I could tell at a glance this bar was exactly the place I was looking for. It was a place for people who didn’t want to be found, which was exactly the kind of person I wanted to find. A place I felt right at home. Folks here kept their voices down and their hoods up. They left all laws at the door, but one rule held fast: mind your own damn business. At least, that’s how I’d been taught, but I suspected that some of my fellow patrons hadn’t been quite so well-educated. Some were definitely stealing glances at me. Or was I just being paranoid? I admit, I hadn’t felt this nervous about a “business” meeting since I first got into the “business”. Even marks who knew I was coming were easier to track down than the person I prayed I’d find in this bar. They weren’t even a target; just someone whose help I desperately needed, and could only desperately hope they’d give to me. “The Master Alchemist” was the closest thing they had to a name. Even my most reliable informants could only give me rumors of rumors of rumors. Their stories were vague and inconsistent, but there were two details they all agreed on: The Master Alchemist was real, and their potions were worth all the hassle of finding them. Days of separating fact from fiction, chasing leads, and finding dead ends, finally led me here. While wearing a black skull ring, I was to find someone wearing a black hood sitting alone, drumming their long fingernails on the table. I was supposed to sit down at their table, drum my fingers on the table the same way, and utter the code phrase: “Pardon my interruption, but my hare is very sick. Do you know where I might find some medicine?” This would, hopefully, verify my identity as someone who could be trusted. After that I’d have to improvise: my specialty.
As I sat at the bar, searching for someone matching the description I was given, I couldn’t help but feel that my gaze was being intentionally avoided, like someone was watching me, and taking care to ensure I didn’t notice. Or perhaps several someones? Or everyone? But probably no one. Surely it was all in my head, right? They had no reason to pay me any mind; not standing out is my job, and I’m the best at what I do. Unless it was the skull ring? I feared it was a bit too flashy for a clandestine meeting, but did it really draw that much attention? I took a deep breath and a deeper swig of my drink. I had to relax. The more I panicked, the more I stood out. I just had to not panic.
I started to panic. As I confidently made my way over to someone exactly matching the description I was given, I noticed someone else matching equally well. One had black fingernails, and the other had white, but other than that, they were identical. I stood there, frozen with indecision. The longer I stood, the more suspicion I drew, but I had no idea how to proceed. Neither matched the description better than the other: it was a 50/50 shot, any way you slice it. Unless there were others matching the description that I missed. Maybe neither of them was right. Was this all a setup? I shook the doubts from my head. Even if it was a setup, there was nothing I could do about it now. I continued on my way to the table I originally started walking to.
“Pardon my interruption,” I said, as I sat down at the table and began drumming my fingers, “But my hare is very sick. Do you know where I might find some medicine?” “What was that?” They said, “Sorry, this hood makes it so hard to hear.” I couldn’t stop myself from gasping as they pulled back their hood. “Could you repeat that?” She (or he?) Had unnaturally colorful heterochromatic eyes: the right was blood red, and the left was sapphire blue, encircled by a blue crescent moon tattoo. A star earring hung from their right ear, and they grinned at me through deep blue lips. I didn’t know what expected to see, but it certainly wasn’t… This. “P-pardon my interruption,” I repeated, “But my hare is very sick. Do you know where I might find some medicine?” “Well, he’s not what he used to be,” they said, “But old man Athos down the street is still an able apothecary. Perhaps he could whip you something up.” “Oh,” I said, uncertainly, “Thanks for the help.” Did that mean that Old Man Athos was the Master Alchemist I was looking for? Or was this just a random stranger trying to help me find hare medicine?
“Er, did I say something wrong?” They asked. “Huh?” “Well, it’s just, you don’t seem very relieved,” they said, “What’s wrong?” “Oh,” I said, mind racing to come up with an excuse, “It’s just, I already visited him, and he wasn’t able to help me.” “Really?” They asked, “He’s but a shadow of his former self, but I’d think he could make most medicines. Your rabbit must be very sick. My condolences.” “Ah, yeah, he is,” I said, “Thanks.” “Hm? Oh! I see now,” they said, “my apologies for being so dense.” “Huh?” “You don’t have a sick hare at all, do you?” “What makes you say that? I asked. “It was some kind of code phrase, right?” They asked, “The lie you came up with as a cover story was so convincing, I almost believed it. Don’t worry, I won’t rat you out or nothing. I’m just not who you’re looking for. I hope you find them, though!” “Yeah, thanks,” I said. “Come to think of it,” they said, “Don’t they look kind of like me?” They nod in the direction of the other person I thought may be the Master Alchemist. “Uh, yeah,” I said sheepishly, “Truth be told, I noticed that they matched the description I was given just as well as you did as I was on my way over to talk to you.”
I sat at the other table and repeated the code phrase. “And what makes you think I’m an expert on rabbit medicine?” They asked. Was this the wrong person too? “Oh, sorry,” I said, “Sorry for wasting your time.” “Hold on a second,” they said, “Have I seen you somewhere before?” How could I know? I could barely see their face! When they lowered their hood to get a better look at me, my jaw dropped. “Are you really that stunned by my beauty?” They asked. “Y-yeah,” I lied, because I was too surprised to come up with a more believable one. This person was a mirror image of the last one, save for their tattoo, which enclosed their left eye in a sun. “You’ll have to come up with a more convincing lie than that, I’m afraid,” they said, “What’re you after, really?” “Just some medicine for my hare,” I said. “And you came to a place like this for something like that?” They asked, incredulously, “Bullshit. It’s obvious that’s some kind of code phrase. And that ring of yours. It draws way too much attention; you’d only wear something like that here to identify yourself to your contact. What is it you’re after really?” “That’s none of your business,” I said, failing to hide my irritation. “So you admit that it’s not hare medicine?” They asked, “You shouldn’t change your story so easily. Are you new to this?” “No,” I snapped, “I’d be more than happy to show you what a dedicated professional I am, but I’m busy.” “And just what is this profession of yours?” they asked. “The less you know, the better,” I said, threateningly. “Oh, I’m sure,” they said, seemingly unimpressed, “Sorry I made you out to be a rookie. You seem to be under a lot of pressure, looking for someone so hard to find. Anyone could lose their cool in a situation like that. No hard feelings, I hope?” “Uh, yeah, sure,” I say, already looking around for someone else with long fingernails and a hood. “I guess you still have a contact to find, eh?” They asked, “Well, I don’t know what details you were given, but they kinda look like me, don’t they?”
I had to bite my lip to not scream out in frustration when I traced their finger to who they were pointing at. The person I talked to first. “Yeah,” I said, annoyed, “Exactly like you, in fact, and they pointed me to you. But now you’re pointing me back to them? What’s going on here, really?” “Not EXACTLY,” they said, “Our eyes are switched around, and I’ve my earring on my left ear. Also-” “So you DO know them!” I said, accusingly. “Of course I do!” They said, “Ours is hardly a common look.” “So much for sticking to your story,” I said, “Care to explain what the Hell is going on?” “Well, since the jig is up, I suppose we might as well tell you. Don’t you agree?” “I agree wholeheartedly.”
I reach for my dagger by reflex at the sound of the unexpected voice. I look to my right to see that the moon-eyed one has somehow sat at our table without me noticing. ‘Peace,’ They said, ‘No need for you to ply that profession of yours on us.’ “What do you know of my profession?” I asked. I’d never mentioned anything about my profession to them, or that I was an assassin to either. ‘We know who you are,’ one said, ‘and why you’re here.’ the other finished. “How?” I asked, “And why? Who are you working for?” ‘And why should we tell you any of that? Do you have any ideas?’ one asked the other, ‘Nothing springs to mind,’ they answer. ‘Do you think it might be fun to?’ one asks. ‘Perhaps so,’ they answer, ‘That’s reason enough.’ Fun? Did they really have no better reason? I admit that I couldn’t think of no better one; they had the upper hand all along. They could have easily caught me off guard and possibly killed me, but instead, they played some childish game with me.
“Well, out with it, then,” I said, “How do you know of me?” ‘Well, you followed a trail of clues here, didn’t you?’ one asked, ‘Who do you think left that?’ “It was you?” I asked, “Then, do you know where I can find The Master Alchemist? Is it… Is it one of you?” ‘Yes. Exactly one of us. I think. Right?’ one said, ‘That was what I thought, but I can’t help but feel that it may have been both of us. Could it really be?’ ‘You think so? I was just thinking that it may have actually been neither!’ “What?” I asked, “You can’t remember which, if either, of you are alchemists?” “Oh, we’re both alchemists,” they said in unison. “Are you sure you aren’t clowns?” I asked, “Just who the Hell are you?”
“We are Pestle and Mortar!” They said in unison, ‘master’ ‘or mistress?’ “alchemists, at your service!” The punctuated “at your service” by standing up and taking a synchronized bow. I could hardly believe what I was seeing or hearing. “So I had to painstakingly analyze a series of esoteric clues and put up with your stupid games to find you, and then you just announce your identities to everyone here?” I say, too angry to keep my voice down. I thought I heard someone chuckle, but when I looked around the room, it fell silent. Something was definitely wrong here, and it wasn’t just these two. But they were so wrong, it was hard to notice anything else. ‘Does that seem unfair?’ one asked, ”worry not. Everyone else here already knows our identities.’ ‘Probably.’ ‘Hopefully.’ “But I still don’t, really,” I said, “You said you were Pestle and Mortar, but which of you is Pestle, and which is Mortar?” ‘oh, NO ONE here knows that. Isn’t that right, brother of mine?’ ‘No one save us, Sister of mine.’ “So now you’re siblings?” I asked. “We’ve always been siblings,” they said, “At least, since we were born. We’re twins, obviously.” “And if you’re the brother and you’re the sister,” I said, pointing to the sun-eyed one then the moon-eyed one, “Does that mean he’s a man and she’s a woman?” ‘That’s a reasonable conclusion to draw,’ one said, ‘Within a certain frame of reasoning,” the other added. ‘But is it in our frame of reasoning?’ ‘It changes so often, that I cannot recall. Say, do you know what phase the moon is in?’ It took me a bit to realize that the question was directed at me. “What? No, why would I?” I asked, “Listen, I don’t give half a damn about your names or genders. I just need a potion that only a Master Alchemist can make.” ‘Such impatience,” one scolded, ‘We can make your potion, but first you must pay our price.’ “I haven’t even said what potion I want made!” I said, “How are you so sure you can make it?” “Because we are Master Alchemists,” they said, in unison, “We can make potions that do anything!” “Anything?” I said, incredulously. ‘Well, I guess not quite anything,’ one said, ‘But to imagine and describe a potion we could not make would require a level of intellect and creativity that could only be attained by consuming our potions, I suspect.’ “Can you make a potion that would make you shut up and stop wasting my time?” I asked. It probably wasn’t wise to lose my temper with them, but I was nearing my wit’s end. They both laughed loudly. ‘Do you think we could, brother of mine?’ ‘A difficult question indeed, sister of mine.’ ‘The recipe and execution are simple enough, but I don’t think I could bring myself to deprive the world of your voice, dear brother,’ ‘I was thinking just the same thing, dear sister.’ I sighed deeply. No matter what I said or asked, they just steered the conversation in a different direction. Were they really just toying with me?
“Just name your price,” I said, “I will do whatever it takes to get this potion and then never have to deal with the two of you again.” “Our names,” They said. “I… what.” “Our names are our price,” they said, “If you can correctly guess” ‘which of us is Pestle,’ ‘and which of us is Mortar,’ “Then we’ll give you a phial of your potion, at no additional cost!” “I… are you serious?” I asked. “Of course,” they said, ‘If you get it wrong, however,’ ‘you’ll still get your potion,’ ‘but it won’t come in a phial’ ‘if you’re catching our drift.’ The potion I needed was a poison. Were they threatening to poison me if I got their question wrong? “But how am I supposed to know, if you’re the only ones who know, and you won’t tell me?” ‘We could give him a hint,’ one said, ‘But after giving him so many to lead him here, I’m rather tired of hints, brother of mine,’ ‘I couldn’t agree more, sister of mine.’ “So, what, I’m supposed to just guess?” I asked. “We wouldn’t recommend it,” they said, ‘Surely you’ve realized that you’ll drink your poison, should you guess wrong,’ ‘And surely you’ve realized that it isn’t worth that risk.’ I was hardly surprised that they guessed that I wanted a poison. The way they were always a step ahead, they probably knew exactly the kind of poison I wanted. And they were right. Nothing was worth that risk. A chill ran down my spine. Was there any way to answer their question without a lucky guess?
‘Perhaps we should ask him another question first, sister of mine,’ ‘I was thinking exactly the same thing, brother of mine.” They both each pulled an item seemingly from nowhere and placed them on them on the table. “Do you know what this is?” they asked. “A pestle and mortar,” I said. “Exactly,” they said, ‘but which one’s the pestle,’ ‘and which one’s the mortar?” I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as I tried to remember. “This one’s the pestle, right?” I asked, as I picked up the spoon-looking one, “And the bowl is the mortar?” “That is absolutely correct!” They said. “Does that mean that you’re Pestle?” I asked, pointing to the one who produced the pestle, “And you’re Mortar?” “That is absolutely incorrect,” they said, sounding serious for the first time since they sat down at the same table. “But you were the one with the pestle, and you were the one with the mortar!” I said. “So?” They asked, ‘We’re both alchemists.’ ‘We both have pestles and mortars.’ The one I thought was Pestle placed another mortar on the table, and the one I thought was Mortar placed a pestle in it. “See?” “If it wasn’t a hint, what was the point of asking the question in the first place?” “Point?” they asked, quizzically. ‘I don’t recall ever saying that the question had a point. Do you, brother of mine?’ ‘I do not, sister of mine.” “What?” I asked, “Why ask a question with no point?” ‘to trick you into thinking that it did have one.’ ‘Hold on. If that were true, wouldn’t tricking him be the point of the question, sister of mine?’ ‘Huh. Perhaps you are right, brother of mine.’ “I… I cannot believe this.” I said. “Can’t you?” They asked, ‘Since we’ve met, we’ve done little but try to trick you.’ ‘It shouldn’t be so unbelievable that we’d try it again.’ “I…” They were right. It was foolish of me to think that this was anything but a big joke to them. ‘Then again, there may have been another point to the question.’ ‘And what might that be, brother of mine?’ ‘Well, I don’t know about you, sister of mine, but I was planning on killing him if he answered incorrectly.’ I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. Would they really have killed me for something so trivial? Could they have? I certainly wouldn’t put it past them. ‘Y’know, I didn’t want to sound rude, but I was actually planning the exact same thing!’ “You’d really kill me for something so trivial?” I asked. ‘Perhaps,’ one said, ‘Then again, doesn’t that sound exactly like something else we’d say just to trick him, sister of mine?’ ‘You make a compelling point as always, brother of mine.’
“Stop,” I pleaded, “Just… please stop with these jokes. They’re getting old. I’ll guess your names right now if it’ll put a stop to your nonsense. I don’t even care if I get it right.” They both laughed. “We’re glad you’re in a cheerful enough mood to joke about your situation,” they said, before suddenly becoming frightfully serious, “Because we all know that you do not want to get our names wrong.” I felt that chill down my spine again. They were right. As tedious as their antics were, nothing could possibly be worse than the consequences they promised if I mis-named them. ‘Y’know, maybe he’s right,” one of them said, ‘About what?’ ‘About our jokes. Perhaps they are getting old.’ ‘Are you referring to our bit where we refuse to tell people which of us is Pestle and which is Mortar?’ ‘The very same. To be honest, it’s been going on for so long, I can no longer remember how it’s a joke.’ ‘Neither can I, now that you mention it. Do you believe we should tell him?’ ‘I believe that we should.’ I hear more gasps than just my own. I look around, and notice that everyone else in the bar is silent. I realize they have been for a while. Has everyone been listening to me? Just what is going on here? I ask these questions, but I’m too close to getting the potion I need to care about their answers.
‘Well, go on then. If you believe you should tell him which of us is Pestle and which is Mortar, go ahead and tell him.’ One finally said after what seemed like an eternity. ‘I… am merely working up my courage, sister of mine. It’s been taboo for so long that it is difficult for me to say. Perhaps you could tell him in my stead?’ ‘I am afraid that I find it just as difficult. Since it was your idea, I will give you the honor, brother of mine.’ ‘I appreciate the sentiment, sister of mine, but I would appreciate it more if you could shoulder this burden for me.’ ‘Perhaps we should just say our own names, then, brother of mine.’ ‘A fine idea if ever there was one, sister of mine. I’ll let you say yours first.’ ‘After you, brother of mine… I insist.’ Seconds passed in silence. Or maybe minutes? What was taking them so long. ‘Ha, y’know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it almost seems like you no longer remember which of us is which.’ ‘I could say the same of you. I guess it’s a good thing we do know better, right?’ ‘Of course. A great thing, that.’ More maddening silence. ‘I, of course, have the utmost faith in you, sister of mine, but our friend here must be terribly worried that you’ve forgotten yourself. Won’t you please put his mind at ease?’ ‘Why would he be more worried for me than for you, brother of mine? If you wish to set his mind at ease, why not do it yourself?” No way. Had they truly forgotten? Or was this all just another part of the act? “YOU FORGOT, DIDN’T YOU?” they shouted, pointing at each other accusingly, “ME? YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S FORGOTTEN! NO, I WAS JUST TESTING YOU, AND YOU FAILED! HOW CAN YOU TEST ME IF YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IN THE FIRST PLACE?” The way their voices and gestures matched up perfectly, it was like watching someone argue with a mirror. “BECAUSE I DO KNOW!” They both pointed to themselves. “I’M PESTLE,” they said, before pointing at each other, “AND YOU’RE MORTAR!”
Neither said a word or moved a muscle. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, some peace and quiet. I noticed that the rest of the bar had dropped their façade of disinterest; they all stared at Pestle and Mortar with varying degrees of confusion and concern. “You’re not fooling me,” I said, “This is all just another joke to you, and I’m not laughing. You might as well give up on whatever tricks you have in store, because I’m not falling for them.” No reaction. Not even a glimpse in my direction. It was a very convincing act, but an act all the same. Any second now, they’d burst into laughter and say they almost got me. Any second now. I knew they’d laugh it off. They had to. Yet they didn’t, after minutes of stillness. Had they gone mad? Had I? I couldn’t take it anymore. “I’ve had enough of this,” I said, conspicuously reaching for my hidden dagger, “If you don’t put an end to this foolishness, I’d be more than happy to-”
Suddenly, they both ripped the star earrings from their own ears and swallowed them, their faces stoic as their blood splashed onto the floor. They punched each other in the face, sending them stumbling apart from each other. They drew matching daggers and stabbed at each others’ hearts, but the tips of the blades collided halfway between them. My jaw dropped. I’m as handy with a blade as anyone, but I’d never be able to match my opponent’s movements that precisely, even in a choreographed fight. Who were these people? They continued attacking each other, each slash and thrust repelled by an identical motion. As their movements grew faster and faster, I noticed that their ears were completely healed. Was there some kind of potion in those earrings? It was the only explanation I could think of for their inhuman speed and precision. Finally, when their movements became almost too fast to follow, they each put their entire body into one final swing, causing their daggers to shatter as they met. They stood motionless for a moment before enveloping their hands in blades of red magical energy and continuing their duel, using both hands to attack even more frantically than before. If this was just a joke, they were taking it too far; I’m no expert on magic, but I know a thing or two about killing, and I had no doubt that a single blow from those mage-blades would be enough to kill anyone. Anyone mortal, at least. Their fighting intensified, and with it, their blades burned brighter and hotter, eventually changing colors from red to yellow to blue. All of my training and instincts told me it was too dangerous to stay there, but I was transfixed. We all were. It was no longer recognizable as a fight, or even an interaction between two people. It was as if they were moving too fast for their corporeal forms to keep up, leaving nothing but a vortex of color and light in their place. Suddenly, when their blades began to burn white hot, they stopped. The tips of their blades met between them, exactly as they had at the start of the fight. When I saw the look of anger on their faces, I was overcome by a wave of terror. The poison didn’t matter anymore. The Mark didn’t matter anymore. She didn’t even matter anymore. All that mattered was getting out of here alive. But I was too paralyzed by fear. I could only watch in horror as they withdrew their blades and silently fired beams of magical energy at each other. The two attacks collided, forming a swirling ball of magical energy between them that grew as they kept pushing. I’d never felt a more overwhelming magical power in my entire life, and the only thing preventing it from exploding with enough force to level the entire building was a balancing act that required precision akin to continuously stabbing two knives into each other without ever missing once. It was too late to run; not even I could escape the blast radius in time. In time, the magical energy between them collapsed in on itself, shrinking to a singularity before exploding outward in a blinding flash. When I dared to open my eyes again, they were gone. But, somehow, nothing else was so much as singed.
“What happened?” I asked aloud, as if anyone could answer my question, “Did they get annihilated?” “I bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” They asked in unison, suddenly standing on my table. I was so startled I nearly fell out of my seat. “Wh-what just happened?” I asked, “Who… What are you two?” “We are Pestle and Mortar!” They said in unison, ‘master’ ‘or mistress?’ “alchemists, at your service!” They did the exact same bow as before, perfectly in sync, as if nothing had happened. Everyone in the bar started standing and cheering. I stood up and started walking towards the door without a word. I was done. Whatever this was, I didn’t understand it, and I had given up on understanding it. All I could do now was cut my losses and leave. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” They asked. I stopped in my tracks. I almost turned around, but they weren’t going to trick me that easily. Not again. I continued walking. “Here, catch!” they said. They hadn’t thrown anything. It was just another ruse, so they could-
*crash* Something shattered on the ground behind me. I turned around to see a broken phial, its contents staining the floor. “Was… was that the poison?” I asked, hesitantly. “Yep!” They said, “We told you to catch.” I fell to my knees. I went through so much just to get this one phial, it was all for nothing. And I had no one to blame but myself. If I had just turned around… no. “You knew I wouldn’t, though,” I growled, “After all your bullshit, why would I ever believe anything that you said? This was just another one of your tricks!” I can no longer contain my anger. Even after seeing their power firsthand, I draw my blade. I have nothing left to live for. Nothing left to die for. I dashed towards them, lunging for one of their necks, but at the last second, I diverted my course to run behind them and stab them in the back. The other turned around in an instant and blocked my attack with their hand, not even flinching as I stabbed through it. ‘Of course we knew,’ they said, ‘Which is why this is the real poison.’ The one I tried to attack produced an identical phial and handed it to me. “But… why?” I asked, “Why are you giving this to me? Even after I almost killed you.” They both laughed. “Rest assured,” they said, “You did no such thing.” “I still might,” I said, indignantly, “My blade is coated in a lethal poison… that…” I realized how stupid I sounded as the words left my mouth. They laughed as they pulled my blade out of their hand and offered it to me. “We’ve built up immunities to poisons no one else has even discovered yet. Trust us, we’ll be fine.” They took a swig from a flask, and their wound began to close before my eyes.
“So… what’s the price?” I asked. ‘Oh, you’ve already paid,” one said, ‘In fact, I fear we may have overcharged you.’ “What?” I asked, “I haven’t paid you anything.” ‘Do you really believe that?’ one asked, ‘Because that poison seems to have come at great personal cost.’ “You mean all your stupid jokes?” I asked, “That’s my payment? You amusing yourselves?” “Not just ourselves,” they said, “But our lovely patrons, as well.” “Your patrons?” I asked, “This is your bar? But I thought you were alchemists.” “We are,” they said, ‘But when you think about it, drinks are just potions, aren’t they?’ ‘And food is just solid potions, when you get down to it.’ ‘But I guess you weren’t so far off the mark when you said we were clowns.’ ‘But what you didn’t realize is that you were just as much a clown the whole time!’ “Wait,” I said, looking around, “So everyone in here was watching me the whole time? I… you realize that I can’t let these people live, right?” “Of course you can!” they said, ‘You can trust them to keep your secrets,’ ‘By now you should believe we have ways of making sure of it.’ “But… but this is sick! It’s disgusting! You’re making my life into a drama for your perverted enjoyment!” “How many here thought that when you were in his place? Show of hands?” Every hand in the room went up. “And how many still believe that?” Almost every hand went back down. ‘We will admit that it’s a bit…’ ‘unethical, from certain perspectives,’ ‘But the fact of the matter is that you got a potion that no one else could make you,’ ‘And it didn’t cost you a single copper!’ ‘Just a minute or two of fearing for your life.’ ‘In fact, since we put you through so much, we’ll make two more potions for you, free of charge!” I sighed. “I got what I came here for. Maybe if I need another potion, I’ll come back, but I hope I never need anything that badly ever again. See ya.” “We actually have another show planned tonight,” They said, “Our next clown thinks he’s meeting the Legendary Alchemist at an underground masquerade ball, and he’s been told to wear a butterfly mask and heart tiara to identify himself.” I smirked despite myself. “Maybe I could stay a little while.”