got a pseudo-government organisation to turn on its head and spank into submission, bu-bye!”
I leaned over to give her a quick hug which she didn’t react to in the slightest surprisingly then started my march off towards the front door.

“COME ON JOHN-BOY!”

I turned the corner out of sight at last and just like with the dining hall I paused to wait for him.
Honestly, what’s the point of creating chaos if you can’t hang around at the scene of the crime to enjoy your efforts?!

I couldn’t see what was happening but I’ll assume some kind of silent conversation was going on between John and Sarah because eventually he sighed heavily, followed closely by a matching sound from her.

“Look.. John.. whatever you did to her, thanks okay?”
Even I had to stifle a gasp there.
That really wasn’t the response I was expecting!
“Han’s not been herself since the change.. I’ve been worried. I just got done spending an afternoon with her cry her heart out on my shoulder over everything from you to how annoying yet adorable her new pet kitten is..”

There was a stretch of silence that almost had me hopping from foot to foot in agitation.
I can’t see what’s happening!!

“.. she’s hyperactive and annoyingly forward now for some reason but at least she’s got her confidence back?.. whatever you did managed what I couldn’t.. so.. thanks?”
The awkward silence spread out again.

I had to hold in a frustrated sigh, all this melodrama is kind of killing my buzz honestly?
Sarah’s always been big on the melodramatics!
She used to watch several soap operas religiously AND ‘borrow’ Mum’s romance novels when we were younger too..

“Don’t blame yourself Sarah, I cheated. She spent half an hour wrapped up in my aura of calm, confident magic.. it’s probably temporarily gone to her head a bit but it will wear off eventually and that’s when she’ll need you to keep her from backsliding again.”
This time I really did huff to myself quietly.

That’s not how magic works!
Sure there may have a bit of.. synchronisation?.. between us, his magic bleeding into mine and mine bleeding into his a bit due to them being so close.

That’s one of the lesser known areas of sympathetic magic that people miss at first glance usually.
Magic likes magic, related magic likes related magic.

You can’t get much more ‘related’ then two people who have spent most of human history in close proximity to each other for one reason or another.
I wouldn’t be surprised if my basic magical signature was almost on a ‘brother/sister’ level with Johns at this point.
I’m pretty sure Max’s and Arista’s were if nothing else.. probably more than that in all honesty?

Gah! Enough of this!

With a push I managed to force out a dome of magic which simultaneously caught the awkwardly chatting pairs attention, helped reinforce my buzz a bit more AND cleaned up the evidence from a certain new monthly annoyance as an added bonus at the same time.
At that thought I dipped into my lines and reinforced the blood magic block I put up against the cramps too, just because I could and it’s easier to do then recasting it at this point.

“Come ON John-boy! Flirt with my sister AFTER we get done putting the fear of Hannah into the fae pets!”
I’m not exactly in the mood to be subtle.. obnoxious and mean? TOTALLY!

The name ‘fae pets’ is growing on me when it comes to the Hub staff too honestly.
I know its Edith’s shtick and all but I’m sure she won’t mind if I borrow it for my own amusement.

Considering the vision I had about that evil bitch-queen Maven almost hurting poor little Felix with her nasty looking yellow magic I’m not even slightly guilty for the undertones of sexual deviancy that calling them her ‘pets’ can hint at.
In fact, I might even work to make it a ‘thing’ with the general public?
I wonder how many people will realise it’s a new running joke if I comment on it enough times around the Hub.. only one way to find out I guess?
Powers, but I love this feeling!

“JOHN! HURRY UP DAMN IT!”
I’m not warping into town so he’s driving.
I don’t care if it’s more efficient to warp, I’m in too good a mood to ruin it with stupid magical transportation methods!

He muttered something to Sarah and started moving towards me but I’d given up waiting at this point.
As fast as he was moving towards me I was making my way toward the door and out into the street.

Out the corner of my eye I could see Sarah reaching our front door to watch us go with a surprisingly warm smile on her face.
I resolutely didn’t meet her eyes because it would give the game away too easily but it’s nice to see her happy if nothing else.

“John, you’re driving! I’m not warping at this time of day, I need a clear head if I’m going to get the house declared a werewolf sanctuary by bedtime.”
With that statement of fact, said more for Sarah’s benefit and amusement than anything else.
I popped the passenger door of John’s truck open and hopped in with a purposefully loud giggle before offering Sarah a wide grin, with an accompanying wave which she returned almost TOO enthusiastically.

“That’s your plan is it? Here’s me thinking we were going in gun’s blazing to take over the place and crown you Queen of the Hubs or something..”
John made his way around the Truck and got himself comfortable before shoving the key into the slot to get us started.

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor John-boy.. you’re better than that..”
He shot me a light glare but focused on starting the truck instead of responding to my admittedly kinda mean comment.

“..belt up..”
I shot him a curious look at the possible double meaning and puffed my already puffy cheeks up a bit more to show how offended I was when it became obvious he’d meant it to be taken BOTH ways.

After a long pause to glare at him, which he ignored completely much to my frustration, I reluctantly reached out to put my seatbelt on.

I may have given in to one side his comment, just for safety’s sake, but I’m not letting him have the other one!
I refuse to ‘belt up’ in THAT way thank-you-very-much John-boy!

“Ninty-nine green bottles, sitting on the wall. Ninty-nine green bottles, sitting on the wall and if ONE green bottle-”
He gunned the engine to drown out my singing for a moment but I carried on anyway just because I could.
Teach him to tell me to belt up!

“You’re seriously going to do this?”
I shot him a mild glare with just a hint of mirth to it and turned away to face the window while the words tumbled out of my lips carelessly.

“- Ninty-seven green bottles, sitting on the wall.. Ninty-SEVEN green bottles, sitting on the wall and if ONE green bottle!.. should accidentally fall, there’d be Ninty-SIX green bottles sitting on the wall!”
He groaned and sunk his head down slightly to rest on the steering wheel for a moment before apparently martialling his strength, forcing himself up so he could swing us around and off up the road towards the resort proper.

“..I think I preferred you when you were depressed..”
My smirk spread a little despite his grumbled words and I put a bit more force into my next round of singing just for him.

“Ninty-SIX green bottles!-“

======

“Thirty-two green bottles!.. sitting on the wall and if-”
I hesitated just long enough to leave John yelling out ‘ONE’ on his own before continuing.
“-green bottle should accidentally fall there’d be Thirty-ONE green bottles sitting on the wall!”

I knew he wouldn’t last long!
We’d barely made it past the resort’s, currently closed, ice-rink before he was humming along with me.

By fifty green bottles he was singing along with an over-the-top force of tone you would expect to hear coming out of an old English pub rather than from inside a mint condition but ancient truck driving along the highway in Oregon!

All things have to end sadly and in this case we pulled up into an open spot just off of Main Street, barely a few steps away from the Hub’s entrance.
John turned the engine off and shot me a look as I finished off my line for ‘Thirty-one bottles’.

“I’ll buy a damn radio, happy?”
My lips twitched up even higher at that one.
..about bloody time!..

“Perfectly happy.. don’t pretend you didn’t enjoy it though John-boy..”
He flushed slightly and grumbled to himself as he made his way out of the truck which I took to mean I was TOTALLY right and he just didn’t want to admit it!

My door popped open.
Almost reluctantly John offered me a hand out which I took with a light giggle as I hopped down.

“Such a gentleman”
He glared at me but he really couldn’t hide the fact that he found it as amusing as I did.

From our connected hands I ‘rubbed’ my magic against his making his eye twitch heavily.
For most people touching your magic is rather intimate but considering how much I’ve let him get away with today contact wise and just how NICE it feels to do it I’m not feeling guilty in the slightest for enjoying the feeling at all!

We made a few steps toward the hub holding each other’s hand casually before I paused.

Surprisingly the holding hands bit didn’t bother me so much, he’s John after all and besides rubbing my magic against his warm magic really DOES feel nice.. like some kind of security blanket that’s just out of reach?
No, what made me pause was a glance down at my clothing!

I don’t exactly make an impressive sight in jeans and a T-shirt right now?
It hardly fits in with the role I’m hoping to play with the ‘fae pets’ if nothing else!

My eyes drifted around us and finally settled on a shop in the distance, just a few blocks up the street, tucked into a side road near the courthouse.
Slowly I turned my gaze back to John and offered him my best wide-eyed pleading look.
He shifted awkwardly and finally glanced away from me with a resigned sign.

YES!

Without another word I yanked him forward by our connected hands and practically dragged him off to the little clothes store.
Now.. what to go for?.. over-the-top strictly business or over-the-top cute casual?..

We paused outside the shops windows and John’s eyes drifted away from the suits on the left, lingering more on the bright summer dresses to the right for just the tiniest of moments.
With a happy giggle I pulled him inside, decision made.

Looks like I’m going to be playing the powerful ditz this time?
Sadly I’m pretty good at it even if I do say so myself so that’s something I guess..

“John, be a dear and help me find the most adorably stupid dress you can see please?”
He grumbled to himself as always but that didn’t even come close to hiding his amusement from my eyes, I know him FAR too well for that to work.
“Find something nice and I’ll fill you in on the plan for today.”

There, THAT’S more like it!
Who knew the promise of information would be the best way to get John involved in things.

======

“Did you HAVE to get the shoes too?”

So the clothes place didn’t have shoes.. or hair ribbons.. or pale pink tights and a push-up bra?..
HE’S not the one wearing this junk so he has NO right to complain about it all even if I DID have to drag him through a few shops to get what I needed and charge it to his card because I’ve STILL not sorted my bank accounts out!

My eyes caught on a nearby shop window as we made our way back along Main Street towards the Hub and I couldn’t help but strike a stupidly girly pose just to check that everything was in the right place.

Light-blue hair cascading down my back with contrasting red ribbons tied either side of my head as part of a ‘hairband’ of sorts in a way that frames my face JUST right; Another extra-wide ribbon tied in a big bow at the very bottom of my hair holding it all together into a slight point just above my ass.. Check!

Light and floaty summer dress in a more subdued shade of pink with a few red accents of course.
It’s tight bodice hugging my curves while emphasising my, admittedly push-up bra assisted, ‘assets’ to lend an air of innocence about the whole thing with all the silly ruffles and bows sewn into it.. Check!

Light pink tights for ‘modesty’ and general cuteness sake.. Check.

Rather grown up looking pair of bright candy-apple red patent-leather open-toed four-inch heels.. Check and CHECK!

Toss in some new undies just because I could, along with a ‘pad’ to save any embarrassment that may come from my unfortunately timed ‘monthly’ and everyone’s happy!

I grinned at myself brightly and cocked my head to the side in an overly ‘cute’ way which I’m pretty sure is going to give some unfortunate Hub pen-pusher a heart attack or at least send him into a diabetic coma from sweetness overload!

“..you’re enjoying this too much..”

Feeling the sudden urge to be childish paired with the fact that I had the look to pull it off I turned to face John’s incredulous stare and stuck my tongue out to blow him a nice big raspberry past my, ironically, raspberry flavored lip-balm.

He laughed to himself in surprise more than anything but, considering it’s not exactly hard to feel his magic normally and we’re currently still holding hands, his reaction wasn’t exactly a surprise to me in the slightest.

He may grumble and groan about the shopping but he’s been watching me intently when he thinks I’m not looking AND he finds the whole ‘super-cute innocent little girl’ act I’m doing hilarious even if he won’t openly admit it.

“After we’re done with the mean old fae pets can we go get ice-cream?.. pretty please with sugar on top!”
He shook his head and chuckled again, obviously in awe at my amazing acting skills.

I almost feel sorry for whoever has to deal with ‘adorable ditz’ Hannah today!
Almost being the opportune word.. just wait until I turn around and ruin the whole thing by being a total badass all of a sudden!

Negotiation is all about wrong-footing your opponents JUST long enough to get what you want while they are off balance after all.
Edith taught me that, with more than just words.
That’s practically her business model at the shop!

Someone comes in looking for a second-hand copy of ‘Tobin’s spirit guide’, walking away an hour later with several thousand dollars’ worth of books and related magical paraphernalia much to their bemusement and the evil little Yoda’s amusement.

“Save it for the enemy Han. I’m still not convinced this is all going to work out.. but I’ll get you ice-cream later if you PROMISE to not pull that cutesy crap on me specifically, it’s kind of disturbing to see you acting like that honestly?”
Despite his words I can still feel his magic clear as day and he’s enjoying this just as much as I am.

“Aww.. does my John-John not like his w’ittle kitty-Hannah showing how much she w’uves him?”
My hand came up to play lightly with his hair which he flinched away from with a glare for obvious reasons.

I lasted just long enough to offer him a highly offended gasp of ‘pain’ before cracking up in a fit of laughter that actually hurt my stomach from the force of it all.. although that could have just been residual effects from straining my still pain-supressed but not stopped cramps honestly?

“Don’t ever call me ‘John-John’ again.. ever..”
He’s trying to be such a hardass but there’s no hiding how much my stupid over-the-top act is amusing him when I can feel his magic so easily!

After a long moment where I took the chance to offer him a ridiculously big grin that hurt my cheeks a little bit and he glared at me, trying not to smirk like I just KNOW he wants to do, he finally cracked and sighed heavily in defeat.

“Just.. just not THAT, anything but John-John okay?”
His eye twitched slightly almost at the exact same moment that he finished speaking when he realised that in his rush he’d effectively given me a blank slate to work with.

I could have SO much fun at his expense at this point but I’ve got a better idea that will actually be useful!

I’ve read his file after all.
Maxarimus is almost as famous as Arista among mages and he’s not exactly been a good little celibate monk over the years or anything..

With a breathy ‘romatic’ sigh I leaned into his side and hugged his arm tightly to my now emphasised chest like the good little airhead I’m going to portray when we get inside the Hub.

“It’s like, SO nice of you to buy me this new outfit Uncle Max. I can’t wait ‘till we get back to your place and I can show you how much I really appreciate it..”
It didn’t take much effort for me to roll my head up and fix him with my best, most innocent looking wide-eyed gaze.

John flinched hard but after a long pause to gather himself back together again he gave in to the inevitable at last with a loud groan.

“Think John-boy, if the Hub staff are going to find it distracting to have you come in with a bit of giggly arm-candy hanging off of you.. just IMAGINE how much worse it will be for them when they realise there’s potential for incest going on between dirty old Maxarimus and his poor little new blue-haired niece as well!”
He can’t argue with the logic, I know it’s playing dirty and that it’s kind of wrong too but it’s not like Max’s reputation is salvageable anyway and for my plan to work I need every bit of help I can get!

Incest is a weird thing for mages anyway.
Is it incest if your both biologically different people then you were when you were originally related?

When you get right down to it.. if a mage want’s to date another mage then it kinda HAS to be incest in a way?
We’re not exactly a huge section of the population and seeing as most of us are at least a few reincarnations into our lives, any normal possibility that you’d be related to each other is multiplied again and again over time.

Magic likes to multiply and spread itself while also drawing itself back together again as well, it wouldn't allow new mages to be imperfect unless it had to!
Why would it allow genetic deformity’s to happen if blood relatives slept together anyway?

That’s all not important NOW of course, it’s not like I’m actually going to sleep with John or anything!
What's important is that most hub staff are normal people and normal people find even the hint of ‘incest’ to be, at the bare minimum, 'awkward' and often times just downright repulsive.

I need a distraction to get to the appropriate people inside without anyone realising who I really am, as Edith would say 'anything for an edge be worth tryin' once useless girl!'.
Crazy old wise-woman she may be, but even SHE has her moments where the ‘wise’ outweighs the ‘crazy’.. sometimes.. it’s rare obviously but it happens at least?

So we’re about to go marching into the Hub on the hunt for some very specific staff members and I’m not leaving until I get a guarantee that our house is considered a safe-zone one way or another!

I need the weight that comes with the ‘Arista’ name, the backing of ‘Maxarimus’ and the invisibility that hopefully comes from being some horrible bimbo version of ‘Hannah Cooper’ combined if I’m going to pull this off.
On top of that I need to check in with Trudy, while covertly finding out if I have a reason to run and hide from the big bad SWAT guy’s that could be gearing up as we speak to bring me in after the whole ‘solar flare’ incident!

I’m not just doing all this to have FUN you know.. it’s a bonus of course?.. but I DO have end goals here and John’s the key to getting me far enough in the door, quickly enough, that no-one has time to stop me.

With that thought in mind I shot John a questioning look as we wandered ever closer to the Hub’s entrance and eventually offered him a curious eyebrow.

“..fine.. we run with what we told Thor, you’re my newly discovered niece and we’re here to sort out some family business, that should be enough to get us in front of the right people even if it DOES mean everyone will jump the gun and think I’m adopting you or something..”
A grin spread across my lips at his acceptance.
I love it when he goes along with my plans!
“For the record I think the incest thing is creepy on several levels and no matter what, I won’t be the one starting it.. if you want people to start questioning my motives for ‘taking you in’ then I won’t stop you but you’re on your own for HOW you’re going to do it.. okay?”

Good enough!

“Thanks Uncle Max. I love you, you’re so sweet to me.”
A guy just ahead of us who’d stepped out of the Hub’s entranceway a few seconds ago shot us a surprised look, obviously recognising ‘Max’ if nothing else.

I just nuzzled my cheek into John’s arm and grinned brightly as we passed him, then moments later we disappeared through the entrance without another word.

======

“Maxarimus the Second, I’m here to see the family registrar and housing associate for Klamath Falls?”
I had to fight down a shudder as John spoke using that annoyingly ‘almost British’ accent that Max always favored, I really DON’T have a good history with that accent!

To my surprise Felicia, the Hub receptionist, let out a rather uncharacteristic squeak of fear.
She lurched violently away from her desk as her eyes shot up leaving her gaping at John in surprise.

For my part I just buried my face in his arm and hoped things would go okay.
If we’re lucky the only thing one of the few people around here I’d actually expect to be able to recognise ‘Arista’ on sight, from our previous meetings when I came in with ‘Team Tomb-raider’, will only be able to describe me as a mass of unusually blue hair clinging shyly to his arm.

“D-do you have an appointment.. sir?”
Despite everything I almost gasped aloud at that one!
I NEVER thought I’d see the day when FELICIA of all people called someone ‘sir’?!

“Ah, that’s rather awkward.. you see this is all a bit last minute?.. but I’m sure a woman of your obvious skill will be able to sort things out quickly enough for me right?”
His lips twisted into that horribly fake ‘smug’ look of Max’s.

I really don’t like this, the voice and the look are putting me on edge and we’ve not even got out of the reception area yet!

If I wasn’t clinging so tightly too him that I can feel his magic and TELL he’s a bit upset about having to put on the act as well, I’m pretty sure I’d be freaking out a little at this point?
Max and I have history, while it’s usually surprisingly easy to ignore most of the time this whole thing is shoving John’s connection to my ex-stalker forward in way’s I could REALLY do without right about now!

Maybe I should have thought this whole thing through a bit better before we ‘stormed the bastille’ as they say?

“I.. uh.. I’m.. I’m sure I can sort something out sir. Please, if you could wait here for a moment I'll do what I can.”
She waved over to the seats lining the walls on either side of the reception hall without even glancing at me.

If it wasn’t precisely what we were going for in this case I’d almost feel offended at being so obviously snubbed in favor of John and his ego?

“Much obliged young lady, I appreciate your efforts and hope things work out as swiftly as possible.”
He threw me off a little when he dipped into the slightest of bows but I managed to latch onto his arm again without causing too much of a scene.

We slid over to the right hand seats where I managed to tuck myself into his side like the little blue-haired limpet I need to be until we’re away from anyone who might actually recognise me as anything but the newly awakened ‘Hannah Cooper’ I’m portraying.

“How are you holding up Han?”
I shuddered a little as his whisper brushed across my ear, to an outside observer I’m sure it looked quite intimate despite what John said about not helping me start this whole ‘incest’ rumor going.

“Better now I’ve heard you speak without the accent. Hopefully we can get this part over with quickly, are you going to help me catch some attention as we walk the halls in a minute?”
He snorted slightly and ducked his head down to rest even closer to my ear making me shudder for thankfully different but no less annoying reasons compared to the last time he made me shudder at the desk just by speaking instead.

“Of course, you only had to ask.. I have to admit I’m kind of warming to the idea of incest with you, maybe we should try method acting until we leave huh?”
His magic bubbled in amusement which made me blush almost as much as the words themselves had managed to cause.

Careful to not be visible to anyone around me I slowly slid my hand behind his back and with the tiniest dips into my lines I managed to send a little needle-prick’s worth of magic into his back which, if I got it right, should have momentarily numbed several parts of his body all at once.

“Don’t get cute John-boy, stick to the script and remember that I’m Al under the blue hair and curves yeah?”
His magic jumped again in amusement but it settled down quickly and I felt him lean back upright a few seconds later with obvious acceptance of my request written on his face.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt and with how emotionally unstable I’ve been lately, especially when he’s involved, we can’t afford for him to push things too far with flirting.. even if my annoyingly positive reactions to it would help the act we’ve got going on, I just don’t think I could handle it for long without snapping or doing something impulsively stupid instead!

“..thanks John-boy..”

I could feel him nod slightly from where his chin had come to rest on top of my head like he did back when we had our little ‘talk’ at home.
I’m not sure why but for some reason just having him do that in itself helped me recollect my slightly frayed whit’s again, ever so slightly at least?

“The family registrar and housing associate are both free to see you sir. I’ve arranged an escort to take you to the meeting room they will be using.”
Felicia seemed to practically appear out of nowhere at our side making me flinch and lean into John a bit tighter almost instinctively.

Luckily John isn’t as easily shaken apparently because he took the reins, helping me stand so we could quickly follow behind the obviously nervous twenty-something man who’d been drafted into being our ‘guide’ at short notice.

I’m honestly a bit surprised at just how quickly Felicia can get things done when someone lights a fire under her ass for once?
I won’t get the chance to tell her this time for obvious reasons, not to mention John’s hasty pace taking us far away from the reception without a backwards glance at her before I’d quite realised what was happening, but I made a mental note to mention it to someone at some point for my own amusement if nothing else.
I’m not a petty person in general but I DO still feel a bit upset with her for not realising who I am under the new face yet, despite how unfair or illogical of me that may be..

“This way sir.”

The guide took a left, careful to not lose us as we turned the corner after him.
He’s obviously done this before if he’s so casually aware of the problems that can come from inattention within the Hub’s complicated ever-changing hallways.

We followed along without another word for another hallway or so before I made the first move, squeezing John’s arm to give him at least some kind of warning.
He tucked his arm slightly tighter to his chest in response but didn’t give any other outward indication that he’d understood.

..it’s showtime I guess?..
This really IS starting to seem like a rather stupid idea for some reason..

======

“Look Uncle Max isn’t he just adorable?”

Even John froze to stare at me like I'm insane or something as I knelt down in front of the now gaping little middle-aged male Faunus, one of the goat legged little fae who tend to deliver messages for people around the Hub.
My hand stroked his little pointy beard as I stared at him with wide-eyed adoration.

My face may be different but I’ve got a LOT of experience when it comes to acting, mostly from missions of course but also just from growing up around Sarah and her constant scheming.

“You’re so cute!”
I leaned a little closer and the poor little guy’s face actually blushed slightly from my proximity.
“I’ve always had a thing for older men you know, they’re just so.. experienced?.. aren’t you?”
If he could, I think the Faunus would have melted into the floor at this point in some way but instead he stood frozen before me like a deer caught in the high-beams of a big-rig!

“Han, darling, can you PLEASE stop manhandling every fae we come across..”

Ohhh, is that real annoyance I detect in John’s voice?
Someone obviously doesn’t appreciate me playing the field suddenly!

“Oh I’m sorry Uncle Max! He’s just so adorable I couldn’t resist.. you know if YOU grew a beard like his maybe I wouldn’t have to find other outlet’s for this sort of thing..”
John sighed heavily at my slight jab.

I’ve been dropping ‘hints’ that he should grow that stupid goatee he had in his Victorian incarnation since we started this, admittedly extended because of my constant need to ‘play’ with the fae that we cross in the halls, journey to our meeting.
It’s mostly for my own amusement but it also gives me a ‘reason’ to stroke his chin ‘lovingly’ where everyone can see it and come to their own conclusions about us in general.

The real beauty of the whole thing is that I’ve managed to establish myself as a rather childish girl in the eyes of our guide at this point and John can’t resist me again for fear that I might have another ‘tantrum’ over him denying me what I want.

If you can believe it, the last one I had when he tried to physically drag me away from a little wood nymph actually earned him a glare from the guide for being ‘mean’ to me.. a glare that got slightly worse when I finally let him ‘calm me down’, sliding into a rather suggestive position against him while we whispered back and forth to each other about nothing in particular.

It’s so FUN doing this sort of thing?!
I have to wonder, if I hadn’t become a mage, maybe I might have become an actor or something?
I’ve always enjoyed being someone else for a while even when it was Sarah and not particularly by MY choice.

“Oh FINE.. I’m sorry little one. I really DO love your beard though, have a nice day okay?”
I gave the little Faunus’s chin a slight stroke which I SWEAR made him almost purr just like Felix does when I do it to him!

Maybe Imp’s aren’t the only fae who get a rough deal in things?
If nothing else this little stroll through the Hub has opened my eyes to the sheer variety of them out there.. along with all their rather interesting and often cute forms of course..

With a push, showing more effort than really necessary of course, I stood again and shot John an ‘annoyed’ look.
He reached out to take my hand as we’ve been doing for most of the journey so far but with a rather dramatic huff I folded my hands under my boosted chest and stormed forward slightly to commandeer our poor guides arm instead.

John actually stalled for a moment in unhidden surprise but the look he sent at me when he finally did get himself back together again was pretty funny to see if nothing else!

I felt a bit sorry for the guide though?
While I know John’s expressions well enough to see when he’s being serious or not the guide obviously doesn’t judging by how quickly he paled and shrunk away from the simple, mildly annoyed, glare John was sending us.

I huffed to myself and flicked my hair out at him in dismissal much to the amusement of our watching audience of passing Hub staff.
The guide gulped heavily as his eyes cut uncertainly between John’s glare and my wide innocent eyes a few times.

“Now what was your name again cutey? I don’t think we were properly introduced, my Maxy-”
I flooded my cheeks with some ice magic making them flush prettily in response and ducked my head down slightly as if I’d said something I shouldn’t have.
“My Uncle Max is rather posse- Protective of me you see and I rarely get to meet new people these days, especially cute ones.”

The guide blushed brightly and didn’t quite know what to say in response to that.
I can’t really blame him but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the effect I have on him so easily.

It may not really be ‘MY’ body but it’s still nice to know you’re desirable, ya know?
With a barely supressed smirk I trailed a gentle hand up to stroke our guides chin thoughtfully like I did to the Faunus a moment ago.

“Have you ever considered growing a beard? I think they’re SO sexy on older men..”
Behind us John choked in either surprise or indignation, I’m not sure which, it felt like both from his magic honestly.

Either way the effect it had on him and those around us, who were now obviously watching intently while trying to look innocuous was still amusing enough to bring a smile to my lips.
I really should have been an actor.. maybe actress instead considering how well I could ‘be’ Sarah even when I still had my male body?

“Do you think we’ll see any more fae as we go along? I LOVE the fae, they’re all just SO cute, ya know?”

======

“This is your door. I’ve got another tour to lead so I’ve got to go.. uh.. bye?”
I barely had time to gasp before the guide had managed to shake my loose grip off of his arm and he practically sprinted away from us around a random corner.

Obviously his next tour can’t be THAT important?
He’s going to end up hopelessly lost if he’s turning blind corners like that around here.. poor sap really didn’t know how to handle my constant flirting did he?

You know, I never thought that week I spent pretending to be a call girl in Amsterdam to catch a rather annoying mage who happened to live as a hermit of sorts, living in a compound that even I couldn’t break into and only coming out for his weekly session in the red-light district, would come in handy someday but apparently, as much as it hurts for me to admit it, men are all the same when it comes right down to it!

Inadvertently my eyes cut over to John thoughtfully.
I wonder how well he’d stand up to my charms if I really tried?

..probably not a good idea..
True, I’ve pushed things with him a lot as it is right now.
I’d have to be blind to not see that despite his best efforts John still finds me attractive and even he must have his limits for how much he can take in one go..

“Aww! Look at that Maxy, I didn’t know humans could look like animals?! That’s SO awesome! I wonder if her fur is as soft as it looks?”

I’m a terrible person but damn if it doesn’t feel good to see the wince on John’s face as I proudly pointed out the, admittedly gorgeous looking, red-tailed squirrel furry-woman walking towards us along the hallway.

I’m almost tempted to call it suspicious that we’ve gone through so many halls so far, finding more fae then I usually see in a week but she’s the first furry we’ve run into?
While they don’t tend to go outside the Hub’s for obvious reasons they tend to not be particularly shy of strutting around the halls usually if nothing else instead..

“..she’s so pretty..”

I went to take a step towards the slightly confused squirrel girl but John managed to snag the back of my dress and pull me off balance enough to send me crashing back into his chest with annoying accuracy!

“Leave the poor woman alone Han, come on let’s not keep the busy men waiting shall we?”
For show I whimpered a little and shot the girl a pleading look but it did no good with John’s firm grasp holding me back like some kind of misbehaving toddler.

“But can’t I just-”

With possibly more force than strictly necessary he spun me away from her to face the door instead.
I may have overplayed my disappointed sigh a bit but the quick turn I gave just as he opened the door, throwing my hand up to my ear with thumb and pinky out like a phone while mouthing ‘call me’ got a few chuckles from the ‘definitely not watching’ hallway patrons around us.

It’s very possible I may ACTUALLY have done enough to cement the idea that ‘Hannah Cooper’ is a new, if rather strange, person in the eyes of the Hub's general public at this point?
They’re certainly not likely to forget me in a hurry if nothing else!

I must have taken too long following behind in John’s wake because with a final heavy sigh he pulled me through the now open door and slammed it shut behind us quickly.
..it’s a shame, that Squirrel-girls tail looked really nice and fuzzy too..

======

“Ah, Mr Maxarimus. Please take a seat.”
I couldn’t help but wince as the brittle old man greeted John.

Oh powers, we’ve got a pompous ass to deal with!
MR Maxarimus?! REALLY?!!
It’s a first name asshole.. JUST a first name, like ‘Prince’ or ‘Cher’..

Heh.. I wonder if I can get John to wear a sequined purple suit and enchant a cloud full of purple rain to follow him at some point?
NO! Bad Hannah, focusing time girl!

I think letting my imagination run wild to be as ‘spontaneously’ weird as I could manage in the halls has opened the floodgates on my often-times weird sense of humor?
I still need to be overlooked and treated as a bit of fluff for a few more minutes but now really isn’t the time for REAL silliness thank-you-very-much!

“I’ve not been given the details yet but I believe you requested an urgent meeting with myself and John Holister?”

Wow.. this guy might ACTUALLY be the most boring sounding man on earth?
He looks the part too, he’s practically ancient with bushy eyebrows that even the male Sib’s would be proud of and that strange tremble in his voice old people get which makes you question if they’re about to pass out at any moment?

“You the family registrar or the housing associate cutey?”
Slowly the old man turned his entirely un-amused eyes towards me.

“..and you are?..”
Ohhh! Just the right level of condescending and dismissive to be utterly insulting there?!

I’m impressed!
For an old guy, my estimation of him’s just gone up from ‘random pen-pusher’ to ‘fun random pen-pusher’.

“Hannah Cooper, apparently daughter to Poseidon and definitely a close, personal friend of THE Maxarimus..”
Just to prove my point I cuddled up to John’s arm and shot the old bastard a slightly smug look.

Yet again he didn’t look the slightest bit impressed?

That’s kind of aggravating honestly?
I’m TRYING to be annoying and distracting here!

“..pleasure, I’m sure..”
URRGG! Damn you!

Why do old people always manage to make me look like an idiot?!!
I’m TRYING to be an idiot and he’s making me FEEL like one damn it!

Without another word the old man turned his eyes back to John, acting as if for-all-the-world I didn’t even exist.

I almost stamped my foot in rage at the cheek of him but in a smooth motion John managed to wrap an arm around my waist, pulling me in closer and using the movement to throw a sheet of his warm magic over me.
It didn’t stick obviously but the wave of power that settled for the shortest of seconds was enough to jolt me back into reality at least.

We’re here for a reason!
I can’t let my ego or my fake ego or whatever it is making me react so poorly to the old man run wild enough that it gets in the way of the end goal.

I’ve got a family to protect, a big one.. a big one that’s counting on me even if they don’t know it yet and currently think I’m some big scary mage that’ll stick them to the ceiling naked if they piss me off!

“I apologise, my companion can be rather.. passionate?.. and she doesn’t take well to being ignored, I think she got it from her mother to be frank..”
Oh don’t even START with me John-boy!

“..quite?..”
The old man left his silent ‘I pity you for having to put up with her’ unspoken but it was entirely implicit in that one doubtfully spoken word instead.
“What can I do for you today Mr Maxarimus?”

I opened my mouth to speak but John nudged me at JUST the right moment to break my concentration so he could jump in instead.

“I’ve been asked by Arista to formally recognise Hannah as part of our extended family.”
Step One is a GO!

“That’s easily done, I’ve got the forms for family inductions right here. I’ll need you to fill them out, signing here, here and here while providing a magic sample in the square provided for our records.”
The old man actually smiled as he passed the slim bundle of papers over to John who quickly scanned through them filling in details seemingly at random with the speed and accuracy of a seasoned professional?
..I wonder how many time’s he’s had to fill these forms out over the years?..

“Done”

With that said he pressed his thumb and pointer finger down on a marked out square near the bottom of the last page, forcing just a touch of magic into it.
When he placed the page neatly back on the old man’s desk I was slightly surprised to see the square change color suddenly, cycling through a few different colors and ending on a particularly bright shade of green?

The old man sighed almost disappointedly before snatching the pages up and shuffling them back into line.

“That all appears to be in order Mr Maxarimus. Processing is only a formality at this point so may I be the first to welcome young Hannah into the fold as one of The Mothers children..”
The old man caught me off guard yet again but turning to me and offering a surprisingly bright smile as he finished speaking.

Huh.. give a girl a famous parent and suddenly it’s all smiles I guess?
I’m disappointed in you old man!
Where’s the asshole I’ve come to respect for being potentially fun to deal with in the short time I’ve known you?!

Nobody likes a kiss-ass damn it!

“Do we have any further business to attend to sir or should I call in Mr Holister for your property issue?”
Not so fast old man!

Step One is complete but let’s not forget two through seven!.. well, two at least?..
Seven just sounded better in my head for some reason?

“I do have a few more things you can help me with as it happens, I’d like to act as sworn witness for the formal induction of a new clan Matriarch.. as a favor for the current clan head of course..”
For a long moment the old man stared at John’s face in surprise but it didn’t take long for him to gather himself back together again.

With a huff he shuffled some loose papers on his desk and pulled out a few sheets almost carelessly.

“Fill in these forms, sign and sample them for me. You will need a magic sample from the new clan head of course but you have five days to bring them back in for filing before the papers become invalid so that shouldn’t be a problem?”

John took the papers without a word and made quick work of filling them out casually.
He signed them, quickly adding his own magic to the strange verification square again before laying the last sheet down on the desk where it promptly shifted through colors and settled on green just as the last ones did.

I wonder how it’s doing that.. there must be some kind of spell or runes involved surely?
Maybe the paper is magically treated somehow and the desk cross-references names against some kind of ‘magic sample’ database before changing the color.. or something?..
It’s definitely a lot more impressive than most of the systems you see being used in the Hub no matter how it works though.

I kind of want to know how it works now, damn me for my curiosity?!

“Han?”
I cut my eyes away from the desk back up to John who nodded at the paper slightly.
Oh yeah.. this is where I come in.

As casually as I could manage it I leaned down and signed the page neatly with my admittedly uneven ‘Hannah’ signature.
The old man gasped slightly as he finally realised what we were doing.

Before he could stop us I’d placed my fingers on the remaining sample space and pushed a touch of magic into it.
For a painfully long second nothing happened, I almost began to worry that something was wrong when the square finally started cycling through colors.

It DID stop.. eventually.. calming down and settling into a bright golden color that reminded me of my diversion’s golden glow more than anything?

I don’t know why but the old man gasped loudly again and leaned away from us in shock.
His eyes flew up to stare at me with a look of awe that made me both uncomfortable and VERY worried.. what have I done NOW?!!

“Your new clan status has been approved by the will of Gaia.. may I be the first to congratulate you on your ascension to Matriarch status Madam Garnier.”
The old man’s hands actually trembled slightly as he pulled the forms toward himself.

I shot John a confused look but he wouldn’t meet my eyes for some reason?

“My final order of business today is to request the registration of a living will, I would like to formally recognise Hannah Cooper-Garnier as my Heir apparent and upon my next requiem turn over all titles, property’s and possession’s both magical and mundane into her trust until such time that she chooses to redistribute them back to my next incarnation.”

..what?..
“WHAT?!”

The old man barely flinched at my yell but he did wince slightly just on general principle as he shuffled his paperwork agitatedly before turning his eyes back up to John.

“That is highly unorthodox Mr Maxarmius, are you quite sure you-”
John didn’t even give him a chance to finish before he slammed his hands down on the desk between us making even me jump in fright.

“I made my request perfectly clear. Hannah is to be my heir with all the protections and responsibility’s that such a position would entail.”

“John what are yo-”
His eyes cut over to me and made me stall out suddenly in worry.

He didn’t look angry, if anything all I could see on his face was that soft caring look he’s started giving me every so often and his magic holds similar, if slightly supressed, feelings of trust and care within it’s warm grasp..

What’s going on?
What is he DOING?!

An heir?!
Why the hell would he need an HEIR?!.. let alone ME!

“..Fine, do what you will, but when the old buzzard leaves WE are having words John-boy..”
With my opinion stated I turned away from him in a huff, trying to ignore the sounds of murmured questioning and rustling paperwork that went on behind me for several painfully long minutes.

Damn it John!
I’m the one being spontaneous right now, not YOU!

An HEIR?!!
What the hell is he THINKING?!



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