A/N: Well, they responded to my e-mail asking for a section pretty quick and made a WHR category here, so YAY, there is actually somewhere we can go to look for our fics now. Anyway, part two. Moving right along, aren't we? I never update this fast. Of course, I've never kept this urge to write for so long, either, so that might be an indication. Thank you very much to those of you that reviewed, it makes me happy to know that people enjoy my idea. I'm trying to make this different from other fics. I hope this chapter doesn't let you down!
A Handful of Dust
Part 2: The Gathering
“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?”
- T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”
Amon looked over to the young woman standing by the hotel window, patiently awaiting the decision he knew she had planned out all night. She hadn't wanted to speak of it during the evening, and he did not understand why, but knew her well enough to know that she had her reasons, and it was best to not question them when it wasn't strictly necessary. It only served to unsettle her, and that never accomplished anything. Even now, she was putting it off – her pale hands gone almost ashen from being clenched tightly on the aged windowsill. He frowned internally. They had avoided it for over a year – but it wasn't unavoidable for him, or so he believed. She, however, was tied to it, and since he had taken the duty of keeping the world safe from her (and keeping her safe from the world) then he would have to go as well. She would run the danger of being hunted. As for him, it was unknown whether he was listed as dangerous or not.
Their bodies would not have been found. This would have meant to the STN two things – that they were completely destroyed in the flames, or that they remained alive. Their status would be listed as unknown, and their presence – if they returned - would be undoubtedly be noticed.
Robin set her teeth firmly and turned to face him, her normally calm eyes - like deep green water – glinting with a strange determination. Amon lifted his gaze to meet hers. The Devil's Child was making her move.
“I know. But, Robin, do you realize what it means?”
She straightened, almost offended. “Do you think that I am not aware of it?”
“For the moment, I don't think anything. What exactly do you intend to do?”
“You should know that. The witches have been oppressed – I feel their pain, that's why I was created, so I can stop it…”
“By stopping STN. Starting with the STNJ.”
There. It was said. The name they had refused to speak for so long. Robin didn't even flinch, and Amon smiled inwardly with approval. She would have to be strong.
“If that's what it takes.”
“Even if they are protecting innocent people from danger?”
“That's not all they're doing, Amon!” Robin's voice lashed out, not quite a yell – she never, ever yelled, which left him to wonder if she even could. “They're killing innocents, too! It's not just the witches harming people, it's ANY witch they find, and -”
His hand rose in a placating manner and she cut off abruptly, dropping her eyes in self-punishment for losing her composure. Amon crossed his arms over his chest and regarded her with a measuring look. “I know that, Robin. I'm not the one you have to convince. We don't know who the head of STNJ is now, or what they might do to you.”
“It wouldn't be Kosaka?”
“We don't know that, Robin. And even Kosaka is bound to SOLOMON's decisions. He might not initiate a hunt for you on his own, but if he was commanded to…”
“I'm still going.”
“I'm not trying to stop you.”
“I can defeat any hunters they send after me.”
“That isn't true.”
Robin started at this comment, and turned to stare at him. Amon returned the stare calmly. She didn't know what to say – wasn't she the strongest? Wasn't that why he had almost hunted her before? Then why…?
Amon sighed inwardly. She had grown up, but there were still some things she did not realize. He leaned forward, locking her eyes with his own. “SOLOMON has many hunters, Robin. And while it's true that not a one is as strong as you are, they have battle experience. You are not used to fighting. What if they sent several hunters? Have you ever fought a group of witches before, Robin? No. It was always one, or several humans who couldn't use a power back. You could be taken under. And even if you do win, then the more power you show, the more will be thrown back at you.”
Robin dropped her gaze from his, and turned away. There was a silence, an awkward silence that they had not shared for a long time. Eventually, without lifting her eyes, her whisper broke the moment.
“She called me ‘hope', Amon.”
He looked at her for a time, and then responded. “Yes.”
“I have to do this.”
“I-” her voice caught, and she placed an arm against the wall and leaned her forehead against it. Amon stood and moved over to her, and she shifted her head from her arm to his shoulder, trembling slightly. “I don't know how I'm going to do it, Amon. All I know is that's what I'm here for. I know the danger, but.. I'll figure it out. I'll have to figure it out. You don't have to come, if you don't agree.”
He sighed. “I don't know how I feel about witches anymore, Robin. But I've been around you far too long to let you do this alone. I'm coming. What that means, I don't know yet. I suppose it depends on you.”
“Still suspicious of me?”
“Not of you. Of your blood.”
It took much less time to return than they had hoped. When they fled, they wandered all over the country, not going in a straight line, but to get back, they took a direct route. Between buses and trains (they had always preferred to walk before) they found themselves standing in familiar streets before they had a chance to really think about it. Not that a year would have been sufficient time, but longer would have been nice.
Amon shifted the strap of their supply bag on his shoulder, before glancing over to where Robin stood, shading her eyes against the early morning sun. “You ready?”
She nodded, and they both turned down a road at the same time.. a road they had both traveled many times for different reasons. It was the road to the Nagira Law Office.
They had discussed while traveling back how they were going to proceed, and it was agreed that it was safest to start by asking Amon's brother's help. He had helped them before, after all, and they knew he was fond of Robin. Harry's has been another option, one they had quickly scratched because of how close it was to the STNJ and because the people that went there were often affiliated with it. After being gone so long, there could be plenty of new people they would not know about. Besides, Nagira was used to keeping things hidden.
The office looked the same as it had before, and Robin could see Mika through the window, on the phone with probably yet another dissatisfied customer. The office hadn't changed, and she doubted Nagira had either. With a nod from Amon, she slowly opened the door.
Mika's head turned as she rapped out the customary greeting. “Welcome to Nagira Law Office, how may I….. you!”
She dropped the phone and flew out of her chair over to them, ignoring Amon, who had moved closer to Robin as though to protect her from the other woman's wrath. However, there was no such thing forthcoming. Her tone was scolding, but her tightly pursed lips kept betraying her by slipping into a relieved smile.
“I knew you'd be back! I knew it! He never said anything about it, but there was no way you'd stay gone! But it's been so long, I expected you a lot sooner, I had almost forgotten that you even existed-”
“Is Nagira here?” Amon interrupted, and received a cold look for the effort.
“He is, fat lot of good that does. He never actually does any work, and here you are to give him an excuse to continue slacking. Really. But I suppose he'll want to know you're back. Wait here.”
The energetic young woman strutted out of the main office and into Nagira's, hands already on hips as she went to reprimand his behavior. Robin hid a smile behind her hand, and if Amon hadn't had his usual composure, he would have rolled his eyes. It hadn't changed at all.
In mere seconds, Nagira bounded out of the door, skidding to a halt and staring at the two before breaking into a wide grin. “Well, well, well, looks like I was right after all! Couldn't kill her after all, ne, Amon?”
Amon gave him a look. “There was no reason to. And right about what?”
“That you survived, of course! I can't believe some of them thought you had died in that fire. I mean, a fire witch, dying in a fire?” This seemed to remind him, and he turned to Robin, still smiling broadly. “So, you decided to come back! I'm glad.”
Robin bowed, a small happy smile on her face. She liked Nagira, and he had been kind to her during her time of hiding. Returning to the office provided some sense of normalcy, even though her time there had never been normal. He also did not know about the truths that had been revealed in that room in Factory, so she did not have to worry what he thought of her. And the others… some thought they'd lived?
“But enough of that,” Nagira said, waving one hand. “You never come here unless you want something, Amon. What is it this time?”
“Information. And a place to hide.”
“So… basically the same thing you wanted before. Except… for both of you?”
Amon nodded, and Nagira returned the gesture. “Alright, then. What information do you want?”
“What's happened to the STNJ?”
“I'm afraid I can't help you right away on that one. I'll have to go searching, but I don't usually make the STNJ one of my priorities.”
“Can you call Michael?” Robin interrupted, and both men turned to look at her. She continued without pause. “He knows the most information about anything, and he's always willing to share it with me. He did last time.”
Nagira nodded approvingly. “That one – he was the only other who thought you lived. It'll save me a lot of trouble, anyway. But you can trust him?”
This time it was Amon who answered. “Michael has never had any particular sense of duty towards the STNJ. He's forced to be there, and really his favorite part of the job is finding information. He won't feel inclined to keep their secrets from us.”
“And he's our friend, Amon.” Robin gave him a sharp look. He didn't respond.
Nagira watched them for a moment, before nodding and returning to the office. “I'll see if I can reach him. I still have the contacts from when we were working together before.”
Robin turned to look at Amon, but he ignored her, waiting silently for Nagira to re-emerge from the doorway, which he did several moments later.
“I got him. He nearly hit the roof when I told him you were here. I instructed him to not let anyone else know – you would prefer that, right?”
Amon nodded, and Robin cast her eyes downward in acceptance. They couldn't trust anyone fully yet.
“Very well, then. He says he'll come here tomorrow, that's safer than you guys walking around out there more than you need to. He'll give you the information you want then.”
“Michael can leave the building?” Robin asked, baffled.
“It would make sense,” Amon said calmly. “Zaizen is the one who placed restrictions on him, and Zaizen is dead.”
“In any case, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. You can get settled in. And just consider yourself lucky that I never ask you for return favors.”
Robin was silent as she followed him to the familiar room. The first step had been taken.
It had begun.