Title: The Gold Echo
Author Name: TrueLoveFan
Warnings for: None (for this chapter)
- Here it is the long awaited sequel to "Nothing Gold Can Stay"!
- This is just a chapter to fill you all in on the changes that have occured between NGCS and TGE.
- Italics are flashbacks.
- This chapter is dedicated to Taylor (crazybeagle) for keeping at me about this and to Christine (it's-not-amoose323) for understanding the love of fanfiction too.
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of TrueLoveFan. TrueLoveFan is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
After the hectic events of our last visit to the Michaels things settled down for us. We moved Anna into my room, Justin into Max's and Marie into Justin's old one. Max and I didn't mind sharing our rooms with Justin and Anna. It was an adjustment, of course, but not one we couldn't handle. Sharing a room helped foster a friendship between Anna and I that was growing stronger by the minute. We shared secrets that I wouldn't and hadn't even shared with Harper. Though, in all fairness, Anna knew about magic and Harper didn't that made a big difference. We also kept each other's secrets. Well it was more like she kept mine because Anna didn't have many…yet. She knew Justin and I had kissed and had kept that to herself and she knew Justin snuck in our room at night to sleep beside me. It wasn't our fault we could no longer sleep alone.
Marie, Justin, and Anna grew close too. It was heartwarming to see if a little too Hallmark for my tastes. Max and I were bonding as well. This whole experience was just creating stronger ties among the ruins of our old worlds, I guess. It was nice, feeling connected again, after feeling so lost from everyone else for so long.
Anna and Marie were doing fabulous with their magic lessons or so I heard my dad tell my mom. The two weren't caught up to us yet and I wasn't sure they would because we'd been training for years before them, but still I was proud of them. They were, according to dad, mastering spells in two days that it had taken me and Max a week to learn. Max and I, at the age we learned those spells, were much too young to care. They were proceeding at the same speed that Justin always did; full speed ahead.
Not everything was fairytale happiness however. My parents tried to hide it because they felt it was their responsibility to do so but Max, Justin, Anna and I all knew. Money was tighter than ever. We were barely getting by. Two new mouths to feed, plus clothes that fit because the girls had none, and school stuff. Money was scarce. The four us picked up shifts at the substation and Justin and I even got second jobs to try and help but they wouldn't let us. That didn't stop us, though. If there was one thing I knew it was how to be sneaky. Even with our supplemental incomes it wasn't enough. Something had to be done to bring money in and fast.
On an even more personal level I was still desperately confounded by Justin and the mess that was my feelings concerning him. Justin wasn't my brother, but he was my best friend. He knew everything there was to know about me…well almost. There was more to it than that though. I could feel it and I knew it. We "weren't meant to be related" that had to mean we were meant for more than friendship because relatives can be friends. Of course the context in which my dad had stated it had left it ambiguous as to who wasn't meant to be related, but I knew. How could I not? These feelings inside me made that much clear. Outside of the single kiss, which can and is in my conscious mind blamed on the romantic-ness of the on-screen scene and its relative-ness to our situation, nothing had happened. We hadn't kissed again and I wasn't sure if we ever would. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to.
About a month after Anna, Justin, and Marie moved in our small apartment Anna's birthday arrived. Birthdays in the Russo household were always a thing to behold. Lots of food and chaos. When we asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday the soon-to-be fourteen year old just stared at us. Apparently neither Anna nor Marie had ever had a birthday party before. Well, that didn't leave us much choice did it? We had to make the day special for her.
Everyone shuffled around the apartment kitchen. We had to get finished quickly and quietly. This event had everyone in the best of moods. Dad was flipping the pancakes with a giant grin on his face. It was so unfair that Anna had never celebrated a birthday before. Neither had Marie, but her birthday wasn't for a few months more.
Mom and Justin were in the dining room area setting up the decorations and getting everything ready. I could hear Justin laugh every time my mom tried to reach the ceiling to put up a streamer and wanted so badly to see it. It had been so long since I saw Justin laugh. It wasn't surprising, of course, given recent events.
Max had the most important job of all. He was responsible for stalling Anna as long as he could without her getting suspicious and, when he could no longer keep her upstairs, he was to signal us. I had no idea what he managed to cook up to keep them up there but it was working well. Anna had been awake for an hour and a half and was still upstairs.
I handed the bowl of scrambled eggs to Marie who was practically jumping in place. She and her only biological sister had been spending time together recently, much to the little girl's delight, and she couldn't wait for Anna to see her present. She had worked so hard on it and wouldn't let anyone help her, not even Justin. It was her present, she had declared vehemently, she could do it all by herself. Thank you very much. No one knew what it was. Marie wouldn't tell us or let us see. She was just something else entirely.
"Marie," I informed her sternly to get her to focus on what I was telling her. She was all over the place that morning. "I need you to go and give this to Justin, okay? Be very careful and walk slowly." She nodded her tiny head. This was a big person job I was giving her and she knew that. With that, Marie scurried away stepping slowly and carefully into the other room.
"Justin," I heard Marie say as I walked over to the sink to begin washing the dishes. I wanted to grumble to my dad about not being able to use my magic to do that, but it wasn't the time. I didn't want my emotions causing any chaos on Anna's birthday. "Alex told me to give these to you."
"She did, did she?" Justin replied and I giggled imagining the confused look on the six-year-old's face. Justin purposfully flipped sentences that way just to cause Marie trouble. The little girl huffed in mock anger and walked back into the kitchen.
"Alex!" She whined the second she was through my side of the door. "Justin did it again." Ah, the wonderful familiarity of routine. I knew exactly where this was going and what the smallest member of the house expected of me.
"What would you like me to do about that?"
"Make him stop, please."
"He wouldn't listen to me." I responded automatically.
"Yes, he will," She urged tugging on my hand pulling into the other room. "He listens to every word you say, Alex." This was a break in the routine; that was surprising to me. Before I could say anything in response to it the two of us were standing in front of the young male in question. He grinned knowing the conversation that was about to occur. I fought the smile trying to appear on my face and instead put on my annoyed look.
"I hear that you're purposely confusing Marie, Justin, is that true?" I placed my hands on my hips and waited for his response. He opened his mouth to answer me, but then came the noise we'd all been waiting for. Two loud stomps on the floor one right after the other. Anna and Max were headed downstairs.
The mock display was quickly forgotten as we all scrambled to get the last minute touches just right and then get in place. A tradition unlike any other in the Russo household was the morning birthday greeting. I used call it the "scare-the-crud-out-of-the birthday-boy-or-girl" tradition. Dad swiftly handed each of us a can of spray confetti and our horns.
"I don't see why you want to keep playing, Max. You're just letting me win." Anna complained lightly as her footsteps reached the top of the staircase. Marie bounced eagerly on her heels with her can of spray confetti poised and ready.
"You're the only one that will play with me." Max commented his voice growing closer and closer as the two descended.
"There's a reason for that." Anna joked lightly and then they were in sight and confetti exploded and horns were blown. The now fourteen-year-old girl jumped back startled by the chaos. Max steadied her and urged the girl down the rest of the steps.
"Happy Birthday!" We cheered as a group. She smiled when she reached us and hugged the eager Marie to her. Max let his hands fall back to his side and slid in the line next to me. This was Anna's day and he didn't want to take up any of her spotlight. It was sweet.
"Thank you guys."
"Presents now?" Marie chirped hugging Anna tight. She loved hugs; it was obvious in how much she quickly accepted them and gave them amongst us. Mom laughed.
"After breakfast, Marie." Theresa told the little girl as she ushered us into the dining room. Marie's eyes filled with shiny tears and my heart tugged for her. She really wanted to show Anna what she had made her. Before I could say a word for Marie's side my dad jumped in.
"I think just this once it would be okay." Mom glared at dad for a split second before her face softened and she nodded. Marie yipped and bounded out of the room to fetch her present. Everyone else stood, waiting, for the little girl. The six-year-old was back in the room before even a whole minute had passed with the haphazardly wrapped package clutched tightly to her chest. Without a word she held the sparkly papered box out to her sister. Anna took the present carefully and unwrapped it slowly taking the time to admire the wrapping Marie had tried so hard to get right. After the paper lay on the edge of the table and the box opened the taller Michaels' daughter slid the present out.
The present was a picture of Anna with Marie up on her shoulders at the zoo. The frame was obviously from one of those decorate your own kits. Marie had painted it light blue and then proceeded to stick, what looked like, wvery sticker she could find on the blue wood. At the top in Marie's own handwriting were the words "Best Sisters Forever". This, like everything else about the present, was obviously painstakingly done.
"Is it bad?" Marie asked her voice small and quivering with unshed tears. Anna tore her eyes, also teary looking, from the framed picture and knelt down.
"This is the best present I've ever gotten." Anna replied setting the frame down on the floor by her knee. She opened her arms up. "Thank you." Marie flew at the older girl like a bat out of heck and the two ended up lying on the floor laughing and crying at the same time.
"Girls," Max muttered. "I'll never understand them."
Anna also received several outfits from my mom and my dad got her her very own wand. Justin, Max and I had combined our magical efforts to create a secret magical library for Anna's ridiculously large book collection in our room. The door of which only appeared when Anna wanted it to and only opened with the wave of her new wand and her secret password which none of us knew. The library was expandable so that it would grow as her collection would grow and had more than enough shelves to accommodate her needs. All of these presents got the fourteen-year-old teary and by the end of it all even I was a little misty.
Then came the next big hurtle for our group: school. Marie simply couldn't understand why she had to go to a different school then the rest of us. It didn't make sense to her no matter how many times we tried to explain it. The first day we all headed out to school, we all walked her to the bus stop and bid her a good day then Anna, Max, Justin and I walked to our school. School was an interesting experience that day. Max told me Anna was mobbed by all the guys in their grade and he had to keep them off. The second Harper found out Justin was back she was demanding information from me. I just pushed my way past her. She'd been ignoring me for months; why should I answer her questions? Soon enough things calmed down at school and we all fell into a comfortable pattern once more.
Until Professor Crumbs showed up personally to deliver summer semester invitations to Justin and I.
"Me?!" I couldn't help the squeaky tone of my voice as I stared down at the letter in my hands. He had to be mistaken. I wasn't the type of wizard that belonged in Wiz Tech. Devoted wizards belonged in Wiz Tech. Smart wizards belonged in Wiz Tech.
"Yes, Alex. You."Professor Crumbs replied with a smile masked by his gray beard. "You have more magic then you're used to now. The professors at Wiz Tech can help you train that." I tried to keep from looking sad. Of course they invited me because my magic was sporadic. I wasn't their type of wizard. Justin slipped his hand into mine.
"I'm sure they don't just want you because of that." Justin whispered when Professor Crumbs turned to talk to my mom and dad. I nodded and squeezed his hand. He turned me to face him and grinned like an idiot. "We are going to Wiz Tech! Together!" I had to grin with that. Justin had wanted to go to Wiz Tech since he first learned of its existence.
"Together." I agreed and he nodded. Together.
A/N: I hope you have enjoyed this chapter and I'll see you at the next update!