This short story was October 2016’s Short Story of the Month! If you enjoy it, and would like to support more, please consider throwing me a buck here.
This story is the first in what is probably a new series called Solutions for the Hopeless, starring Glimmer, tall femme technomancer, and Rio, short butch demon, trying to help, just a little, in an uncaring world. I hope you enjoy it, and there will be more soon!
I followed behind, as I was asked, when the elevator door opened. I was in the rear for being able to follow through with threats but maybe not being able to make them. The lady in the business suit I was supposed to be protecting looked very bored about the whole situation. Ran and some other guy I didn’t know walked beside her, scanning the area.
“No way this will go through. Going to be a fight for sure,” Ran had told me over the phone a week ago. “Lots of extra pay if you crack some skulls. And let’s be honest, you probably need to let out some steam. Maybe you can even eat, you hit a guy hard enough.”
“Fuck off,” I had said. “I’m not eating anyone.”
“Come on, Rio, I’m sure you feel all high and mighty and whatever, and I get it, kind of, some people are picky eaters, right? But it’s been like, what, two years? I’m going to surpass you if you don’t eat something.”
“Just drop it,” I had said. But Ran was right about one thing: I could use both the money and the stress relief of a good fight I was unlikely to be arrested for. So I stole a motorcycle and headed across the country. And now here I was.
We walked through the empty office. Stray desks, chairs, and pieces of cubicle were stacked up along the walls. At some point, maybe, someone would rent this place again. But for now, it was just a place for a staredown.
Sitting in a corner, far away from the elevator, the person we had come to see was sitting in a huge, expensive-looking chair, flanked by two big men. They smiled at the woman in the suit and adjusted their tie as we approached. “Julia. A pleasure.”
“I bet,” the woman said. “I’m just here to get this done.”
They nodded. “Just business, I know, but maybe we could still…”
They sighed, and stood. Julia stopped and put the briefcase she was carrying on the desk. I stood how I was supposed to. But I couldn’t help but notice the girl.
Sitting on the ground, behind the desk, was a girl. She had a giant winter coat on, and was shivering, despite it not being nearly cold enough for that. She, or rather, her body, because it was obvious she was gone, kept her eyes on the person now checking all the money in the briefcase.
I turned my eyes to them as well. Expensive suit, oily hair, and an endless grin. No wonder Ran thought there might be a fight. Some motherfucker bold and rich enough to drag the remains of their food with them without a care in the world. It was clear why Ran thought he might need another one of us for backup.
Of course, starving as I was, I wasn’t about to be much help against the motherfucker. Barely handle some humans these days. It’s embarrassing. But it’s no less than I deserve, really.
The person smiled a big smile. “Seems to be in order. Let me put in the calls, and then we’ll wait for your people to call you, hm?” They pulled a phone out of their pocket and sent a text.
This was where the real staredown begins. I tried to give a tough look to the two big guys. They didn’t even react. About what I expected. I gripped my brass knuckles tighter. I could probably take one. Or at least hurt him real bad. Hopefully the human could take the other human, and Ran could handle the grinning motherfucker, who’d gone back to relaxing in their big chair. But I really wasn’t sure he could. Got a real old vibe off of them. Ran did a lot with what he had but it’d be another couple of decades before I really started betting on him in a serious contest.
Julia’s phone rang. She walked away and had a short conversation. Then she turned back to us. “Let’s go.”
“Be sure to let her know it is a pleasure doing business with her,” They said, grinning. “And call me later.”
“No,” Julia said, and headed to the elevator.
That was it.
Ran looked surprised but followed, along with the other guy. I hurried to join them.
No hazard pay. No skulls. No nothing.
And I was still fucking starving.
Ran walked me out of the office where we had to drop Julia off. “Hey, sorry. Can’t always call them right.”
“It’s fine,” I said, trying to sound less frustrated than I was.
We walked down the street for a little while.
“Hey, let me just be honest, Rio. You look like shit. You hide it on the phone, but seriously. Like shit.”
“You’re not a pretty picture yourself,” I snapped.
“No, but seriously, you should eat.”
“It’s just thinning the herd, man. And you need it. You need to eat.”
I did my very best not to yell at him about it all. “I’ll consider it,” I finally said.
“Thank you,” he said. “All I wanted.”
I split off from him as soon as I felt I could. I hit a store and reloaded my prepaid phone. I bought some fresh bandages and rebound my torso in a public bathroom. I was already almost out of money.
So fuck it. I found the nearest bar and bought a beer with the little bit of pay I had left. Bartender was giving me looks because of my weird skin, of course, and seemed reluctant to serve me, of course, even though I was the only person here this time of night on a weekday. He just couldn’t stand me. Just another garbage night, feeling my hunger tear me up inside with nothing to show for it. But what else was new. Was just going to get shitty drunk and go pass out somewhere outside and then figure out what I was going to do tomorrow.
But then, two beers in, xe walked in.
Xe were tall, quite tall. Easily more than a foot on me. Xe had xir hair tied up, and a top that scooped way down, farther than it probably should have under a jacket that wasn’t buttoned closed in order to show off that fact. Xir five o’clock shadow looked too perfect to not be painstakingly kept at that length.
But one thing was for sure. Xe sure didn’t belong at this kind of bar.
The bartender kept staring, but I just put my head back down. No need to add to that shit. I was used to it myself.
I heard xir walk over.
The closer xe got, the less hungry I felt.
That took a moment to process.
Xe were right next to me as xe smiled, and addressed the bartender. “Hi there.”
“Hi…” the bartender said, clearly wondering what he had done to get two weirdos tonight.
“I’m looking for someone who normally drinks around here,” xe said, holding out a phone with a picture. “Have you seen her?”
The bartender looked at the picture. “Not one of my regulars,” he said.
“Ah, fair enough,” xe said, smiling. “Thank you.” Xe turned to me. Xe were so close, I almost felt normal, and for a moment, I panicked, and wondered if xe knew what I was. Or at least knew what xe was. “How about you?” Xe showed me the picture.
She’d looked different when I saw her. Colder. And a bit out of place. “Nah, don’t know her,” I said.
“A shame,” xe said, putting xir phone away in xir bag. “Well, thank you both.” Xe turned around. The moment xe started moving, I started feeling hungry again. That clawing, tearing feeling that fills my stomach at all hours.
I couldn’t let xir go. I didn’t want to. It was a risk, but I was tired of being hungry.
“Hey,” I said, “wait a second.”
“Yes?” xe said, smiling back at me.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Xe stared at me for a moment, and then chuckled. “Do you have some sort of ulterior motive for this?”
I took a moment trying to figure out if that was innuendo or if xe knew there was a chance I would eat xir. Not that I would. Gave that up. But fuck, sometimes it’s hard not to think about it. “Us weirdos gotta stick together, right?” I said.
“I suppose so,” xe said, moving to sit down next to me. “Well, I am out of places to check for the evening, so I suppose I could take a short break.”
“Yeah, take a break,” I said, and turned to the bartender, “Get me another one and… oh, right, how should I address you?”
“Glimmer. Xe/xir,” xe said, smiling. “And you?”
“Rio. And, you know, whatever.”
“Ah, the whatever,” Glimmer said, smiling. “I went with whatever for a while. Much less stress in not fighting for it. But I always had a preference.”
“You’re saying I’m lying?” I said.
“I’m saying you’re hiding,” Glimmer said, chuckling. “But that is okay. Everyone hides.” Xe turned to the bartender. “Can you make me a Manhattan?”
The bartender nodded and hurried away, clearly glad to not have to be near us anymore while he poured drinks.
“I don’t hide,” I said.
“Alright. Consider the comment revoked.”
The bartender handed me another beer, and I took a deep drink. “Dre/dris, though,” I said softly.
Glimmer chuckled, smiling. “Ah, of course.” Xe raised xir glass. “To… what was it you said… to weirdos sticking together.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said, and clinked my glass against xirs before basically downing it.
Glimmer sipped xir drink, watching me as I debated a fourth beer. I for sure wanted one, but now that I was getting xir tab, I didn’t know if I had enough cash.
“So, what are you doing here?” Glimmer asked me as I debated.
“Drinking?” I said.
“No, I mean, in the city.”
“That’s an odd question.”
“Is it?” Glimmer smiled. “I just have this feeling I’d know you if you were from around here.”
“A feeling, huh?”
“Well, yeah, I came into town for a job. And now it’s over. And now I’m drinking through my profits.” Fuck it. Worst case scenario, I couldn’t actually pay for Glimmer’s drink and xe was mad at me sticking xir with a bill. But with those big rings on that sure looked real, certainly xe could handle it. I motioned at the bartender to get me another one.
“Going home tomorrow then?”
“Haven’t decided.” I neglected to mention I did not have a home to go back to. “What about you? Looking for a missing person?”
“Ah, yes, I suppose I am, as you saw.”
“Someone you know?”
“Oh, goodness, no,” Glimmer said, chuckling. “I don’t know many people outside of business contacts.”
“Some kind of detective, then?”
“…sure, that’s pretty close,” Glimmer said, xir soft smile saying it wasn’t really close at all, but xe’d humor me.
The bartender wordlessly dropped another beer in front of me and I took a drink.
“Best slow down a little, perhaps,” xe said.
“Eh,” I said.
Xe sipped xir drink thoughtfully, just watching me drink.
“Look, just ask it,” I said.
“Everyone asks what’s up with my skin, just ask it and let’s move on.”
“Ah,” Glimmer said, chuckling. “But that doesn’t seem very important. Is it important? Should I ask?”
“Then let’s not worry about it,” xe said, sipping softly. “You haven’t been asking about my appearance. Although I suppose you did call me a weirdo.”
“Is… that okay?”
“Oh, certainly. I am most definitely a weirdo.” Xe finished xir drink. “But I should probably be going.”
“Yes… though thank you very much for the drink. It is appreciated.” Xe pulled a business card out of the pocket of xir bag and laid it down on the bar. “Perhaps we can share another on me later.”
“Y-yeah,” I said.
Xe started to walk out. I immediately felt the hunger return, eating at me. I picked up the card. “Glimmer Rodriguez. Solutions for the Hopeless.” and a phone number was all it had written on it. I looked back to xir. The bar door swung closed.
I didn’t want to eat xir. I didn’t. That’s what I told myself. But could I just let xir walk away? Even if I had a phone number?
“Fuck,” I said. I threw all my cash on the bar, shoved the card in my jeans pocket, and hurried outside. Xe wasn’t far down the sidewalk. I hurried on after xir.
“W-wait,” I said, catching up to xir, breathing hard. Even being away for like, what, two minutes, I found it a relief to be close enough to not feel that empty bit inside me again.
Glimmer looked to me, surprised. “Hello again.”
“D-do you…” I took a breath. “Do you want to…” What other excuses could I possibly have to keep xir around. “I mean, we could…”
Glimmer smiled the smile of someone who clearly thinks I’m adorable. “Oh my, Rio, you think we could?”
“I… y-yes?” I said, honestly unsure what I was even agreeing to.
“Do I look like someone who just hooks up with a little cutie after one drink at a bar?” Glimmer said, putting a hand in my hair to pat me on the head.
I knocked xir hand away. “Hey, I…”
“Because I certainly am,” Glimmer said, grinning. “Where’s your hotel?”
I tried to figure out how to respond to that for a bit. Finally went with, “I haven’t found one yet.”
“Is that so? Well, perhaps I can help you find one,” Glimmer said, pulling out xir phone.
“What’s your budget like?” xe asked.
I could lie. But when we got to the hotel, it’d all fall apart anyway. “Fuck it,” I said. “Look, I literally just spent all the money I have. I was planning on sleeping outside tonight.”
Glimmer burst into laughter.
“What!” I said, growling up at xir. “Not everyone has money for big fancy rings and shit! Not everyone has money for a house!”
“Oh, I know. Trust me, I don’t really have money for this sort of thing either,” Glimmer said, waving a hand vaguely to indicate the rings. “I just couldn’t help but laugh at how… bold you’re being, buying me a drink when it would bankrupt you.” Xe leaned down to look at me, smiling. “You must really like me.”
Xir face was very close to mine. “W-well…”
“Or must really be hungry,” xe said, standing back up. “But if you don’t mind walking and you promise to behave, you can stay at my place for the evening, hm?” Xe started walking again without waiting for an answer.
I picked up the pace to follow. Xe had such long legs and I had such frustratingly short ones. “What do you mean by ‘behave’?”
“Well, okay, yes, I do not expect you to completely behave if we’re sharing a bed, no,” Glimmer said.
“That’s not what I mean…” I said.
“Well, I think you know what I am referring to,” Glimmer said. “And if you don’t, well, that’s alright too.”
“You’re being frustrating,” I said, finally catching up to walk beside xir.
“Oh, I am? Wonderful.”
It was a long walk, and I’ve never been much for small talk, or talk of any kind, really. Thankfully, Glimmer didn’t push me into any. This gave me plenty of time to panic about what xe expected when we got to xir place. Like, did xe really expect me to fuck xir in some way? And if so, how in the world did that work? Way back before I gave it up, I had, for sure, learned how to talk to people to seduce them, but that was only to get them alone somewhere. What happened after that had never really been mentioned, and it wasn’t like I paid much attention to those sorts of lessons anyway. Every time I looked to Glimmer for some sort of clue, xe was just messing with xir phone.
Finally, we came upon a rather shitty-looking apartment building.
“Ta-da,” Glimmer said, smiling.
“Amazing,” I said.
“It’s got a bed,” Glimmer said, shrugging, heading inside and up the stairs. “Now, stay down there,” xe said the moment I entered the building. “Give me a second, okay?”
“Place is a mess,” xe said. “Just a moment.”
“I don’t care about that.”
“Just be good and stay down there,” xe said. I heard a door open on the second floor. I sighed and waited. It was a good fifteen minutes before I saw xir at the top of the stairs. “Thanks for waiting,” xe said. “Come on up.”
Glimmer’s apartment was basically just a computer on a desk and books. Even the kitchen area had book shelving. “Take off your jacket, relax,” Glimmer said, hanging xirs up, kicking off xir shoes, and putting xir phone in a little charging cradle by the computer. “I’ll make us some coffee or something.”
“Yeah…” I said. “Thanks.”
Xe waited for me to take off my track jacket.
“I am wearing nothing under this jacket,” I said, figuring I had already made myself so unappealing I had nothing to lose. “I do not own a shirt.”
Xe giggled. “Well, all the more reason to take it off then, yes?” xe said, and pressed no more, heading over to the kitchen and fussing with a coffeemaker.
I sat down on xir couch, and debated, and then unzipped the damn thing. It was how I usually went anyway, when I wasn’t trying to do things like be allowed in a bar.
“Apparently I overestimated my chances of having coffee on hand.” Glimmer came and sat down next to me. “Bandages?” xe asked. “Or binder?”
“I see. May I?”
I had no real idea what xe was asking. “I… guess so?”
Xe leaned closer, and put a hand to my chest, slowly moving it down over my stomach. I had to stop myself from instinctively pulling back. “I can feel the muscles,” xe said, chuckling. “You this strong all over?”
“I’m not strong…” I said.
Xe pulled my jacket down off my shoulders. “You’re joking, right?” xe said, squeezing my bicep.
“I’m sorry, am I going to fast?” Glimmer said, leaning back.
“I… I don’t know, I guess,” I said. “I’ve… never really done this before.”
Glimmer burst into laughter.
“What!” I growled.
“You are too cute! Oh my goodness!” xe said, laughing still. “Oh my, let me catch my breath, you are just… mm…” Xe turned towards me. “But you’re really trying, aren’t you?”
“Y-yes…” I said.
“Anytime you want me to stop, you just tell me to stop, okay?” Glimmer said, getting back to taking off my jacket. Xe then started on the bandages around my chest and stomach.
“You… may want to leave them on…” I said, unsure.
“Nope. Not unless it would hurt you to take them off?”
“Then shush, let me do it.” I braced myself for when xe was going to see my scales. Outside my torso, they were sparse, and you could shrug them off as some sort of skin condition or something, but it was going to be unavoidable if xe was determined to unwrap everything.
I kept waiting for a reaction, but I got none.
“There,” xe said as xe finished, and leaned in and kissed one of my breasts. “Much better.”
I shuddered and tried not to jump. “H-hey, now… look, I…”
“Yes?” Glimmer asked.
“Just makes me wonder what else you’re hiding,” xe said, and started undoing my jeans.
“You… you mean you…”
“Should I stop?”
“Well, no, but…”
“Then just try to relax and enjoy yourself while I explore,” xe said, and started pulling down my jeans and boxers. “Huh…” xe said, finding xirself face to face with the nothing between my legs. “Well, that… hm.”
I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. There was a loud hiss.
“Get down!” I yelled, basically in unison with Glimmer. I had tried to push xir out of the way, which was really easy when xe was trying to pull me out of the way. I was now naked and on top of xir. We stared at each other for a moment.
“The little shadowy ones really sneak up on you,” Glimmer said, smiling. “Figured we’d have more time before they figured out they could get in now.”
“Fuck you, Glimmer,” I said, growling. I kicked backwards as hard as I could, and heard the young shadow whimper in pain. I rushed to my feet, getting my pants the rest of the way off, and went to pull my brass knuckles out of the pockets of my jacket.
“Well, that was the plan eventually but I have a feeling not what you’re talking about,” xe said, scrambling to xir feet and backwards as the shadow lunged across the room at xir.
“You fucking knew?” I said. “Of course you knew, of course you fucking knew.” I got my knuckles on and took a swing at the shadow. It wavered in the air from the impact.
“Are you going to cover me so I can get my phone?” Glimmer asked.
“Why do you need your phone?” I said, picking up the shadow. It flailed in the air, having nothing to adhere to. It was really confused as to whether to bite me or not.
“So I can help you with the other four,” xe said.
I saw several more shadows slithering under the front door. I grunted as I tore the shadow I had in half, killing it. “Fuck, fine, whatever!” I said, and charged over there. There were way too many, though, and several of them were a little older. They slithered around me as I tried to punch them, wrapping around my legs. “Fucking kids, I am going to rip you to shreds,” I growled. I managed to get enough of a grip on one to tear it apart, but the rest of them decided to bite me, no matter that I was one of them. I fell to one knee.
“Can you get away?” Glimmer asked from somewhere.
“What do you fucking think?” I yelled, turning to look at xir. Xe held xir phone up like xe was taking a picture.
“Okay, we’ll try this then.” The camera on the phone flashed.
Next thing I knew I was flailing around about 10 feet away from where I previously had been, and the shadows were on fire.
“W… I… what?” I said.
“There’s a fire extinguisher under the sink, please grab it before my apartment burns down,” Glimmer said, still messing with xir phone. “I’m going to try to put the wards back up, which is either going to make you feel a little funny or eject you from the apartment, so sorry in advance, sweetie.”
“What did you do?” I said, frowning and hurrying to the kitchen.
“Froze you and other demons for a little bit to try to untangle you so I wouldn’t also set you on fire, which, honestly, was very tiring and no fun for a weakling like myself, but I best get this ward up first,” xe said.
“Demons?” I said, pulling the pin on the little fire extinguisher and spraying the smoldering remains of several shadows.
“Oh my, is that not the right terminology? I’ve never talked to one of you before this, I do apologize,” xe said.
I checked to make sure the fire was out. “So you knew what I was but still brought me home?”
I shuddered all over as… something happened. I couldn’t see it. I just felt it wash over me. And then Glimmer moved back to the couch and flopped down on it. “Phew, okay, and you aren’t kicked out. That’s good. That’s very good. You feel okay?”
“I… think so,” I said.
“I am exhausted…” Glimmer said, closing xir eyes. “I’m going to take a nap.”
I growled. “You never answered me. What is going on?”
“Oh, about bringing you home?” xe said, patting next to xir on the couch like I was some pet who was supposed to jump up there. “You’re the first demon who hasn’t immediately tried to eat me so I figured I might as well experiment.”
“So you’re just playing with me.”
“Well, yes, that was the idea, playing and fucking and what have you,” Glimmer said. “Now do come here, we can talk about this more after I recover a little. You are very heavy and dense for such a small thing and dragging you around was a bit much.”
“You fucking tricked me, and I…”
“I did nothing of the sort and if I had wanted to kill you I would not have gone to such frustrating lengths to not kill you a moment ago. Also there’s a very good chance my ward also locked you in. So come here.”
I growled, digging my nails into my palms for a while. Then I gave up and stomped over there.
“Oh my goodness, I totally missed that tail in all this,” Glimmer said, looking at my sad excuse for a tail, and giggling.
“Just keep making fun of me, why don’t you, see what that gets you,” I growled.
“You are adorable, and I wanted you to know, that’s all.”
I sat down next to xir. Xir hand immediately went on top of my head. “Seriously, it would be very easy to fucking eat you right now,” I said.
Xe just started petting me. “You would have done so already,” xe said, eyes closed. “Haven’t figured out why yet, but you’re different. And I want to know why. But for now, let’s just rest for a while, okay?”
“I don’t need to rest,” I said, frustrated, batting xir hand away.
“When was the last time you were completely safe?”
“What?” I honestly couldn’t think of a single time since I had a memory that I was completely safe.
“Well, you are now. So stay here, bleed on my couch a little bit, and rest, okay?”
I glanced at my bite wounds. They weren’t bad, but they were healing frustratingly slowly. What else was new.
“Fine. For a few minutes.”
“Thank you,” xe said, and moved xir hand back to petting me.
I closed my eyes. Maybe I should take a nap, if xe was going to no matter what I said.
“Oh, hold on,” Glimmer said, and softly tipped me over.
“H-hey,” I said, head falling into xir lap.
“What are you…”
“We’re resting, remember? And unless you’re telling me to stop, just rest.”
I growled, frustrated. But xe just kept petting me.
And before I knew it, xe was tapping me softly.
“Hey, sweetie, can I get up?”
“I could stay like this all day except I really need to go to the bathroom. Apologies.” I opened my eyes and looked up at xir smiling softly down at me.
I popped up. “R-right, sorry…” I had really fallen asleep.
“Be right back,” Glimmer said, standing up and heading to the bathroom.
I looked outside. The sun was coming up. “Fuck…”
Glimmer came out of the bathroom carrying a little medical kit. “Also, I apologize for not bandaging you up… I figured you’d heal right away.”
“Yeah, well, guess I’m not so fucking great, huh?” I said.
“Just learning I have a lot of incorrect assumptions, that’s all,” xe said, starting to wipe down the bites with something that stung like hell. “So let’s correct them. You don’t eat souls?”
“Going to set me on fire if I give you the wrong answer?”
“If you attack me, sure. But you won’t.”
“I gave it up, a decision I constantly regret,” I said.
“Gave up eating?” Glimmer said, surprising. “I mean, it is eating, right? Like I need to eat?”
“Sort of,” I said. “I’m never going to grow any more and I’m stuck looking like this without eating. But maybe that’s okay. Probably what I deserve, this tiny garbage body that’s constantly starving.”
“It’s a very cute body,” xe said, smiling.
“I really don’t appreciate you fucking with me like that,” I said.
“I am allowed to be attracted to you.”
“I’m a fucking nightmare.”
“And it’s adorable.” Xe kissed me on the nose, putting all the medical stuff away now that xe was finished.
“H-hey,” I said, blushing brightly. “W-well, what about you?”
“You use that big soul for magic? A warlock?”
“Sort of,” Glimmer said, smiling. “Tend to call myself a demon hunter when I am feeling particularly dramatic.”
“You couldn’t fight your way out of a paper bag,” I said.
“I killed more of those little shadowy ones than you, if I recall.”
“Because you told me to fucking rush in there and distract them. And also they were fucking babies. Probably hadn’t eaten a single soul yet.”
“That is fair. Those were not particularly strong,” xe said. “But I think you’ll be surprised what I can do with the element of surprise and the right applications on my phone.”
“You don’t have to believe me. It’s alright,” xe said. “Perhaps you’ll see me in action someday, instead of me having to freeze you in time.”
“So what’s with that girl, then?” I asked. “The one you were asking about.”
“Ah, I’m pretty sure she’s had her soul eaten. I don’t usually get there in time, I’ll admit. I’m often not consulted until it’s already too late to save the soul. But I can at least get the body back for the family and stop anyone else from getting hurt. That’s my general approach. And I usually still get paid. So.”
“Well, good for you,” I said.
Glimmer smiled and nodded.
We just kind of sat there. I didn’t know what to say. Glimmer clearly was waiting for a moment to touch me again, since I still wasn’t wearing anything. Then again, I got the feeling xe’d be thinking about that even if I was. But mostly I just wondered about xir job.
“So… just be straight with me…”
“I will never be straight in anything I do, thank you very much,” xe said.
“No, I mean…” I said, clenching my fists. “I mean… you really just help people?”
“Yes. I have to prioritize people who can pay me sometimes, to make rent, but otherwise, that’s what I spend my time doing.”
“And I’m supposed to believe this.”
“You don’t have to. But I’m not lying.”
“Humans are fucking weird…”
“Well, that is true, yes.”
“All I do is hurt people.” I stood up. I’d have to re-bind myself later. I was going to go. I started getting my pants and things back on.
“I doubt that,” Glimmer said. “You helped me last night.”
“Yeah, by killing some things.”
“Sometimes you have to hurt to help.”
“Rio, sweetie…” Glimmer said, getting up.
“I’m just going to get out of your way. Thanks for… a night, I guess.”
“…alright, if you’re sure.”
I walked over to the door and grabbed the handle. I was knocked to the floor.
“Ah! I forgot the wards! I am so sorry!” Glimmer said, rushing to xir phone. “Give me just a moment, I’ll lower them so you can leave…”
I got back up while xe worked on xir phone. Xe kept glancing over at me. It was obvious xe did not want me to leave. But what else was I going to do? Not like I had anything to offer.
Well, I guess I did have one thing.
“There… should be safe now…”
“Hey…” I said.
“I… might have a lead on your girl. The one in the picture.”
“Can’t help her,” I said. “Soul’s gone already… but I saw whoever is keeping her body around the other night, at a job I was doing…”
“I hurt people,” I said.
“Ah, the knuckles, right. And you can show me where this job was or introduce me to who has her body?”
“I mean, I can tell you…”
Glimmer grinned. “Let me get ready and we’ll head over there.”
“I’m just going to tell you where…!” I called after xir as xe went to xir bedroom to change. “Fuck…”
An hour and a half later, we were finally walking up to the office building I had been in the night before. Getting here had been a challenge. Glimmer had wanted breakfast, and kept arguing with me over buying me a bagel sandwich.
“I’m still going to be hungry! There’s no fucking point!” I had said.
“Oh sweetie, but it’s nice to eat. Just like you enjoy drinking.” I wasn’t quite sure when Glimmer had started calling me “sweetie” and I didn’t really know how to react to it.
“But that has the pleasant effect of getting me fucking drunk,” I had said.
I had eventually talked xir into just getting me a coffee. At least the caffeine did something and it wasn’t such a waste of xir money.
“This is the place, then?” Glimmer asked, looking up at the building.
“And you don’t know the name of the demon in question?”
“I told you I didn’t,” I said. “That wasn’t part of my job and nobody said.”
“Well, we should at least check up there. Might have just left the girl,” Glimmer said.
“Sure,” xe said, smiling. “Come on.” Xe started walking up to the front door.
“I was just showing you the place.”
“Rio. Come on.”
I growled, but followed.
There was a different guy behind the reception desk this time. Last night, whoever was there was clearly working on orders to just ignore us, but clearly, that wasn’t going to happen now.
“Hello, welcome to Bellwether Tower. I don’t recognize you two… are you visiting?” the man said.
“Yes, actually. My name’s Glimmer, and this is my assistant, Rio,” xe said.
“Assistant?” I said. “Since when am I…”
“Now now, we both agreed I was the founder, so that means you can’t be. If you want a different title, we can talk about it later.”
I had no idea what xe was talking about, so I just shrugged and shoved my hands into my jacket pockets.
“Anyway, we heard you had office space for rent here, came over to check the space out, see if it’s going to work for our little startup,” Glimmer said, smiling at the man and offering a business card.
“Solutions for the Hopeless?” the man read off the card.
“That’s our slogan, still workshopping it, as well as getting a good domain and brand name, but, you know, need an office to work in before everything is completely cleared up,” xe said. “So, we’ll just go up and take a look. The guy we were talking to, what’s his name…”
“Mr. Richardson?” the man hesitantly offered.
“That’s the guy! He said we could check it out whenever and I managed to find some time in my schedule right now.” Glimmer grabbed my hand and tugged me towards the elevator where xe pressed the button. “Be sure to let him know we stopped by, okay?”
The elevator door opened and xe rushed inside, waving at the confused man at the front desk. I sighed and followed, and xe hit the button to close it.
“We’ll be kicked out in a bit, but hopefully we can find the girl before then,” Glimmer said.
“No way we’re going to find her body here,” I said.
“Oh? Have I thought through this wrong? In my experience your sort just leave the remains of their food where they ate, or at least nearby.”
“They had a human escort,” I said. “No way her soul was taken here. They were dragging her around, and probably dragged her out of here.”
“Hm. Well, no harm in checking, I suppose. But that seems like odd behavior. What good is a body?”
“Depends on the body,” I said.
The doors opened, and we looked out onto the same floor I had seen the other day. We walked around for a bit. “Well, this certainly seems like an empty floor,” Glimmer said.
“Last time I saw her body, it was here,” I said, pointing to the desk. “But that doesn’t mean much.”
Glimmer went behind the desk and took a look, and then pulled out xir phone. I watched xir fiddle with the phone for a bit. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, just checking some things,” xe said, smiling. “This was kind of a dead end, but we do know one thing.”
“The demon we’re looking for has access to this place. So they probably own it or are connected to someone that owns it or something like that. Was seeing if I could pull up pictures of whoever owns the building.”
“I don’t know if it’d be the owner,” I said. “I don’t often get involved in things above board. Not like I have an ID or anything like that where I can officially work. Someone like me who managed to own property probably wouldn’t directly risk themselves on that kind of shit.”
“That so?” Glimmer said, looking up. “You’re essentially illegal?”
“How do you think I’d get something like a birth certificate? They don’t give those to fucking shadow snakes.”
“Steal one, I guess?”
“We’ll have to get you some good fakes sometime,” Glimmer said, looking back at xir phone. “And also have a long talk about demon life cycles, as you seem to be suggesting you used to be one of those little ones.”
I frowned. “You’re talking like I’m sticking around…”
“But for now, that does make sense,” xe said, ignoring me, “so that means this search I’m doing right now is pretty pointless… hm.”
The elevator opened, and a woman in a security uniform started walking over towards us. “You don’t have permission to be here,” she said. “I’m going to have to escort you out.”
“We for sure do have permission, but if you insist,” Glimmer said, sliding xir phone back into xir bag. “I don’t want to make trouble. Come on, Rio.”
We let the woman feel like she was in control and escort us out. As soon as we hit the street and got a bit away, Glimmer pulled out xir phone again.
“Well, I guess we’ll have to go around and ask people if she’d been seen again… I already cast a pretty wide net, but it wasn’t around here, so…”
“You have fun with that,” I said.
“Aren’t you going to help?” xe asked.
“Why would I? And even if I wanted to, it’s not like I’m good at that sort of thing.”
“You can be my little cheerleader, then,” xe said, patting me on the head.
“Hey…” I said, growling.
“Come on, let’s go. What kind of places would this group of people have stopped at, do you think? Gas stations?” Glimmer started walking.
“I have no fucking idea,” I said.
“Sure you can’t remember anything else about this demon?”
“I don’t fucking know. Ran set the whole thing up. I was just a warm body.”
Now I had fucking done it. “…friend of mine. Sort of.”
“Think you could call this Ran and…”
“Awww, why not?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never done something like that before. Hurts my rep for more jobs, asking him about shit like that.”
“Come on, sweetie. You don’t have to involve him or anything. Just ask questions, promise you won’t mention where you heard it from.”
“What’s in it for me? There’s nothing in it for me, Glimmer. Just trouble.”
“I’ll kiss you,” xe said, grinning.
“Why would I want that?”
“Because you like me teasing you and you want to pick up where we left off last night sometime,” xe said.
“Pretty fucking full of yourself, aren’t you?”
Xe shrugged. “Am I wrong? I expressly told you I’d stop doing anything if you told me to stop, and you’ve actively refused to use the word ‘stop,’ even when acting annoyed. That says to me you like it.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that.
“You drive a hard bargain,” xe said, leaning down close to me. “How about two kisses, and I’ll give you one in advance?”
“But… I mean…”
“We weirdos have to stick together, right?” xe said. And then xe leaned in and pressed xir lips against mine.
I stepped back, shaking a little. “I… fuck…”
“Hm? What’s that?”
“I… m-my phone is probably dead…”
“Oh sweetie, half of this purse is batteries, that is no problem at all,” Glimmer said, grinning.
We sat down on the curb and got my phone in working order. I took a deep breath, and I called Ran.
“I was not at all expecting to hear from you this quickly,” he said. There were sounds of someone crying in the background. “Sorry for the noise. Just finished eating and this body just will not calm down.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “Just food.”
“Yeah, right? That’s why you should eat. Have you eaten yet?”
“No. But Ran, listen, what was up with that job last night?”
“You were there, Rio.”
“No, but I mean,” I growled, frustrated. “I mean, who was that motherfucker on the other side of the table? The one like us?”
“…why do you want to know?”
Glimmer leaned in close so xe could maybe hear the other side of the conversation. Made it very hard to lie, xir being so distractingly close, but I tried. “Just think I crossed them before, is all. Wanna cover my tail.”
“Seriously? This must have been a while ago. You’re keeping your head so far down now.”
“Yeah, so they might look more evolved now, wanna make sure it’s the same motherfucker.”
“Well, can’t say I know much. They don’t throw their name around. Probably scared of tracing magic. But I know they run drugs around here. Control a network of dealers and stuff.”
“What was last night, then?”
“Moving a real big order. They had some sort of leverage with someone at a warehouse where they ship out drugs mail-order style? Got tons of legal stuff there, and some of that is still worth plenty black market. Was stealing a whole bunch of it, and selling it out of town, to our lady, as you saw. Honestly didn’t think the deal would go through because the quantities just seemed a bit ridiculous.”
Glimmer pulled back and was doing something on xir phone.
“Doesn’t sound like my guy, then. Good. That’s one less problem,” I said.
“Yeah, sure,” Ran said. “Listen, I gotta take care of this, but take care of yourself, okay?”
“Yeah, I will.”
Ran hung up.
“Happy now?” I asked xir.
“EasyAid,” xe said, showing me some search result on xir phone. “That sounds like the company he was talking about, yes? And it’s not too far away.” Xe stood, brushing off xir skirt. “Come on.”
The place was luckily still open when we got there. Glimmer walked in like xe should be there and showed the picture of the girl to the receptionist.
“This looks like Ms. Turren’s girlfriend,” the receptionist said.
Glimmer glanced up at a picture of the founder of the company, labelled Amelia Turren, then back to the receptionist with a big smile. “Could we perhaps talk to her?”
We headed into a little office to the side of what seemed to be a big warehouse. A very stressed-looking woman, much older than the girl in the picture, looked up and obviously thought us a bit odd.
“Um, hello,” Ms. Turren said. “What can I do for you two?”
“Is this your girlfriend?” Glimmer said, flashing the picture.
Ms. Turren’s eyes widened. “How did you… what…”
“Her parents hired me, and my assistant here, to find her,” Glimmer said, handing over one of xir business cards. “We’re detectives, of a sort. Did you know she was missing?”
“I… no… I didn’t…” Ms. Turren said, looking at the business card.
I scoffed at that. “Yeah, sure.”
Ms. Turren glared at me. “If Brittany is missing I certainly want to know about it.”
“So you’re just smuggling out all those drugs from here just for fun, then?” I said.
“I think you two need to leave my office,” she said, standing.
“What my assistant is trying to say,” Glimmer said, “is that we understand you’re being blackmailed for her safety. Any information you can give us to help track Brittany down would be a great help.”
“Yes, you are,” I said.
“I’m sorry. Ms. Turren, but we have pretty strong evidence that you are. This evidence doesn’t need to go anywhere, of course. I’m more than happy to conveniently lose it, especially since I know you were only trying to help. I just need to find Brittany and bring her home, safe and sound. That’s all,” Glimmer said softly. “So please, help us? Every moment wasted is another moment of Brittany being in who knows what situation.”
She looked us both over, clearly not knowing whether to trust us both. Finally, she sat back down. “She’s just a kid, you know? A fling. It wasn’t supposed to be serious. Isn’t serious. But it’s my fault, you know? I couldn’t just abandon her…”
“Of course you couldn’t,” xe said.
“They are supposed to come by here tonight and give her back, as long as I let them have the rest… the first bunch, all of that, was supposed to be it, but maybe I was stupid to think that…”
“It’s alright, Ms. Turren. You were just trying to protect Brittany. We completely understand.”
“I’m supposed to just leave the truck door ‘accidentally’ unlocked…”
Glimmer grinned. “Mind if we hang out here tonight, then?”
A bunch of greasy fast food for Glimmer and a bunch of boring waiting around later, we found ourselves waiting in the dark in a big warehouse.
“What even is the plan, anyway?” I asked, still not completely sure why I was there but hoping I’d at least get to hurt someone. Being around Glimmer helped the hunger not hurt, but now that I’d been around xir for a while, I was starting to notice it still there. It was kind of worse, just barely eating away rather than all in.
“Worst case, we stop some drug theft. Best case, we kill a demon and get a girl’s body back.”
“But it’s just a body. Not much point to it.”
“Maybe you never checked, sweetie, but a body can recover enough to live a sort of life. Especially if I give it a little push. That’s something, at least to its family.”
“Just seems like you’re giving people false hope,” I said.
“Let’s put it this way. You don’t have a soul, do you?”
“Of course not.”
“And yet, you’re still a person. So the body can do just fine, I promise. It’s worth it.”
I sighed. “If you say so.”
“Now, let’s go over a battle plan, perhaps,” Glimmer said. “I’ve never fought alongside anyone before, really… especially someone who I could so easily hurt with a lot of what I do. So. I assume you’re going to go all scary and fight if things get real bad? Maybe you could try to…”
“All scary?” I said.
“That thing demons do where they get really big and monstrous?”
“I can’t do that.”
“I’m too hungry to be myself right now.”
“Oh,” xe said. “I had figured you were just not wanting to destroy my apartment before. I’m sorry. I’m sure that must be…”
“Just fucking drop it.”
“…alright… maybe you should then instead guard the front door, so that none can escape, and let me handle things? That way you’ll be safe.”
“It’s the only fucking thing I know how to do, I am fighting.”
“…alright then. Well, try to draw them away, alright? Divide so I can do my thing easier.”
We waited and waited. I was used to doing this. Jobs sometimes called for this. I was surprised Glimmer was okay with it. I figured xe’d be on xir phone the whole time. But either to conserve battery or make sure there was no light, xe wasn’t. Maybe this really was xir job.
I was nearly asleep when I heard the truck. It pulled up to the door Ms. Turren had left unlocked, and opened it. Moonlight lit up the previously dark room.
“What do you think?” said a familiar voice. “Think we’re safe? Or will I have to do something to you as punishment?”
“That’s them,” I whispered.
Glimmer touched my arm in acknowledgement, starting to do something with xir phone.
I tried to peek around the corner of the large shelving unit we were behind. It was indeed that oily motherfucker. Brittany’s body followed behind, still shivering in her big coat. A bunch of other people in dark clothes were starting to pull dollies out of the truck.
“Honestly, it’d be fun to string the bitch along with a little blood. It’s not like she couldn’t use you like she was before with a few more wounds, eh?” they said.
The body said nothing.
“Hurry up, we don’t have long,” they said to the other guys, who were already starting to stack boxes of who knows what.
“Don’t do anything rash, now,” Glimmer whispered, holding xir phone up like xe was taking a picture around the corner.
Then with a flash, there was another xir.
“Hello there!” the other xir said.
The workers stopped what they were doing and pulled guns.
“Hello,” they said, grinning at xir. “Who are you?”
“Me? I’m just a concerned citizen,” the other Glimmer said. “Give me Brittany and leave, and I won’t kill you.”
The oily motherfucker stared at this other Glimmer for a moment… and then laughed. “You? You’re the warlock that’s been killing so many of us in this city? Really?”
“I prefer demon hunter, actually,” the other Glimmer said. “And yes, that is me. Good. Now you know my threat is real.”
They just pointed at the other Glimmer, and several gunshots rang out. The other Glimmer disappeared. “The warlock is in here somewhere, Comb the area. Kill them and I promise it’ll be worth your time.”
“Wonder how many are demons…” Glimmer said, thinking. “In any case, Rio, if you insist on helping, can you, perhaps, go around the back, get the girl’s body away from all this? That’ll free me up quite a bit.”
“Sure, why not,” I said, trying not to be frustrated that I wasn’t just wading in there. But I wasn’t going to be of much use against guns like this. Gripping my brass knuckles, I hurried off to round the perimeter of the warehouse. I took my time at first, but soon I heard bursts of gunfire and the sounds of many boxes going up in flames, and I hurried up. I got the jump on one of the workers. His shot went high, one of the few benefits of being this tiny, and I smashed him in the dick, making him topple over, where I kicked him in the head. I grabbed his gun as I moved ahead. I was no good with guns, but I figured it was better to have it than not.
Finally, I had a clear line. They were tapping their foot, impatiently, waiting with the body. I could rush them, but with me hungry, I’d stand no chance. If I could fill them with bullets before they changed, maybe they wouldn’t have enough energy to make it.
I took aim, pretended I knew what the fuck I was doing, and fired the rest of the bullets in the gun.
At least one hit them. They turned to me, angry, side bleeding. “And who is this,” they said. “You were there last night.”
“You fucking want some?” I yelled.
“Gladly,” they said. Their suit started ripping. There was a loud sizzling noise as they dragged themselves up to full size. Their head, or what had been a head, nearly hit the ceiling. “Time to teach you a lesson,” they growled, and two pseudopods suddenly lunged for me from their mass.
“Fuck!” I screamed, and started running. A shelving unit fell, and nearly crushed me. I barely scrambled out from underneath it, flinging bottles of pills off of me.
“Rio, you okay?” I heard Glimmer call from somewhere. “This is really quite a big one…”
“Shut up and run!” I yelled to xir. Then I screamed. Another pseudopod got me around the leg, and I face-planted into the concrete. My flesh was sizzling loudly. I tried to scramble forward, but when I did, I no longer had a leg.
Luckily, if you could call it luck, no more attacks came. I must have been considered dealt with. And honestly, I was. I couldn’t stand, and I was in a whole lot of pain as I bled on the ground. I unzipped my jacket and tore at the bandages on my chest, trying to get enough to tie a tourniquet or something.
Behind me, bursts of flame kept leaping into the air. Another piece of shelving came crashing down, creating a domino effect.
And out of that domino effect came Glimmer.
“Rio, we have to get out of here. My spells are not really doing much. I need to figure out something specific for this type of demon. Seems to be made of acid? And… oh no…”
“Just fucking leave me,” I said, finishing tying off my leg.
“No, no, you can come back from that, we’ll…”
“I am not human and I cannot go to a hospital, just go.”
“There is another way you can heal, though,” Glimmer said.
“Not an option,” I growled. “Now go!”
Glimmer took off one of xir rings. “Rio, do you trust me?”
“No I do not fucking trust you, I met you yesterday!”
“Okay, but still, can you trust me?”
“Glimmer, you are going to fucking die!”
“Fine, then just promise me that you’ll do what I say,” xe said, putting the ring on my finger.
“You have been already, just fucking say it, Rio!” Glimmer said, in a flash of anger that caught me off-guard.
“I… alright. I promise I’ll do what you say,” I said. The ring heated up. “Ow! Fuck!”
“Okay, now just trust me,” Glimmer said, and kissed me again.
And as xe kissed me, without thinking about it, and without wanting to, I started feeding on xir. I tried to yell “No! Stop!” I tried so hard not to take it. But it wasn’t under my control. And soon I had xir soul, and xe pulled back.
“Oh my goodness, I am freezing,” Glimmer’s body said. “I knew I was going to be cold but this is just silly…” xe said, hugging xirself tightly, teeth chattering a little.
“What the fuck are you doing!” I yelled.
A shelf flew over our head as a psuedopod found us.
“Kill that thing, sweetie,” xe said. “Don’t waste this.”
“You’re a fucking idiot!” But xe was right. It was too late now. And it would be nice to have my leg back.
I let myself be me. My scales hardened. My plates thickened and spread. I was tall again, huge. My teeth were sharp again. I started laughing as my leg started growing back. I had missed this so much.
And then a pseudopod knocked me over, thankfully not onto Glimmer’s body, which had already started running.
“I thought for a moment this might be a fight,” the acidic asshole growled at me.
“This is going to be a motherfucking fight!” I growled back, and rent the pseudopod in half with my claws. It splashed to the ground, sizzling, and I forced myself up. My claws hurt. But if I could keep taking most of it with my plates, I felt confident.
My leg feeling mostly together again, I rushed across the warehouse towards the blob. I jumped and twisted in the air as another pseudopod smashed into me, taking the brunt of it on my back and arm plates.
There, in the blob, was something that was a different color. Brain? Organ? I really didn’t care. I pushed backwards, closer, and closer, my back starting to burn so hard. There were growls of anger from both of us.
But then I was close enough. I drove my claws in, and sunk them into that colored spot.
There was a sound like a whimper. And then the whole blob just splashed down, no longer in control. I was left holding the blob. I ate it. It burned all the way down.
“Who else fucking wants some!” I growled, loud as I could. The building shook. It quickly dawned on me that wasn’t a good idea. I moved out of the acid and sat down to regenerate.
“What are you supposed to be, some sort of… I don’t know… evil armadillo, maybe?”
I looked down to see Glimmer’s body. Xe was still cold, shaking, but wasn’t letting that stop xir mouth. “Fuck off,” I growled.
“Don’t worry. You’re a cute armadillo.”
“You’re healing?” xe said.
“Let me know when that’s done.”
“What does it fucking matter? You turned yourself into a walking corpse.”
“I took precautions, sweetie. I’m not ready to die quite yet.” Xe pointed to one of my claws. I looked down at it. The ring was still on it, somehow. Even though it should have easily snapped off when I grew.
I felt pretty well back to normal. “I think I’m back from the burns,” I growled.
“Wonderful. Now, give me back my soul.”
I was about to yell at xir about how ridiculous that was and how there was no going back once I ate xir besides killing me, but instead I started coughing, and moving back into my tiny bullshit fake human form. Soon I was on my hands and knees, coughing harder still, until finally, I coughed up a fucking soul.
“Thank you,” Glimmer said, picking it up, it disappearing into xir fingers. “There we go.”
“What the fuck did you do?” I said, still trying to catch my breath.
“Oh, well, you know. Warlock things. Used a gift from my mentor,” xe said. “It does look a little odd on you… not really your style… oh well, so it goes.”
“Well, you can have it back,” I said, tugging on the ring. It wouldn’t come off. I was starting to feel hungry again, and I was irritable. “Come fucking on!” I said, tugging harder.
“Don’t hurt yourself! It doesn’t come off!” Glimmer said, pulling my hand away.
“What do you mean it doesn’t come off?” I growled.
“It was the only way I knew to save you. You were so dedicated to dying back there. And you’re something special. So I bound you to me. That’s all.”
I just stared at xir, unsure what to say.
“It was the only way I could have you borrow my soul,” xe said. “It is undoable, I’m certain of that, but it will take me a few days of research to figure out exactly how, I’m afraid…”
I took several deep breaths. “Let’s… let’s just find the girl’s body and get out of here…”
We found the body, buried under boxes. It had some small acid burns, but it still was functional. Glimmer did something to it with xir phone to make it more active, and then we took it to the hospital.
Four days later, Glimmer was chanting something. Apparently xir phone apps couldn’t deal with the old-ass magic in the ring, so xe was having to do it the old fashioned way. It didn’t matter to me, as long as it worked.
Xe finally tapped the ring with the dagger, and it fell off.
“There, whew… that was tiring…” xe said.
I rubbed my hand. “About fucking time.”
“Yeah… I’m sorry,” xe said. “But you are still with us, so that’s a plus.”
“I guess,” I said.
Xe sat the dagger down and sat down next to me on the couch. “So, was it so bad, having to do everything I said?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” I said, looking away.
Glimmer chuckled. “Well, what are you going to do now? You finally don’t have to hang around with me anymore.”
“I don’t know. Look for another job, I guess,” I said. I was honestly not looking forward to being homeless again. It was kind of nice, having a place to be. But that’s how these things go.
“Well…” Glimmer said, running a finger over my chest. “I might have a job offer for you.”
I batted xir hand away. “I doubt it.”
“Just got the email a bit ago. Missing guy got found, complains of cold, won’t talk much, family wants to know if I know what’s going on, because nobody else does.”
“That’s your job, not mine.”
“Could be yours, too. I’d love to share. And the job comes with other perks too.”
“I don’t need your perks,” I said.
Xe leaned in and whispered. “Didn’t seem that way last night when you had that wonderfully long tongue between my legs…”
“That’s your needs, not mine…” I said, trying to believe it as I said it.
“Keep telling yourself that,” xe said, hands moving to my breasts without any sort of hesitation or shame. “You may be missing some parts, but it’s so, so obvious you want me…”
“F-fine… fine…” I said, blushing brightly. “I can… I can help you with one more…”
Glimmer kissed me softly, and smiled.
Thank you very much for reading my story! If you liked it, please share it with your friends and stuff. That would mean a lot to me. There’s plenty more stories and things coming, so I hope to entertain you again soon!