1965-08-24 - On The Lookout
Summary: Arlo helps Ambrose out, and a tentative partnership forms.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
ambrose arlo 

It's an easy mark. The place has been left alone for days now, per his nightly watches, and the lights are on timers. No one's home. Time to get to burgling. Dressed in all black, from athletic jacket with myriad pockets to tactical pants and military boots, Ambrose darts across the road between the cones of light shining down from each streetlamp. Easy enough to hop the fence and make his way to a side window. Along his soundless route on the grassy lawn, he watches for signs of an security system. No wiring leads from any windows he can see — not that he's surprised. This family is convinced no one knows what they've got stashed away behind archival glass.

Easy enough to slip a pick into the lock and turn the gears. The window slides up soundlessly and in he goes. It's a small study room and not the one he's looking for. He pauses in the doorway to listen. The house makes normal sounds; wood creaks in the heat, the electricity shifts on and off in places, but nothing seems to be alive and moving about.

On to the next room down, the living room. Ah-hah…there you are. Behind tall glass doors stand two scroll cylinders — Sumerian, if he had to make a guess. He slides the knapsack from about his shoulder and pulls archival gloves from an inner pocket within his jacket. Easy as pie, thinks the brunet with a sliver of a pleased smile as he gets to picking at the simple key-lock on the glass case.

Fate is having a laugh, though whether it's at Ambrose or Arlo is anyone's guess. Maybe both of them are the butt of some cosmic joke. They just keep running into one another despite their best efforts. Must have something to do with a mutual interest in Biblical locations.

Tonight, Arlo is wandering the street out of boredom, mostly. He has been astonishingly responsible with the money Ambrose gave him, so he's not looking for a con. It's just a late summer night and he's young and restless. He has a light jacket, hands shoved in its pockets, and he looks around in the relatively quiet night. Quiet by New York City standards, anyway.

Quick eyes spy the movement in the upper window, and he tilts his head. Listening. Someone is opening a glass case. Ooh, someone is being a naughty boy (or girl, but from the sound of the footfalls he's guessing boy).

Layered within those sounds are the hum of traffic, a conversation taking place next door, and a stale wind stirring litter on the street. Wait, that conversation. A woman on the phone reporting a break-in. 'You're on your way? Oh, good. Thank you, officers.

Arlo's no snitch. More so, he's no friend to police and old ladies who make phone calls to them. He locates the robber by his footfalls and, knowing where he is, he's able to throw his senses to the man. It sounds like Arlo's voice only deeper and more sonorous as it's inside his head, the way Arlo hears himself as he speaks. "The cops are on their way. You better scram."

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 4

At least Fate allows the second of the scroll cylinders to be placed safely within the knapsack, wrapped in layer upon quick layer of thick packaging fabric to buff against bump and scratch. Ambrose freezes up spine-straight and stares at the wall so widely that the whites of his eyes show all around.

"What…in the bloody hell?!" He whisper-yells to nothing; it's loud enough that if Arlo hones his senses further, he's sure to catch it. "My consciences does not sound like that!" Still…this…mysterious voice said the magic word: cops. The master-thief turns on a dime and power-pads back to the window through which he entered, leaving the case wide open in the process. At least he wore gloves! No fingers or bootprints left behind, since the weather's been so dry. He ducks out of it and onto the grass outside once more before sliding the bottom pane shut. Never mind locking that as well, he's got to get running —

— because that's the sound of a cop car less than one street over. Ambrose pauses and looks up to see the approaching flash of red-and-blue lights and grits his teeth. "…shit," he hisses, turning on a dime to attempt to vault over the back fence, tall as it is.

"Yeah, your conscience got fired," Arlo murmurs, "Clearly it hasn't done its job since you're upstairs stealing shit.." His brow furrows. Yeah, he knows that voice. It can't be! But it is. Just as Ambrose is turning to the fence, the voice sounds in his head again. "Dog. Duck right, through the alley, hit the fire escape. No one's home on the second floor." Why is he helping this guy, again? Sigh. Honor among thieves, maybe.

Regardless, he makes his own way toward the fire escape. He'll get there later than Ambrose would, if he follows the advice, but he'll also run interference if the cops decide to turn down an unexpected street.

Why on earth he's listening to this Sudden Voice of Conscience is beyond real consideration, but he'll do it, especially after turning so fast in aborting his jump over the fence that clods of dirt hit it. Beyond, the furious baying of a guard dog takes up and Ambrose laughs as he recklessly jumps another point of the fence beyond into the alley. A T-junction of wooden boards keeps distance between him and the animal and he runs on. The fire escape is all of the way up the alley and by the time he hits it, the cops are slamming brakes and squealing tires as they pull up to the residence on the side of property closest to the main street.

He clambers up the fire escape as quickly and quietly as can be managed, keeping the metallic resonance of his steps to a minimum, and then crouches beneath the window. This one is easy enough to lift on its own, with no lock to break. He slips inside before stepping to one side, back pressed flat to the wall of the room. Panting lightly, he runs a hand down his face and then chuckles again.

"Good lord…too close," he murmurs to himself before risking another glance out of the window. The cops are now entering the premises, flashlights on and guns drawn, unaware that the object of their hunt has gone to ground.

Arlo, on the way, does encounter a second cop car as it cruises, and he gets questioned. Has he seen anything? "Yeah, I saw a guy running that way," he says, pointing in the opposite direction of Ambrose's escape. The cops thank him and pursue the lie, conveying it to their cohorts in the house, taking them further from Ambrose's hiding spot.

Which Arlo eventually happens upon, and he gazes up at the thief, his hands still jammed in his jacket pockets. "You owe me," he says by way of greeting. "You're lucky you don't have anything I want." Such a sweetheart.

Ambrose comes out from where he was hiding in a dark corner of the room, crouched down with his hand resting on the grip of one revolver, once he realizes who precisely is speaking to him — and recognizes that voice, now in its proper pitch and not resonant as before.

"And here I'm such a generous mood," the master-thief replies quietly as he steps into view. He makes a deliberate showing of thumbing the safety of his revolver back into position with an ominous click of sound. "Still…it would be dishonorable of me to deny your claim. Go on then, cockerel. What will you for such an action?" His face is set in remote dignity. In the night lighting, the streetlamp's errant glow flashes in his pupils, blood-red like the nightshine of an animal, for a passing second as he shifts his weight in place, one hand resting on the knapsack hanging diagonally across his body.

Arlo watches the gun rather than Ambrose, all the way until the safety is back on. "I'm surprised you listened to me," he says, "Proof that you can be taught." He tilts his ear to the night. He can't make out the cops' words from here, but he can tell by the tone their trail has run cold and they're spitballing ideas.

"You're in the clear for now," he says. He shifts his gaze to Ambrose's face. Cockerel? That gets a tic of a smile from the youth, even as he notes the lurid glint in Ambrose's eyes. In true capricious nature, he shrugs a shoulder and says, "It's all right. You don't have to give me anything."

The shift of Arlo's head is enough to make the bruent look beyond him and out the window. He squints, listening, but given he's got hearing no more acute than the standard human, he can't make out any conversation much less sounds of approach. The latter is a relief to him and he can be seen to visibly relax to an extent. His eyes slide back to the young man again and he smiles coolly.

"You get the one chance here, Avery. I won't be offering it again, even if you chose to aid rather than allow me to eat my crow. Go on then, I'm listening yet again," and he lifts up a hand to display five fingers spread wide. The first finger curls inwards after he mouths 'five', eyebrows lifting high. On goes the count, one finger and mouthed word at a time: 'four…three…two…one…'

"Fine," Arlo says when the countdown starts. "Be nice to me. Just. Tonight, right now, be nice." He narrows his eyes. "Be real for a little while. I'm not coming up there. I'm not going to touch you. So just stand down, soldier."

One more listen into the night air, and he adds, "They're heading northeast." Of their position southwest, so that's good. "You got away with it this time."

The Englishman drops his hand and gives Arlo a rather disbelieving look, mouth hanging slightly open. He then blinks and looks beyond the young man once more. Indeed, the lights are turned off on the cruiser; he watches it turn on headlights and drive away down the street, disappearing off into the city once more.

"That's…all you want in return? For me to be…nice and…real?" he asks, frowning in confusion. Shifting his weight onto his other foot, he still takes half a step back, like as not out of unconscious habit.

"You've already paid my rent," Arlo says. "I've got food money for a month if I stretch it, a roof over my head. I don't know what you were stealing, but it's hot now, so what could I do with it except get in trouble?" He sits, legs dangling over the edge of the escape. He nods his head to gesture for Ambrose to come, relax.

"Do you know what I don't have? Anyone treating me with basic human dignity. So that's what I want. If I have to finagle to get it, well that's just sad, but that's where we are now."

"I'm…still uncertain of what you're asking after, Avery," the master-thief admits quietly, his mobile brows knitted yet. "I haven't done anything to your person, nor am I showing any form of anger. I am…about as present as I can figure, unless I've…suddenly died and this is all some twisted afterlife." He looks around the room and feels at his chest regardless of the absurdity of the statement, looking yet again relieved to find his heartbeat present beneath his palm.

He then wrinkles his nose at the offering to join Arlo on the fire escape. Mindful of the fact that the young man could have turned him in to the fuzz, he concedes to pushing the window all of the way up and sitting on the windowsill.

"Just keep being like this, then," Arlo says. "I've seen you turn mean on a dime, break my stuff, send me of with cops — I could've been killed!" His voice is a low hiss. He's not eager to draw any outward attention this way. "I'm sorry, by the way, for kissing you. That guy wasn't going to take the hint, and I knew you wouldn't get any funny ideas, because you can't stand me." His lips pull tight in almost a smile.

He's tense, stomach twisted in knots. The sounds of the city are starting to get to him, so he lets his senses fade into something approaching normal. "I know you're dangerous, but at the time, you were the safest option. That's all."

Ambrose tilts his head as he looks down at the young man. There are machinations going on behind those cerulean-blue eyes and little is revealed given the half-mast set of his lashes and tightness of jaw. Eventually, he lets out a long sigh.

"I think we need to straighten a few things out, young cockerel, if you're going to keep helping me." Yes, he just said that, and holds up a hand imperiously. "Aht — hold your tongue and allow me to finish my thought before I change my mind. Firstly, I acknowledge your apology. It was an imposition on your part and I cannot stress enough how foolish it was. Had I not the decades of self-control, you might have suffered more permanent loss of life. Secondly, I do not like being kept in enclosed spaces. There's a name for it these days, but I will do anything to reach freedom. Anything," he stresses more slowly and coldly, harrowingly-serious by the flinty glint in his eyes. "You received payment for your window, apparently enough to cover both rent and food by your standards. Thirdly, my intention in regards to the officers was to gain space, not to have you suffer at their hands. I do not dislike you to that extent. In fact, should you choose to accept my offer, I can see myself tolerating you rather than outright attempting to avoid you. After all, it would be lucrative to the both of us." He then lets his hand drop to his thigh, apparently ending his thoughts on matters.

Arlo arches a brow. If he's going to keep doing what, now? He eyes Ambrose, but he keeps his mouth shut. This ought to be good. He does listen, though, and for awhile, he's silent as he mulls it over. Looking down at the dark alley, he says, "I didn't know about the curse or the claustrophobia. The window's fine, it's just that I had to hide everything when the guys came to fix it, and I get so tired of having to hide. I wish I could just be normal. I try to be, but…" He shrugs a shoulder. "But then I end up being a freak again."

He considers the offer. "I could use money," he acknowledges. "I've tried to keep jobs, but when my senses get overloaded, I can't do anything, and they fire me after a day or two where I can't come in. I dropped out of school, don't have any skills, so… so yeah. I don't mind loaning out my power for what I need to survive."

"Quick lad," says Ambrose quietly, his lips curling into a pleased smile, wide enough to flash teeth briefly before he schools himself into a more mild expression again. "Yes, you'd be acting the lookout. Somehow, you were able to sense when the officers were on their way, even before I saw their lights. That is…invaluable to a man in my position. I presume you are one of the ones they call a mutant here in America. They were known by other names and titles in other countries, but I care not. Your actions were honorable and I don't mind the risk of taking on your loan. Risks are…" His gaze flicks to the night sky above and he laughs rather darkly. "…about all I left in this world to entertain me at heart."

He looks to Arlo again. "As I have mentioned before, I do not care as to your proclivities. The world is made from many and I cannot expect anyone to hold to my societal expectations. That is a fruitless quest and has been proven to me time and time again. The…" His throat bobbles. "The angel must have told you of the curse, I suppose. Then you are fully aware of its dangers. Know too that there is no honor amongst thieves, in the end, even though I strive for it. I would prefer that you do your utmost to remain out of the hands of the officers." In other words…don't get caught.

"The lady next door saw the window," Arlo says. "She called the cops. I could hear you moving around upstairs, so a pinpointed you and…" He taps his temple. "Threw my hearing at you. It's just one of my mutie parlor tricks." He smiles thinly. "Speaking of being a freak."

His brow furrows as he looks at Ambrose. "Yeah, I'm glad it doesn't bother you. I still hate that I gotta do it." He shrugs then and counts off on his fingers. One, "You mentioned a curse to the angel." Two, "When I kissed you, my lips went numb, and you've been talking about how it could've killed me." Three, "You carry yourself like someone who's been driven mad by something eating away at them for God knows how long. I'm uneducated, not blind."

He stretches, then settles again. "The last thing I want to do is end up in the hands of the officers. Boys like me don't live long in prison."

Social mirroring is inescapable. Ambrose looks away briefly in order to rearrange himself so he's sitting with one leg bent in the windowsill and the other hanging out, his back semi-curled against the frame. Once settled, he folds his arms and looks back to Arlo.

"Unfortunately, no, they do not," he agrees with no delight in tone. "Such is the world." A pause. "…and I do not carry myself like that," he replies in a near-growl, gaze narrowing towards the young man on the fire escape.

"Look," Arlo says, calm and self-assured in this at least, "I notice things. All those little tics and twitches you think no one saw? I did. The timbre of your voice, your delivery, the distance you put up, the way you looked when you told me not to touch you."

He waves a hand. "Relax, most people are never going to see it. They're too busy inside their own heads to notice stuff like that. But for me, it just all gets in, whether I want it to or not."

This level of sensory accuracy is news to Ambrose, but not the best given how he's now nearly side-eyeing the young man as if intending to curl away. One can almost see the hackles beginning to rise.

"…and all of this information came to you via your five senses…nothing beyond that? No mental chicanery?" the master-thief asks in deadly earnest.

"Just the five," Arlo says. He glances aside at Ambrose, and he sits up a little, but he leans back, a subtle giving of space. There, there, Ambrose. There's no danger here. He's just a thin young mutant who maybe pays too much attention, but look at him. He's harmless.

With a quiet sigh, Arlo adds, "I just observe what I observe. And I won't tell anyone about what I see in you, because I know what it's like to have secrets and be at someone else's mercy about them."

"I can imagine you dislike it intensely then," he replies to the last thought. "I empathize." The tension through the brunet's shoulders loosens until he's merely folding arms and not attempting to show biceps through the thin layer of black athletic jacket. "I sincerely hope you will keep your thoughts to yourself on matters then. I don't need anyone sticking their nose into my business…and that includes yours, Avery. You are lookout and that is the extent of your presence during my escapades. Is this clear?" Ambrose is looking Arlo dead in the eyes now as if attempting to see if he has his own tells to secret plans within his skull. No mental abilities to be found in the master-thief, after all. He must rely on what he can see alone.

Arlo rolls his eyes as he says, "Yes, sir, whatever you say, sir. If you don't want me knowing your business, don't put it out there for me to see. I can't help it if you've got no poker face. Just take comfort in the fact that, and I cannot stress this enough, I don't care what your gig is. You've got shit, I've got shit, we're all having a shitty time in this shitty world."

There doesn't seem to be any master plan coming from the young man, though if he's a true master manipulator, how would anyone tell? He just sits on the edge of the fire escape, shoulders curled inward. Beneath the brittle armor, there's vulnerability. Mutant or not, he's just a kid.

From the windowsill comes a sudden whispering rill of laughter. At one point, Ambrose must put a hand over his mouth and roll his eyes towards the starry skies above.

"Whew…and here I thought I had a dreary outlook on things. You make me seem a cheery daffodil in comparison, Avery." He's smiling now, the tiniest bit, true given that it's echoed faintly in his eyes. "I suppose it can't be helped, on second consideration, that you may be able to…read the nuances of the human form. Life must be both infinitely interesting and disappointing for you."

Arlo bows his head at the laughter, and he half-smiles despite himself. "I used to be an outgoing and optimistic kid," he says. The smile fades. "Now I read people just to get through another day, and yeah, infinitely interesting and disappointing about covers it."

He looks at Ambrose a moment, and those dark eyes do seem to take in everything. "I want people to be good," he says. "I want them to care about what happens to me. But they aren't and they don't. You'd think by now I would stop looking for it, but what can I say? I was an optimistic kid."

Ambrose shakes his head and then leans it back against the frame of the window. His eyes fall to a lazy half-shut state and he looks off somewhere beyond Arlo, into the city and beyond further yet given the minute slackenings of his face.

"There's nothing to be lost by being optimistic. I recommend learning to balance out disappointment with the realization that people will be people, in the end. You may be one amongst millions, but you are yourself and no one else. You and you alone…" He places the subtle emphasis on the last word and thins his lips even as he sighs through his nose. "I do what I must. You do the same. No one can fault us for these states. People being good…?" He shrugs and seems to come back to the present to glance over at Arlo. "Good is relative. 'Kind' is as well, to an extent. What I've noticed over the decades is that goodness…kindness…these things are reciprocated, even if to a lesser degree than initially offered. You have your angel. That's more than nearly all of humanity can claim," he points out lightly.

Arlo laughs a little and says, "Yeah, I have the angel. Still not sure how to wrap my head around that one, or why me out of everyone else. You know, I never stopped believing in God, but this guy's got me rethinking just how much I hate Him for making me the way I am."

Despite the content of his words, mention of the angel does soften his features and warm his voice. "I'm still half-convinced he's just a mutant with more mental problems than most."

"And he may be as such, addled with ideas about divinity, but you are not alone in this world." Ambrose then closes his eyes and sighs yet again, leaning his head against the base line of the lifted window-pane. It ruffles up his hair the slightest. "You have that going in your favor and should you ever forget it, you are beyond saving, I think. I would envy you, but it would be a waste of my time. Instead, I wish you well in your relations. From what I can gather of your outlook on life, you need him dearly."

"I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop with him," Arlo says. "I haven't known him long, so we'll see. I've tried to slow him down, but he's like a freight train. He just hits you and you're knocked flat." He shakes his head. That angel, though.

"You know, you wouldn't have to be alone if you weren't so damned determined to be," he points out. "You could have at least friendly acquaintances."

One eye opens and slides to give one half of a gimlet glare at Arlo. It then hides away again as Ambrose snuggles up more against the window frame. With one knee bent, he seems almost content to stay there and perhaps even nap, fruitless as the attempt would be in the the mildly-muggy summer night.

"What, and then have people attempting to bring themselves closer to me in turn? No. That ends in death, young cockerel. Invariably, they succumb. I would rather spare myself the grief," he replies evenly.

"I won't touch you," Arlo says, "so there's that. Besides, I imagine there are a lot of people out there who don't want to touch you. There's the angel. I doubt you could hurt him if you tried. I get it, though. One way or another, it would end badly. Either you'd never get to be close enough, or you'd hurt them."

He draws his legs up from where they dangle, and as he turns, he reassures, "Still not going to touch you." Or come any closer, from the look of it. "I'm just thinking it's getting late, and I think I could sleep tonight."

Ambrose stretches where he sits, lifting shoulders and extending fingers, before he settles in once more.

"Thank you, Avery, for your respect in matters. I would hate to lose such a promising lookout so early in our prospective partnership. It would be a waste." Creepy and yet true nonetheless. "Your faith in mankind's ability to attempt acquaintanceship with me is also noted. Who knows? Perhaps I'll find someone else beyond your damned angel whom I can be around without fear of dropping them where they stand." By his tone and pained smile, he doubts it and makes mockery as such.

"Begone with you then," he adds, his eyes traveling down and up Arlo once. "I shall contact you when the time comes. I remember well enough where you live." By the wry twist of lips, he does indeed. Panic tends to tattoo vivid memories.

Arlo rises to his feet, and he stretches, catlike. "He's a nice angel once you get to know him," Arlo says, "and learn that when you're around him, you're not the one in control. God, that must terrify you." As he climbs down the fire escape, he says, "The new window doesn't catch anymore, so you don't have to break it, okay?" He's just never going to let that go, is he.

The master-thief scowls at Arlo's comment about lacking control and does not deign to address it. He wrinkles his nose before rolling his eyes.

"Mayhaps I'll break your window again out of spite, cockerel, and leave you a second payment for my efforts," he offers before grinning toothily. "Still…no, that would indeed be spiteful and, while gratifying, not encourage cooperation. You may keep your angel to yourself. Sleep well when you do."

It appears that Ambrose intends to at least spend some of the night where he is, tucked neatly in the windowsill. Beyond that? Only he knows, sleepless as he is cursed to be.

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