There’s a strange tension at the breakfast table that I don’t understand, not until Nightingale sets aside his fork and knife and looks up at me, a determined set to his mouth. “The full moon is in a week from now.”
I stare at him, not sure what I’m supposed to say next. In the short time I’ve been living at the Folly, Nightingale’s actively discouraged any questions I have about him being a werewolf, despite the fact that he’s not only the first werewolf that I’ve ever met, and that before meeting him I never knew werewolves existed. (Or vampires, or river goddesses, or wizards, or...whatever Molly is.)
“Yeah, I know,” I say at last, cautiously. I’ve been keeping a calendar to track the phases of the moon, another thing I’ve never discussed with Nightingale.
“Given that the Folly is now your home as well as mine, I think it only fair that we discuss your options for the evening.”
“My options,” I repeat, slowly.
Nightingale nods. “I should stress that in my--other form, I still retain sentience and pose no physical threat to you, or indeed, the general public. However, if you feel uncomfortable, you’re welcome to stay in the couch house for the evening, or to take yourself elsewhere if you prefer--a hotel, perhaps.”
“Um,” I say, trying to stall for time while I work out what to say. It’s normally impossible to get Nightingale to talk about his--other form, and I don't want to mess it up now he's finally decided to.
But then I glance up, and catch a hint of wariness in the way that Nightingale’s watching me, and suddenly, it’s really important to say something, even if I mess it up along the way.
“Sorry, sir,” I say to him. “I just want to be clear, is this a question of...of privacy? Because if it is, I’m happy to stay in my room for the evening. Or, you know, stay in the coach house, if that would be easier.”
Nightingale glances down, only for a moment, but that’s enough to tell me I’m on the right track.
“I’ve...it’s been determined that if I’m trapped in small spaces, it doesn’t go well,” Nightingale says, his voice softer. “I’ll be...prowling, essentially. And it might be...uncomfortable for you to be here if that’s the case.”
“Really?” I say, doubtful. “Because Molly prowls around this place all the time, and I’m getting used to that just fine.” Nightingale’s mouth twitches at this, and I smile back, tentatively.
But Nightingale’s expression sobers, and he says, carefully, "I know that people can find it...alarming, to see me like that." Nightingale's voice is very even, but he's still watching my face so carefully, as if he's on high alert, as if--
And then I remember one of the few details about himself that Nightingale had offered up freely at the beginning, that his hearing, even in human form, was acute enough that he could not only hear my heartbeat, but tell enough from the speed and rhythm to make, in his words, "a highly educated guess" as to whether I was in distress, or if I was possibly lying, or if I was just--
The words fall out of my mouth in a rush. "I'm not frightened to be here, if that's what you're wondering."
Nightingale's pause before answering tells me I've hit it dead on. "There's no shame in it if you are."
"Yeah, but I'm not," I say stoutly, and it's true--I'm a bit nervous, fair enough, but scared is a different thing entirely. Scary is people's faces falling off, is a baby being thrown out a window, is your brain curdling on an overdose of magic.
Nightingale, with his tailored suits and careful manners and tightly leashed magic, magic all the more powerful for the control he has over it--Nightingale is a lot of things, but he's not terrifying, not like that. Not to me at least, even if he can transform on command into a wolf, and God, what I wouldn't give to figure out how that worked.
But that's for another time, so I fall back on a fact even he can't argue with. "You'd have never let me move in here if you were an actual threat to my safety," I point out, and Nightingale blinks. "And Dr. Walid would've warned me off well in advance, so it's fine, and I know that it's fine."
And now Nightingale's just staring at me, that surprised look I've only managed to get out of him once before, during that first job interview,when he transformed his hand into a paw right there in front of me and I'd blurted out, "Fuck me, that's amazing, how the hell did you do that?"
Which, you know, is perhaps not the most dignified response to finding out your would-be boss is a werewolf, but it still had Nightingale reacting the same way, that wide-eyed look, like I'd caught him unawares.
Much like the way he's looking at me now.
"All right," Nightingale says, before all this silent staring we're doing can get awkward--or more awkward. "I'm...glad that's settled."
"Right," I say, and turn back in relief to my eggs.