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“It may not hurt to try to see the play and find out if it’s relevant?” Thys suggested. “Perhaps talk to Lithway directly, if we can. It may not benefit us, but I hardly see how it could hurt to try.”
Viv nodded. She’d been thinking the same thing. “Do you know them? Lithway, I mean?”
“Not personally. I think Dandelion might,” Thys said. “They’re both local entertainers.”
Surprised, Viv raised her brows. “Aren’t you also?”
“I am,” Thys said, “but I’m not the same…sort? I am not a celebrity. I perform locally, though I’ve only started recently to do so publicly instead of simply posting my music online, and I have a small following, but I keep to myself. Dandelion appears at events, does interviews, that sort of thing. He is not at Lithway’s level, of course, since Lithway is an international star, but for a folk rock singer he does, you know… well.”
“I get you,” Viv said, though any level of celebrity status had always seemed out of reach to her. “He’s rubbing shoulders with the big guns.”
Thys stared at her for long enough that Viv was 100% certain they had no idea what she meant by that. “Yes,” they said finally. “Sure.”
Viv ducked her head, blushing. “Anyway, the point is, we should be calling Dandelion anyway to let him know we’re okay and what we’ve been up to. And, I mean, Matthias talked about bringing in any of a huge variety of heavy hitters, but… maybe we should just stick with the fae? Between you and Dandelion we have an in.”
“I… don’t know about that,” Thys said, fidgeting. “Neither of us have court connections, not any more. Dandelion was exiled, so he can’t go back. And if I went back, even if just to take command and lead an army, I wouldn’t be allowed to return here. I’d be expected to assume my duties, and… I won’t do that.”
It felt like there was a huge depth of background there which Viv had barely touched on. She wondered if it would be rude to ask, and settled on an uncertain, “Oh yeah?”
“Yes. But,” they added, swirling their cup to get the sludgy detritus up from the bottom, “I suppose we have some fans. Dandelion more, as I said. And friends in the business. He’s got connections among solitary fae here, and I can probably call in a few favors myself. So. Perhaps, if we didn’t rely on court favors and official power, but in a …ragtag group of misfits? We may be able to arrange that.”
“It’s worth mentioning, anyway,” Viv said, and dialed.
Dandelion picked up on the second ring. “Hey. It’s me. You’re alive, huh?”
“Uh, to the best of my knowledge, yes,” Viv said. She caught Dandelion up quickly—it wasn’t as if they’d been up to all that much since they’d last seen each other—and gave him a rundown of their plan so far. “So right now we’re just going ahead with that. The play feels like it’s probably just an interesting coincidence, but at this point, anything relevant feels like it’s possibly significant. Do you think we should pursue it?”
“Which, going to the play or talking to Lithway?” Dandelion asked, audibly uncomfortable.
“Either, but the latter most. I mean, I assume if we talk to Lithway they could summarize the play?” Viv ventured. “Why do you sound so nervous? Is something about Lithway dangerous?”
A sigh. “I doubt Lithway would hurt a fly in any way that anyone would find out about,” Dandelion said, “but they’re kind of a bit much. Do you know anything about them?”
“Not really beyond what everyone knows. Big celebrity, activist, demi-male, shadow person actor?”
“Right, yes. Just… shadowfolk are pretty freaky. Nobody knows where they come from except the shadowfolk themselves, and they’re hardly ever seen. That Lithway is on stage as a major player seems like an absurdity because, before they stepped up and started their theatre, shadowfolk were basically just an urban legend even among monsters. We don’t know what they eat, what they want, where they are. All we know is they can travel through shadows, and shape their shadowy form into any shape they like.”
“So is this a no go on Lithway? Too dangerous?” Viv sort of pulled a face at Thys, who was doing their best to eavesdrop. “Thys thought you two were maybe friends.”
“I wouldn’t say friends, but we’re friendly. It’s not a no go, just… be careful what you get yourself tangled up in. Lithway is legit, but shadowfolk in general are pretty feared. Anyway, where are you?”
“Theatre’s not far from there.” Dandelion was quiet for a couple of seconds. “I’ll make some calls. Head up that way and ask in the lobby. If Lithway doesn’t have the time I’ll get the folks there to let you know, but if they do take interest, you don’t want to leave them waiting.”
Viv couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable after all those warnings, but what could she do? She just nodded. “Okay. Will do. Thanks so much. Uh, one other thing?”
“If we needed to get. Um. A Solitary Fae posse backing us up, do you think…?” She trailed off hopefully.
“I mean,” Dandelion said, “It’d either take time to round them up, or, if you wanted a group fast, they’d definitely want blood before the night was out. None of them want to waste their time for nothing. So I can do it, and would gladly do it for Thys’s sake, but make sure you know what you’re doing before you have me make the call. That said, I can do it through the Good Neighbours pretty fast if needed.”
Something occurred to Viv. “Oh! Speaking of the Good Neighbours. We’d been thinking that this first attack was on Thys, right? But I was reading that there were known disappearances around the pub. Do you think it’s related?”
For a moment, the silence was so complete that she thought the call had disconnected.
And then Dandelion laughed. It wasn’t altogether a pleasant sound. “Oh. No, Viv, no. That’s just our own doing. The fae like to play with humans, after all. I’ll make that call to the Theatre, now; say hi to the spouse for me.”
“What do you-” This time, Dandelion had hung up. “Weirdo,” she muttered at the phone.
Thys blinked at her mildly. “It sounds as if he wants us to head to the theatre now?”
“Yeah, he does.” Viv rose, offering Thys a hand up. “We may or may not meet Lithway, but sounds like there’s no time to waste in case we’re going to.”
“Oh. Thank you,” Thys said, and took her hand.
The two of them headed out, waving to Matthias on the way out, and began to walk up the hill. Viv let Thys lead the way; she’d only looked at maps previously, but Thys lived here, and had lived here for… well, a while, she assumed.
She tightened her hand on Thys’s, feeling it warm in her own. That steady trickle of energy was still draining from her, with no change or end in sight. “How are you doing?” she asked.
“Your health,” Viv said. “I mean, your energy. It feels the same to me, but I’m not sure how it feels to you.”
“Oh,” Thys said. They squeezed their hand on Viv’s, then loosened it. “Do you want to stop?”
“I didn’t say that,” Viv said. “I want to know how you’re feeling now.”
“No change since yesterday,” Thys said. “Since I got hooked up and started to feel better. I was assuming that was normal, but…”
Viv hissed a breath in through her teeth. “I feel like you should at least be feeling at least a little better. Then again, you came awfully close to death. Maybe it’ll take a few days before you’re feeling better at all. I mean, most illnesses have a few days of recovery, right?”
“Do they?” Thys asked. “I suppose so. I can call Isaac later and ask, if we want.”
“Might be an idea if you’re not feeling better in, like, 24 hours or something,” Viv agreed. “Probably before that, it’s too soon to tell. But let me know if anything changes? Better or worse. I’m worried about you.”
Thys tilted their head, watching Viv with those dark eyes wide. “You’re worried?”
“Of course I am!” Viv squeezed their hand hard, heart aching at the surprise in Thys’s voice. “I care about you. A lot, okay? We’re friends already and. And I want you to know that.”
“Oh, I.” Thys ducked their head. “Same. The same. I like you too.”
Viv blushed, grinning over at them. “Well, thanks. I’d hate you to tie yourself to someone you didn’t like.”
“Oh, that. That didn’t happen, no,” Thys agreed, voice soft. “I’m very happy to be with you.”
The words left Viv in a guiltily pleasant haze that only cleared when she realized they were approaching the Theatre of Dreams. The name of the theatre was outlined in bright lights over the glass doors, and the theatre itself was set into the facade of what had once been an old apartment building. It didn’t look like there was a box office window on the outside, so Viv tested the door and found it unlocked.
Sure enough, the main lobby contained a ticket booth and bar, with a bored-looking spider-woman seated behind the ticket booth. A couple was noisily making out in the shadows of the stairway off the lobby, which Viv had to assume was contributing to the aggravated look on the ticket seller’s face.
Viv and Thys headed over to the ticket booth, Viv trying not to let her hand get too clammy in Thys’s. It wasn’t exactly the nicest thing, but she’d always been a bit afraid of spiders. “Excuse me,” Viv said. “I don’t know if this is out of line, but a friend, Dandelion, he said he was going to try to let us talk to Lithway?”
The ticket seller lifted a finger, pointing past them wordlessly.
Viv jumped and turned, almost dragging Thys with her in her effort not to be rude to this apparently super-famous celebrity—and blinked. All there was behind them was the noisy couple.
—who separated abruptly with a wet noise. “There you are!” one of them said, in a strange, soft, lulling voice.
The other, a young human man with brown hair and freckles, who read as a witch to Viv’s senses, went bright red when he saw that there were people there staring at him. “Sorry, I was, uh. I was just on my way out,” he yelped, and scurried toward the doorway.
The person left behind had originally seemed like they were in shadow; now, with their partner on his way out the door, it was very clear they were in fact made of shadow. It curled around them in smoke-like tendrils, but also very clearly made up their body: they had the appearance of a beautiful young man, almost classically Grecian in their perfectly muscled form, their tousle of curly hair, their beautiful soft cheeks, their brilliantly charming smile. Yet all of it was made of shadow made solid somehow, the angles and shapes defined by the density of of that darkness.
“Welcome to my Theatre of Dreams,” Lithway said, still in that soft, yearning voice, and swept into a bow. A moment later, they were in front of Viv and Thys without having seemed to have moved, changing positions in a blink. “My old friend Dandelion asked if I could talk to the both of you as a favor, and I admit to being curious enough to take him up on it! That, and I suppose one can always use a favor from as delightful a young man as Dandelion is. Then, you must be Vivian, and her fairy lover, the singer Thysania.”
“Uh,” Viv said.
Lithway took Thysania’s hand and kissed it. “How may I be of service to you?”
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