[Please read the instructions before jumping in!]
Thysania was the moth that Viv had rescued from her cats this morning. Fae were known to be shapeshifters; they were infamous for it. If Thysania was one of those—no, Viv couldn’t even entertain anything else, not now. Thysania was that moth. It would explain why Thys had recognized her, why they so clearly trusted Viv even when Viv had no idea who they were.
“I already offered to give you energy, didn’t I?” Viv blurted out. “Just, at the time, I thought you needed sugar water.”
Isaac and Dandelion were staring at her like she was crazy—but Thysania grinned, mouth dark on the inside. Viv couldn’t tell if they had any teeth or if their mouth, like their eyes, was just a black hole.
“You did,” Thysania said. “You offered.”
“Holy shit,” Viv said. She felt weak, but tried not to show it. The last thing any of them needed was her passing out. At least a medic was already here if it did happen. “That was just a few hours ago. Shit, wait, the attack on you, that wasn’t Beano, was it?”
“Beano?” all three of them echoed.
“One of my cats—I rescued a moth from my cat this evening,” Viv said. She felt like she was babbling. “I think he’d been batting it, them, around on the other side of my curtain. Was that you? It was you. You can turn into a moth?”
“I can turn into a moth,” Thysania said. “I can turn into many moths.” They hadn’t lowered their hand and were still smiling, cheery and strange. “Yes. It was me.”
Viv did sway this time, but just flopped back against the couch. “Damn. I’m so sorry about Beano, he’s just—”
“Oh. No. The attack wasn’t your cat,” Thysania said. They continued to stand where they were, thin arm outstretched. “I saw something. I saw something, and I got attacked, so I fled. It’s been calling me, and it hurt me, and it almost caught me, but I fled. I tried to get back to my apartment, but I was hurt, and confused, and weak. I found the wrong window. Then Beano found me. Then you found me. Then you held me. Then you offered me sugar water. Then I left.”
“This is not the most coherent retelling,” Dandelion informed them.
“I am not feeling my best,” they retorted, gaze still—apparently—locked on Viv.
Knowing that it wasn’t remotely her own fault that Thys had been so badly hurt made Viv’s racing heart calm a little. She drew a slow breath. “No, I guess you’re not, huh?” She looked at Isaac. “Is the …battery hookup permanent?”
“Not at all. We can set plenty of terms on it,” Isaac said, his brow furrowed. “Were you planning to offer? It will interfere with your ability to do serious magic.”
So he’d detected her magic potential, just as she’d noticed his. Her cheeks flushed but she kept herself steady as she said, “I don’t have the ability to do serious magic. I’ve got enough of it in me but all I can do is minor divination. So I can spare some, and you know, if I offer something in spirit, I’d rather see that through even if it takes a different form than what I meant.”
“I see,” Isaac said. He sighed, then gave her a little smile. “If you need a teacher…?”
He obviously meant it kindly, but it made her feel a little worse anyway. “I’ve had teachers before. Thank you, though. Just hook us up?”
She reached out then, and took Thysania’s hand. It was a little rough, a little dusty-feeling, and their fingers felt slightly frail as they curled their hand around Viv’s.
Thysania didn’t move to the couch, though, which made Viv feel awkward for a few seconds before she just got up instead. “How do you need me?”
“This is fine,” Isaac said. He was tracing shapes in the air in front of them. “I’ll set it so that if your own energy drops too low, it disconnects, and if theirs reaches a healthy stability, it also disconnects. You’ll need to stay relatively near to each other in the meantime or you’ll start to lose the connection—about 100 feet, I’d say.”
Viv tugged Thysania’s hand gently. “Is that okay? You said you wanted to go home.”
Viv’s jaw dropped. “We’re next door neighbours? When you say you picked the wrong window, that was why?”
Thysania bobbed their head. “Literally the wrong window.”
“That’s—” Viv was unable to speak for a moment as the spell caught. She grimaced at the feeling of it, the tug against her energy, the uncomfortable sense of being drawn out of herself. For a moment, adrenaline surged. This could kill her if there were no restrictions or no care taken.
But there were restrictions, and it was being done with care. She let her breath out slowly. “Thanks,” she said awkwardly.
Isaac nodded. He looked equally awkward; presumably, this wasn’t his favorite thing to do.
“Okay,” Dandelion said. He held up both hands. “I understand you want to go home, Thys, and you’ve bound yourself to someone now in a way that enforces that, but can I walk you both home? I want to hear more about what happened to you.” He said it lightly, but there was a weight to it, an anger, that Viv could just distantly make out.
She wondered if it was because Thys knew Dandelion well enough to notice. They were connected now; she wouldn’t be surprised if there were some ways they started to spill over into each other.
Thys bobbed their head at Dandelion, and he grimaced. “All right,” he said. “I just need to talk to the band and the bar. I’m supposed to go on again after this, but I’m obviously not going to.”
He headed away, and Isaac, too, headed over with him; presumably he wanted to let the restaurant staff know all was well. Viv looked down at her own hand in Thys’s, decided she didn’t want to let go just in case the spell was still settling in, and sat on the couch again, tugging Thys down.
“Hi,” Thys said, sitting neatly beside her.
Viv couldn’t help herself; she cracked a smile. “Hi,” she said. “Are you sure you want to go home? If you were attacked there, I mean…”
“I wasn’t attacked in my apartment, just the building,” Thys said. And then, like it was obvious, “I live in my apartment.”
“Okay, yes.” It was fair enough. Even if Viv were attacked at home, it’s not like she’d just leave either—though in her case, it was mostly because of the cats. “You think you’ll be safe there?”
“Mmm. I don’t know.”
Viv looked down at their fingers, still folded together. “But…”
“I don’t want to be chased off,” Thys said, and some of that manic strangeness had gone away abruptly, replaced by a kind of tiredness. “I want to find what hurt me and get rid of it.”
Viv frowned at their hands. She knew that if Thysania’s apartment building wasn’t safe, and they lived in the same apartment building, that meant her apartment building wasn’t safe either.
Somehow, it didn’t seem like a shock. She’d felt off about it all evening, and she knew she hadn’t been the only one. Yasmin, who had delivered her food, had been visibly on edge and had said the power outages were more frequent in that building specifically. And—
“Thys, do you know Varsha? Does she live in our building too?”
“She lives on the fourth floor.”
Yeah, Viv had started to suspect as much, just from Varsha’s own comments about the power outages in her building. She sighed. “Okay,” she said. “I really want to get to the bottom of this.”
“You and me both.” Dandelion was back now, standing over them. He’d put on a leather jacket and had his hands shoved in his pockets. “Let’s talk as we walk. Isaac’s cleared you to travel now that you’re getting your…transfusion.”
“Mm.” Thysania rose, tugging Viv to her feet with surprising strength. If she hadn’t got up, she was pretty sure Thysania would have lifted her straight up, still in her sitting position. “The night is getting late.”
Viv wasn’t sure that was reassuring, but Thysania seemed determined to get home, and Viv could no longer go too far from them without losing the connection. “Right. So. Let me run this past you.”
As they walked back to their apartment, Viv explained what she’d encountered in her few short hours there. She talked about the things she’d heard about the power outages, she talked about the dead moths she’d seen in the elevator room, and she mentioned the bad smell in the garbage room, her feeling like something was wrong there before she’d been run off by her own embarrassment at the janitor seeing her being weird.
“I don’t understand how it’s connected,” Viv said, “but I feel like it has to be. My only real power is in divination—but that means I’m really good at drawing the right conclusion, you know? So… I want to investigate. If my building isn’t safe, I need to know so I can…” What, run away? “I don’t know. We can’t leave it like this, can we?” And then, tentatively—it seemed like a lot to ask of a pair of powerful fae—”Do you want to help?”
“I have to,” Thysania said. “I think you’re right. I do. You see, the power thing, it sings to me. When the lights are on normally, it’s fine. But sometimes, they flicker, and it calls me. It calls, and it’s so hard not to answer. And when the light goes out, when it’s dark, I’m lost.”
“Thys…” Dandelion murmured, concerned.
“I can answer some of your concerns,” Thys said. “The garbage room, I think you’re right. I brought some trash down and I saw… Someone was hurt? And this dark thing was over them. I didn’t see either well, because I ran. I fled to the safety of the elevator. I like the elevator room; it’s always so bright there. But it stopped at the main floor and the dark thing was there. The lights flickered, and made me freeze as it sang to me, then they went out. It was so dark. Something attacked me, and I shook it off. I fled. I turned into moths and only part of me got away. The rest of me got …hurt. I don’t know what happened. I tried to go home, where I’d put up all my safeties, but…”
“But you got lost.” Viv’s hand was numb in Thys’s, and she didn’t think it was the cold of the night. They were approaching their apartment now; it looked lovely, as good a place as it had in its pictures when Viv’s aunt first picked it out, the lobby well-lit and its light shining out to the sidewalk outside. She found herself slowing, reluctant. “And you found me.”
Thys nodded. “I found you.”
Dandelion let out a rough breath. He, too, had stopped; all three of them stood on the pavement outside, looking up at the building. “Well,” he said, finally. “What do you want to do?”
[Please suggest an action in the Comments.
Have your comments in by 4 pm PST Oct 10]