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Vanity and Security

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It's been four nights of lyin’ low in the former Fenton place, makin' it feel homey and waitin' for any stray Pinkertons to lose interest in the fact that twelve of their men and the richest couple in town and some random fella from the scotch terrace had all disappeared. Well, lose interest maybe isn't the right word. Start pursuin' those werewolves might be more likely. After all, they're the ones had to deal with ol' Jedediah's corpse. And these days, rappin' on the door of the current Chewing place will only get you the shove-off from a brand new union-gang by day, and a look into Gunbo's charming eyes by night. (Gunbo is very charming.)

And it's a small town, so word gets out. The house on the hill with all its ornamental curlicues and functional gargoyles belongs to the cowboys now, belongs, in fact, to one Squishy Chewing.

Gunbo's been keepin' himself busy with some handiwork about the place. Built real nice beds for Constance and Edward and James so they don't gotta share with the dogs no more. Built Squishy a special coffin-bed what lets them sleep on top of the gold, 'stead of the gold sleepin' on top of them. (Jedidiah really was a strange fellow.) Started a shed, out back, to fill with ice and store all the Pinkerton corpses in case anyone needs a midnight snack. Next he's gonna gather some magic herbs from over by the old horse paddock and transplant them in the new horse paddock, cause it seems like the horses have got a taste for 'em.

It's good work. Gunbo likes good work. He's thinkin' about makin' a boat, one of these days, not that there's anyplace to sail it. He just likes a good boat.

Still. He's been rollin' things over in his mind, anticipation buildin’ just as quickly as that shed.

And so, on that fourth night, he gets himself dressed up in his best cape and brightest boots and tugs his bolo tie neat around his collar and his cloak around his shoulders. His guns are nice and shiny in their holsters, but tonight he’s not lookin’ for a reason to use them.

"Well," he says, leanin' on the doorframe to the front room, where everybody's gathered for lunch. "Think it might be about time one of us went on down to the saloon, see what it is folks are sayin' about us."

"Ooh!" Choo Choo says, jumpin' to her feet. Her plate of beans and toast jumps with her. "I'll go!" She's got that gleam in her eyes that hasn't quite gone away since her first proper feedin'.

"Aw, now Choo Choo." Cigar chomps his cigar and tips back his hat. "We can't have you goin' down there. You ain't even got the hang of blinkin' yet!" He's all relaxed, feet up on the table, but Gunbo's known him long enough to know he's just as ready to move as anything, should the situation call for it.

"Yes, but there will be so many people there. And I can practice." Choo Choo licks her lips and blinks pointedly to demonstrate.

"We've got detectives in the cellar, still," Cigar protests. "Should finish them off first, at least."

"You could come with me," Choo Choo insists. "And make sure I'm doing it right." Despite her eagerness, her movements are less desperate than they’ve been. She looks better, too. Her round face looks less pinched and sallow and undead-like. It's a relief off everyone's chest, Cigar's especially.

Gunbo clears his throat and moves from leanin’ on one side of the doorframe to leanin’ on the other. "Now hold on one gosh darn minute," he says. "I didn't say nothin' about a Wink-Drink. I said I wanted to hear what folks are sayin'. And maybe give them somethin' else to say." He waggles his eyebrows. "If you catch my drift."

"Yeah, yeah, we all got your drift," Cigar says, rollin’ his eyes, but in that fond way he has where Gunbo can tell he's really charmed.

"Rrrraaaww," Gunbo purrs, to prove his point.

"So you're sayin' you wanna go on your own."

"Well," Gunbo says, "I just thought it'd be safer. We don't know what kinda rumors they're spreadin'. And I'm very safe."

"Yeah, I know you are."

"Always check the safety before I shoot." Gunbo waggles his eyebrows again.

Cigar squints at him. "Yeah, but which way are we talkin' here. Cause I reckon if you're gonna shoot that gun, you want the safety off, but–"

"Well, see, it all depends on the situation." Gunbo winks. "And the weapon. Sometimes you want the safety off, and sometimes you do your better shootin' when it's on."

Squishy stamps their stick on the floor. "Right," they say, loud and creaky, in a voice that will not be argued with. "I too will join you at the saloon."

"Aw, now Squishy," Gunbo begins to argue. It's not exactly like Gunbo needs a wing-vampire, seein' as he's so charming, but if he did, Squishy might not be the smoothest choice. Love them to pieces, but they've got a bad habit of takin’ their dentures out in the middle of a conversation, and that doesn't usually help the mood.

"This is my house," Squishy says, waggin’ one gnarled brown finger, "and the townsfolk should know what cowboy it is who has set up a home here."

Cigar tips his hat back so far it falls off his head. "Squishy, you're just lookin' for an excuse to–"

"YEEEE-HAWWWW!" Squishy bellows, shakin’ their stick.

And there really ain't no arguin' with that.

In the end they all go, after they’ve finished their breakfast. They set off under the waning moon. The horses aren't sparkin’ today, not without the herbs, and seem almost as surprised as the cowboys to be trottin' in the direction they meant to. Without havin' to mediate much between Jessica and the road, Gunbo's mind is free to wander, and wander it does.

He would swear that Bartender had been flirtin' back just as hard as Gunbo had been flirtin' forward. What else do you call the promise of a long, unlikely story about travelin' and seein’ strange things and growin' into yourself? That's just the Baggins way, and Gunbo gets the sense the Bartender knew it.

The saloon is lively, but not so lively a quartet of vampires can't find a place to sit and grab a whiskey, 'specially if they're not stickin’ together. Squishy goes off to join their semi-ancient friends, Choo Choo and Cigar disappear out back, but with glasses, like maybe they're enjoying the booze, or maybe they're gonna try that new thing of partially drainin’ folks without killing them.

Gunbo runs a hand through his hair and sidles up to the bar, cloak settled dramatically over his shoulders.

The Bartender's there, just like he was before. Handsome red waistcoat with subtle embroidery that catches the eye and gold buttons that keep it snug over a round stomach. Neatly trimmed and greying beard, great soft hands, and that voice, smooth and welcomin’ and allurin’ as he pours some local a finger of bourbon. Then he turns, looking at Gunbo with this little hard-to-read smile.

"Ah, good evening, good evening," he says. "Gunbo, was it? I thought I'd see you back here before long."

"Aw, right." This fella is nearly as charming as Gunbo is himself. Gunbo's mouth goes a little dry. "Well I'm glad to be here, and in the interest of honestly, my name's Gunbo and I may have two guns, but also I am real happy to see you." He waggles his eyebrows, then quickly clarifies, "that's not a threat, by the way. Just occurred to me it might sound like one, but I ain't gonna shoot you. It's just a chat-up." 

The Bartender laughs, clearly not threatened. "So is that what brings you back into Chapter?"

Gunbo nods. "Well, we ended up not skippin' town, and I just couldn't wait another night without stoppin' by. Thought maybe you could tell more more about that place at Whatchamacallit-On-The-Sea you said was so beautiful."

The Bartender's smile widens. "Witherington-on-Sea," he corrects gently, in this way that makes Gunbo feel like he's been given a present rather than been told he’s wrong. "Yes, you were interested in some of my more, ah, unusual exploits, weren't you?"

"I was indeed," Gunbo says. He watches as the Bartender picks up a bottle and inspects it, then picks up another. "It just sounds so fascinatin', all those different bars and, uh, drinks. And people."

"Well," the Bartender says. "How about this? I'll tell you a story, if you tell me one about yourself."

"Oh!" Gunbo says, and his stomach does a flip-flop, the same way it would have if he was still capable of blushin’. "Yeah, of-of course, certainly. Always got a great many stories, us Bagginses. What'd you like to know?"

"I think," the Bartender says, "I'll leave that up to you."

"Well, I could tell you the story about my Great-Grandpappy, and the time he hog-tied a moose out in the wild old woods of Canada." Gunbo says it with all the weight it deserves.

"Ah, well." The Bartender clears his throat and puts a hand on the bar, in the sort of way where it looks like it could almost be on top of Gunbo's hand, if Gunbo's hand wasn't wavin’ in the air. "I'm sure your grandfather has a trove of fascinating stories, Gunbo. And I would love to hear them. But tonight, I thought we might to start with a story about you."

"Oh," Gunbo says again. "Don't you know how to make a lad feel special." He fans his face with a hand, and it's only a little bit affectation. "Well, you know, the most interestin' thing that happened to me in a while was helpin' my friend get a hold of that mansion up the hill."

The Bartender raises an eyebrow. "Now that," he says, "is a story I'd love to hear."

That almost ties Gunbo's tongue in a knot, which is the exact opposite of what he wants to happen when a dashing man asks for his life story. He opens his mouth to start anyway, before there's suddenly a familiar figure at his back.

" 'scuse me a moment," Cigar says, putting a cool hand on Gunbo's shoulder. "Truly, I don't mean to interrupt what's shapin’ up to be a real nice night for the both of you, but I gotta talk to Gunbo here real fast."

"Of course," the Bartender says, giving Cigar a smile not unlike the one he'd given Gunbo, which hardly seems fair, all things considered. "I'll be here until closing time."

"Right," Cigar says, and turns Gunbo towards the corner.

"In the meantime, I'll order one of your most exoticest drinks!" Gunbo calls over his back.

The Bartender smiles. “Of course.”

"Gunbo, what is it you're thinkin'?" Cigar hisses. "You can't just go around tellin' the story of how we're vampires and a group of werewolves hired us to turn a man and steal his gold. That'd blow our whole cover as reasonable, 100% alive people. Not to mention, even without sayin’ the vampire part, we still did a whole mess of things that are illegal." He pulls a cigar out of his shirt pocket and places it between his teeth.

Gunbo hadn't thought about it that way. He also hadn't thought about how Cigar's got that real good hearing and might've been listenin’ to the whole dang conversation. "Aw, now Cigar. He just wanted a story, and I wanted a story, and this seemed more appropriate than one about my Great-Grandpappy. And, and you don't know, it might be the start of somethin' beautiful."

"Or, it could get us run outta town. You don't know what that fella thinks of vampires. An' this is Squishy's current retirement we're talkin' about!"

"I'm sorry," Gunbo says, abashed, and then calls over to the old folks' corner, "sorry, Squishy!"

Squishy raises their stick in acknowledgement. “No need!”

"Just–" Cigar rubs his jaw. "Be careful, Gunbo. Be a shame to haveta suck that fella just cause you couldn't help tryin'a suck that fella."

“Trust me,” Gunbo says, patting Cigar’s arm. “I reckon it’ll turn out fine."

Thing is, Cigar's protective, but he's not a fool, and Gunbo may be a fool but he's a persuasive fool, so eventually Cigar gives a nod and heads back outside, and Gunbo returns to the bar, prepared to be much more careful and subtle-like.

The Bartender gives him a warm look when he gets back, and that makes Gunbo feel real pleased. "I hope everything is alright with your friend, there?" the Bartender says.

"Oh, yeah, that's just, that's just Cigar checkin' in on things." Gunbo waves a hand. "He's got that preacher thing where he likes to have a say in everythin', which is really quite helpful most of the time, even if sometimes it ain’t his business."

"Ah. What is it he preaches?"

Gunbo shrugs. "Not even sure he rightly knows. Some of it’s real, y’know, deep. Say, can I ask you somethin'?"

"Of course, of course. Though I can't guarantee the answer."

Gunbo smiles a charming smile. He tries to put a little of that magic vampire charm in it, just for the question, but the Bartender's face doesn't change, so he can't be sure it takes. "Right. Listen. Completely unrelated to anythin', what do you think of vampires?"

The Bartender raises an eyebrow. "Vampires?"

"Yeah, y'know. Just. Out of purely unrelated curiosity."

"Well." The Bartender seems to consider his words carefully, folding his hands on the bar. "I'd have to say that I believe vampires are, like all people, fascinating. Each has a trove of stories, though whether they're all as lengthy or as bloody as rumor has it, I couldn't tell you. And, while there are always people I wouldn't care to be acquainted with on a personal level, there are others, including vampires, I most certainly would."

"O-oh," Gunbo manages. The way the Bartender's talkin', it sounds like he means it personally. The last bit, about wantin’ to be acquainted. "Now I haveta say, that, uh. That sounds real reasonable and altogether promisin'. For completely unrelated reasons."

The Bartender smiles. "Now, Gunbo. You wanted, I believe, a particularly unusual drink?"

"Yessir, I did say that."

The Bartender turns to the back of the bar and comes back with a cup covered in something white and puffy. "Well, you may have had chocolate to drink before, but I trust you will not have had anything quite like this."

"Well, it sure–" it smells like chocolate, and something real else real sweet. "Is this what they drink in them fancy far-off places?"

"Some of them."

It's with a thrill of excitement that Gunbo takes a sip. The drink is warm and confoundingly sweet, with sugary clouds and sweet creams and odd spices and a healthy dose of whiskey. "Now that," Gunbo says, licking his lips, "is exotic. And so delicious! What do you call such a thing?"

"I call it," the Bartender says conspiratorially, "a deluxe hot chocolate."

"Well I'll be darned." Gunbo takes another sip, and the spices dance sweetly on his tongue. "How did you know it was exactly the sort of thing I'd like drinkin'? I mean I didn't even know myself until right this very moment!"

"Ah, well." The Bartender tugs somewhat proudly on his waistcoat. "I have rather a knack for that sort of thing."

The saloon gets busy, a 1-am rush, so Gunbo has drained his cup by the time they actually get around to stories. It's not that same kinda rush as drinking blood, but Gunbo feels all warm and cozy inside anyway, and stretches alluringly along the bar.

The Bartender has been serving drinks to townsfolk, some Gunbo knows, some he doesn't (yet), and been talking all friendly-like to pretty much everyone that comes up to him. Even that time he split up what was very nearly a brawl. But for all that, Gunbo never has cause to feel lonely. There are the attentive looks and the drink setting warm in his belly and the way the Bartender is pleasant on the eyes, what with the easy way he moves and the curve of his jaw and that refined air of havin’ been places and seen things. The only person Gunbo knows who's seen so much is Squishy, and it is a trait he's always found particularly charming.

And then the Bartender comes over with another frothy cup, and leans on the counter and says, "now then, where were we?"

The saloon's quieted down by then. It's mostly Squishy and two more old folks in the corner, and a couple fellas out on the terrace, and an energetic card game over in the corner, near the bushy plant.

Gunbo gives his most charming grin. "Well I believe you and me were about to engage in the, the ancient and intimate tradition of tellin' tales." He leans forward.

"That we were indeed," the Bartender says, his accent smooth. "You said you had a story about taking the mansion on the hill?"

Gunbo looks around, but the danger really seems minimal. "Well, to start with, certainly," he says. "But I just gotta ask, for this particular tale. You good at keepin' secrets?"

The Bartender leans forward, voice low. "If your story is a secret, I will never tell it to anyone who could use it against you. I might, if it is particularly interesting, share it in another tavern someday. Somewhere like Witherington-on-Sea, perhaps."

"Wowie," Gunbo breathes. "You'd really tell it all that ways away, in someplace so fancy?"

"I'd need to hear it, first."

"Well then!" Gunbo clears his throat. "So the first thing you gotta know is, we're cowboys. An' we're also," he lowers his voice, "vampires."

He watches the Bartender's face for any sign of fear or repulsion or disbelief. What he gets back is an amused twinkle in his eye, and a nod, like he'd already known. "I see," is what he says.

"There, see? I knew it’d be fine!” Gunbo smiles wide, showing all his fangs. "So, a few nights ago, see, we'd just robbed this fancy train. Got these earrings there myself. An' that's me an' Cigar an' Choo Choo an' Squishy, an' the rest of our group, but they ain't around no more. Hope Stringfellow's not too sore at me, for the fiddle an' for bein' a vampire an' all."

He takes a sip of deluxe hot chocolate. "Anyway. We’re just outside town over there, enjoyin' the moon, and all of a sudden we find ourselves with a whole bush full of visitors."

The Bartender listens, attentive like he's drinkin’ everything in, bright eyes widenin’ at all the most dramatic parts. He laughs, real genuine, at all the jokes Gunbo makes. It's enough to make Gunbo feel tingly right down to his toes, seen and understood in this deeply personal way. The Bartender doesn't even seem to care when Gunbo talks about turnin’ ol' Jedidiah, though to be fair, Gunbo only goes into the detail that's absolutely necessary. He knows a few things about tact.

The Bartender fixes his own drink while Gunbo talks, like it's second nature, and ends up with a glass full of somethin’ green and almost glowy. It looks exoticer than Gunbo's deluxe hot chocolate, but also like Gunbo probably would like it less. The Bartender nurses it, somehow matching the pace of his drinkin’ to the pace of the story.

"An' then, well. Here we are," Gunbo says, as the Bartender drains the last few drops from his glass. "That is, in fact, how a lad like me ends up in a place like this, with company like you." He winks.

"How absolutely fascinating," the Bartender says. "Thank you, my dear. And may I just say, you told it very well."

"Aw, shucks." Gunbo puts a hand to his cheek. "Well, storytellin', y'know, it's an' old family tradition. I've got lots more, if you wanna hear 'em. I could tell you about the time I got turned, or about some of the more, the more shooty bits of my adventures. Pa-chow, pa-ching, you know. Or some carpentry projects, I tell you, I’ve done a lot of projects. Oh, but you were gonna tell me about some of those fantastic saloons you’ve worked at.”

“I was indeed,” the Bartender says. “Can I get you another drink for the story?”

“Well you certainly can,” Gunbo says, pushing his cup over and letting his fingers linger so the Bartender’s hand brushes his. His fingers tingle as he watches the Bartender mix up some kinda powder with more of that puffy white sugar, with whiskey and hot water.

“Well,” the Bartender says, settling into the tale as he finishes. “I think you’ll like this one. It all began while I was working in a little bar on a tropical island, and a group of pirates were there to have a wedding.”

“A tropical island,” Gunbo breathes. “You mean by the ocean and everythin’?”

“I certainly do. There was quite a bit of ocean, and long stretches of beach. The air itself tasted of salt.”

“Oh my word.

The Bartender slides the cup over, and Gunbo takes an eager sip, settlin’ in to listen to the tale.

It’s a wonderful story, full of horrifying monsters and loud explosions, and it’s romantic too, sets Gunbo’s heart a-pattering. The Bartender’s voice takes on a whole other level of attractive when he’s engaged in a tale. But there’s somethin’ that nags at Gunbo’s mind, even with his head turned like it is.

At least until Choo Choo appears over his shoulder, standing rigid, perfectly still, as she waits for an opportunity to cut in.

“And the result of this particular peril might have to wait until next time,” the Bartender says, smoothly tying the story off where he can get to it later. (And isn’t that just allurin’ as anything?) “Isn’t that right, ah, Choo Choo was it?”

“Yes,” Choo Choo says. “The rest of us are leaving. So we have plenty of time to get back to the house before, you know.”


“Before the sun starts rising,” Choo Choo clarifies. She blinks pointedly. Gunbo really oughta teach her how to wink.

“Well I’ll be,” Gunbo says. “I had no idea we’d been talkin’ so long.” He turns to the Bartender. “You said there’d be a next time?"

“When you return, I’ll be sure to finish my story,” the Bartender says, his smile inviting. “And perhaps hear another one of yours.”

“Right, well. Be right with ya, Choo Choo, Won’t be a minute. Go on an’ make sure Squishy’s not fallin’ asleep or somethin’.” Gunbo waves his hand in the prospector’s direction.

“I’m not!” Squishy calls, but Choo Choo takes the cue anyway and gives Gunbo a little bit of space.

“Well, Gunbo,” the Bartender says. “Thank you for a perfectly delightful evening.”

“Oh it was incredible—” Gunbo begins, and then frowns. His memory’s as sharp as his shooting, usually, but he just can’t recall… "Y'know, I don't think I even asked your name? How incredibly rude of me. I am so sorry."

“Nonsense,” the Bartender says, waving a hand. “If you must know, I very rarely properly introduce myself to anyone. It comes with the job. You can simply think of me as the Tavernkeeper.”

“Tavern Keeper,” Gunbo says, rolling it around in his mouth like a fine piece of tobacco. “Aw now that’s a lovely name. Real sensible-like. Nothin’ like those weird names those werewolves have, and here I thought it’d be somethin’ mysterious an’ strange.”

Tavern Keeper laughs. “In some places, people do find it strange.”

“Huh. Well, there’s no accountin’ for taste. It’s lovely to meet you officially, Tavern. Or Mr. Keeper, if we’re being official, and may I just say, you are indeed a keeper.” He purrs seductively. “Rrrrrawww.”

Tavern Keeper laughs again.

“Come on, Gunbo!” Cigar calls from across the room. Gunbo waves a hand at him.

“Look, I really do gotta go so’s none of us burst into flames or anythin’, but there’s somethin’ that’s been botherin’ me ‘bout the story with the pirates.”

Tavern Keeper raises his eyebrows. “Go on?” 

“Well, I’ll tell you I am absolutely hooked, but I was thinkin’, when you’re done, maybe you could tell me a different kinda story. Y’know. One about you.” He winks.

“Ah.” There’s a note of surprise in Tavern Keeper’s voice. He folds his hands. “I’m afraid those are somewhat less, mm, adventurous. The thrill is, of course, in hearing what kinds of trouble other people get into.”

“Still,” Gunbo says. “Not all stories haveta be adventures. Cigar likes hearin’ about all the things I did while he was over at the other end of camp, or about the, the delicate minoosha of my family line. An’ personally, I’d like to hear a story about Tavern Keeper tendin’ bars. Could be real, y’know, tender.” He waggles his eyebrows to add weight to that proposition.

Tavern Keeper tilts his head, looking at Gunbo like he wants smash mouth together, which Gunbo is very familiar with, but also like he had underestimated him, which Gunbo is also very familiar with. “Well,” he says. “Then perhaps, next time, I will tell you that sort of story.”

Gunbo grins. “Well I will look forward to that,” he says. “An’ then I'll tell you about the time I built two cabinets."

Tavern Keeper does pat Gunbo’s hand now, face soft. “That would be lovely.”

“YEEEEEEEE HAWWWWWWW!” Squishy calls, and, despite the shiver in his skin and the thump in his heart, that is Gunbo’s cue to go.

It’s still dark enough no one’s in danger when they ride home, the stars are just startin’ to fade. Gunbo leans on Jessica’s neck and lets her do most of the work of followin’ the others.

“Did you have a good time, everyone?” Choo Choo asks eagerly. “I had an excellent time, myself. I was going to drink this very delicious-smelling lady, and then I learned that she was a train robber also! We traded tips all night. We might try robbing a train together, next week.”

“Aw now that’s sweet,” Gunbo says. “Awful glad, Choo Choo.”

“Will there be gold on that train?” Squishy asks.

“Well, probably.”

“Then you had better cut me in.”

“Oh, of course! Maybe you can do that thing where you leap on top of the train and crawl in from the roof.”

“Of course I can leap on top of the train.” They stroke their chin thoughtfully. “I may be old, but if there’s gold inside…”

Gunbo lets them two hash out the plan, starin’ dreamily off into the night. He only partway listens to Cigar sayin’ he’d met the town’s priest and the two had shared some particularly interestin’ bits of theology. Somethin’ about tentacles or trains, maybe.

He’s thinkin’ about Tavern Keeper’s hand on his, that charged way he’d smiled, the shape of his mouth all pursed as he listened to Gunbo tell about how he’d taken Jedidiah by surprise. Also about unbuttoning that waistcoat and maybe the shirt underneath it too.

“Oh, and Gunbo. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you,” Choo Choo says, and Gunbo blinks.

“Sorry what didn’t work out?”

“Your… seduction. You seemed to be having a nice conversation, though.”

“Aw, Choo Choo.” Cigar cuts in. “What makes you think that wasn’t Gunbo bein’ seductive as anythin’?” He bites off the end of his cigar and chews thoughtfully.

“Oh, well, I just thought—”

Gunbo shakes his head with a fang-filled grin. “Choo Choo, you didn’t hear the stories me an’ Tavern shared. An’ the way he looked at me? I mean that was practically foreplay right there. We got another date, too. Gonna talk about drinks. An’ cabinets. Rrrrrrawwwww.”

“Oh!” Choo Choo says. “Well! Good then.”

“Yep, it is real good. An’ you know, word has it my Grandpapy-Vampire and my Grandmammy-Vampire spent fourteen years tellin’ each other tales before they got together. I tell you, now that’s seduction right there.”

“As I always say,” Squishy says. “The old ways are the best ways. No, even older ways than those.”

“You do say that,” Gunbo agrees. “All the time.” And Squishy, well, they might just be right.

Certainly there’s somethin’ old and inscrutable about Tavern, there. Somethin’ that makes Gunbo wonder if he might not be some other kind of supernatural creature, not a vampire or a werewolf. Or maybe that’s just the flirtation talkin’. That kinda misunderstandin’ has happened to Gunbo before.

Still, misunderstandin’ or not, this thing between them is no mistake. Gunbo wraps his cape cozy around his shoulders and thinks about tropical islands and deluxe hot chocolates and bein’ held close by those knowledgeable hands.

“So, you goin’ back into Chapter tomorrow night?” Cigar asks. “Continue what you started? Now you know he won’t be weird about vampires and all.”

“Well I most certainly am,” Gunbo says. “And y’know, I was thinkin’, it might be forward, but I might ask Tavern if he needs a new bed.”