NOTE: This was written because I had someone interested in reading more on the character of Aaron after reading a little one-shot called "Outwards" which was written for a fan fic challenge. I hope you enjoy this story.
Two OC's, Jareth, Sarah, and others.
Reviews are always appreciated!
It was a late-summer's eve and the sun was taking it's time in setting. A great horned owl was perched high in a dark spruce watching a family leave the botanical garden. The family seemed happy enough. It remained in its tree, watching as the family loaded into a small SUV and take off. The red book it was to deliver needed a family with a hint of discord; otherwise it would sit on some shelf until he could manage to collect it again. The owl's yellow eyes briefly followed a flittering songbird through the sky. It took off after the fast little bird, waiting for the right woman to show up.
The little songbird didn't have a chance against the fierce raptor. The owl plucked it right out of the air and kept going. Its talons dug into the songbird, stopping its brief fearful screech. The owl gracefully landed in the upper branches of a full tree and enjoyed ripping the small songbird to pieces. The owl moved around, watching the parking lot and main entrance to the botanical gardens. She should be here any time, if she stuck to her regular schedule. The owl gulped down the ripped off pieces of the small songbird.
He watched as the dirty black car pulled into a front parking spot. He bobbed his head, trying to make sure that it was the proper vehicle. He brushed his beak against his wing and waited. He flew a few feet to the next tree over, getting a better view. A woman emerged from the car. Today she had on boots, leggings, a tank top, and a bulky cardigan that made her petite form seem even smaller. He liked that she kept mostly to neutral earth colors, taking preference to grays, greens, and wine-colored maroons. As usual, her brown hair was tied back; today it was in a bun. The owl watched her slip things into the two deep pockets of her cardigan: some kind of food, an old ipod, a small journal and pencil, and finally her car keys. Within minutes she was heading into the gardens, music filling her ears, heading for her usual spot.
The owl waited for the woman to walk into the gardens before following her. He was faster than her. He landed in a tree that was near the fountain the woman liked to sit at. He liked the slight smell of decay that wafted from the fountain. It was overgrown with water plants, but in a charming way. The groundskeepers of the gardens had recently made the addition of fish to the fountain. The trail lights popped on as the setting sun dimmed enough for it to be noticeably darker, though it was still light out. The woman pushed her glasses up on her nose and pulled out her journal and pencil. The owl watched her sit cross-legged on the wide edge of the fountain, writing or drawing in her journal. The owl imagined that she was writing with the constant flourish of her pencil. He was excited and had to stifle a hoot. Nothing could become of this, he was sure, but that didn't sway him from watching and following this woman. The day before, he had followed her around the botanical garden until she had left with her constant glances over her shoulder towards the dark places around her. The day before that, he had followed her back to where she lived, which was a small old blue house. It wasn't much, but the yard was trimmed and flowers flourished in the flower beds. He had perched in the trees around her house, watching her through her windows. She kept it clean and had a few projects going that kept her busy. He noticed her bookcases that practically lined a wall, stuffed full of books, her clean drawing table next to an art folder bursting with work, and her writing desk with its dry erase board and various little pictures posted up. According to her dry erase board he could tell she had at least five different writing projects going on.
If owls could smile, he would have. He had watched her that night until she found a stopping point with her work, grabbed wine, and turned the television on. He wasn't sure if that's what she did every night, but he was determined to find out. For the most part, he had only watched her at the botanical garden.
She watched a few people pass by her and she pocketed her journal, trading it for a half sandwich. She got up and walked as she pulled the sandwich from the plastic wrap. The brown owl landed atop of a light post and watched her from the high perch. She ate the sandwich slowly. She stopped to smell some delightfully fragrant peonies. She watched a squirrel flick its tail and scamper across a small open space towards some hedges. She sat on a bench and watched the neon sky fade to a dark blue. Every so often, during all of this, she would bop her head to her music and pull out her journal to write something.
The brown owl followed her further into the garden. She eventually stopped her walking once the stars had finally begun to emerge in the sky and looked around with a confused look. The owl watched her hand dip into her pocket before pulling the ear buds from her ears, leaving the cord to drape around her neck. She looked around and promptly made a 180-degree turn. The brown owl recognized this, as it happened frequently. This woman would walk, deep in thought and completely on autopilot, until she finally realized that she wasn't sure where she had ended up. The owl was fairly certain that she kept coming back to the same place just so she could do this and not end up extraordinarily lost.
Tonight the brown owl hooted and it seemed to echo off the air itself. The woman stopped to look around for the source of the hoot and watched as two shady looking men walked out from another path just down the main path she was on. If she had kept walking, they would be walking nearly together. She looked around for the owl that had hooted, but saw nothing beyond the bright trail lights.
"Hey lady, you lost?" One of the men called out to her. They had turned and were coming her way.
"Nope" The woman said confidently. She put on a face of matching confidence and headed down the path towards them, towards her car.
"We can make sure you get to where you're going" The other man said as she approached them.
"That's nice, but I got it. Thanks" The woman said moving around them. Her mouth twitched with small victory as she stepped past them. It faded the moment one of the men grabbed her arm.
"Be nice now lady" The first one said. A rough hand covered her mouth and another pulled her into a dark shadow. The woman wiggled and kicked and thrashed around as best as she could. For all of her efforts, she was dealt a hard blow to her stomach. It was enough to make her knees give out and her struggling to cease, at least for now.
"Dumb bitch" The second man said with a laugh. He pulled the woman up to her feet and held her in place as the other man made a grab for her leggings. She threw one foot up, but only managed to block the man. He raised his hand and landed a stinging blow across her face.
The woman didn't quite see what happened, but the man who had dealt the blow to her face hit the ground with a thump. She looked up, glasses askew on her face, and found an exotic man standing in front of her with the hoodlum at his feet.
"I'd advise you to simply let her go and leave" The man said, his accent almost British, but not quite. The thug behind the woman tightened his grip. The exotic man briefly glanced at the woman with a dark expression. "Look peasant, I will give you until the count of three to let her go before you pay for your actions just as your friend has." He narrowed his eyes at the man. "One."
"This ain't my fault" The thug said defensively. "Not my idea!"
"Two" The exotic man counted. The thug made a sound that was nearly like "uh-uh" before releasing the woman from his hold and running off into the botanical gardens. The exotic man reached out for the woman and helped her down the path until they stood near the garden entrance and under the full light of a bright lamp. "Are you alright?"
"I should be okay" The woman said. She had righted her glasses and her face was pulled into a frown. "Thank you."
"It was my pleasure" The man replied. He reached out and touched her cheek. She flinched at the gesture, but let him look. "You may end up bruised, but I think you'll live."
"I—Yes, thank you" The woman said softly. She looked towards the entrance.
"May I walk you to your car?" The man asked. The woman looked at the man's attire, not sure if her eyes were being deceived by the overhead light. He wore boots, tight trousers, what looked to be a belted jacket with embroidery, and a cape made of the same fabric.
"Sure" The woman said hesitantly. A man wearing an embroidered jacket and matching cape was not on her list of threatening individuals. The man smiled. It was then that she noticed that his eyes were a golden hazel. Her back flexed slightly, as if a hand finger had run up her spine. "Who are you?"
"My name is Aaron" The exotic man replied. He gestured for her to walk since she was getting antsy. "You are?"
"Tess" The woman answered with an automatic smile. Her hand plunged into her cardigan pocket and she retrieved her car keys. She clicked the auto-start and heard her car roar to life.
"Tess" Aaron repeated. He seemed to savor the simple act of saying her name, but Tess pushed that silly idea from her mind. "I've seen you around the gardens."
"You have?" Tess asked. Her brain sped through her last few visits to recall if she had seen him, but she couldn't place him. "I don't think I've seen you. I come here to think, so I don't notice many people."
"That's okay" Aaron replied. They walked through the entrance, directly into the parking lot. There was a scattering of vehicles in the lot, but not many.
"Thank you for helping me out, Aaron" Tess thanked Aaron again. Her face was beginning to throb and swell. They stopped in front of her car.
"It was my pleasure" Aaron softly replied. He took her free hand, bowed, and kissed it. Tess made a sound of protest, unused to such a grand gesture. His long brown hair formed a curtain around his head and her hand for a brief moment. It was then that she realized he had a few feathers woven into his hair. As soon as he released her hand, she drew it back and gestured to his hair.
"You have feathers in your hair" Tess stated. He nodded once.
"I do" Aaron replied. Tess took a slow step towards her car, keeping an eye on the strange man.
"Are you one of those Renn Faire people? SCA or something?" Tess asked. His coat and cape looked like it could be from a fairytale illustration. Aaron smile.
"I am not with anyone" Aaron replied. There was noise coming from the garden entrance. Tess and Aaron looked and watched as the two thugs ran for a truck parked across the lot. Tess watched as they got into the truck, started it up, yelled profanities at them, and speed off. She looked down when she heard the clank of her keys hit the asphalt. Aaron was right there, picking them up for her and standing protectively close. "They will not bother you again."
"Right" Tess said breathlessly. Her stomach lurched, but it wasn't enough to make her sick. Aaron tucked the keys into her hand and closed her fingers around them.
"Be careful driving, Tess" Aaron said softly. She turned and unlocked her car door.
"Do you need a….ride?" Tess asked as she opened her car door. When she looked up Aaron was nowhere in sight. "Aaron?" She looked around and saw no one, only an owl fly under the parking lot lamps until it flew beyond them. Tess's eyes grew huge and she hurried into her car, locking her doors as soon as she was in her seat. "I'm going mental."
The brown great horned owl flew speedily down the hill and caught up with the truck that had to make its way along the winding road. He could hear the heavy bass of the terrible music blasting from their vehicle and he could clearly see one of the thugs' arms hanging out from the open window, an unlit cigarette perched in the jerk's hand. It took the owl no time at all to dive down for the vehicle, talons and body ready for the collision and fight.
The owl flew through the passenger window and slammed into the driver's face. The truck fishtailed. The owl spread his wings and bounced around with his sharp claws bouncing off of the men's faces and exposed skin. The owl gave it perhaps fifteen very long seconds before making a leap out through the window. The owl left the vehicle and landed along the edge of the road. It watched as the truck continued to fishtail until it hit a tree and stopped – though the terrible music continued to blast from the vehicle.
Tess had made it home before too long. She had passed an accident down the hill from the gardens and was sure that it was the truck that belonged to the two men who had jumped her. There were two vehicles already pulled over, assisting and making calls on their phones. Tess felt her back shudder again.
"Assholes" Tess whispered to herself. She had said the same thing as she had passed the accident and she said it every time she thought of what had happened. Now she was unlocking her door and going into her house. As soon as she was inside, she locked her door and pulled out her cellphone. She ordered a pizza. Cooking was not something she wanted to do. She had them include a slice of chocolate cake since chocolate made bad things better. After she hung up, she hurried to the bathroom and took a quick shower.
The steam from the shower and the hot water made Tess feel better. Aside from the bruise that had started to form on her face, she emerged from the shower feeling more like her usual self. By the time she pulled on her pajamas and robe and turned the television on, her doorbell rang. She paid for her pizza and slice of cake, thanking the delivery guy in turn. The guy hurried back to his car and Tess was about to shut her door when she noticed the owl. There was an owl perched on her fence, watching her. Tess glanced over at the delivery driver, but he was already in his car and had started to back out. The owl remained perched on the fence, watching her. She flexed her shoulders a little, feeling that creeping feeling yet again, and shut the door.
Outside, the owl watched through Tess's windows as she took the pizza into the kitchen and emerged with a plate holding two slices of pizza that seemed to have a little bit of everything on it. There was a flash of white against the black night and the brown owl was accompanied by a smaller white barn owl. The barn owl looked interested in what the great horned owl was intensely watching. The larger owl gave the smaller owl a deathly look, but didn't act upon his dark thoughts. The barn owl screeched and flapped its wings. The great horned owl looked back at the house. He could see her slightly bruised face and it angered him. He made to take off, but the barn owl was on him making a show of his dominance.
Before the owls both flew away a little red book was left on Tess's doorstep and her doorbell was rung.