Chapter 3 : Propositioned.
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Though he wouldn’t call himself an expert by any means, Gideon thought that he was a decent detective. An experienced individual. He was clever and employed unique and effective strategies. He was a capable leader, which was why he had so often been the head of investigation units dispatched to capture repeat offenders. And Gideon Prewett always got his man.
Therefore, when the third door slammed in his face, leaving him stooped underneath the inadequate shelter of his leather jacket in the pouring rain, he realised for the first time since taking the case that it was going to be more difficult than he had initially perceived. Disgruntled and thoroughly drenched to the bone, Gideon shrugged his shoulders into his jacket, ducked his head, and returned to the Ministry provided car, which was idling on the gravel drive.
The passenger side door was locked, so he wrapped his knuckles on the window, hoping to gain his partner’s attention. As expected, she jumped at the sudden staccato, her wand pointed at the window with a fierce expression that didn’t quite suit her delicate features. Gideon pulled a face, mostly because of the droplets of water slipping underneath the collar of his shirt and sliding down his skin. Quickly, she leaned across the panelled console and unlocked the door.
Sliding into the car and slamming the door behind him, Gideon seized the collar of his jacket in both hand and shook the droplets of water from the leather. Once satisfied, he slipped the jacket down his sleeves, his watch catching on the inside cuff as he withdrew his arm. With an irate noise, he pulled it free, casting the offending article into the backseat of the vehicle. It hit the vinyl with a wet smack.
He could feel his partner’s eyes upon him, most likely trying to comprehend and analyze what the furrow in his dark brow meant and just how deeply the severe scowl smeared on his lips mirrored his emotions. She sighed, letting a hand fall away from the steering wheel to rake it through her lank red hair. It wasn’t auburn and it wasn’t bright red; it was startlingly similar to the peel of a ripe orange, and it was glaringly bright in the darkness of the car, attracting and refracting the limited lighting. It made Gideon’s eyes water.
Though she could hazard a guess at what his answer would be, she still asked, “Anything?”
Pausing in his internal grumblings and incessant tugging at his wet tee shirt (it was clinging to his body like a second skin; he was just fine with the one he already possessed, thank you), Gideon turned to stare at her disapprovingly. She tried to match the caliber of his scorn, evoke the same stern anger within her own eyes, but failed. However, she didn’t look away and he took notice, lessening the severity of his glare.
Gideon wasn’t quite sure what to make of Kyra Lightwick. As he was an extremely busy man and she a new recruit, this was the first opportunity they had had to work with one another. She had been enthusiastic when he asked her to join him, thinking that he had (finally!) taken notice of her hard work and wanted to test her skills in the field. He only wanted her because she was a Muggle-born and knew how to drive a car. Sure, she had the drive and the determination to do the job and do it well, but she was too keen. Too optimistic. It took a certain amount of cynicism to be a Hit Wizard and, as far as he could tell, she didn’t possess an ounce of it. Even in the short amount of time he had spent with her, he knew that she had made a grave mistake in choosing to become a Hit Wizard.
“You’d make a good Auror,” he said lowly as he reached into the front pocket of his trousers, long fingers seeking out the cold touch of his metal cigarette case. He should know - he used to be one. An Auror, that is. Not a metal cigarette case. Where was that damned thing anyway?
Kyra jumped at the sudden sound of his raspy voice; her hand slipped and she accidentally honked the horn. He refrained from shooting her a look of annoyance. There was no reason to be unnecessarily mean.
Well, except for entertainment purposes, but Gideon was hardly in the amusing mood, much less willing to be amused by others.
Her wide eyes found his again and for the first time, he observed just how blue they were; it was almost unnatural. “W-what?” she stammered.
“Nothing,” he breathed, shaking his head. There was a reason why he didn’t often compliment others - it was because his words fell upon deaf ears. Popping the clasp of the slim cigarette case and flipping it open, he wedged the end of his hand-rolled cigarette in between his lips and patted down his pockets for his lighter. Then he remembered that he didn’t have a lighter anymore as he had lent it to his older brother, and Fabian was terrible at returning things.
What was it that their sister called him? The Inadvertent Kleptomaniac.
“So,” Kyra began, her voice quivering as she readjusted her grip on the steering wheel. “Did you get any information?”
His gaze cut over to her impatiently, drifting from her face to the wheel. He lifted an eyebrow pointedly.
What little colour clung to her pale cheeks drained away as she threw the car into reverse and muttered, in a small, almost terrified voice, “Forget I asked.”
Once they were clear of the gravel drive, she shifted the car into drive and touched her foot to the gas pedal. The house slid out of view, disappearing behind a thicket of trees and the high, finely sculpted hedges. Gideon grunted, pulled at his shirt, and said, quite suddenly, “No, I didn’t.”
Though she jumped in her seat and lost her grip on the wheel again, Kyra nodded, knowing that the note of finality meant the subject was closed. Off-limits. Still, she was curious and determined, which was a very lethal combination.
It was suffice to say that Fabian Prewett was a well-liked young man.
He was a great conversationalist and had a way of making people feel at ease in his subtly commanding presence. His ear-to-ear grin was contagious and his booming laughter was infectious. Everyone who met Fabian took to him almost immediately, for he was an all-around warm and inviting person, quite unlike his younger brother, who had the tendency to be surly when he was happy and worse when he wasn’t. Fabian was also the only person in the Auror Office capable of handling his brother’s sour moods for longer than five minutes without losing his temper, and Alastor Moody took advantage of the fact whenever the opportunity presented itself.
And today, the opportunity was present.
“Are you serious? Again?”
“I don’t see why you’re complaining, Prewett. Most people would kill for this opportunity.”
“No, most people would just kill him.”
“Which,” Moody interrupted gruffly before Fabian could continue, “is precisely why I’m sending you, and not Mendoza, to deal with him. You’re the only one he’s willing to cooperate with.”
Fabian laughed hollowly. “The only reason why he cooperates with me is because I threaten to tell our mother if he doesn’t.”
Moody shrugged, absentmindedly waving his wand and Summoning another report. It landed on his desk and smoothed itself out. “Whatever works.” He adjusted his posture and began to skim the parchment.
Fabian leaned back in the wooden chair, which creaked ominously underneath his weight, and sighed. “There’s a massive pile of paperwork on my desk with my name stamped all over it.”
“I need to get it filed before this evening,” said Fabian, “otherwise Rosalind will have my head on a silver platter.”
“She would love that, wouldn’t she?” Moody snorted, not looking up from the sheet of parchment in front of him. His quill scratched at the document furiously.
“Alastor,” Fabian drawled lowly.
The experienced Auror lifted his head and pinned Fabian with his bright blue stare. “The only person who deserves a warning is you, boyo,” Moody replied in a tone that suggested amusement. Fabian didn’t laugh. “Now, don’t make me tell you again, Prewett. Get the hell out of my office before I have to show you out myself.”
Stiffly, Fabian rose to his feet. “Yes sir.” He grabbed the file from the desk and made for the door.
“There’s a good lad.”
Fabian made a disgruntled noise at the back of his throat and opened the door. Before he stepped out into the hall, however, Moody called him to attention. “Oh, and Prewett?”
He paused, letting the tension fall away from his hand gripping the knob, and sent his boss a questioning look. “Yes?”
“Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on your way out,” quipped Moody.
Rolling his eyes, Fabian left the office, taking care to slam the door behind him; his superior’s rough laughter could be heard halfway down the hall. He shook his head to himself and wondered how many Stunners had hit Moody over the course of his career. The number must have been high; the damage was evident, if he was being truthful…
He rounded a corner, silently contemplating the number, when he ran into a solid mass of warm flesh. Fabian staggered slightly, but managed to keep his footing, as did the other person. When he looked up to apologize, he was surprised to see the scruffy face of the very person he was searching for.
“Gideon!” he exclaimed, unsure whether his exclamation was one of happiness or one of disappointment. As his gaze raked over his brother’s appearance, taking in the dark shadow along his jaw, the strands of thick brown hair clinging stubbornly to his forehead, and the acerbic expression on Gideon’s face, he decided that it was, in fact, a bit of both. At least he wouldn’t be shoved into a dingy office with poor lighting and the rank stench of cigarette smoke and dishonesty. “What a -”
“Pleasant surprise? Hardly. We both know there are other places you would much rather be,” Gideon grunted, tugging at the collar of his shirt irritably.
It was unnerving, how well Gideon could read people. One could lace their words with honey and sprinkle them with sugar, but he would be able to tell the truth from all of the lies. Perhaps that’s why he was one of the best Aurors in his class.
He expelled an impatient sigh and scratched the side of his neck. “Next time, could you watch where you’re going, you arse? You nearly knocked me off my feet.”
Despite the rude and gruff tone of his brother’s voice, Fabian laughed to himself. “That’s not what I was going to say, but hello to you, Gids.”
Gideon winced visibly. He hated it when Fabian insisted on using the nickname their sister had bestowed upon him when she was little, and Fabian knew it. It made him feel small, insolent. Inferior. Which, technically speaking, in comparison to Fabian’s position at the Ministry, he was inferior. But, he reminded himself as he shot his brother a look of utmost annoyance, his inferiority was a personal choice.
Gideon cut right to chase. “What do you want?”
“What makes you think that I want something?” Fabian asked, his words coloured with offence.
“You have that look on your face,” answered Gideon.
“You know that eager look you always get on your face when you want something. Like you’re going to soil yourself or something.”
“I don’t -”
“Anyway, I thought it was best to bypass the bullshit and let you relieve yourself. So take it away, Fabio,” he returned, evoking the much-hated nickname. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. “I’m all ears.” He smiled tightly, sarcastically, at his brother.
Instead of answering, Fabian extended the file in his hand. “Moody wanted me to give this to you.”
Gideon took the file and opened it, leaning a shoulder against the wall. He took a glance at the first sheet before returning his gaze to his brother’s face. “Why’d he give this to me?”
Fabian shrugged and slipped his hands into his pockets, his shoulders hunching instinctively. “I have no idea, to be honest. I’m assuming that he wants you to look over the file and give him some feedback.”
Slapping the file against his palm, Gideon furrowed his brow in thought. “Has he talked to Malcolm about this?”
“Moody?” Fabian chuckled. “Don’t kid yourself, Gideon. Moody wouldn’t talk to Malcolm even if he was under the Imperius Curse. He thinks Malcolm’s an arrogant fool.”
“He is an arrogant fool,” Gideon said acidly, a grimace pulling at his lips. “Thinks just because he’s got a nice shiny plaque with his name on it that he can stick his nose in everyone’s business. Do you know how difficult it is to pick up independent job when he’s brownnosing?”
“No, I can’t say that I do,” commented the older, taller Prewett. “Though I reckon he must be fairly bothersome if Moody’s complaining about him.”
Gideon rolled his eyes, but didn’t say anything, merely returned his gaze to the file clutched in his hand. While he respected Alastor Moody to the point of admiration, Gideon wasn’t sure he wanted to get involved in a case concerning the Auror Office. The last time he had done anything for the Auror Office; it proved more troublesome than what it was worth. Politicians and their goddamn red tape. Sometimes, he hated working for the Ministry.
“So,” Fabian began conversationally. “Am I going to be delivering good or bad news?”
Rubbing the back of his neck, Gideon considered his options. He could say yes, despite the many protests of his subconscious and the unsettling knot in his stomach, and offer his assistance. Or he could go with his gut instinct and say no, he wasn’t interested in helping a department to which he no longer belonged and, besides, he was busying doing his own thing. And then there was the third option - contemplation. Gideon wasn’t one for mulling things over; he usually gave an answer straight away. However, this was Moody and Moody wouldn’t ask for a second opinion - if that was, in fact, what he was wanting from Gideon - if he didn’t need it.
Gideon stared pensively at his brother. “You’re impatient.”
“The pot’s calling the kettle black, I see.”
“At least I know I’m impatient. Your feathers get all ruffled when someone says something unflattering about you. Ruddy hippogriff,” he muttered to himself, dragging a hand along his jaw and scowling at the feel of prickly stubble against his palm.
Ignoring the jab - and feeling the sharp sting to his pride - Fabian cleared his throat and fixed his pointed stare on Gideon. “Not to rush you or anything, but a response would be appreciated sooner rather than later.”
Pulling at his collar once again, he opened the file, took a gander at the front page of the report, and flipped it shut. He flipped the folder over and repeated the process. This was more for show and the sake of annoying his older brother than anything else.
“Tell him….,” he paused to lick his lips, “that I’ll think about it. Tell him that I don’t know enough about the case to accept his proposal upfront, but I’ll read over the information tonight and get back to him in the morning.”
“He’s not going to like that.”
“Too bad. If he wants my opinion bad enough, he’ll wait for it. See you at Molly’s on Saturday.” With that, Gideon pushed away from the wall and turned on his heel, yanking at the collar of his damp tee shirt and grinding his teeth in frustration.
The moment he stepped through the threshold of his office, he took the hem of his tee shirt in his hands and pulled it over his head. A rare sigh of contentment fell from his lips as his skin was exposed to cold, albeit not fresh air. He didn’t mind it, though. In fact, he welcomed the overwhelming scent of cigarettes, the faint undertone of decay. He didn’t need a nice, clean workspace; he didn’t want one. If the office was clean, if it didn’t reek of old and smoke, he would come to like his job and he couldn’t very well let that happened. He couldn’t do something that brought him pleasure. He would much rather suffer through his work than enjoy it.
When his job started to take sentimental value, it would no longer be solely about the money. The money wouldn’t matter, and he needed it to matter. It kept him focused, driven. Determined.
Balling up the shirt and tossing it in the corner, he stretched his arms over his head and clasped his hands together, pulling. The muscles in his back began to relax and when he pushed to his tiptoes, a satisfying crack rang through the office. He smiled to himself.
“I never expected to see that.”
Whirling around, Gideon withdrew his wand from his pocket and aimed it at his desk. He lowered it immediately. “How’d you get in here?”
Kyra lifted a slim shoulder. “I told your boss, that Malcolm bloke, that someone had filed a complaint against you and I needed your signature on the papers.”
Instead of anger, Gideon felt amused. Whether she knew it or not, there had been several complaints filed against him, most concerning the way he conducted his business. He didn’t know why they complained; his methods might not have been the most conventional, but they were effective.
“You know, I thought he would grumble and ask to see the papers for himself, but he didn’t. In fact, he seemed…happy about it.”
Gideon snorted, setting his wand on the edge of the desk and delving into his pocket for a cigarette. Lighting it with the tip of his wand, he took a long pull off the cigarette. Smoke billowed out his mouth as he spoke. “Sounds like Malcolm. He doesn’t like me very much.”
“Judging from the vibe I got from your colleagues, not many of them do,” remarked Kyra, taking a moment to asset his current state of semi-undress. Much to her disappointment, his chest wasn’t chiselled and his arms weren’t sculpted. Quite the opposite: he was lean, with a small amount of muscle, and his skin was pale. If he was self-conscious about his body or her blatant staring, he didn’t show any signs of discomfort.
Inhaling, Gideon ran a hand through his damp hair and sent Kyra a curious look. “Why are you here, anyway?”
Kyra’s eyes followed him as he walked over to what she presumed was a small closet. He disappeared inside, most likely searching for a new shirt. Her gaze remained on the dark opening. “I was curious,” she admitted, feeling sheepish.
“Why you asked me to come along with you. What you were working on. Why three different people slammed their doors in your face.” She tucked a strand of orange hair behind her ear. “You know, the usual.”
When he emerged from the closet, his cigarette was hanging limply from his lips and he was wearing an open, heavily wrinkled dress shirt that looked as though it had seen better days. Ashes fell from the cigarette as he responded, with brutal honesty, “I asked you to come along because your file said that you knew how to drive a Muggle car.”
“Oh,” was all she said, averting her gaze to her hands.
Shit, she’s the sensitive type. Gideon sighed, pausing in his buttoning. “Look here, kid -”
“I’m not a kid,” she interrupted. “I’m twenty-three. That’s hardly a child.”
“Right. Sorry. Look, Kyra - it is Kyra, right?” She nodded, flashing a satisfied smile. He refrained from rolling his eyes. Instead, he took another drag, absentmindedly picking at his chin. “I’m not the sort of person to lie to you - or anyone, for that matter - to cushion things to make you feel better about yourself. You wanted to know and I gave my reason. Reality is harsh - might as well get used to the fact.”
Kyra remained quiet, tilting her head to the side and staring, long and hard, at Gideon for the second time that day. Her gall and the fact she didn’t flinch when he stared back at her impressed him. She pursed her lips and questioned, “Are you always this blunt?”
“I wouldn’t say that I’m blunt,” Gideon responded, pushing the last button through the loop. He flicked his cigarette, the ashes tumbling to the carpet, embedding themselves into the fibres when he stepped on them. “I’m…honest.”
“If that’s what you call trampling on people’s feelings,” Kyra stated, leaning back in his chair and folding her arms over her chest, “then sure, I guess you are pretty honest.”
He smirked, taking one last draw off his cigarette before extinguishing the red-orange embers on the desk. Clearing a spot, he sat down on the edge and stared down the length of his nose at the young girl, thinking of how much her hair resembled the glowing end of his beloved cigarettes. For some reason, that increased his favour towards her and when he spoke next, he was surprised by the words that came out of his mouth.
“How much do you know about background checking, Lightwick?”
Weird, he never asked anyone for favours.
Her smug smile was nearly as blinding as her orange hair. “Enough,” she said, her voice twinged with pride. “I know enough.”
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