“You should get a dog,” Vector tells me.
I cross my arms. “I am not getting a dog just because Klepto might or might not be afraid of them. That is not a thing I am doing.”
“What?” Vector says.
“What?” I say back.
Vector shakes her head. “I meant that Cheese Toasties loves you just as much as every other dog you’ve ever met. What did you mean?”
“I meant,” I say, “never mind, just some advice I’ve been getting. Yes. Cheese Toasties. Cheese Toasties is a good dog.”
“Cheese Toasties can’t hear the word dinner without slipping on the kitchen floor and smacking into your leg,” Vector says.
“That makes him not a good dog?” I ask.
Vector adjusts her mask. “I would say fair dog at best. Cheese Toasties could certainly use some improvement in the whole ‘being a dog’ area.”
“Cheese Toasties is an A++ dog, would scritchie again,” I tell her.
Vector grins. “See? Why you decided to shack up with someone with allergies, I’ll never know.”
“So the dog thing was not about Klepto,” I say again. Just to make sure.
Vector shakes her head vigorously, and pats me on the arm.
“Not that you’re not checking up on me,” I say.
She shrugs and grins sheepishly. “Hey, a run-in like that, what am I supposed to do, wave my hands in the air and let you rot?”
“Why are you waving your hands in the air?” I ask.
Vector gives me a Look. “You know, to say, like, ‘hi, Travis, I don’t care that you’re in trouble’ and go on my merry way?”
“Both hands?” I say.
Vector throws her hands up. “Like this!”
“Are you supposed to be here while you’re on duty?” I ask, eyeing her arms skeptically.
Vector puts them down and crosses them. “No. I’m just AWOL. No one’s going to be able to get ahold of me in case of emergency. If you see someone coming, let me know so I can vamoose.”
“I’m just saying,” I add.
Vector pokes me in my jaw, where the injury is healing as fast as it can, but it still hurts like fuck, especially since the bruise has, as a favor to me, tripled in size and started to swell.
Again, it hurts like fuck.
“Vector,” I say.
“How are you healing?” she says.
“I was better before you jabbed your finger into my injury,” I tell her.
She shakes her head. “I mean, do we need to send someone out to top you up?”
“Do you know anyone whose powers are compatible with Saint’s?” I ask.
Vector thinks for a minute. “Guardian Angel, I think.”
“Oh my god, are you serious,” I say, “are you actually fucking serious right now.”
She shrugs. “I can’t say for 100% certain, but I can doublecheck the logs, and we can see if we can get a message to him.”
“That’s terrible,” I tell her.
Vector sighs. “I mean we can try Saint and see if he’s being less insufferable right now.”
“I think I’d rather not let him know where I live, thanks,” I tell her.
She grins. “We can just have him travelled here, then he wouldn’t have to know a thing. Will says hi, by the way, and wanted to check in on you also but I talked him out of it.”
“Oh, him too?” I say, with my hand to my head.
She takes a snapshot of me and hands me her phone. I type in I AM FINE GOOD DAY and then send it off to him, and then kind of feel a little bad about it because he probably doesn’t know everyone and their dog has been trying to see if I’m okay. (Not actually true; Cheese Toasties hasn’t quite figured out that people who are mobile can be to any relevant extant not okay.)
“Does this happen any time someone runs into that maniac?” I ask.
Vector grimaces. “I mean, a little bit? Both times I ran into him people were a little freaked, and that was under sort of expected circumstances. This? This is weird.”
“I know that,” I tell her. “I absolutely know that. It’s not like I’m not freaked out.”
“Patterns thinks he’s playing mind games,” Vector says, and then, like it’s reassuring, “they only give you about a 7% chance of actually being in danger.”
“Oh,” I say, “great.”
“I’d be careful, though,” she adds. “He’s dangerous.”
“I know,” I mutter. “He killed his last lieutenant or something.”
“I think he killed all of them,” she tells me. “I think he killed the first one in such a fucked up way that the powers that be don’t want anyone to know in case they copy it.”
“Oh, joy,” I say, “I hope he saves that for his lieutenants.”
“Well,” she adds, “maybe not the last one. Maybe he’s been around and we just haven’t seen him. Or maybe he’s genuinely missing and Klepto was out searching for him.”
I stare at her.
“I’m not being comforting,” she guesses.
I shake my head.
“Okay, how about this,” she says, “my neighbor’s Macaw finally learned to sing the entire score of Les Mis.”
“Your life is worse than mine,” I tell her.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Vector murmurs, tapping her chin, “Raspberry’s actually got a pretty good ear. Sings mostly on key and everything.”
“Oh, well, that’s alright then,” I agree.
“My neighbor, not so much,” Vector says, “but at least the bird learned off a recording.”
“Does Raspberry sing with skips and crackles?” I ask, with what is probably far too much glee.
“Yes,” Vector agrees. “Not many, because they were pretty clean recordings, but yes.”
I want a bird. I so want a bird.
“So, anyway, I had Mic and Sulu over,” Vector says, “and it’s quiet, because Raspberry keeps it down until about noon. Suddenly, music!”
“Did they sing along?” I ask.
Vector waves a hand. “They actually hid under my table, because it was initially super-duper loud. I don’t think either of them know any of the words to sing along, though.”
“Do you know any of the words?” I ask.
Vector shrugs expansively. “Well, I do now.”