.01 Dead Boy
"Isn't he kind of young for you?" Cathy asked, which happily was one of the questions I'd prepared for.
"He's older than he looks," I said, at the same time Dead Boy said: "John's pretty mature for his age," which might have been a compliment but probably wasn't, given that Dead Boy himself usually acted the age he looked, if not ten years younger.
Cathy looked at me like I was an idiot. Worse: like I was an idiot who thought she was an idiot. Dead Boy grinned like he was the only grown-up at the table. "We're not that far apart in age."
"If you say so."
"Anyone with the good taste of asking me on a date can't be a completely lost cause yet," Dead Boy put in.
I felt that was putting it a bit strong, really, and besides, I hadn't been the one doing the asking. This time.
"He seems a bit normal. I mean, when he's not starting a war with angels or trying to avoid the end of the world as we know it, he's really sort of boring," Cathy said, which was putting it more than a bit strong. It's not a crime to like a bit of quiet time with a good, classic movie every once in a while, and if Cathy had no appreciation for the genius of Audrey, Fred, Ginger and Humphrey, it wasn't for lack of trying to educate her on my part. "I heard your last date was a gorgon."
"Snakes are overrated in bed," Dead Boy said. "I like knowing that when I'm around John, something exciting might happen at any time."
"I thought you only liked me for my looks," I said.
They both looked at me pityingly.
.02 Tommie Oblivion
"He might be doing it as a way to get into your files," Cathy said. "Our files."
Privately, I thought anyone wanting to get into our files would have a better chance trying to seduce the person who actually worked with them every day. Given that I wasn't even quite sure if Cathy was seeing anyone at the moment though, let alone their gender and/or species, it didn't seem tactful to point this out.
"He might also be doing it as a way to get into my pants," I said. "In which case, he may actually be sucessful."
"Too much information." Cathy did demand names, but rarely details when it came to my social life. On occasion, I felt this should entitle me to do the same, but somehow, it never worked out that way.
Teenagers will be teenagers. "Tommie's a nice guy."
"Maybe," Cathy said. "Just tell him that if he breaks your heart, I'll break his legs. For starters. And there's not going to be any uncertainty or maybe about that."
.03 Razor Eddie
Some things are best left unspoken of, if only because they're so unlikely nobody would believe they were true.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, I didn't have much of a choice in this case; I'd tried everything I could think of and a few more other people had thought of, some of whom might have been somewhat less than sane (although I drew the line at animal sacrifice, simply because I refuse to believe the way to get grey smudges out of a white trenchcoat is by adding bloodstains. That's just like murdering your wife to keep her from finding out about your affair - sure, it might sound like it makes sense to some people, but in the end, it's likely to only make your problems worse.)
"A dry-cleaner? Sure." The Nightside does have its own version of the yellow pages. It even includes a customer comment section these days, in spite of the vocal protests from many a disgruntled businessman, -woman and honest being just trying to make a living at the expense of their too trusting customers. "What for, boss?"
I showed her the object in question. "Date with Eddie." I tried to sound casual. I'd have prefered to actually do so, but like all teenagers, Cathy had excellent instincts when it came to people being less than truthful with her. Still, there were doubtlessly scores of other people named 'Eddie' in the Nightside, never mind that I'd never mentioned a single one to Cathy. There was no reason why she should immediately jump to the right conclusion.
"You went on a date with Razor Eddie?"
"Maybe 'date' is the wrong word," I said.
"Maybe I won't give you the address of the best dry-cleaner I know if you don't provide me with some dtails about this maybe-not-a-date of yours first," Cathy said sweetly. "And trust me, your trenchcoat is going to need them."
"Oh," Cathy said, when I told her, and for a good minute, that was all she seemed to have to say on the matter. Which was so unlike her usual behavior that after that one minute, I started to get a bit worried she might not approve.
I suppose it's nothing new. Many people don't approve of Walker, although they tend to do it quietly and only in places where they're sure he can't overhear them. There's not a lot of places for which that would actually be true, but Walker probably finds it useful to pretend he's not quite as all-knowing as his reputation suggests. After all, knowledge is power, and why spoil a good surprise?
On the other hand, for lack of anyone better, Walker is on the side of the angels. Figuratively, because as we'd all been reminded recently, actual angels don't tend to be all that nice or pleasant, or all on the same side, for that matter.
"You don't like him?" Well, I only had myself to blame, really. Walker tended to be ... persistent, when he wanted to get a hold of someone, and frequently, these past years, that someone had been me. All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, Walker still seemed to think that any search for me ought to start at my office, where Cathy could usually be found.
They'd never come to blows, as far as I knew, if only because Walker liked to be reasonable about things (or send his Reasonable Men to be it for him) but there had been that kidnapping incident a while back.
"He seems bossy. I guess I just didn't think he'd be your type."
"I can be bossy, too." That much, I had on good authority.
Cathy snorted. "Yeah, but you've got me and Suzie and Alex to keep you humble."
"And now Walker's got me," I said.
She didn't look convinced. Fair enough. I wasn't entirely convinced myself either.
.05 Julien Advent
"Seriously? It's like Clark Kent dating Lex Luthor, if Lex Luthor was better-looking and less smart."
"Hey!" I said. Just because I don't like to think of myself as one of the good guys, that doesn't mean I like it when people assume that means I'm one of the bad guys. At least, not when they're people who really should know me better.
Julien seemed a little amused. Well, he wasn't the one being compared to an anti-social jerk with authority issues and an unhealthy obsession with things that a sane person would have left well enough alone. "You should know, I can't actually fly."
"And your costume looks way cooler than Superman's, I know." Cathy nodded enthusiastically.
"And he doesn't wear glasses," I put in. Just to show I knew my present-day mythology, too.
"And I'm not allergic to kryptonite, as far as I know," Julien said.
The Nightside has its fair share of aliens, but while some of them do have the ability to fly (if not the actual license to do so, because the Authorities feel it's trouble enough already imposing some sort of regulation on the ground traffic), I've never heard of one being mortally allergic to pieces of its homeworld. Possibly because that kind of a weakness tends to get them killed sooner rather than later.
Or maybe it's because the people in the Nightside, however bizarre it may get, still have some notion of what sort of silliness they can get away with.
.01 Cathy Barrett
There's not a lot of family restaurants in the Nightside, mostly because there's no real market for them. People don't come to the Nightside looking for family-friendly; they come looking for the forbidden, the exciting, the x-rated stuff they can't get anywhere else.
Mom and Pop's was, as advertised, run by Mom and Pop, although it was anyone's guess whether or not they were actually married, let alone had kids. They served nice, wholesome food for people looking for a taste of home, wherever that might be.
We shared the restaurant with a number of other families. A few of them even looked human.
"So," I said, because one of us had to break the ice. "Any plans for the future?" I tried to sound casual. I don't think I succeeded. Complain as I might, I liked having Cathy around.
The soup was good. It had recognizable vegetables in it. "Oh, please," Cathy said. "It's just a number. It's not like I'm going to change everything just because I'm supposed to be a grown-up now."
"'Supposed to be' being the operative phrase in that sentence."
She stuck out her tongue at me, and I allowed myself to believe everything would work out all right in the end.
After all, it had always done so before.