[ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ]
A pair of cool hands cupped Webb’s face; a feeling of pressure, of skin-but-not-skin, firm yet yielding.
Webb’s eyes snapped open.
“You looked like you were thinking very hard,” Lore murmured. They were leaning over Webb, kneeling in midair as though it were nothing, expression somewhere between sympathetic and amused. “And like you were giving yourself a headache.”
“I’ll give myself a headache if I want to,” Webb muttered sullenly, cheeks heating up under Lore’s touch. “… more of a headache. As many headaches as I want.”
“Yes,” Lore agreed patiently, releasing Webb and letting their hands rest in their lap. “But I don’t like to see you hurting yourself.”
Webb slid bonelessly down in their chair until their head was practically on the cushions. “Frankly, how dare anybody in this room be nice to me.”
Ariadne let out a helpless laugh. “Could it be that you inspire it in others?”
“They do,” Faraday agreed.
“I do not,” Webb protested, deeply offended.
“In any case,” Faraday said in the same even tone, as though Webb hadn’t said anything at all, “my vote is that we spend a little bit of time here resting while we have the opportunity. If anything happens, or if we pick up a particularly interesting lead, it’ll be easier to react and stay sharp if we’re well-rested.”
“Mm,” Ariadne agreed. “And even if we head out at three or four o’clock, we’ll still make it to the Drawing Dead before closing time.”
Webb had a sneaking suspicion that the concerns about rest and well-being were for their sake, given that they were in a room with a vampire, a witch, and an otherworldly living shadow, but the more petulant their thoughts became, the more they thought that perhaps the others were onto something.
“We can rest,” they allowed, letting out a deep sigh. “I mean, no promises. But I’ll at least try.”
Lore gave them an approving smile. “Please, then, make yourselves at home. Feel free to get out of some of your wet outer clothes. We can put them in front of the fire, here…”
Ariadne hopped up to help move some things around to make that easier, launching into an immediately animated conversation with Lore about their book collection. Webb closed their eyes again and let the quiet chatter and the heat from the fire wash over them, peaceful, for a moment—
“… I can feel you watching me,” they muttered, without bothering to open their eyes.
Faraday let out a soft laugh. “Ah. Caught,” he said. “Nothing gets past you, does it, Webb?”
Webb was silent for a moment. “Well. Clearly some things do.”
Faraday also paused at that, almost an audible wince. “… I suppose.” He let out a sigh. “I wanted to ask you something, if you don’t mind.”
“What’ll you do if I say I mind?” Webb drawled. They shifted in the chair, kicking off their boots so they could curl their feet up underneath them, looking over at Faraday. The witch had his hands lightly resting on the embroidery hoop in his lap, his expression rueful, a bit displeased.
It was the most interesting expression Webb had seen him make. “Never mind that. Fine. Go ahead,” they prompted impatiently.
Faraday sighed. “… I wanted to ask why you seemed, in particular, to dislike me. Was it something I did? Something I said?”
Webb picked up a little decorative coaster from the side table and began to fiddle with it, spinning it around on the glass and watching it fall. “Maybe you just have that kind of face.”
“There’s no need to be childish, Webb,” Faraday said, and he just sounded so disappointed that for a moment, Webb just saw red.
“Childish?” they hissed, with the presence of mind to keep their voice down. “You don’t know anything about me. And I don’t know anything about you. I’m working with you because I have to, not because I like you.”
Faraday’s lips were pressed into a thin line, his dark brows drawn together tightly. He sat up a little straighter. “I’ve been getting the impression that you don’t want to let anybody know anything about you,” he retorted, voice still low but now with an edge of impatience. “And you’re clearly miserable about it—”
“Nobody asked your opinion, Jasper! Just let it drop!”
Faraday’s eyes widened. “Oh,” he said, very quietly.
Webb shut their mouth and stared back at him, frozen, the coaster in their hand clattering back onto the glass.
If Faraday had said anything further, Webb would have felt justified in lashing out again. But he just drew in a deep breath, and exhaled, looking remarkably sad for something that was clearly none of his business, and looked back down at his embroidery.
Webb just felt tired.
“… you didn’t do anything wrong,” Webb said, closing their eyes and letting their head thunk back against the armchair. “You just reminded me of someone whose ghost I was already having trouble letting go of, and I was prickly about it, and that was shitty of me. It’s not on you.”
“I’m sorry I pried,” Faraday said after a moment. “I should have assumed that you had a good reason and that it wasn’t any of my business.”
“It wasn’t any of your business,” Webb agreed. “But I am of course a very hot riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, and I can’t blame you for wanting to get inside of me.”
Faraday laughed like he wasn’t sure he was allowed to. Webb allowed themself a thin sliver of a smile, cracking one eye open to look over at him. He’d relaxed slightly again and was looking over at Webb with a small smile, brows creased in relief.
“I know we don’t know each other very well,” Faraday said. “But I thought perhaps we could eventually… perhaps. And you see, I felt like I was getting off on the wrong foot. I am a very competitive person by nature, and Lore is obviously lovely, and Ariadne is a dream, so I was feeling quite put out about it!”
Webb laughed despite themself, leaning forward and resting their elbows on their knees. “Oh, you’re blaming your bad attitude on my overwhelming charisma, is it?”
“Yes—no! Honestly, good grief, whatever makes you happy, you strange thing.”
Whatever makes you happy. As if Webb knew what that was. But they just stretched out and gave Faraday a lopsided grin. “Oh, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Ariadne was padding back over to join them, but stopped just at the edge of the rug when she saw them chatting. Webb could see her teeter in place, as though she were trying to undo the fact that they’d already caught sight of her, and made a face when Webb caught her eye and beckoned her closer.
“Sorry,” she murmured, taking a seat again next to Faraday and crossing her legs. She’d taken off her outer leather gear and was wearing a pair of loose black lounge pants and a thin hoodie. “Didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”
“It’s alright,” Webb drawled. “Faraday was just being nosy about my personal traumas. But we’re past it.”
Faraday made a face again, and Ariadne looked confused and mildly alarmed. Webb took the opportunity to pull out their notebook and wave it around, shifting in their chair as Lore drifted back over to join them as well.
“In the spirit of sharing secrets,” Webb said, “I do have a line of contact to the Inquisitors. In a manner of speaking. Maybe. I thought I’d write them a little note, but I didn’t want to be furtive about it.”
They filled the others in on how the notebook worked and thumbed it open to the most recent page. Written in spiky, crabbed writing across the top of the page was a single sentence:
No matter where you go in this town, we will find you.
“Oh no,” Lore murmured, leaning closer to peer at it. “And we want to… try to correspond with these people?”
“I’m going to write them a message, and they can take it or leave it,” Webb shrugged. “Technically, I didn’t do anything wrong, and they can’t do anything to me right now. I don’t think we have anything to lose.” They paused. “Alternatively, I can just start writing fuck, fuck, fuck, and getting the pen to just cuss everywhere…”
“Maybe that can be the backup plan,” Ariadne suggested.
Webb flashed her a little grin. “Can one of you lend me a pen? I don’t want to write it in Waffle House crayon, I’d look like a serial killer.”
Faraday handed them a pen. Webb hunched over the notebook, trying to keep the message brief, professional, and to-the-point, and feeling like they were at least moderately successful at some of the above:
I understand that you’re probably a little frustrated. It seems like you’ve got a tough job to do, and I’d be willing to bet that you don’t receive health and benefits.
My name is Webb. Clearly, you know. What you probably don’t know is that I’m innocent. I’m working to try to deal with the asshole that’s responsible for the things you think I’m responsible for. If at the end of the day you care more about actually eliminating the real threat here, and you’d like to call a truce and propose an exchange of information, I’m willing. You know how to reach me.
Webb snapped book shut and slid it back into their jacket. They had no other means to get in contact with Jenny at the moment—they didn’t often collect personal details about their clients when they booked in online, though that would clearly have to be a policy they would need to revisit in the future, if there was a future in that sense—and none of them knew how to get in contact with Veracity yet. Sia, Webb wasn’t sure if they wanted to actually reach out to directly in case she was in league with Grimm, in case that tipped him off, but they could—
Webb felt a finger flick their nose. They jerked, looking down to find Ariadne kneeling next to the chair, reaching up to poke at them with a playful, fanged grin.
“Enough thinking for now,” she said, faux-sternly. “I could see the wrinkles gathering on your face like spiderwebs. Let’s put the book aside and leave our phones alone for a bit, and just try to relax for a few hours. Faraday is right—we’re all going to need to be in good shape later on. Body, mind, and soul.”
Webb glanced over to where Lore was hovering nearby. They gave him a little shrug in response.
“I don’t know why you’re looking at me,” they said softly. “I’m obviously going to agree with her.”
“Surrounded by traitors,” Webb muttered. “Fine… we can… we can relax…”
Somehow, the idea of figuring out how to relax seemed almost as daunting as sorting through the options of which vampires to get in contact with and when and how. Clearly some of that showed on their expression, because Lore laughed a little, leaning over the back of the armchair to look down at Webb.
“The bed in the adjacent room is made up for use,” they said softly. “If anybody else wants a different private room, I can set one up on a lower level, though it will take some time to get warm. Anyone is welcome to use the bathing facilities if you’d like, and although I do recommend sleep at least at some point, I also have books and games if you’d like that.” They hesitated for a moment. “I’m afraid I don’t have much in the way of food, though, if anybody gets hungry… I tend to keep only tea snacks on hand, since I don’t exactly eat. I can order something to be delivered.”
“I won’t be hungry for a while,” Webb said honestly, “probably not until morning, so I’m good.”
“I’m, uh,” Ariadne mumbled a bit. “I don’t need any human food, but thanks.”
Webb abruptly felt very aware of Ariadne’s presence pressed close to them, her arms curled up next to their thigh. They glanced down to see that she’d apparently realized the same, her eyes going wide, a very faint flush crossing her pale cheeks as she leaned back a little, knocking over a pillow in her haste.
“I see…” Lore said thoughtfully. “Well, if you need anything, don’t, um, be shy. Webb…? What would you like to do?”
[Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.
As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]