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A Proper Welcome

A Proper Welcome

Disbelief is hardly what you'd call AI's reaction to a new champion for the Powers That Be, especially if it was 'The New Girl'.


Angel paced the lobby, a deep scowl on his face while Lorne sat patiently among all the chaos drinking a purple fizzing drink. As usual Cordelia was extremely vocal in her dislike of the 'new girl' as Phade had been dubbed. Wesley was on the defensive regarding her and Gunn was backing Cordelia, the painful memory of his first encounter with the new member of AI still fresh in his mind.

"You're sure she's a champion?" Angel asked of Lorne who smacked his lips as he set the glass down.

"I didn't say that."

"Well, what did you say, Lorne?" Cordelia turned her glare at him.

"Easy sweetie. She's a champion but not for The Powers that Be. She's someone else's baby."

Cordelia turned in a huff towards Angel. "You see? She's a spy! You should send her packing, cute kid or not. We don-."

"No, no, no, no, no." Lorne stood up and patiently tried to explain without giving away too much information. After all, it wasn't his future he'd seen so it wouldn't be fair to tell everyone else what he saw. He made it appoint not to tell the one he read what their future was. Not specifics anyway.

"She's meant to be here." Lorne turned to Angel. "To help you."

Angel didn't so much as frown though that's what he felt like doing. How was this girl supposed to help him fight the Wolf, Ram and Hart?

"This is as much for her as it is for you, Angel cakes." Lorne shook his head and as he remembered the song a small smile bloomed on his face. He headed up the stairs humming the melody of her song.

"What a lovely song. I'll have to ask her to sing it sometime."


I wasn't sure if I should head back to the hotel. After the 'reading', if it could be called that, I'd left to pick up Sebastián from school and drove around. I didn't know what else to do. Who was I to them? I thought about that until Sebastián said he was hungry. I'd been driving around for two hours! And I hadn't gone far.

"How about Denny's?" We were still sitting here. Sebastián had eaten and done his homework and I hadn't gotten any closer to answering my question.

Who was I to them?

Why should they care about what Lorne thought he read in my singing?

"It was a song. A stupid song." I mumbled. But it had felt like more. What if everything in my life, my past, all the bad and good got me to this point? I was different, that was obvious to me, and anyone who'd known me for the last ten years. But… how different? Enough to accept that I was meant to be there? With them?

"Can we go now? I'm bored." I glanced at him. He was bored and a bored Sebastián got antsy which meant he wasn't far from getting on my nerves.

This is so not a good time to piss me off.

I sighed, gave him money and sent him to pay the cashier.

What the hell was I avoiding them for? Why was I running? Every time something overwhelmed me I got this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I'd run away from conflict at any given opportunity and hide like some little coward and I knew why. It was a wonder I hadn't found myself in this situation before now.

I tended to avoid unpleasant feelings, I didn't like thinking about the past and most nights I slept fitfully trying to push those thoughts into the darkest corners of my mind. I'd done this to myself, turned into such a coward…

I wasn't like this. I wasn't such a coward, afraid of my own shadow.

I missed the old me. Happy, outgoing, feisty and such a troublemaker! Always arguing, always getting myself into jams just to see if I could get myself out and I would, too. It had been so much fun, before…

Where had my spirit gone?

I don't want to go back there. I don't like how it feels, how they look at me. They don't even like me!

And who where they to make me feel this way? Why was I letting them? Not everyone had to like me, they just had to know I wasn't easy to fuck with. Cordelia would definitely be the first to find that out if she kept up with her sarcastic comments. Damn, that woman! Damn me.

I was loosing control of myself. Ever since the fight and I couldn't afford to let go. I needed to stay in control. I was afraid I'd never get it back if I did.

"It's none of their business who I am or what I do. I'm there for the week and that's it. Se acabo." I felt a little better saying that out loud. Tomorrow I would start my temp job and even though it was only for the month at least I had some money coming in. We'd still have to live in a hotel for a couple of weeks but I'd have him.

I glanced at the passenger seat and smiled. I hadn't wanted to be a Mother, to bring a child into this world to suffer. Now that he was here I couldn't remember what life was like before him, what it would feel like without him and I'd been young too.

I do the darndest things for you and you don't know it, do you?

I didn't' like being around people all the time. Too many and it was just annoying after a while. I liked being alone, except for him. Somewhere in my life I closed myself off to people and I liked it this way. There was no pretending to be happy or hiding how I felt behind some perky little mask. It was so tiring and I 'd be forced to do it everyday, at least for the next month.

I mean really, pasting a fake smile on my face and working in some office, whether it was clerking or receptionist wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Then again, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it anyway. Taking pictures wasn't getting me anywhere either.

I had no close friends and I never stayed at a job long enough to make any, I doubted anyone would remember me. I'd never met any of my neighbors at any of the places we had lived and I was uncomfortable around Sebastián's teachers. I avoided joining any of the parent groups and only attended parent's night and any teacher conference I was asked to go to.

I've realized I'ma modern day hermit. Although the term 'Hermit' doesn't really apply when you interact with people on a daily basis. But it wasn't my choice. I had a child to feed and clothe, keep a roof over his head. I need money for that and in order to get money I have to work. Therefore, forced to interact.


Angel knocked on her door and waited patiently for her to answer. He could hear her moving in the room and hesitate by the door. She'd been avoiding them since Wednesday. He had given her two days to come out, tomorrow was Saturday and after Sunday he wasn't sure she'd stay. No one had made her feel welcome, something Fred had pointed out yesterday.

"When y'all rescued me form Pylea you gave me a home." Fred looked at Angel with those big brown eyes of hers.

"You took me shopping and bought me clothes." Fred turned to Cordelia who sat with both arms and legs crossed. She was obviously not liking where the conversation was going.

"Here she is with a sweet little boy," Fred continued. "She's obviously not feeling very welcome and you want her to leave?"

No one looked up.

"Alright, so she panicked!" Fred threw her hands up.

"So she hit you." Fred told Gunn who jerked upright at the mention of his painful meeting with her.

"And she called you a 'devil'." She told Lorne who frowned. He swirled the purplish drink in his hand and gulped it down. Fred looked at all of them; so far they weren't warming up to her speech.

"She was protecting her child! Even you can understand that?" Fred asked Cordelia but her expression didn't soften one bit.

"Wanting to protect some one you love?" Fred turned sad eyes to Gunn. Wasn't anyone going to back her?

"There are some suites on the third floor…" Wesley's soft voice brought a little smile to her face with his suggestion.

"Some have a kitchen." Fred looked at Lorne the smile growing wider. He looked a bit uncomfortable. "The kid has to eat, doesn't he?"

"It probably needs paint." Gunn grumbled form his seat. He kept hearing the kid in his head. 'He hit my mom.'

"At least do a background check on her! How do we know she's not some serial killer hiding out." Cordelia exclaimed. Everyone turned to Angel.


I opened the door hesitantly and groaned inwardly when I saw Angel.

"Hi."

I nodded wondering what he was doing there. He looked uncomfortable and so was I but I hoped that short one-word answers would make him leave quickly. I had been really good at avoiding them and after Sunday they wouldn't have to suffer my presence any longer. At least I'd still have the temp job.

Twelve dollars an hour for answering phones and filing papers, yippee!

Angel cleared his throat and I realized he'd said something.

"I'd like to show you something. Please?" he asked. I realized he wanted me to follow him and looked down at myself. I so wasn't dressed to wander around anywhere.

"Now?" I asked glancing over my shoulder to the bed. Sebastián was sound asleep but that didn't mean he wouldn't wake up and wander off to explore. I turned to Angel once more but he hadn't moved and he didn't look as if he were going to leave any time soon.

"Hang on." I sighed. I left the door ajar while I grabbed the mini I had been wearing earlier and slipped on a pair of sandals. Before I left I grabbed my pillow and shoved it under the covers next to Sebastián. That would keep him from getting up.

Angel stepped away from the door as I came out and waited while I locked it. I wasn't about to take any chances with my boy. Then I turned and motioned for him to lead the way.

I wasn't sure where he was taking me but I wasn't afraid. It was the middle of the night and I was wandering around an old hotel with a man I didn't know. Well, except that he apparently owned said hotel and he ran a demon killing business out of it.

AI. Wonder what it means.

He could've been taking me somewhere he could kill me without anyone hearing me scream but somehow I doubted he was a murderer. As far as I could tell, Angel was just ... sad. Sort of?

He finally stopped in front of a wide door. It was a deep, rich, brown color, like whisky. I loved the way it shined in the dim light and it felt smooth under my hand.

Angel opened the door; he seemed a bit shy as he motioned for me to go inside. I frowned wondering whose room this was but went in anyway.

The next room was large and it was in shambles. There were two huge windows letting in moonlight and I could see that no one lived here. Why had he brought me here?

"It needs some work but there's a kitchen and two bedrooms." he turned to the kitchen and I followed after him not understanding what he was saying.

"There's a pantry. I think it's a pantry and this is the bedroom." He opened the door and stepped out of the way so I could look inside. I didn't know what exactly was going on but I looked anyway. There was another door in the room, open, and I could see the corner of a bathtub.

"What-. Huh?" I turned back to the doorway but he wasn't there. What the heck was going on?

I glanced at the kitchen once more, it was big enough to cook in and have a large dining table in it. I turned seeing in my mind the colors and furnishing that I would put in it. I imagined myself cooking in the kitchen, sitting down with Sebastián to eat on our big table, putting groceries away in a big double door refrigerator.

"This is the other bedroom." I turned surprised. He was standing inside a doorway, off the living room.

"I don't understand…" I said walking to the other room. He moved aside for me and I stepped in. He always kept his distance, now that I thought about it. It was strange but then I looked in the room. This bedroom was bigger than the other one with a mirrored door I assumed was the closet. To my left was another door. I pushed it open and fell in love with the huge bathroom.

Was that a Jacuzzi?

"It needs some work but it's the only one I found with a working stove and decent enough to live in." Angel spoke from the doorway and I couldn't help showing the smile on my face.

"Wha-, why…?" I asked, hoping that what I thought he meant was actually what he meant to say but not really believing he would say it. Then again this wasn't the place I should stay or Sebastián.

"We weren't exactly welcoming." Angel walked into the living room and I followed him. "Lorne says you belong here. The least I can do is offer you a better room."

"I can't afford this." I laughed sadly. "Even in these conditions."

"It won't look this way after we're done with it." I looked at him confused. He fidgeted again and looked at me. "Gunn and Wes are bringing paint. We'll fix it up, get it ready for you. Or you could tell them what colors…"

Damn. He was offering me a better room.

"I can't afford..." I looked around sadly. There was no way I'd stay here, not just because I couldn't afford such a luxury but also because my presence here wasn't wanted. How would I live comfortably? How would I fool myself into believing that it had never happened? That I wasn't some crazy person…

"We'll work something out. It does-."I turned to Angel, frowning. 'Work something out?' did I look desperate or have a sign painted over my face that said I dealt in 'arrangements?' What the hell was he thinking?

"No thanks." I stomped to the door, angry. I should've known better, should've realized that people don't just help you to help you. People do favors to get something in return. "I don't deal in arrangements. Of any kind!" I threw a last glare at him over my shoulder.

"That's not what I meant! Th- I-."

I felt his hand on my arm and turned. He'd been across the room from me and now he was here. It made no sense but I was more upset about the 'arrangement' he'd thought to make. I turned my arm and managed to get his wrist in my hand then shoved my free palm into his chest. I didn't put all my weight behind the blow because I just wanted him to let me go and know that I wasn't the type to let herself be manhandled. I wasn't some stupid teenager and I certainly knew better.

"OW!" A flashing pain went up my arm and I found myself on my knees staring at the stained carpet. "What the fu-!" I couldn't finish the sentence, what was the point?

"Don't hesitate." He said.

"I'll be sure to remember that for next time!" I was angry and in pain. I couldn't move my arm or hit him, which is what I really wanted to do. "Will you let go!" I hadn't seriously expected him to do it and I fell sideways when he did. I glared at him from my seat on the musty carpet as he took a step back. Either he could see my intentions on my face and he was being cautious or he just wanted to give me some space. Either way, I couldn't reach him fast enough.

"Why did you hold back?" he asked me. I got to my feet slowly and rubbed my shoulder. It would definitely be sore tomorrow.

"I wasn't going to hurt you on purpose." I hated being put in my place so to speak. I really didn't like it at all.

I couldn't tell what he was thinking; I couldn't even make out his expression as once more he wore that mask of calmness. I wondered if he ever blinked. It was strange, that he kept his distance, he was always…broody and to tell the truth I hadn't seen him outside, not after that first night. Then- wait. His hand… weird but then some people tended to have cold hands.

"You didn't use your full strength. I doubt you're that weak."

I wasn't about to answer that. Why should he know what my strength or weaknesses were?

"Where did you learn that hold?" he asked. I turned to the door again. Nothing concerning me or Sebastián was any of his business.

"I picked it up somewhere." I doubted he believed that and didn't care. It wasn't any of his business besides; it had been a long time ago. There wasn't any point in remembering the past and it wasn't as if I'd learned a lot.

So why had I even answered him?


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