"Shit," I said.
"Damn. That author drives fast."
"It's not him, you dork. Don't move. They'll go away."
He lumbered to his feet. "No...I gotta see who it is...maybe it's Jack Daniels...could use a drink..."
"Don't do it!" I begged, suddenly terrified for no reason I could identify.
He turned invisible and strolled over to the door. Half a second later, he came tearing back. "It's Dana! She's back early." He ran his hand frantically over Mitch's neat, blonde hair. "What's she want? What's she doing here?"
"Maybe she wants Reese's pot back."
"This is my chance! She's here alone. She wants me. Quick." He yanked my arm and dragged me to the stairs. I cried out in surprise. "Get out of sight. Throw that away."
"I'm not throwing this away! Besides, you don't think she'll notice that your whole f**king house smells like this? Jesus. Your pupils are the size of her granny panties. Virtuous or not, she isn't stupid."
"Just go! Hurry! Don't come down."
Grumbling, I went upstairs while Bastien scurried to the door. Turning invisible, I sat cross-legged at the top of the stairs and kept smoking. Below, I heard him greet Dana.
"Well, hello," he bellowed. "Sorry if I kept you waiting...I was..." He trailed off stupidly, and I shook my head. Sloppy, sloppy. He would have never been at a loss for words sober, but then, his sober self would have immediately noticed the foolishness afoot. "I was...um, busy. Upstairs."
"I see," replied Dana. Her tone was once again set to cool and formal. I decided Bastien had imagined the warm and friendly rapport he kept claiming they had when alone. "Well, I apologize for disturbing you, but when I dropped off the cookies earlier, I think I may have lost an earring."
I straightened up. Cookies? He hadn't mentioned that. Maybe he was making progress after all. Cookies. I wondered what kind she'd brought. Peanut butter? Chocolate chip? Oh. Maybe even white chocolate macadamia.
He and Dana commenced a search for the earring, coming up empty. The whole time, Bastien tried to act like he wasn't stoned, but Dana couldn't have been fooled. Not with those cyborg eyes of hers. Hell, I didn't even need to see it. The audio track alone was entertaining enough.
Meanwhile, I couldn't stop thinking about those goddamned cookies. They sounded good. Really good. Suddenly, I wanted them more than I'd ever wanted anything in my life.
"Well," I heard Dana say, "I must have lost it somewhere else. Thanks for looking."
"Sorry I couldn't help you."
"It's all right." She allowed an elegantly crafted pause. "Isn't that Tabitha's purse over there? Is she here?"
Oh, shit. I had a feeling Bastien was thinking the same thing.
"Uh, well, yeah...but...um, she's upstairs lying down," he faltered. "Has a headache."
"Oh, that's too bad. Did she take anything for it?"
"Um, yeah, she did."
I looked at the joint. Had I ever.
Bastien and Dana started talking about something else, and I decided then that I had to get those cookies. I was starving. The lovebirds sounded like they had moved to the living room, so I could sneak invisibly down the stairs and raid the kitchen without them knowing. Standing up, I put the joint out in the upstairs bathroom and moved on to my covert descent. Pot doesn't usually mess with motor control the way alcohol can, but it can certainly distract you from ordinary things. Like watching where you're going.
About three steps down, my foot slipped out from under me.
I uttered a sailor-worthy expletive and slid painfully down the rest of the way, landing hard on my butt at the bottom, my legs twisting into unnatural positions underneath me. I had barely enough sense to snap back to a visible Tabitha, lest Bastien and Dana think a clumsy ghost had just fallen down. A moment later, they came running.
"What happened?" exclaimed Bastien. He sounded more upset about the interruption than my immediate health.
Looking down, I tried moving my left ankle to a more comfortable position. I winced. It hurt like hell, but at least it moved.
"Well," he said crisply, "so long as you're okay. I'm sure you'll want to go and - "
"Okay?" Dana gave him an incredulous look. "We need to get her to the couch so she can straighten that out."
"Oh no," I protested, seeing Bastien's murderous expression. "I...I'm fine...really..."
But there was no arguing with Dana. She supported me under one arm, and he took the other. I hobbled over to the couch, putting my weight only on the right foot. Once I was stretched out, she pushed my jeans up over my calf and felt the ankle with cautious, expert precision, carefully examining each inch. I appreciated her solicitous concern and apparent first-aid know-how, but the thought of this wretched woman touching my leg repulsed me. Besides, what I really wanted were those cookies. Fuck my ankle.
"It doesn't feel broken," she finally decided. "Probably just a sprain, lucky for you. We should ice it."
When Bastien neither did nor offered anything useful, she went into the kitchen. I could hear her opening drawers and the freezer.
"Do you hate me or something?" he hissed once we were alone.
"This wasn't my fault," I countered. "I think you've got a defective stair."
"Defective my ass. The only thing that's defective is your sense of timing. Do you know how close I was to scoring?"
"Close? Close? Not to use a cliche, but hell was closer to freezing over than you were to scoring. I don't think she really goes for the babbling, high kind of guy."
"I wasn't babbling. And there's no way she knows I'm high."
"Oh, come on. If you were any higher, you'd - "
I shut my mouth as Dana returned with the ice pack. She knelt by my feet and carefully set the pack on the injured ankle. I grimaced at the sudden change of temperature, but the shocking cold did numb the throbbing.
Still concerned, she surveyed the rest of my lower leg with those sharp eyes. Again, she felt around the ankle area, her hands gently touching here and there. She frowned. "I could be wrong about how serious it is. You should keep icing it and take ibuprofen. If it doesn't get better in a couple days, go see your doctor."
"Thanks," I said, looking away. Honestly, what I found most disconcerting now was how sincerely concerned she seemed. Maybe we'd misjudged her all along. Nah.
"Well," breezed Bastien, "if Tabby Cat's okay, maybe we should go to the kitchen and have some coffee - "
"Do you know how it happened?" Dana asked me, ignoring him.
"Oh...just a misstep I think...or maybe the stair is defective."
"I doubt there's anything wrong with the stairs," said Bastien. "Tabitha's always been clumsy, that's all. It's legendary in our family."
Dana, oblivious to me glaring at the incubus over the slam to my gracefulness, glanced over at my shoes sitting near the door. They were strappy and black, with three-inch heels.
"Are those what you've been wearing?" She fixed me with a stern, motherly look. "I know how strong societal pressure can be in making you think you need to fit a certain mold. But walking around in shoes like that all day will do serious damage to your feet. Not only that, they send a message that you have no shame when it comes to - "
The doorbell rang then. None of us moved at first, and then Bastien rose, looking amazed that this night could get any worse.
Dana dropped her wardrobe lecture and switched to a medical one. "You really need to be careful with this. Too much stress will agitate it. "
Bastien returned a moment later with an utterly puzzled Seth, whom I suspected had no idea who had just let him in. Indeed, his bewilderment grew as he scanned Dana and me, no doubt wondering if he had the right house.
"Hi Seth," I said pointedly, in too loud of a voice, "thanks for coming to pick me up."
He continued to stare, and then the faintest gleam of understanding showed in his eyes. He'd seen me shape-shift clothes often, but this was the first time he'd ever seen me in another body.
Dana looked around expectantly.
"Oh," I said, my mind still running a little slow from the pot. "This is, um, Seth. Seth, Dana."
"Hello," she said, rising smoothly and shaking his hand. "Nice to meet you."