Andromeda sighed as she slipped back into the flat, heading straight for the sofa and collapsing onto it, not bothering to unclip her service revolver from her belt (regardless of where she was, she tended to carry it, it was habit, it was a safety net, she hated hand-to-hand combat). Her flatmate (and partner on the Force), Castor, stuck his head into the living room from the kitchen.
"Uh…bad visit home?" he quirked an eyebrow. Andromeda gave a short, almost giggle, that sounded utterly exhausted.
"Sshe gave me the family duty sspeech again!" her voice was deceptively calm and neutral, eyes showing the same exhaustion as her slumped position and giggle. "And introduced me to 'a nicse young male', who in her eyess is ascceptable hussband material."
"This coming from a life-long spinster who eats men for breakfast?"
"That'ss what [i]I[/i] ssaid!"
Castor shuddered at the implications of that statement. "You actually said that to her? What happened?"
"Yelling match. Bright sside, I sscared off my would-be-ssuitor!"
"Sshe told me sshe'd be visiting ssoon to make ssure I got back on the right track of family firsst, career ssecond. Which I don't undersstand sseeing ass she never put family firsst until sshe got pregnant…"
Castor stared at her with a panicked look in his eyes. "Wait, wait, wait. Hathor's coming [i]here[/i]?!"
Andromeda offered an apologetic smile. "I tried to talk her out of it. Perhapss we can get on-duty?"
"Yeah, because Hathor won't just call the boss and get us taken off rotation for the duration of her stay!"
Andromeda conceded that point morosely. Her mother – Hathor – was a force of nature. People rarely considered saying no to her, fewer ever managed it. Andromeda and Castor's Lieutenant was in neither of those categories. He was in fact in the category that the two of them privately referred to as Eager-To-Please-Dog – meaning they were fairly sure that he would roll over if Hathor told him to. Andromeda pulled her cap off and scrubbed a hand over her head, carefully checking her scales - they had a habit of shedding when she was under stress. (As if she didn't have enough problems with shedding annually as it was). She loved her mother, she really did, but sometimes, the stress of her wish for Andromeda to settle down and start a family was just too much to deal with, even for Andromeda. Thankfully her scales all seemed to be in order and she readjusted her cap over her head with a relieved sigh.
"Cup of tea 'Meda?" Castor asked as he wandered back into the kitchen. Andromeda was normally fairly laidback, but there was something about her mother that destroyed her calmness.
"By the ssaints yes!" Andromeda groaned slightly. "I think I'll take a bath later ass well, my musscless feel like I haven't relaxed in a month."
"You haven't 'Meda."
"First we had the week of nights," Castor returned with two mugs, handing one to Andromeda who inhaled the scent of the herbal tea with a smile. "Then we were on that case for the next two. Then we were involved in the riots, and then you spent the last three days at home."
Andromeda went over the given timeline carefully, sipping on her steaming tea. "I ssee your point…" she admitted after a few moments thought.
"As I knew you would. What do you want for dinner?"
"If I didn't know you weren't serious about that," Castor commented rising to his feet and throwing a cushion at Andromeda, "I'd shoot you."
"No you wouldn't, you wouldn't want to rissk Hathor'ss wrath. Coward."
The last word was thrown out fondly with no real accusation behind it.
"Just a healthy sense of health preservation," Castor responded with a grin over his shoulder, failing miserably to dodge the cushion Andromeda threw back with deadly accuracy. "C'mon! Hathor's [i]terrifying[/i]."
"[i]You[/i] grew up with her."
Andromeda stuck her tongue out at him. "I'm more than aware of thiss. Sshe iss my mother."
"Whatever you feel like making."
"Okay, salad it is then," Castor announced, prudently ducking behind the door before one of Andromeda's many books could nail him in the head. "I'm kidding! Don't kill your books! You won't forgive me if you break one on my hard skull! Or yourself for that matter…"
When there wasn't a thud against the door, Castor stuck his head back out.
"How about the leftover chicken curry?"
"I can live with that," Andromeda replied, smiling sweetly. "You know I've never actually thrown a book at you…"
"You did once!" Castor reminded her. "Right after we met!"
"I will claim provocation till the day I die!"
"How did I provoke you?"
"You stole my cap!"
"What? It was a very awesome cap!"
Andromeda huffed as Castor searched through the fridge to grab the leftovers and shove them in the microwave to reheat.
"How was your day?" Andromeda asked as Castor carried through the food.
"I saw Dad," he grinned. "Asked me whether I was still hanging around with that 'overly-bright reptile'."
Andromeda laughed. Castor's dad was not referring to her wit or intelligence, but in fact her apparent habit of wearing clothes that were very much the wrong colour for her deep green skin.
"Oh that reminds me!" Castor exclaimed suddenly. "Dad gave me something for you, told me he couldn't think of anyone who would appreciate it more!"
Castor bounded off and Andromeda leant sideways off the couch as he disappeared down the corridor to his room. She frowned to herself. He was far to excited by the prospect of her getting gifts. When he returned, holding a package, almost gingerly, and a grin on his face that didn't fit with normal Castor, she rose to her feet and rested her hand against his forhead.
"Nope, you're not running a fever," she commented. "Are you on something?"
"Only, if you are, you know I'm sort of obligated to tell the chief don't you?"
"And I really don't want to have to tell the chief, because if I tell the chief, he'll arrest you, and I'll kill him, and I'll get arrested and…"
"'Meda!" Castor covered her mouth with his free hand. "I'm not on drugs."
Andromeda's relaxed, smiling gently at him. "Sorry. Just…you're not normally this excited when your dad's giving me gifts…"
"Well normally, you haven't had a horrifically stressful month have you?"
Andromeda chuckled quietly. Then curiosity overcame her. "So, what is it?"
"I don't know," Castor shrugged handing it to her. "Dad said he found it while clearing out the attic, and gave me very specific instructions not to open it, and to give it straight to you."
"Why would he do that?"
"Beats me. Open it!"
Andromeda grinned as Castor imitated a small child getting a present, not a grown adult giving one. She found the wrapping and carefully opened it. Her eyes widened as she stared at the book in her lap in awe. It was a thick volume, with strange, beautiful design on the cover, and the leather bindings. Her fingers traced them reverentially, her mouth slightly open as she tried to comprehend it.
"It's too much!" she exclaimed. "He can't give me this!"
"He said he didn't know anyone who would appreciate it more than you 'Meda!"
"I…I…I have to thank him…"
"You can do that tomorrow. Enjoy."
Castor picked up the plates and ferried them back to the kitchen, leaving Andromeda entranced by the book. Since she was a little girl, she'd loved reading. Her eyes were strange, mainly seeing in heat rather than properly, but when she'd discovered she could see the words on a page, she'd devoured books as fast as she could get her hands on them. Her fingers traced the covers again, before slipping to the pages, thick and well-loved. This was the kind of book Andromeda had been trying to find for years. She'd always loved the leather bound tomes in the libraries, tomes that were exactly like this, only less worn. She set the book in her lap, and let it fall open – it was a habit if she managed to get access to these tomes. The most read page tended to be the one it opened on, the most loved passage, and it had never done her wrong in the past.
The page seemed to swim before her, before it came into focus. She traced the ornate patterning of the first letter as she read, feeling almost like she was…
Castor came back into the living room, about to say something about Andromeda and her love of books, only to be blinded as light seemed to burst from where Andromeda was sat.
"'Meda!" Castor yelled as he turned his head away, automatically going for a gun that wasn't strapped to his hip with one hand, and throwing up his other arm to guard his eyes.
There was no response. Castor ran through the possibilities in his head – most of which involved the book somehow being booby trapped or dangerous, and his best friend simply being unconscious. The light faded and Castor blinked rapidly to clear the spots from his vision.
"'Meda?" he tried again, shaking his head and looking to the ceiling briefly, before returning his gaze to the lounge room. "'Meda?!"
Panic entered his voice as he realized that she was missing from the room. A roughly 6-foot reptile was not exactly inconspicuous. Perhaps she had taken the book to her room – she could be awfully silent when she wanted to be, yes, that was it. He quickly headed for the hall that lead to both their rooms and the bathroom. He knocked on her door.
"'Meda?" he called through. No response. He pushed the door open. No Andromeda either. It occurred to him suddenly that the book had vanished as well. That however wasn't the first thing on his mind.
"Bugger," he groaned as he headed back to the living room and the phone. "Hathor is going to [i]murder[/i] me!"
Andromeda shook her head to clear it. Whatever had just happened had been bright and had just completely destroyed her eyes for the short-term. She stayed sat exactly where she was. She had learnt long ago – when in doubt, [i]don't move[/i]. She strained her (admittedly poor) hearing to try and figure out where she was. It occurred to her that her reliance on scent, sight and vibration as a manner of navigation and location was coming back to bite her ass, and it was not very comfortable.
Her vision was starting to clear, and she became aware of something in her hand – lighter than the book, in fact, hardly weighing anything. She glanced down and blinked. A…page? A page of a book? And where [i]was[/i] that book? She glanced around. And somewhat more importantly, where in all hell's name, was she?