[Please read the instructions before jumping in!]
They were all silent a moment, considering their options. Finally, Viv sighed.
“I think,” she began, “that you might be right and we should go to bed. For one thing, we probably want to talk to a bunch of the neighbours to hear what they think, and… I mean, while some of them are probably night-dwellers, most of them aren’t going to want to be disturbed at midnight.”
“True,” Dandelion said. “Can you trust them?”
He seemed to be asking them both; Thys shrugged. “Some of them, I think so,” they said. “I don’t know everyone beyond seeing them in passing, though.”
“I think we can at least talk to Varsha,” Viv said. “She’s got an alibi, since she was already working at the Good Neighbours at the time. And we can just see what other people think if we run into them, right? We don’t have to directly mention a murder, obviously.”
“True,” Thysania said. And then, a little reluctantly, “And… I am low on energy. And you are actively being drained. Even if it is not the ideal situation for either of us to rest, I imagine we may be able to sleep after all.”
“Sounds good,” Dandelion said. “Then, may I suggest we get away from this murder site and up to your apartments?”
“Yeah. Can you ward both of ours?” Viv asked.
“Mine is already warded!” Thysania exclaimed with mild indignation.
Dandelion put a hand on their arm and squeezed gently as he led the two of them away from the garbage room, back to the elevator room. “I doubt she meant it as an insult, Thys. If I put up a couple of wards inside, perhaps the… can we call them the perp? The perp will not notice until they’re already in, and could get caught in the act.”
“Oh god,” Viv muttered to herself. “The perp.”
“No, granted, this is a ‘perp’ situation,” Viv said, throwing her hands up. “Valid!”
They headed back upstairs. As Vivian rounded up her cats and Thysania helped her carry their litter boxes and food next door for the evening, Dandelion placed some wards on the inside of her apartment, then in Thysania’s. They felt odd to Vivian’s senses, but she supposed they would; she was used to human magic, not the inherent strange presence of fae through their workings. Fae didn’t really use spells, after all, they had an innate power that they cast out over the things they claimed, their glamours.
And with that done, Dandelion ducked down to kiss Thysania on the brow, and offered a hand to Viv, who shook it only a little awkwardly. “Call me if you need anything,” he said.
“Oh, shit, yes. We should exchange cell numbers,” Viv said, and made sure all three of them did.
When Dandelion had left, Viv lowered herself to sit on Thysania’s couch with a sigh. “Right,” she said. “Do you have spare blankets?”
“Yes, I can dig some up. You want to sleep out here?”
Viv felt herself blush. “That’s probably for the best,” she said quickly. “I mean, I don’t want to put you out. And this way we have someone in both major rooms! To be alerted if anything happens.”
“Oh, that’s true,” Thysania said. They headed to a closet, where they dug out some spare linens, nudging Notch to the side with a foot as he attempted to slip inside.
Viv watched for a moment, strangely happy to see how comfortable Thys seemed to be with just manhandling her cats. They were exploring the apartment and getting themselves underfoot entirely as they did so, but Thys seemed almost to enjoy it.
After a moment, though, Viv shook herself out of her reverie. It was inappropriate; as she’d already reminded herself, she’d just got out of a relationship and shouldn’t be rebounding, and besides, Thys was a powerful fae and had a million better options.
“I’m going to attempt a divination to see if I can learn more about our enemy,” she announced, as Thys carried over a pile of blankets and a pillow. She’d brought her quote book with her, so she grabbed that from the coffee table where she’d dropped it, and focused on it. It was harder than usual, as Isaac had warned her it would be, like she was walking the wrong way up an escalator. She wondered if she’d worn herself out a little, between the energy she was pouring into Thys and the dowsing she’d done across the entire building.
Still, she gathered what she hoped was enough, and flipped the book open, reading the page where her finger fell.
“The human face is, after all, nothing more nor less than a mask.”
– Agatha Christie
“Ughh,” she said aloud.
Thys sat next to her, leaning down to look at it themself. “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. It sounds spooky though, huh?”
“Oh so spooky,” Thys agreed.
For a moment, they contemplated it in a mutual silence, and then Viv sighed, snapping the book shut. “Well,” she said. “I guess we should get some sleep, huh?”
“I suppose so.” Thys rose, but remained bent over Viv for a long moment, gazing at her. For a moment, heartstoppingly and confusingly, Viv thought they were going to kiss her.
And then they just put a hand on Viv’s head and ruffled her hair. “Goodnight, then,” they said. They snagged their guitar on the way past, and shut the door into their bedroom.
It took Viv a long time to fall asleep, listening to Thys play the guitar through the bedroom wall. Listening to Thys sing along, a haunting contralto tone with words that Viv couldn’t make out, but which made her ache with loneliness nevertheless.
Viv woke around noon the next day, and wandered around getting her cats fed and trying not to make a mess. It looked like a dreary, overcast fall day out there, and the threat of rain and chill of the air were clear from her cats’ uneasy postures and restless bathing.
Not long after Viv started moving around, Thys wandered out of their bedroom. They were wearing a brown and white pants suit this time, and there was no sign of their cloak—making Viv once again question whether they were wings or not.
Then again, selkies were fae too, and they literally carried their skin around as a separate part, so who knew?
“Good morning,” Thys said. It was hard to see how sleepy they were or weren’t with their eyes solid black, but they were rubbing them as if blurry. “Breakfast smoothie?”
“Oh! Yeah, sure, that sounds great.” Viv smiled, watching Thys get down a variety of fruits and pour them into their blender, along with some yogurt and honey. She reached out to that connection between them, trying to test her own energy level and see if she could tell how Thys was doing—and got a distinct sense of strange, alien fondness back.
Startled and flushing, she sat down on the couch, where her lap was immediately occupied with Pebbles. A great distraction, Viv thought, petting her furiously. “So. About plans today.”
“Yes?” Thys asked, then turned the blender on.
When it was done, Viv said. “Uh. Right, so. I was thinking. We need more information, and my ability to do divination is kind of handicapped right now. I was thinking we could go by Beanheadings, get some coffee, see if we could get news from anyone there. Or gossip. Or, you know, any word of allies we might be able to make if we need to… you know. Fight. A supernatural serial killer or something.”
“Sure,” Thys said. “I don’t go there much but it’s fine. I’m sure their baristas will be ready to talk. They always do seem to.”
“Great,” Viv said. “We should see if Varsha’s still home too, I guess maybe we should do that first? If that won’t be weird. You said you knew where she lived.”
“I do. We hang.”
Viv nodded. “Great, okay. And… I ordered food yesterday, and the delivery person, she seemed to know something was weird. I don’t know if she could sense the attack or the body or… something else, but she seemed really nervous. Do you know her? Yasmin? I don’t know her last name, it wasn’t on the receipt.” She was babbling and she knew it, but she didn’t know what to make of that feeling she’d picked up from Thys.
“I don’t know her, no.” Thys brought over the smoothies and handed one to Viv, who drank deeply before remembering the rules against taking food from the fair folk.
Well, whatever. Hospitality between them was janky right now anyway.
“She mentioned where she hung out,” Viv said. “Some skate park. So we can see if she’s there.”
“It all sounds good,” Thys said. They seemed a little dopey right now, and Viv could only assume it was because their sleep schedule was all thrown off. “What order? Is there anything in particular you plan to ask Varsha, if we’re going there first? And is there anything else we’re not thinking of…?”
[Please suggest an action in the Comments.
Have your comments in by 4 pm PST Oct 12]