I was used to some pretty pushy clients, but Ms. Blackwell took the cake.
I ended up calling Mr. Lyons the lovelorn butler with my findings, partly so it’d be one less thing on my plate, but I wondered if Gal’d lied to me about Leonidas’s identity. She always got hostile when caught in a lie…and I was grateful just to be able to talk to her again about the new case. So I moved on and wished Mr. Lyons luck.
I’d taken to wearing my new unofficial ambush-proof pajamas at night instead of sleeping in the buff–safer that way, if itchier and hotter. I always made sure to check the bathroom for lurking vampires before using the can…
I took a piss as quick as possible, but I was too slow. There she was, like it wasn’t two in the morning–or somebody else’s apartment.
“Yeah,” I said, “I think we need to talk about client-investigator boundaries…”
She opened her eyes.
“How about no boundaries?”
She sat up. “But what if you find something important on Sunflower and my phone battery dies, or my boss is making me run out for hair gel and there’s an earthquake and I’m trapped in a salon, or somebody else in my family dies?”
Damn it, playing the dead uncle card. She was good.
I sat down next to her. “You already gave me your boss’s number, and your sister’s number, and your cousin’s number. Anything comes up, you’ll know.”
“But I’d know even faster if I was your roommate. You won’t even know I’m here–you can just think of me as a corpse somebody left lying on your couch.”
“…Yeahhh, I’d rather not.”
“Did somebody just knock at the door? I have extra-good vampiric hearing so maybe you didn’t hear it.”
Huh. Could be Gal–struck me as the kind of thing she’d do, knock real soft and act like I ignored her on purpose.
Ms. Blackwell yawned as I walked away–plenty loud for me to hear.
There wasn’t anybody at the door when I opened it–but there was a sleeping vampire on my couch the next time I checked. Damn it.
…And that’s how I ended up with a roommate.
She was like a pet dog almost, following me everywhere. (We had to have the roommate-roommate boundaries conversation more than once…)
Did she see a lot of naked men in her everyday life, or did she see me as an oversized (hairy, as she kept pointing out) pet too?
But if I’d ever doubted her fairy story, the flower she brought–along with a handful of other belongings–erased any doubt.
“Never seen a flower like that before,” I said.
“You can see it?” she said. “Sunflower gave it to me. I don’t think Lyanna could see it, because she said it was a pretty vase, and she never would’ve complimented a vase before a flower.”
“Guess I got a weird origin story,” I said. “My ma used to be a vampire, but she ate this magic fruit right before I was, uh, conceived in a cheap motel. So maybe I got some kind of affinity for fairy-type deals–this fae kid I used to babysit for always tried using her magic on me, but it never bothered me much.”
I was thinking about her a lot lately–the kid who hadn’t been a kid for a long time. Maybe I was just seeing what I wanted to see, but…she seemed lonely, back when I asked about Darius, or Sunflower, or whatever the hell he was called.
Like she didn’t want me to leave her…
“Gross,” Ms. Blackwell said. “But my mom ate a fairy fruit too and traded my sister for it.”
Well, we had something in common at least–except for Ma trading Daze away for magical produce.
After that, all I could do was wait to see if Gal was really gonna ask around about “Darius,” or if she’d only said that to get me off her back. She wouldn’t move again to hide from me, would she? But she ended up calling me back a lot sooner than I expected.
I had to give Ms. Blackwell a distraction while I held a semi-private conversation. Turns out Gal had a missing uncle named Darius, and she wanted me to drop by to pick up a picture of him.
I had to tell Ms. Blackwell I was going “human food shopping” for her to let me out of the apartment alone… Did she ever change out of her pajamas when she wasn’t at work?
…And was it just me, or did Gal look happy when I showed up at her door this time?
And she wasn’t the only one who seemed happy to see me. The second I walked into her fancy new house (nicer than the apartment she’d shared with Daze, not gonna lie), her cat jumped up on my shoulder. It was the same one I’d played with before…
“You probably smell like Daisy,” she said. “I bet he’s hungry.”
“Cute cat. Guess we’re buds now.”
She was smiling, just a little. “I can swat him off, if you want.”
The little guy jumped off me and wandered off–typical cat. “Speaking of Daze…I think she misses you.”
Gal shrugged. “Yeah, well, it’s not like she called or anything.”
I scratched the back of my neck. “I’m sure she really wanted to. She really, uh, cares about you, you know? And she’s sad about how things went down–probably wishes she got you to stay. But, uh, she might be afraid to talk to you too, you know, in case you were done with her for good, because she messes up sometimes…”
“Daisy feels that way, huh?”
“Well, I guess I’ll go get you that pic of my dead, missing uncle or whatever the hell he is,” she said as she started to walk away from me.
“Hold up.” I took a deep breath. This could destroy any progress we’d made, make her kick me out faster than I could blink…but I had to try. “I, uh, meant to give you something the other night.”
I pulled her in real close. “This.”
“What the fuck, Bas–” She shot me her trademark Gal glare, but she didn’t push me away.
And then I kissed her, and she didn’t have much else to say.
I pulled back and looked into her eyes. “Gal…”
She just stared back at me.
And then her hand made contact with my face. A cat darted under the sofa at the noise.
“Sorry,” she blurted. “I–I don’t know why I did that.”
“I do.” Probably wasn’t a good idea to mention a lot of wild animals attacked when scared. Wouldn’t mind her biting or scratching me a little, though, as long as I didn’t end up in the ER…
My arms tightened around her.
This time, she closed her eyes.
And maybe I let the kiss drag on longer than I needed to, but our audience didn’t seem to mind.
“…I can feel your boner.” She wriggled out of my arms. “I guess I better get that pic of my uncle before you try to fuck me against the front door with my ugly cats watching.”
Yeah, it was gonna be a journey, but I could handle it.
My vampire-dog was waiting for me by the door when I got back, same as always. “What’d you bring me?”
Maybe sometimes I brought back little keychains and other tourist junk for her to play with–just so she’d leave me in peace for an hour or two.
“Something I think you’ll like,” I said. “Well, if it’s who I think it is, anyhow.” I made for the couch, vampire-dog at my heels, and laid the picture up against my candy bowl. “He look familiar?”
“Sunflower,” she said. “It’s Sunflower.” She picked up the picture with both hands and brought it over to the wall. I stood too, but gave her some privacy. “Now I have something I can hold, and everybody can see…”
“He’s so pretty…and manly too.”
Then I heard her making strange kissy noises at the wall, but I was glad she was happy. (And that I couldn’t see her face from over here.)
And then her face was suddenly very, very close. Damn, she was fast. “H-hey–”
“Thanks, Mr. Strider,” she mumbled in my ear. “You’re my favorite private eye and roommate in the whole world.”
“But we, uh, haven’t even found the guy yet,” I managed. “We just know who he is, not where…”
“But now I have you to help me,” she said, “and I never had anyone before.”
Maybe I was meant for this business after all.
I wasn’t sure if I’d helped that butler in the end, but I wanted to help her find this guy more than anything. Something–maybe my gut, maybe some fairy magic–told me it was something real, something important.
Something maybe I could have with Gal someday…