Leah's higher brain functions weren't really a part of her world this early in the goddamned morning.
She squinted up at the list of things on the menu, most of which escaped her basic comprehension at this hour.
"Fuck is an Americano," she muttered.
"Can I help you?" chirped the woman behind the counter.
You can't possibly be Scottish, thought Leah. Too chirpy.
"Coffee," Leah growled.
"What kind?" chirped the woman.
"Fucking black kind. Hot," Leah grumbled. The woman's look faltered a bit.
"One Americano, coming up!" she said.
Oh, thought Leah. She put her freezing hands around the warm mug the woman gave her and paid. She slouched off to a seat in the corner and sat down.
Fucking hangover, she chided herself. In October, so now you're freezing AND have a headache. Idiot.
She drank some of the coffee. It was indeed black and hot. She waited for it to make her feel better. It didn't.
"The hell does the Chief do with this stuff, inject it?" she mumbled to herself.
"Miss Bishop," said a voice.
"Funny I should meet with you here," said Dorian Grey, her partner.
Dorian was so put together she was certain he came in an Ikea box with a weird name and someone had to build him every morning. He was every inch the Victorian gentleman, from his form-fitting suits to his walking stick. His great sad brown eyes in an aristocratic, high-cheekboned face were the dreams of many men and women who were into that sort of thing.
Leah thought he looked like some ned was just waiting to glass him in the face.
She looked around surreptitiously to see if any neds were interested, but the coffeeshop was woefully middle class.
"What," Leah finally said, once her brain kicked in and reminded her that if Dorian was here, talking to her, there must be something afoot.
Ha, Sherlock Holmes, she said to herself. The great monster detective.
"Are you quite all right?" Dorian enquired, sitting down in front of him.
"Dunno," said Leah. "You still got those eight sticks up your arse?"
Dorian's eyebrow arched. He was pretty. Leah made an angry noise.
"Stop that," she said.
"What?" he asked.
"Bein' pretty," she grumbled.
"I shall endeavour to do my best," Dorian said, a slight smile creasing his otherwise porcelain features. "I didn't expect to see you here, but due to this serendipitous meeting, I can impart my information."
Leah stared hard at him, trying to follow the maze of his words and utterly failing.
"Dorian," she said, pointing at herself. "Hungover. Bad. Spit it out."
"Very well," he said. "I wish to plan a celebration for the captain's birth, but without his knowing."
Leah just kept staring at him as if he might change suddenly into a dragon. Weirder things had happened.
"You what?" she asked. Dorian looked like he was about to repeat everything and she held up a hand, having finally toured the maze of Dorian's words.
"You want to throw Chief Ben a surprise birthday party."
"There's no...monsters breaking the law?" hazarded Leah. "No more kelpies in the Clyde?"
"So we're...going to what, get him a cake and a pinata?" she asked.
"If you think that's wise."
Leah whipped around to look at him, suspicious.
"Do you?" she demanded. Hmmm. Maybe she was still drunk. Drunk and hungover.
"Will you help me, Miss Bishop?" asked Dorian.
"That's Detective to you, pal," said Leah, finishing her coffee. "And yeah. Why the hell not."
They stood in the Tesco bread aisle, Leah blinking in the fluorescent light.
"Why. Why me. Dorian."
"Because I thought you'd know best," he said.
Leah narrowed her eyes.
"It better not be because I'm a lassie," Leah said. Dorian shook his head.
"No, Detective Bishop," he said. "It is because you are familiar with more modern, human ways of celebrating."
"Why would Ben want a human celebration?" asked Leah.
"Wouldn't you want a faerie celebration?" Dorian countered. "Your ways seem magical to us."
Leah snorted, but went over to the cake counter and started paging through the plastic sheets.
"Here," she said. "Get this one."
It was a flat sheet cake with buttercream frosting, plain but with tasteful accents.
"Thank you, I shall," said Dorian.
"What time's this party?" Leah asked. "I haven't slept yet. I gotta sleep this off. Coffee doesn't work."
"This evening," Dorian said. "Around 8 pm, in the Caledonia Interpol office."
"Great. I'll be there," said Leah. "Now, do you need help picking out balloons or anything? I'm pure shattered."
"No, I think I can take it from here," said Dorian. "Best of luck, sleep well."
Leah saluted him.
"Cheers," she said, and walked on home like a sailor who'd had too many.
Night fell, and Leah awoke, refreshed.
That's strange, she thought. A hangover like the one she had didn't usually go away so easily, but now she felt like she'd spent a weekend at a spa in the hot tub. Or, at least, what she assumed the kind of people who did that sort of thing felt like.
She scrubbed her hand across her face and wondered if Dorian had somehow magically cured her hangover. If so, she wondered why he'd never done it before.
Can't be, she reminded herself. Selkie cantrips only work when more than one seal is casting it together.
Shit! Dorian! she thought, glancing at the clock; it was already 7! She raced to the door, pulling on her jeans and nearly falling over. She righted herself, got her feet into her boots and her arms into her brown leather jacket. She pushed the door open and locked it, turning the handle upward.
Her breath came out as steam in the night, under the orange lanterns that turned the Glasgow darkness into a soft flame of light. She put her hands in her pockets; it was late October, after all, and a chilly night. She walked down Sauchiehall and turned at Buchanan, the vista from the top of the street one of Glasgow's quintessential views. The people thronging back and forth up and down the street made it an incredibly busy evening; she wasn't accustomed to quite this many people out and about, but she figured it must have something to do with the weather. Chilly but clear, something Glaswegians always cherished, although Leah herself preferred to walk through the orange-mist fog.
Like Irn-Bru, her mind supplied, and she grinned, wondering if that'd ever occurred to the people at Barr. There were enough whiskies named things like Highland Mist. Irn-Bru might as well start giving itself ridiculously Scottish labels, Glasgow style - like Tennant's Brewery on the Wind or The Smell of that One Close in Bridgeton, You Know The One.
Leah finally made it down to the small castle-shaped building she had seen Dorian in that morning. It crowned the top of Caledonia Interpol, as well as St. Enoch Street station. Down below, far underneath the rumble and drip of the tunnels of the Clockwork Orange, was a place of fantasy and faerie tale - and not necessarily the nice kind.
Leah pulled her hand out of her pocket. She placed it against the red sandstone of the back of the building. Her hand glowed for a moment, and a dark handprint was left behind on the stone, until it faded away and a dark doorway appeared.
She walked inside, and it melted shut behind her. Down a long staircase covered in branches and ivy, with tiny lights hidden within, giggling and tittering as Leah walked. She found herself in the long garden pathway, arched over with branches likewise, and made her way to another red sandstone door.
Pushing it open, the main office and library of Caledonia Interpol greeted her. The cavernous room was filled with activity; people and creatures were moving hither and thither throughout, much like the crowds on Buchanan Street, but wildly different in their makeup. The huge fire off to one side was roaring, as the firedogs played and barked. The ceiling, which made its own weather, was blessedly clear tonight, just like the exterior; for the first time, Leah saw that the room was crowned with a glass dome, and she could see the stars.
This made her wonder about the large window that dominated the room to her left; it had always been there, but it was impossible to see what was beyond it, apart from vague shapes in the fog. She approached the glass to look out, when she suddenly realised the room had gone very, very quiet.
She slowly turned around.
Everyone in the room was staring at her, which was creepy enough.
"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Leah! Happy birthday to you!"
"Oh my God," Leah groaned, and smacked herself in the forehead.
Dorian came forward, wheeling the cake on a little trolley. Leah wondered if he got it from some local hotel or he just owned that sort of thing.
The cake read Happy Birthday, Leah!
"Did you forget?" asked Dorian, smiling. Chief Ben came forward, as did her other friends; Yoo Min and Nour, blowing happily on a party favour.
"Yeah," said Leah. "Yeah, I did."
"A folklorist born on Halloween," said Dorian. "Imagine forgetting that."
Leah's mouth quirked up at the corner.
"Fitting though, isn't it?" she asked.
"Can we eat the cake now?" piped up one of the pixies.
"Yes, you may," Dorian said.
The result was something that resembled a food fight a lot more than a birthday party, but things at Caledonia Interpol were never quite normal.
"Happy Halloween, Dorian Grey," said Leah.
"Happy birthday, Miss Bishop," he replied. "Detective."
"And don't you forget it," she said, grabbing a slice of cake before it was gone.
"I doubt I ever shall," said Dorian Grey.