There Goes the Neighborhood
A tall man bounced gleefully into the room and scooped Seline up, swinging her around with a gleeful cackle. “Kitten missed me,” he chortled in glee, completely ignoring the disgruntled hiss. He paused, his head tilted slightly as one of the crystals bounced the light off the red Lycra. “Aww, Logan’s here,” he sniffled slightly and dropped Seline, ignoring the swipe that ripped the cloth of his shirt and bounded to Arianna dropping to one knee and look up with the most pitiful expression possible, the red and black forming an unhappy face. “Do you have anymore girl scout cookies for me?”
Arianna looked down at him, it being all she could do to maintain a stern expression on her face. “How much trouble did you make for Charles and the children up in New York, Wade? Girl Scout cookies aren’t for nuisances.”
Wade pouted, his shoulders slumping slightly as the katanas on his back echoed the sad slump. “Only a little, I just stole one-eye’s visor… and his motorcycle.”
The grin on Logan’s face immediately preceded a rapid reach for a cookie which was hurled in Wade’s general direction. Wade’s hand reached up, impossibly fast, and caught it. “Thank you, my good man. Thank you very much.”
“Payment for services rendered,” Logan rumbled, the smile not leaving his face.
“You two…,” Arianna said disapprovingly as she went to get Wade a box of cookies.
Wade bounced over and sprawled in the chair across from Matt. “Yay for cookies.” He reached over to snag one from Matt who promptly slapped his hand causing him to retract it and pout until Arianna returned. “You’re the best and my favorite,” he announced noisily and kissed Arianna on the cheek. He smirked impishly then reached across, snatching the glasses from Matt and replacing them with the visor he had stolen. “Much better, now you look almost dashing. Just not as dashing as me,” Wade chortled and flexed, winking at Seline.
Matt sighed heavily, “Give me back my glasses, Wade. Just because Charles is too nice to put a stop to your antics doesn’t mean I will be.” He took the visor off and set it on the table before taking another sip of his tea.
Wade sighed and pouted before handing back the glasses. “Oh fine,” he grumbled, then almost immediately regained his cheer and scooped up the visor, hanging it from one of the many decorative lights in the room. “Ta da! Red to brighten up the place.” He beamed, sending it spinning, the light bouncing off the red of the visor to sparkle against the ceiling.
Arianna sighed and chuckled ruefully, “Oh, Wade. Don’t ever change, even if sometimes you drive me batty.”
Wade smiled. “Never, my dear. Never.” He turned to the door, “Although, here’s someone who could stand to change. Same thing, over and over with him. Maybe I need to go with him this time instead of that wussy heroin addict Eddy that he always takes. At least then, he’d have someone with a sense of humor on his travels.” The man in question walked through the door, worn leather long coat swirling about his legs.
The man in the coat looked around and settled his gaze on Wade, sighing heavily at the sight of the red Lycra. “Long days and pleasant nights, Arianna. Though, I’d have preferred not to see this one again so soon,” he gestured in Wade’s direction. “He has forgotten the face of his father and acts more billy-bumbler than descendant of Arthur Eld.”
Wade grinned, “Nope. I know my father, but do you know who your daddy is? Who’s your daddy, Roland? Come on… I know you know…” Selena hunched over in her chair trying not to choke on her tea and Logan laid back in the corner of his, one leg slung over the arm, sipping his beer with a wry grin.
Arianna smiled at the tall man as she poured out a large cup of her strongest coffee. “Hello again Roland. May you have twice the number. Have you had pleasant hunting?” She responded, tactfully ignoring his standard comments about Wade. “I’ve made a fresh batch of burritos for you. Would you like one or two today?”
“Just one today. I cannot stay long. Some low-men are causing trouble in the…” he searched for the word Jake had taught him, “Down-town of your Awsteen.” He sighed. “The Man in Black has them searching for me again, but they are as incompetent as ever. They too, much like our Wade, have forgotten the faces of their fathers.”
Arianna patted Roland on the shoulder, “Just be careful, I would miss you if you didn’t visit.” She murmured before turning to get Matt and Seline refills on their teas.
Roland glanced around a bit, then looked back at Arianna, “My lady, you are one of the few things in this world that I actually enjoy. Your place of business, and the abundance of ammunition that your fellows seem to be obsessed with. That has served me well from time to time.”
Arianna smiled at him, then turned away as the flowers in front of her small shop bloomed despite the darkness. “Pamela, so good to see you again.” She beamed as she set up a plate of freshly cut fruit and a small cup of herbal tea on the table by the windows.
A tall green-hued woman detached from the shadows and rustled forward, stroking her fingers down Arianna’s face, “You wore it! It’s beautiful on you, my dear.” Her soft sultry voice as she touched the orchid, then fingered the silk. “This pleases me.” She murmured before she reclined on her chair taking a sip of her tea. “How are you, my dear?”
Arianna smiled. “I am well, and very pleased to see you.”
Pamela smiled at the others, then lifted her cup briefly in salute before partaking of her food. “Excellent repast as usual my dear.”
Wade bounded over to hug Pamela, only to trip and fall on the floor with a low groan. “Aww man,” he grumbled, then sat up and stuffed another thin mint in his mouth with a sulky frown. “Well, that was less than suave.”
Pamela looked at him confused, “How is that any different from any other day, Wade?”
Wade pouted, then crawled to his feet and sprawled back in his chair. “Fine, I get it, no hugs for Pamela.”
Seline chortled softly as she finished her second cup. “I’m sure I could give her a hug, maybe she just doesn’t like the smell of latex and Axe body spray.” Pamela’s smile spoke volumes about her agreement with Seline.
Another customer had walked through the door, reaching in his pocket for a pack of cigarettes. He shook it and as something popped out the top, he stuck it in his mouth and started chewing, before putting the pack away. He looked at Pamela and shrugged, “It could be worse, Seline. It could be that rotten egg stench of sulfur. Or… No. Wait.” He paused, appearing to ponder it for a moment, then nodded and walked in sitting in the third chair at the table Logan and Frank were at. “You’re right. He is worse. My apologies, carry on.”
Wade growled at the newcomer, then huffed, “You sarcastic ass. Good to see you still alive, John.”
John smirked at Wade, “Sarcasm really is a lost and vastly underappreciated art form, don’t you think, Wade? And here we are, doling it out for free, when it should be bringing a premium on the open market. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.” He sighed heavily and looked up at Arianna gratefully as she walked over and brought him a glass with two fingers of Johnny Walker Black, neat and set it down in front of him. “Good to see you again, John. How’s kicking the habit treating you?” she asked.
“Well, it lets me come in here without upsetting you. The priests seem to appreciate it too when I have to stop off at the Parish here, so there’s that…” he shrugged and took a sip of the glass. His eyes closed as he appreciated the flavor, before swallowing it.
Arianna beamed at him, “And just think, you’ll find a girl… because who likes kissing an ashtray?” She teased gently. “Still having issues with Gabriel or has he started behaving himself?”
John shrugged, “Last I heard, he was trying to start up a therapy business on the upper east side of New York. Something about ‘Unleash your inner potential’ or some such bullshit.” He took another sip. “I don’t think it’s gotten off the ground, but the Church is keeping an eye on him for me while I go do real work, so I guess it could be worse.”
Arianna patted his shoulder in understanding. “Well, if you need anything, let me know. Hopefully the church isn’t being it’s normal retarded self.” She grinned and poured him two more fingers of whiskey before moving to hand Logan a fresh bottle of beer. “I’m thinking of expanding my place a little bit, maybe add a little stargazing area, with a telescope. What do you guys think?”
Matt smiled, “That would be lovely, Ari. One could go up and enjoy the beautiful night sky…,” he trailed off wistfully, as a flash of concern crossed her face.
“Oh, Matt! I didn’t mean…,” she stammered.
“Nonsense, my dear. Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean others shouldn’t be able to enjoy the view.” His lips twitched slightly as he added, “Besides, maybe doing so will help our Wade here to find some culture before someone has to beat him over the head with it.”
Arianna huffed, softly teasing, “I think it would need to be a very heavy book.” Walking over, she pressed her hand against Matt’s shoulder. “Although I do have something for you. One of my irregulars found it.” She grinned and skipped to the bookcase, a few moments later she came back with what appeared to be a blank book and slid it under his hand.
Matt took it and slid his hand over the cover, the dots on it jumping out at his touch. He gasped, “Cicero? De Officiis? And in Braille! Where did you find such a thing?” he chuckled, then opened his eyes wider in surprise. “And who the hell translates dead Greek philosophers into Braille?” He ran his fingers over one of the pages, then added, “In the original Greek, no less.”
Arianna chuckled, “I take it you like it? An old friend of mine, he traded it for two dozen peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.”
“YOUR peanut butter chocolate chip cookies?” he gasped. “That’s a veritable fortune. Ari, you shouldn’t have,” he murmured as his fingers caressed the book lovingly.
Wade pouted in the corner, growing the proverbial mushrooms as he sulked, “She never gives me her cookies, and now she’s traded them for a book, a book she can’t even read. That’s not fair…”
Matt smiled and turned his head in Wade’s direction, “That’s because you, Wade, are… What’s the word the cool kids use these days? Oh, yes. An ‘asshole’.” He set the book on the table and made quotation marks in the air as he said the last word.
The rest of the group laughed, as Wade stood up and pointed at Matt. “Well yeah, but you don’t have to just announce it like that. I have an image of mystery to maintain.” He paused in the middle of his manly pose and sniffed the air, his gaze turning quickly to the counter and the kitchen beyond. “And Arianna has chimichangas in the back.”
Matt chuckled, and muttered under his breath, “Took him long enough, the neanderthal…” He reached for his tea as a loud rumbling echoed through the shop, shaking the tables and making the glasses, bottles, and cups clatter against them.
Abruptly it cut off and was silent again until Wade sighed heavily, “Well, shit. It’s amateur hour at the Cafe Eclectic. The teenagers are here…”
Arianna smiled sweetly, “Be nice, Wade. They’re decent enough, if your tastes lie along the route of bacon cheeseburgers and nineties rock and roll…”
Two young men walked in through the door arguing as they entered. The older of the two was waving his hands in irritation, “What part of ‘Don’t ever play that again in my car’ was unclear, Sam?”
“Look, Dean. I said I was sorry. I forgot that I hadn’t completely blanked out that tape before putting that bootleg AC/DC album on there. I hated Snow too. That Informer song should NEVER have gotten that much air time.” The younger apologized, it sounded like for a second or third time at least. “At least that demon didn’t like it either.”
Arianna smiled gently, setting two plates with bacon cheeseburgers and sodas on a table. “Hello boys.” She glanced at Wade with a sigh, “Go get you some, but be careful they’re hot.” She turned back to Sam and Dean. “So, you scared a demon with Sam’s choice in music.” She teased lightly.
Sam smiled wryly sitting down at the table, “Distracted. Not scared, distracted.” He looked over at Dean, “And despite what this one says, it worked enough that we bagged him.”
Dean threw a rakish smirk at John, “See, Oh high and mighty one? We can do things right.” He turned his gaze back to Arianna, not waiting for John to roll his eyes, “So sweetheart, did you remember my pie?”
Arianna snorted softly, “Did you remember my book?” She shot back with a smirk.
Dean huffed and slid a book onto the table, she quickly glanced at it then walked to the kitchen, returning a moment later with a fresh apple pie in one hand, and Wade’s ear gripped in the other. “One hot apple pie for you Dean.” She pushed Wade into a chair. “And one misbehaving glutton for Matt.” She huffed a chuckle at his low groan.
Matt sighed, “Did you eat her out of chimichangas again, Wade?”
Around the food in his mouth, Wade mumbled, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, you blind suck-up.”
Arianna huffed and bopped Wade gently on the head, “Behave yourself.” She murmured before she inspected the book Dean gave her intently before taking it and placing it on the shelf, Tobin’s Spirit Guide looking quite nice next to Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
And as Thursday nights usually did, Arianna and her regulars socialized through the night, each of them finding something they needed in the group, acceptance. None of them paid any attention to the black Ford Van parked across the street nor the man watching the shop intently, behind its tinted windows.