"We can come back tomorrow, pumpkin," Joey told his little sister. "But we gotta go home or we don't get dinner." He wiggled a finger in Ana's direction as the little girl opened her mouth. "And we can't have dinner here, not tonight. Mom's expecting us."
Somehow, Amy knew better than to ask if Ana could sleep over. That was something Joey didn't have the authority to allow without checking with their parents on both sides first.
"Okay," she agreed, grudgingly. But at least, she'd been able to meet the littlest Bristol before anyone else had, so that was a plus. She reluctantly slid out of her chair to give Ana a hug. "See you t'morrow, Ana," she promised her bestie.
Ana squeezed her tightly. "We can make the thingy Mama got me and do plays and stuff," she promised her friend. "And get Mama to help with the sticky stuff, because Papa's baaaad at that."
Joey chuckled at this assessment, knowing better than to rush the goodbye.
That got a smile from Amy. "Okay! And Micah can play the boys' parts," she suggested because she had a kind heart and didn't like leaving Ana's little brother out, even when they were playing girls' games.
Ana nodded enthusiastically. "Yup! And he's good at stickin' things, too," she added. "Better'n me." Skipping for a moment, she hopped over to hug Joey around the waist. "Thank you for bringin' Amy over, Jo-jo."
"Munchkin, it's Joey," he reminded her fondly. "And anytime. You ready to go, Amy?"
Meanwhile, Amy had skittered over to grab her coat, where she'd left it on the playroom floor and now handed it expectantly to Joey to help her get it back on. "Ready!" she echoed, or would be once she had her coat on, patiently waiting until her friend was finished hugging her biggest brother.
"Maybe tomorrow we can bake," Ana then suggested as Joey, helped Amy get her arms into her coat and do it up warmly. "That's something we can do with Micah, too. And everyone likes cookies!"
That was a lot of plans for one day, but Amy wasn't worried about it. One way or another, she and Ana always managed to have fun together, no matter what they were doing. "An' maybe you can come to my house after that," she said hopefully, as Joey helped her on with her coat.
"Ooooh, yes please!" Ana clapped her hands hopefully. Still chuckling, Joey rolled his eyes. "You guys should talk to parents about all these plans, you know," he told them, popping the last button closed over Amy's zipper.
Amy rolled her eyes at her brother. "Well, duh!" she exclaimed, as if what he'd suggested kind of went without saying. Sometimes boys - no matter their age - were so dense.
"You're so lucky I love you, pumpkin," he warned his little sister with a grin, tweaking her nose. "Finish up your goodbyes; I have to grab my jacket. See you by the door."
Amy scrunched her nose as he tweaked it, batting playfully at his hand and giggling. "I'm gonna get your nose!" she warned, taking a swipe in that direction, but too short to reach.
"The day you do, I'll make you pizza," he promised with a laugh, ducking out of the way and through the door to jog all the way down to the ground floor to retrieve his own jacket. He could see Adam's car in the drive across the street - the rest of the Sparrowhawk family were home.
That was followed by another chorus of giggles as Amy and Ana laughed over that, whispering to each other about Joey while he went in search of his jacket. While he glanced out the window, he might have noticed a shimmering of sorts, not unlike the way Aurelia caused the air to shimmer around her when she traveled from place to place, but it only lasted for a moment or two.
If he noticed it, it wasn't anything unusual for this street, though it was unusual for Aurelia to shimmer in plain sight. Usually she restricted herself to doing it only when strangers could not see her. Magic was a part of the big secret, after all. Shrugging into his coat, he called quietly up the stairs. "C'mon, Amy, time to go!"
"Coming!" Amy called back, momentarily forgetting about the baby. Remembering, she tiptoed her way down the stairs one step at a time, rather than the usual thumping sound, like a stampede of elephants. She was smart enough to know she could only delay so long before Joey got annoyed, and so, she finally arrived at his side, beaming a smile up at him and taking his hand. "Ready!"
"Well, howdy there, little lady," he said, wrapping his hand around hers with a smile. "Let's go and find out how Ollie and Laura did at their clubs, shall we?" As he spoke, he was leading the way to the door, reaching to open it with his free hand.
"Okay, Doey," she said, agreeably enough as he led the way home. She'd had fun with Ana and she'd met the new baby. It had been a good day, and she had no complaints.
"You're adorable, you know that?" he informed her, pulling the door open so they could slip out and leave the obviously tired Bristols to their evening.
"I know," Amy replied, beaming a cheesy grin up at her big brother. Maybe she had been spending too much time around the Bristols lately; it seemed Rhys' lack of modesty was catching. "Oh!" she exclaimed, blinking in surprise as they just about bumped into a tall, blond-haired stranger standing just outside the Bristols' door, a startled look on her face.
"Oops!" Gently drawing Amy back and automatically putting himself between his baby sister and the stranger on Rhys' doorstep, Joey looked at the unexpected girl in front of him. "Hi."
Upon first glance, the girl looked young - not more than a teenager herself - with long blond hair and blue-gray eyes. She was dressed oddly, at least by modern standards, in a gray wool coat, brown pants and leather boots that came almost up to her knees. Her hair was loose, except for a few small braids arranged to hold the rest of her hair away from her face. She blinked again in surprise to find herself facing an unexpected stranger, but certainly an attractive one. She looked a little confused at his greeting, as though it was unfamiliar.
"Hullo," she greeted him instead, blinking again before pulling her gaze away to take a look around. She was certain she had the right house, but they all looked the same. "I'm sorry. I'm looking for ..." She hesitated a moment before turning back. She knew better than to ask for the Champion. "For the Bristols," she told him.
Joey tore his eyes away from the unexpectedly pretty face to take in the rest of her appearance and made an intuitive leap. "You're lookin' for Rhys," he said confidently. Glancing down at Amy, he winked at his baby sister. "Hey, pumpkin, mind running up and telling Uncle Rhys he's got a visitor from the special place?"
"Okay, Doey!" Amy replied obediently, tearing her eyes away from the pretty, blond stranger to dart back inside, calling at the top of her lungs as she thumped back up the stairs, "Unca Rhys! You gots a vis'tor!" If the baby wasn't awake by now, he soon would be.
Joey winced at his little sister's loud declaration, unsurprised to hear a sudden wail from the newborn napping upstairs. He offered the stranger a faint grin. "You wanna come in? I'm Joey, I live across the street."
Meanwhile, the blond girl cleared her throat and shifted uncomfortably, relieved she'd at least got the right house. They all looked the same to her. She nodded, looking equally relieved to be invited inside where she wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb. "Yes, thank you," she told him. "You are of the Sparrowhawks clan?"
"Uh, yeah." He closed the door behind her, gesturing for her to come through to the kitchen. "Rhys'll be down once he's quieted the baby, I reckon. And we don't call them clans here on Earth, we're just a family."
"Family, of course," she said, as she followed him through the house, looking curiously around her - as curiously as one might who found themselves in the twenty-first century for the first time in their life. Though they had never met, she had obviously at least heard of his family. "I come with a message for the Champion," she explained, presuming Joey could be trusted, as he was a Sparrowhawk.
"Figured you did," he told her, stepping back so he didn't feel too dwarfed by this pretty girl in front of him. He was a bit of a late bloomer, height-wise, and she was definitely taller than anyone else his age. "That's not bad, as disguises go."
"Disguise?" she echoed, blinking again in confusion before realizing he was talking about the way she was dressed. "Oh! This is not a disguise," she assured him. "But I do not have clothes like yours," she asked, wondering just how those pants of his stayed on without any visible ties to hold them up.
"Oh, uh, you should get Nat to take you shopping," Joey suggested, inwardly cringing. He was terrible at talking to girls. "She loves that stuff. I mean, I'd offer to let you borrow some of mine, but ..." He blushed, shaking his head. "Never mind."
"Borrow some of your clothes?" she asked, brows arching upwards in curiosity. She'd noticed his blush, but wasn't sure what the cause of it was. It couldn't possibly be her, could it? Perhaps he was just warm; it was warm inside this house, after all. "Why would I do that?" she asked, as if there was nothing wrong with what she was wearing.
"I ... have no idea." He rubbed a hand through his hair, wondering where Amy had got to. "You got a name? Or am I just supposed to call you Avalon girl?"