It seemed, for all the world, that Brysail was empty save for them. They made their way down the center of the cobblestone street, Seymour and Henry walking together—but with space enough for another to stand between them—and Lupe trotting at her master’s heels, ears perked and wary. Aside from the three of them and the wind and the crawling river, nothing moved.
“Is the city always so silent?” Henry asked him.
Seymour shrugged. “Brysail has grown afraid of the dark.”
“But it wasn’t always?”
“No. If we were to walk through this part of town just over six years ago, you wouldn’t even recognize it as the same place. There used to be quite the nightlife.”
“What happened six years ago?”
“Oh,” said Henry. “Right. I’d forgotten that Brysail was so badly affected. We hardly saw anything in Carvil.”
“It must have been awful.”
Seymour pulled his cloak tight about his shoulders. “Yes.” He inhaled deeply, and the odor of sickness and burning flesh was once again fresh in his memory. “I’d prefer not to talk about it.”
“Here we are,” the detective said, striding to the right hand side of the street and shoving open the door to his building. “I live on the second floor.”
It was dark inside, but Seymour had good night vision and didn’t find it much of an inconvenience. Henry, however, snapped his fingers and conjured an orb of blinding blue light which hovered a few inches above his upturned palm. Seymour made the mistake of looking directly at it, and had to turn away quickly, hissing in pain. Blinking rapidly in hopes of clearing away the flat, colorful blobs now drifting lazily across his vision, he stumbled across the entryway and over to the rickety staircase.
“Sorry,” Henry said again, dimming the light and following him upstairs.
Upon reaching the entrance to his flat, Seymour unlocked the door and held it open for Henry. “I’m afraid it’s a bit of a mess. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, that’s all right.”
The sea elf kicked off his boots and unpinned his cloak, throwing it over the back of a nearby chair. “Good,” he said. “Make yourself at home. I’ll start a fire. It’s always fucking freezing in here.”
He turned back to face him. “Yeah?”
“Never mind.” Henry blushed and looked at the floor. “It’s nothing.”
The young lord nodded.
“Well, if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Henry set about clumsily removing his outerwear. When he had accomplished this, he sat down on the edge of the sofa, silently watching as Seymour stacked logs in the fireplace. His dog, meanwhile, lay down beside the door to guard against intruders.
He looked up at him over his shoulder. “Yes, Henry?”
“Y-you’re very handsome.”
“Do you get that a lot?”
“From time to time,” Seymour said, back to the task of building the fire. “More often than not, though, the comments I receive about my physical appearance tend to be less than flattering.”
“Oh.” Henry glanced down at his hands, clasped together in his lap. “Well, I think they’re wrong, then.”
“I think so, too, if I do say so myself.” He struck a match, dropped it into the kindling, and stood up as flames blossomed around it. “There we go. That’s better, isn’t it?”
The mage dipped his head in agreement, his mismatched eyes wide and expectant. Seymour smiled and sat down beside him, sinking back into the sofa and spreading his arms along the top.
“You’ve never done this before, have you, Henry?”
“N-no. I’ve…well, I’ve never even gotten close to anything like this.”
“That’s all right.” He adjusted his position on the couch so that he was turned slightly toward the human. “Take your time.”
Cautiously, Henry leaned back until their bodies touched. His heart was pounding rapidly—Seymour could feel it against his own ribcage like a second pulse.
“What now?” Henry asked.
Seymour slid his arm off of the back of the sofa and over the mage’s shoulders. “That’s up to you.”