We probably don't have too much time to spare, but at least I can touch base with one of the teens...
Nathan smiled back at his coworker. "Guess I should have told you this sooner, huh?" he teased. "Never really thought about having any help in this. I guess... I guess I just thought I was supposed to go at it alone."
"Better late than never," Scott said, his smile widening as he offered Nathan his hand and pulled him to his feet. "And the way I see it: why go at it alone when you've got people who can help you? Lead the way, and I'll follow."
The writer nodded, telling him he'd like to touch base with Avery first, since he was the first one he helped (and starting where it originally began seemed like a good idea). The men gave a brief farewell to Enya and the band, saying they had another errand they wanted to run before it got to be too late (Nathan signed to Enya what they were really up to), and then quickly headed back outside to the car. It had already gotten dark and the December air was dry and bitingly cold. Scott shivered, rubbing his arms for warmth while he hopped in on the passenger's side. "Getting chilly. Wish I'd brought my heavier coat."
Nathan nodded, putting the car into drive and heading off down the street. "You know, we might actually run into Wren while we're out too, since they both work at the same place. Maybe we'll actually get even more done."
The drive to the Golden Frog wasn't long, but it was a busy night there, so finding parking was difficult. Nathan ended up squeezing between a fence and a truck that had pulled up right along the painted line, forcing both of them to wriggle out of the car. Scott rolled his eyes once he was free. "Good thing I'm tall and not wide..." he mumbled. They wasted little time after that, following the crowd inside, getting in line for a table so they could more easily scan the restaurant for Avery's distinctive curly crop of blonde hair.
"This could take a while," Nathan realized, especially since patrons outnumber waiters by so many, it was much harder to pick them out of the crowd. Scott, on the other hand, tapped his foot impatiently.
"I've got this; stay here and keep looking, just in case," he said, squirming out of the crowd to head over to the carry-out counter. As soon as he was out of sight, Nathan started to get antsy.
There sure were a lot of people there, and the line was moving faster than he'd thought. Would he have to talk to someone? A waiter, or worse, one of the other patrons? His hands became icy cold, his breathing quick. What if he had to arrange for a table, even though they weren't staying to eat? Should he anyway? Should he just say they were looking for Avery? He looked down at the floor, trying to ignore the crowd of people he was sure was staring in on him, noticing... just noticing. This was a bad idea, he knew it. He should have called ahead, asked over the phone, anything else. Why had he thought that driving here would be...?
Nathan jumped when someone suddenly grabbed his arm, looking at Scott in surprise when he said nothing and dragged him outside, where there was less crowd and less noise. "You okay, Kink?" he asked first, touching his face, feeling his forehead, noticing his distress. The writer wrinkled his nose and shook his head.
"I-I haven't been here when it was so crowded before..."
"Deep breaths. You'll be fine. We need to head out anyway."
"What? Why?" Nathan looked at him in confusion. "What about Avery?"
"I just talked to one of the managers." Scott was already headed back towards the car. "Avery was fired last month. He was caught with his hands in the till."
"What?!" Nathan hurried after him, having a hard time believing this. "Scott, that doesn't sound like him at all, at least not what I remember of him. The first time I met him, he ran after me with my wallet." He stopped for a moment. "Well, not that there was much in there, but still..."
"That may be true, and I don't doubt his personality has changed that much, even with your reset." The reporter stopped next to the car and frowned. "But that's the problem: your reset. Before, we know he was homeless and working at the Golden Frog, but after his ordeal with Avarice, things worked out, right?"
Nathan unlocked the car and nodded while they both tried to squeeze back in. "Right. He was adopted by a veterinarian once he was released from the hospital for his injuries."
"Right, but this time around, that never happened." Scott put his hands on top of the car and stared at Nathan, his pale eyes darkening under the glow of the streetlights. "He was never hurt, never went to the hospital, never the subject of a news story that brought his situation to the attention of the populace..."
"... and, oh shit." Nathan covered his mouth as realization sank in. "Never adopted." Panic flashed across his face. "Avery's still homeless."
"Homeless," Scott agreed, climbing into the car. "And somewhere out in the freezing cold. We need to find him."
Nathan was quick to follow, starting up the car as quickly as he could. This couldn't be happening. Things had been going so well for the teen, and now he was in a worse situation than before...
A knot tightened in the writer's chest. This was his fault.
"M-maybe he's at Wren's," he stuttered hopefully, but Scott was quick to shake his head.
"I talked to the manager, Nathan. He was very livid about me even asking, and made it quite clear that he never wanted to even hear Avery's name again. Wren's the manager's son. I highly doubt he's there."
"Damn it!" Nathan banged his hands on the steering wheel. If he wasn't with Wren, he could be anywhere in Virtue. His first thought had been hopeful, but the next one that came to mind made dread curl in his stomach. "He... he'd been living in the drainage pipes before. God, I hope he's not there."
Scott paled. "In this weather? It's already well below freezing. Add water to the mix..." He shook his head. "We need to start somewhere. Maybe he was smart enough to go to the church, or try to break into the school, or something."
Suddenly, an idea popped into Nathan's head. "Maybe the angels can help." He turned to Scott, holding on to that last glimmer of hope. "Even if none of them know where he is, maybe one of them can help expedite finding him."
His coworker smiled lightly, but didn't seem particularly thrilled by his suggestion. "Whatever you think is best, Kink. This is your show to run. Whatever we do, we need to do it soon. In this cold, time is not on our side."
We have to find Avery and quickly. I could ask one of the angels for help, or we could search alone, but no matter what I do, I have to do it soon. Scott's right: it's really cold out there...