I was Born the Unloved Twin
"So how do you want to do this?"
Gable asks me, grin already climbing onto his face without his control. Ah he's going to have fun ripping grampa a new one, I can tell.
"Whatever you think best Gable, it is your home after all."
"Yes but this is your grandfather."
Given my opinion is rather bias. I'd personally just want to say 'leave me alone, I choose to live here peacefully with Gable-sama from now on please.'. OF course I can't just throw that out there, let's put that in more palatable terms.
"Well I'd rather not be sent home with him right away. I quite like it here, if you'll have me that is"
"I don't know about that, your parents must be worried. But you're certainly welcome to visit and stay in bursts, if you can make it."
Gable travels quite a bit, is well known for off and disappearing. And unlike the great hero Roland, the mage Gable tends to stay far away from the public eye. As charming and much more sensible as he is, he's cut from the same sort of cloth as grampa.
In polite terms they both like their independence and freedom too much. In reality they're both a varied degree of crazy with a sense of wanderlust.
There's also something about how his handsome smile reaches up into his eyes, they impossibly sparkle. Baby blues clear by the light of the portal instead of the grey tint they tend to have indoors.
Gable is happy to see him too. He may say things and avoid him but he's happy to see my crazy grampa. Ah does that make him just as crazy too? You have to be to like a lunatic like him.
But I won't bash it.
I know the only reason sir Gable has been so kind, open and welcoming to me is due to his deep relations with grampa. Despite that he doesn't want to see me 'grow up to be another ROnald' whatever that means.
For now it means finish tidying up the kitchen before heading out to see gramps.
Before heading out I put on my shoes, rabbit patch vest and bear eared cloak. I wonder if grampa will recognize me, which given the lack of toddlers out in the forest I think should be an easy conclusion.
Right at the doorway Gable has me hold as he puts an illusion spell over us. Just so we don't get spotted and ran over right away by grampa. His illusion spells are amazing but I haven't been able to catch on to any of that yet.
It be nice to learn something of that sort that doesn't require magic.
It's also funny to watch grampa wander around, passing over us foolishly when we're literally right there.
He was dressed casually, no metal armor in sight, and looked absolutely defenseless, though I knew better than to take his appearance at face value. A man like grampa would never walk out anywhere defenseless.
"Here Rosa, come out girl!"
Could he stop calling for me like I'm a lost dog though?! Ah I'm too tired with this.
"Oh shitty old man!"
"Eh? My darling little granchild, where are youuuu?
"I can hear you but I can't see you? Oh! Are we playing a game?"
No I'm not flipping playing hide and seek. I'm literally standing right in front of you. Out of petty pent up spite I take a cheap shot kicked right into his shins. It's obviously nothing he can't handle but I aim for the bone where it would hurt any other normal human.
Of course that's when the protective illusion over me fades.
"Ack! My leg- Oh Rosa, there you are!"
That was when I'm stuffed into his well-endowed chest and squeezed. Even while choking I'm hit with a sense of deja vu. being stuffed into a too large chest and too tight welcome back hugs. Ah is this where mother gets it from? Grampa's pecs are terrifyingly impressive.
" Grampapa is sorry, you're so tiny I must have missed you."
"You did so well, I knew you wouldn't die that easily. Though I didn't think I'd somehow lose track either."
When I'm allowed to breathe normally again it's still in his large hands, held like a pet puppy up for inspection. I'm lifted by my chest and shoulders as he inspects me the way one would inspects fruit at the market. I even get my little butt patted down. Arg how annoying, but it's futile to fight him.
"Hmmm not that it's not very cute but I don't think this is what you were wearing before."
Grampa pinches at my bear ear, eyeing the crocheted wool suspiciously.
"It's not! How was I supposed to survive in that? Just that? For two weeks!!!"
I have a not so short of grievances here that have finally found their source.
"2 weeks! The note said 3 days and it's been two weeks!"
"And you did so well, look how healthy you are. No healing needed."
"No thanks to you! There was near nothing in the bag, not even food! What maniac leaves anyone, a kid, in the woods with no supplies? I'm too small, but even if I wasn't I still can't 'survive' this shit!"
"I always believed in you and besides you look pretty alive to me. "
How infuriating, can't he at least have the decency to be a bit more sheepish. Is a 'sorry I'm late and an idiot' too much to ask for? Also, put me down! Before I could catch my breath enough to lose myself into a full raging rant, back up makes himself known.
"She's right you know."
At the low voice, grampa whips his head faster than I've ever seen him do, grip tensing around me. Still, he makes no further movement, his expression going from genuine shock to an unusual grin.
"Hey there invisible stranger."
What is he talking about, Gable is standing right there. But hey I don't know how illusion magic works, maybe it's still activated on grampa.
"I don't suppose you're to thanks for taking care of my adorable little granddaughter here."
"Keeping her from not dying you mean."
Grampa settles me more comfortably in the crook of his arm, eyes still circling around him to pinpoint the mage. He's off but by not that far.
"You're looking good."
"You can't even see me right now."
"Well no but you always look good."
Why am I getting shivers up my spine? It's not uncomfortable but, ah I'm probably just really irritated at grampa for ignoring me. Me, the literal toddler he left alone to wander the wilds.
"Geez old man it would have really been bad if Gable wasn't here. I caught a cold you know?"
"Let me guess, he nursed you back to health. How nice, I must thank your savior graciously. anytime he wants to come out now."
"I really should just leave you in a maze but then the child would be stuck with you."
"But I'm already lost in your eyes."
"You still can't even see me right now!"
Gable is clearly exasperated and I nod in aggravated sympathy. Grampa tends to have that effect on anyone and everyone. In the meantime, grampa seems to catch on that I can still see Gable, illusion or not, and follows my line of sight. At least he's facing the right direction now.
Since the jig was up, Gable let off another frustrated wave that ripples reality, just a bit, and must have dropped whatever was making him invisible to the other party. Grampa was smiling quite largely now, a very stupid look, happy but stupid.
"I missed you this past season, you weren't in your usual place."
"False, I never have a usual place."
"My bad, I couldn't find you this year."
"It was longer actually. And have you considered the possibility I didn't want to be bothered by you, again."
"You would have missed me eventually."
"Uh huh, sure."
Grampa turns up the charm with an exaggerated wink and Gable facepalms. Their banter is rather amusing, like watching a comedy sketch between a duo that has done this routine many times before.
"These parts of the woods sure are awfully close to my base camp. Closest you ever set up camp anyways."
"Inconsequential, it was simply time for a change of scenery. My last secret spot wasn't so much of a secret anymore. Yes, this area of nowhere is suitable for my purposes but who would have thought I'd find another soul wandering about out here, a tiny child. A mere babe ...abandoned....this deep in the woods?"
"The same babe you're holding now, any thoughts on the matter Ronald?"
"Well, I wouldn't say abandoned."
I jab his armpit for that comment alone. The rest is angrily just smacking at whatever stupidly muscled part of flesh I could reach with my short arms.
"You threw me on a giant bird! That flew off and dropped me in a tree!"
"There was gear, you weren't just left defenseless."
"Not even a real knife, a toothblade! You gave me a tooth, some rope, and fare for the bird! You didn't even come when the note said you would!"
"I got lost on the path of life but look at you with so much energy to spare, see my little dear you handled it fine."
"No thanks to you!"
Before I could pull my ultimate twisting pinch on the underside of grampa's arms, I was again lifted out into the air. Since it's sir Gable and the fact that I'm finally put down I solid ground again, I'll allow the puppy hold.
Seriously why is everyone treating me like a dog?
"Rosalia why don't you go and explore the safe areas a bit more, places I've shown you. Perhaps the krakle berry patch from the other day?"
"Ooooh krakle berries."
"I'm excused from the following conversation you mean?"
"Go ahead and gather as much as you like. Your grandfather and I have some matters to discuss."
"Yeah go on now Rosa! Go play because the adults have lots to talk about."
"....Ronald, you're really not helping."
I understand that huffing my cheeks is rather childish looking but hey I'm petty. I'm an adult too you know, just not physically. I'm even older if you add both my lifetimes together, that makes me over 40. Which still doesn't count in Gable's book when I made that argument previously over some household task.
Still, I get that they must have private matters to discuss outside my unsupervised field trip.
"Hmm very well then, I'll leave you two your privacy."
"Thank you, Rosalia."
"But I'm not sharing any krakle berries."
"That's also fine. Stay on the trails I showed you and be safe."
"Okay, see you later Gable."
"Hey grampapa is here too!"
"Bye Gable, good luck with shitty grampa."
My favored caretaker waves me off as I leave the gate, alone for the first time since we met. Whooo finally I get to wander off. No offense, I love staying with Gable and learning everything I have so far but a girl needs her solo time. I even skip to the berry patch in my little freedom.
Also I hope Gable tears Grampa a new one.
"Ahh so cruel, did you teach her that?"
"No but you honestly deserve it."
After the two waved off the small child, the taller blond turned around through the forest path. Ronald quickly followed and walked in line with him, a genuine smile still tugging on his scruffy face.
"So when did you move in? I would have helped out you know, could have saved a trip up North. "
"You know I just simply can't remember, flow of time was never one of my strong suits."
"I really was shocked when I couldn't find you last season."
"Won't be the first or last time hero."
"Was it to be closer to meeeee? I really did miss you these last couple of years. I love my family and my new grandchildren are really cute but you must know."
"Yes I know and no I did not move for something as mundane or stupid as that."
"You really do look good."
Gable rolled his eyes, it's hard not to when around something as annoying as Ronald. But there's no heat to his action, no bite to his bark. Especially not when he allows the other man to walk so close, nearly shoulder to shoulder, familiar in each other's presence.
It was a comfortable banter and it could have stayed a comfortable silent walk. Could have.
"Was it family drama then? Did your sister try to talk to you? Your brother in law?"
"...I don't want to talk about it."
And the other man backs off, he always does know when to draw the line. That's what made him such a magnet, a people person that could push and prod his way into lives and yet make people stay right where he wanted them to.
It's just a little, a lot, more difficult with Gable. But he's used to it, he respects his long time friend too much to really invade anyways.
So comfortable silence again it is.
When Gable stops walking so does Ronald. With a pull and a twists of the hand a homey wooden gate unlocks, materializing out of thin air. Ronald follows faithfully, awe in the garden and bits of pieces of a hidden home appearing out of thin air.
"Your illusions are always dazzling every time I see them Gabe."
"....That's actually what I wanted to speak to you about."
"You're still not off the hook abut leaving a toddler in the woods."
A hidden door in a hill opens without a creak. With the familiarity of a long time resident, Ronald takes off his dirty boots and hangs his loose cloak on the hanging hook in the same spot he's always used, the same spot left for him.
"Nothing's changed I see."
He sprawls out on the pile of cushions on the floor, just the way he likes it, while Gable sets the fire lit. He fiddles with a brew, something that permeates the room making it smell spicy, sweet, and strong all at once. Ronald knows he's going to love it even before a mug of that steaming stuff floats his way.
With a tall mug of his own Gable settles into his chair, tired and not a giving a damn about his usual proper posture.
"You know how it is, how I like living my life."
"Yes I would like to think so."
"I like it hidden."
"I like how you probably floundered around trying to find me the better half on winter."
"I knew you were just playing hide a seek."
The mage actually snorted into his spiced drink and gave his companion a level glance. Ronald gives a shrug and winces when the brew, wine?, burns his tongue for drinking too fast.
"You can never find me when I put up my wards."
"Is that a challenge I hear?"
"Well you can certainly keep trying but no....no one can break through my wards."
"Yes yes you're the best, all hail the great invisible mage Gable. May he forever trap you into seeing things that aren't there."
"That's the thing though."
It's not the following silence or the tenseness in Gable's brow that halts Ronald's snickering. Maybe it is, maybe t's both but it's something that Ronald has long recognized when Gable is serious or concerned.
"Ron...how did you find me?"
"Well you just appeared, right behind Rosalia."
" That we still need to talk about but...that kid, she found me."
"I'm pretty sure you found her."
"No...you're one of the best and you never saw a trace of me. "
Gable flicks his finger and a thin trail of smoke leaves the blaze, swirling around the room and under their noses.
"That kid followed my smoke, the damn fireplace's smoke to my house. She followed it because she can see it, she can fucking see it! Then even with my wards and arrays messing up her senses, she saw me. "
Gable sharply turns to look down on the brunette on the floor, examining every expression flickering in those deceptively warm brown eyes.
"Ronald....you told me the kid has no magic potential."
"She doesn't, Gable I swear she runs negative. I checked, repeatedly. You know how paranoid I am...are you saying I'm wrong?"
"I can't sense anything either, there's no trace of magical veins running through her body."
"Is she hiding it?"
"No oh for God's sake don't get heckled up. No the kid doesn't even know about it herself, and yes she's just a kid. Don't let her smart mouth fool you, her soul is so damn young. Just a damn innocent kid."
"She talked about it?"
"Amazing the things people are willing to share if you just talk it out like a normal person."
"It just...never came up."
Gable sighed and was in great need of a refill, when he hasn't even finished half his cup yet. At least Ronald had the decency to look sheepish, and he can't really stay mad when Ronald chews his lip and looks like such a kicked puppy.
"The point I'm trying to make here is something is up with your freakish genes. One of them has the Goddess' dawn blessing and a terrifyingly powerful core. The other not only takes after you but can see past my weaker illusions like it's nothing "
"I swear Gable I didn't know, it's negative every test I run."
"That just it isn't it?"
"Okay jokes aside, you really are the smart one out of us. What are you trying to say?"
"Negative...the kid is negative."