“I mean, unless you count the squid,” I conclude.

Perry makes a face at me.

“I don’t know why there’s a squid,” I add, “it wasn’t, like, introduced in the narrative.”

“Oh, no, the squid’s a whole thing,” Perry says, “it’s some sort of poly pride symbol – not in the whole capefic community, just the Artemis fandom – I just don’t know why you were reading this.”

“I told you, Stranglehold and Kitty were just,” I wave a hand, “really creeped out.”

“Why?” she says, “you say it wasn’t anything too out there, not even spelling wise.”

“I mean, because it’s creepy reading about yourself, anyway,” I guess, “probably the decent writing just makes it harder to laugh at and you have to, I don’t know, care a little.”

“Okay,” she says, “I can see that. I’ll never be able to write about them again, thanks, but at least I can see it.”

“You want another coffee?” I ask her, getting up.

She shrugs. “I probably shouldn’t. Get me a chai latte.”

I relay her order to Tony, who sort of frowns at me. “Oh, and start on a hot chocolate for Priscilla, she should be here any minute. Hopefully.”

“Sure,” he says. “Are you okay?”

I’m wondering what’s made it through the grapevine all the way over here, but I just shrug, and fumble through my wallet, and mutter, “sure.”

“Okay,” he says. “Nobody’s been giving you any grief, have they?”

I laugh. “Why, are you going to kick some asses for me?”

He grins. “Hey, if you need me to. I’ve got pretty much no say outside my established domain, here, but I can throw a punch.”

I grin back. “Well, I’ll let you know if I could use the backup, then.”

He nods solemnly, and hands me my coffee.

I take a sip as I head back to the table. Why is Tony the only one who can make my coffee right? Aren’t these all, like, regular recipes? The door rings, but it isn’t Priscilla, so I drop back into the seat next to Perry and rest my head on her shoulder. She pats my hair.

“Hard day?” she asks.

“There are,” I say, “too many people.”

“Here?” she asks, “because we can move to the table in the corner.”

“At work,” I mutter. “Too many people, and several of them are assholes.”

“Babe, I work in the film industry,” she says. “You don’t have to tell me.”

“One of my kids decided to dig up my work history to fuck with me,” I say.

“One of my kids grabbed my ass, then said it was an accident,” she offers.

“How do you grab someone’s ass by accident?” I ask.

She takes a sip of my coffee. “I don’t know. Do you usually squeeze your hands several times and make sound effects when you trip and fall, or is that outlier behavior?”

“Nope,” I say, “from having watched my students, I’m pretty sure that is in fact how every boy under the age of eighteen trips and falls. It’s just, you know, reflex.”

“Well, thank god for birthdays, then,” she says.

“How old?” I ask.

“Nine?” she says, “ten? I can ask Pris when she gets here, but, no, far too young to be doing it for any other reason than his asshole dad encouraged it.”

“Stage parents?” I ask.

She snorts. “No idea, but from all the laughing, I don’t think he learned his lesson. Why, you think Gatling’s parents put him up to this?”

“What,” I say, “I never said it was Gatling.”

She just nods at me, condescendingly, and, okay, apparently I’m drinking chai now, that’s fine. I get up to get my drink(s).

“He didn’t say sorry,” I tell her, “but he did seem sorry.”

“He always seems sorry,” she says. “Little Nazi assholes shouldn’t even be allowed in class.”

“I don’t know if I’d call him a Nazi,” I tell her, “he does seem to pride himself on not being a white nationalist. I mean, it’s telling that he would specifically be proud of that, but.”

“Sorry,” Perry tells me, with a chuckle, “I may be projecting again.”

I grimace. “Tell me that project didn’t get greenlit.”

She shrugs at me, drinking the rest of my coffee. “Hey, are you actually –”

“And they can’t keep them off your set?” I ask.

“Can and will are two different things, Fox,” she says, “although we’ve put up a bunch of rainbows everywhere, and it seems to be keeping them at bay for now.”

“Well, as long as you tell them you’re making a documentary about the dangers of the gay agenda,” I offer.

“What,” she says, “like that the checklist gets too long?”

“Tell me about it,” I say, “I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to have yet another talk about, what, choosing our words, like, am I in charge of kindergarteners here?”

“I have an actual kindergartener,” Perry says. “She’s the sweetest thing. Please and thank you, always stays out of the way of people moving things, carries dog treats in her pocket.”

“That I can see,” I say, “most of the class likes dogs.”

“I’m about to start a petition to replace all the dudes in the entire movie with her,” Perry says. “You should get a dog to teach them.”

“What?” I say.

“A dog,” she repeats. “If they like dogs, get a dog to tell them not to be little assholes.”

“Like, a person in a dog costume, or an actual dog,” I say, “because dogs can’t talk, Perry.”

“I don’t know, wasn’t there that initiative?” she asks me.

“To,” I say, “make dogs talk?”

She flicks my arm. “To bring dogs in to, like, calm people down while you try to talk them out of being dicks. And they stare at the dog and, I don’t know, osmose tolerance or something.”

“This sounds marginally effective at best,” I tell her.

She shrugs. “Oh, well. I tried. Just tell them to shut the fuck up, then.”

“I see why Priscilla’s in charge of the kids,” I say.

Perry starts to respond, looks over my shoulder, and kind of widens her eyes. I wouldn’t fall for it, except I did here the door chime again, and I don’t want another accident enough to risk extending my field out behind me. Of course, Priscilla is actually there when I turn, so it works out okay.

She beams at us. “You will never guess who just got slapped in the face and lectured.”

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