"So," he said, eyes glittering, "what have you got to eat around here?"
"We'll deal with that later," I said sharply; his eyes--which are a pretty convenient fuel gauge for those of you living with sparklepires--were still plenty amberscotch. "Get your manners together and let's go make the rounds."
He untucked his shirt (which honestly looked better), straightened his coat (again) and ran a hand through his hair (of course he did). "If we absolutely have to."
One of the things I found so curious about Tonner Edward's arrival is how quickly he put everyone's teeth on edge. Was it because he was so much taller? Was it because he radiated sulk and resentment, or were they sensing something more sinister? I don't know. But he hadn't even said anything to them yet and they all just--reacted. (I was suddenly very glad that Eowyn and Faramir One were away at the moment--I'll tell you more about that later. I had no idea where Anna was, but at that point I figured that either she wasn't present--thank God--or was too stunned with rage to even move.)
Galadriel met him at my desk, her gaze icy: "Welcome, large sparklepire."
He nodded curtly--I whacked him in the back and he turned it into a more gracious head-bowing just in time.
On the dresser, Lyra marched up to him, her little fist on the hilt of the dagger on her belt--he turned his golden amberscotch eyes on her and she faltered. On her shoulder, Pan swayed. "You're very tall," she said, her eyes wide. "Have you killed a lot of people?"
"More than I can count."
"With your teeth?"
He smiled without kindness. "How did you know?"
Serafina swooped in and hustled Lyra off, flashing a very dark look at Edward as she went, but his eyes lingered on her long after she had turned away.
"And... that was Serafina, Queen of the Witches of..."
"Keep her away from me," he said brusquely. "Unless you'd like to see her dead."
"You know, I really think she can take you--"
"Are you sure about that?"
And for the first time, I wasn't.
He was a perfect gentleman to White Arwen by the time we got to my bed, though--which was a bit of a relief, that he was capable of respecting her sweetness. It was also a relief because the Fug of Men was hovering over her the whole time, ready to bust out some crooked stabnation if necessary. Helm's Deep Aragorn was a little less highstrung about the whole thing, probably because he felt like Purple Arwen could handle herself--she was a bit wary of Edward already--but we never found out how that would have gone because just then, Edward turned to me very calmly and said, "Duck."
Those who saw what happened told me later that Anna had climbed up onto the bedpost and, when the opportune moment arrived between Arwens, launched herself in a flying squirrel dive over everyone's heads, her target the large newcomer she could hardly fail to hit. Except that she totally failed, because Edward did, in fact, duck, and I ended up with a scalpful of formal toothpick. She tumbled off my head to the comforter and executed some kind of tuck-and-roll that had her back on her feet in no time--apparently the Fauxmanian Gypsy class gets a dexterity bonus--and slicing the air her sword in one hand and her dagger in the other, while Edward simply stepped to the left and to the right and didn't even break a sweat. And then she got close enough for him to grab her by the neck, and out came every sword on the entire Shelf and there's Elizabeth right up in Edward's face with her sword under his chin and here I am bleeding from the hair and this whole circus is completely out of control.
Edward turned Anna around and held her out to me by the scruff of her neck like a misbehaving kitten.
Anna was shaking with fury, shaking so hard she couldn't even speak, so mortified she didn't even struggle. "Drop it, Anna. Drop everything," I said, clutching my head. She did. "Lizzie, take her pistol. You can hold on to it for now."
"What are you--where are you taking her!"
"Somewhere quiet where she can get a grip on herself." Which is something else I'll tell you about later as well.
When I came back, everyone was very quiet. Elizabeth looked appalled--and then I realized she was appalled at me.
"So... that was the anti-vampire faction," I said faintly. "I think that's enough meet-and-greet for today."
And that was the day when the mood of The Shelf shifted. After that afternoon, The Littlest Edward--who had shown himself to be flawed, yes, but also a conscientious, responsible, and hard-working member of society--was no longer anything the others feared. This unknown
"I can show you where the food is," he said. "There's plenty of wool and cotton for both of us."
New Edward looked back to me. "Don't you have anything a little more... fresh?"
I clutched at my scalp again and wondered what the hell I'd gotten myself into.
He laughed. "Smaller scale."
"You don't mean... real animals?"
"I acquired a taste for rodentia during my extended stay in the warehouse," he said, again with that mirthless smile.
"Real blood? But he just eats stuffing, and--"
"Well, my construction is a bit more complex than his, isn't it?"
I opened my mouth and made stupid shapes for a few moments. "Well--fine then. Same rules as I gave Edward. The other Edward. No pets--no cats or dogs. Especially not mine." I didn't joke about going after Bad Cat the way I had with The Littlest Edward, because I wasn't sure it would be a joke this time. "Every now and then a couple of mice show up--I think they're getting into the house through the attic. Be my guest. And the Cook's Pest Control guy found a rat's nest in the shed out back, if you want to check that out. We also have a shitload of pool frogs that croak all night long, if you feel like some French cuisine."
"What about birds?"
"Excellent sport," he said.
"Look, man--if you can catch them... you're welcome to them, I guess. Just... don't get any feathers in the house."
"What is he allowed to eat?" By which I think he meant, who does he get to eat?
"Stuffing, wool, yarn--nothing from inside anybody. Nothing I specifically do not offer him. Same goes for you. I've got plenty on hand, though--Little Edward can't always control himself," I said, and for some reason, I felt more like I was defending TLE's honor than impugning it. "He attacked a stuffed bear a while back. Nearly killed him. So I keep us stocked up."
The Littlest Edward lifted his chin defiantly. Tonner Edward did look a bit less disdainful for the moment.
"I'll let you know if I run out of game," he said.
I had a bad feeling about the whole thing, and I still had it when I went to bed, but a girl's gotta sleep sometime. Unless she's awakened by the sense that someone is, once again, watching from her nightstand.
"Anna, how the hell did you even--oh God, not you. Please don't get weird on me now, I can't handle both of you being creepy at once--"
"I'm not watching you," he whispered. "I'm watching him."
I peered over the edge of the comforter, and there was Tonner Edward across the room, leaning against the jewelry chest on my dresser. See, I have a stack of hatboxes on top of a hamper at the end of the dresser--and from that end you can see the bed, but you can't see much of The Shelf, and (more to the point) The Shelf can't see you. And you know, if I'd arrived at my new home and been attacked on sight by a small, crazed gypsy, maybe I'd want a little peace and quiet my first night there as well. So I'm not saying that he was, like, stalking me or something from my own dresser. I'm just saying that he was there, and that The Littlest Edward was watching him from behind my alarm clock, and that I was suddenly very glad that he was.
"He's laughing at me. In his head, I mean. And he knows that I know he's laughing." Oh God, I'd forgotten about the mind-reading. "He thinks that I'm small and pathetic, that I'm paranoid, that I'm pitiful. But I know this much: I know that he's there. And he knows that I know. So if he did want to come over here and--bother you--he knows now that he can't."
"Do you really think he would?"
"Do you want to find out?"
I don't feel so good, you guys.
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