Everyone agrees that HG has been acting weird since visiting the Halloween vault. She lurks in corridors, speaking with this kind of strange, slow intensity, gives lots of eye contact.
If Claudia is being honest, HG is sort of always intense with her eye contact? Claudia has talked to Steve about it, and he thinks so too. Neither ever feels like she is trying to seduce them precisely, but more like they are watching a slow seduction when she talks to, well. Myka. Leena, Pete? Maybe not Pete. Witnesses, bystanders, passersby. The delivery driver. That sort of thing. Steve says she probably doesn't even notice doing it, but Claudia isn’t sure she buys it. How could she not? Is that a superpower one can have?
But after going into the Halloween vault that morning, (it is a vault; an aisle is neither large nor secure enough) HG seems inclined to stalk about the Warehouse more than usual, ducking away from reflective surfaces, refusing to smile with teeth, avoiding company.
This strikes Claudia because all summer long, she has noticed HG smiling a lot more than ever before. When she walks into the library and finds Myka already sitting on the couch with a book and two mugs of tea, for example, a grin splits her face uncontainably. When Claudia shows her a broken line of code, she hums with excitement and even laughs aloud when they solve the problem. Her smiles as she chats with Steve about philosophy are soft and genuine.
Today her smiles are wicked but utterly contained; there is an edge of menace. And she doesn’t leave the Warehouse at five either. There are things she has to finish, apparently. Unspecified things that have Artie shrugging and Steve pulling his, "I can tell that you don't actually have things to do but I don't get why you'd lie about inventory" face.
Myka has been off on a case with Pete for the weekend. Some women's colleges in the northeast have reported mysterious hornet swarms and a few deaths. HG had wanted to go, but Artie muttered something about Helena being the least likely to help "in that environment," Myka had yelled at Artie to stop being a bigot, and Pete had kept his head down while he packed his suitcase.
Case solved, Myka and Pete are home in time to play a few rounds of Settlers with Claudia after dinner. Steve is out on a date, Leena watching TV. Myka had asked after HG earlier, and she keeps checking her phone now, but to Claudia she seems reasonably calm.
In the middle of their second game, HG returns. She does not, however, come in. Pete answers the door, but when both women hear HG's low refusal to enter, they put their cards down and join him.
"Helena? What's kept you?"
"Hello Myka." Helena's ingratiating smile turns predatory as she turns from Pete too meet Myka's eyes. She angles her face like a raptor tracking a rustle in the woods. Claudia blinks and thinks she catches Myka blushing.
"She won't come in until someone gets Leena, apparently." Pete, nonplussed, scratches his ear.
"I need to speak to Leena." Helena agrees, smiling but adamant under the porch light. The moon is starting to rise behind her.
"Ok, we'll get Leena. Is something wrong?"
"Nothing, darling. You'll see."
Pete's vibe hackles are up, and he starts to sort of square off at the front door. Myka gives them both a curious glance and then leaves to find Leena.
When Leena comes to the door she pauses, taking in Pete's body language, Myka's nerves at her back, and Claudia's utter bafflement. Finally, she considers HG standing in the shadows, eyes narrowing slightly as she reads whatever is going on with her aura. HG meets her gaze evenly, and eventually Leena's brow smooths. She smiles a reassurance back at Claudia.
"Leena, may I come in?"
Leena seems unsurprised by the question, though everyone else is. Turning back to HG, she says. "Of course you can, Helena. Can I trust you to behave yourself for the night?"
"When have I ever behaved myself?" Helena slides into the B&B baring her teeth, almost imperceptibly. Her teeth seem… different? Pete sees it, and Claudia too. Myka absently runs her fingers against her lips.
Leena only smirks and closes the door.
Claudia raises all the eyebrows, but Leena just shakes her head. Walking back into the kitchen, she murmurs conspiratorially, "Don't worry about it. She's not a danger to either of you."
"Yeah… That's kinda what I'm worried about." Pete shrugs and wanders back into the living room.
"Leena, what the frak is happening here?"
"None of our business. Do you want to come watch Buffy with me? I saved you a spot on the couch."
Claudia blushes a little herself and follows Leena, Catan entirely forgotten. Leena sitting next to her is mightily distracting, but the tableau across the room is pretty hard to ignore also.
HG is reading, or pretending to read, Le Fanu. Myka is pretending to read Possession and both are quite obviously doing nothing but watching each other. It is the loudest silence Claudia has ever observed. Eventually Myka sighs and leaves the room. HG turns a single page and then leaps up to follow.
A few minutes later, Leena pokes Claudia. “Hey, I left my cardigan in your room the other day, do you mind grabbing it for me? I can’t remember whatever complicated password you have set up to get in.”
“Uh, yeah! I mean, no. I mean, of course. Be right back.” It’s probably because she’s distracted by the idea of Leena trying to remember how to get into her room that Claudia gets so far up the stairs before she notices HG standing, looming, really, against Myka's door at the far end of the hall.
Myka leans against the other wall casually until HG surges forward and frames Myka's body, one hand on either side of her head. Claudia hears her purr, "Darling."
Now even Claudia can see that Myka is breathing heavily, but she can also hear a hissed, "What is going on with you? Not out here!"
The purr continues, "Why don't you invite me into your room, where we can talk about it."
"Do you really need to ask for that?"
"Oh, but I do."
"Ok. Helena, I invite you in. What's…?" Myka’s next words disappear as Helena pulls them both through the doorway. Claudia does not mean to be nosy, exactly, but there is a thump, and she takes a few more paces down the hall until she hears Myka's voice again. This time, in a different register.
"Oh wow, hi Helena… God that's… um… I know you like my neck but… OH."
There is another pause and then Myka isn’t really saying words anymore, except "yes" a few times, and "God, Helena" and finally just a string of curses. Claudia, suddenly unfrozen and mortified, flees down the stairs, where Leena takes one look at her cardigan-less hands and her terrified expression and bursts out laughing.
"I told you it wasn’t our business."
"Is there… an artifact involved?"
"Pretty sure. But a harmless one."
"A *vampire* artifact?"
Leena shrugs. "The other day they were watching Buffy with me. Myka was getting really into it. I think Helena got a little jealous."
"So she… she found an artifact that would turn her into a vampire?"
Leena shakes her head, laughing. "It made her think she was a vampire. Act like a vampire. If she had turned into a vampire I would be able to tell. No aura."
The next morning, Claudia, already halfway through her own breakfast, catches Myka sneaking in for coffee with a conspicuously placed scarf. Helena has not emerged.
"Everything ok with Helena?" Steve asks, innocently. "Will she be able to face the daylight today?"
Myka chokes on her first sip. "She's fine. Uh… There was an artifact. Affecting her. And that artifact has been, um, neutralized." She fails to meet anyone's eyes.
Pete does not look up from his sugary cereal, but mumbles, "She *was* being pretty weird last night, how did you figure out there was an artifact?"
"Ah… Well. we talked about it."
Claudia exchanges an amused look with Leena. "Yeah I think I heard you… talking about it."
Myka ducks her head, "Look, Claudia, I'm sorry, I know you saw us in the hallway… I told her… it won't happen again."
"Myka. We know you two are fucking. You do know that right? You don't need to hide it from us? I mean, I don't need the details of your Halloween-themed artifact play but…"
Beet red Myka opens her mouth to say something and then closes it. Leena and Steve are both laughing quietly and Claudia just raises a single eyebrow. Finally Myka nods and turns back to her coffee. “Noted.”
Several beats later, Pete looks up. "Wait, what?!"