26. Layered like an onion

“Gotcha,” Jesse said blankly. He returned the truck, took a cab home, and did not sleep.

Jesse, who knew he was not imagining things, wondered if he’d ever see George again.   Apart from former clients, there was nobody else in town who could identify him. He’d never been to George’s apartment.  If George decided to vanish, there’d be nothing to show for it but a couple of anecdotes and a Fortean-scale mystery and whatever money he’d managed to make.  He could try running down the antiquities part of George’s business, or see if anybody in the poly group had more of a line on him.

Getting out in Abbotsford, though. For George to have been that angry and that disgusted, that he didn’t even want to ride back into town with him, was almost scary.

He felt like he’d broken George. It hadn’t seemed possible.  Now it did.

But George, true to what seemed to be his nature, reappeared for the next job, free of comment or insult, and he waited until he had all of Jesse’s attention to apologize.

“I’m very proud,” George said. “I like to think I know everything and when I don’t I can be quite obsessive and angry and …”

“Humiliated,” Jesse said.

George didn’t argue.  “I’m sorry for worrying you and I’m sorry I kept harassing you about your personal life.”

Jesse briefly considered George, and what he’d said. “You couldn’t worry me, at least about your physical health. I was worried that you’d fired me without notice.”

“Very well,” George said, “I’m sorry about that too.”

“I for one am sorry I saw you disappear,” Jesse added.

“You didn’t see that,” George said, and there was a thread of some other mood than dismissal. 

Mmhmm, thought Jesse.

“Oh, I’m not saying there’s not a rational explanation,” Jesse said with a calmness he didn’t feel.  After all, if he was right, there was no telling how George would respond. “Quit squirming, I know you’re not human.”

“Of course I’m human,” George said, in a tone that implied that any other suggestion was ludicrous..

“No, you really aren’t,” Jesse said.  “Ya see, one of the things about my childhood is that my mother gaslighted me about damned near everything, but my aunt and sister prevented me from completely losing my mind, and my keen observation, especially when I’m sensing I might be in danger.”

George gazed at him, motionless.

 Jesse continued. “I have no idea why a puka or magic sasquatch or temporarily embarrassed vampire would want to live in Vancouver —“

Here George tried to interrupt, but Jesse wasn’t having any. “— And whoever you are, you’re certainly welcome here, seeing as how you appear to be performing heroic tasks to make fat stacks.”

George quit trying to interrupt, with a sharply exhaled sigh.

Jesse continued. “I don’t really care what you are. All I care about, and all I’m ever gonna care about, is how you behave.”

“So I could be a vampire or some kind of magical creature and you’d be okay with that,” George said.

“I would be as accepting as I could manage, and as curious as I could get away with. I find it interesting that I had a massive cognitive reset and you could immediately tell, but not what happened. So I know you’re not spying on me.”

George made a noise.

“Anybody who has the power of invisibility can spy on people.  Humans find it almost impossible not to spy if they have the capacity. Do you?”

George thrashed in his seat quietly.

“I do spy on people,” he said. “But I don’t spy on you, because anything I want to know about you I can ask, and you’ll tell the truth.”

Jesse grinned. “Not everybody does.”

“You have no idea,” George said in a voice that seemed to have blown in with an arctic outflow.

“Shit! Of course I do.”

“And you’re prepared to never know what I am.”

“George,” Jesse said cheerfully, “I get the impression sometimes that you don’t know what you are. And you keep talking about people who don’t exist, like your ‘mate’ and Michel.”

George chuckled.

“Oh, I assure you, they’re real. In fact —“ George said. He pulled a phone out of his pocket and checked it. Jesse shot his eyes over it; even upside-down he could see it wasn’t George’s usual phone, and the lettering on the text was Greek. If George kept multiple phones, he definitely had a double life. He remembered what George had said once, offhandedly.

My people speak medieval Greek as a common language.  Keeps people out of our business.

“Michel is here. He should be joining us for the move,” George said, and put the phone away.

“What?” Jesse said. He’d been fantasizing that George was the last of his kind, making up imaginary colleagues and friends so that he wouldn’t sound so lonely.

“Yeah,” George said.  He brightened. “Michel and I have a complicated history.  He tried to kill me once – it was more like several attempts over one short span of time — but we got over it pretty quick.  Now if I have a close friend in this world, it’s Michel.”

“You also have a mate,” Jesse said.

“True, but one relaxes with friends, and one never relaxes with Kima, there’s too much at stake,” George said, almost to himself.

“You’re trying to get her pregnant,” Jesse said, “You’ve mentioned that. Isn’t that relaxing?”

“Whatever you do,” George said, trying to laugh but not managing it. “Don’t say that to Michel, I’ll never hear the end of it. Mating is not relaxing.”

“You’re doing it wrong,” Jesse said thoughtlessly.

Whatever bad temper George had vented was not coming back. He laughed merrily and said, “Definitely, definitely do not not say that to Michel. He’s only here in town for Kima.”

“He wants your mate? And you’re okay with that. Are your people poly?”

George laughed again. “In ways yet undiscovered by humans, I suspect.  It is unusual, and socially suspect, to have long-lived attachments.  My parents did.” Abruptly he stopped talking. Like Jesse’s mother, George’s mother was a sore subject, although he’d been evasive about why.