Eve gazed out the passenger side window as they drove through the dark, silent town. Hal was driving, as this was her car, and fiddled with the radio occasionally. They'd fallen into a comfortable silence after spending most of the night together. Eve almost stayed in by herself tonight, but Hal had insisted the both of them go out for their own supply runs. The satchel at Eve's feet was full of this month's supply. Hal didn't have to take her , but Hal had insisted. Eve was glad she had some company, and someone she didn't have to keep secrets from besides. She and Adam had been apart for months now, which felt like too much to bear but too little to justify a reconnection. They lived apart sometimes, and that was how they'd found to enjoy themselves.
Love was always work, Eve supposed. She rolled down the window, hoping to get some airflow through the car. It was a hotter night than most, which made the car stuffy after a while.
"You know you can turn on the air conditioner, right?" Hal asked.
"Oh, I forgot yours worked," Eve gratefully leaned forward and turned a few knobs on the console until pleasantly cool air gushed through the vents.
Hal chuckled, trying not to let her disappointment show. Tonight had been far too short. True, they had maybe half an hour before the sun came up, but they wanted to be safe. The sun was much less forgiving to Eve than it was to Hal.
Just one more turn, and they'll be on the near-abandoned street where Eve's apartment was. However, even before they reached the corner, Hal's attention was caught by a bright orange glow reflecting off the houses opposite Eve's apartment.
"Whoa," Hal squinted and slowed down. "Did the sun already rise?"
Eve's head darted up. She looked to the west. The sky was still way too dark for the sun to have breached the horizen. But now that she looked, she realized the sky was too dark, and suddenly overcast with thick clouds that carried the burning light from its source. Smoke. She stared forward again, captivated by the light just as Hal. The sickening, rancid smell of smoke flooded the car through the vents. Eve felt an unshakeable dread in her bones.
The two-story apartment Eve had been renting was currently engulfed in smoke, originating from the flames on the upper floor. Eve could only stare in wordless horror for a second as Hal parked by the curb and took her phone out of her pocket. The flames were as mesmerising as they were upsetting. Writhing, stuttering—nothing like a campfire or candle flam. How had it started? How long ago, how bad was it? Her apartment, her collections, her home, would it all be gone in just a few short minutes?
Hal was talking urgently on her phone, giving the address of the place... Eve could barely hear her. The woman numbly unbuckled her seatbelt and tugged on the doorhandle, stumbling out onto the lawn.
Hal climbed out of the car and walked around the front of it to chase after the woman. Eve didn't look like she was going to stop until Hal took her by her shoulders and pulled her back. Hal didn't think Eve would honestly try to go in there, but Eve was acting unpredictably. Hal turned her around, shaking her slightly. It was easier than she'd expected; usually Eve was immoveable, but now she was nearly limp in her complacency.
"Eve," Hal repeated. "Are you okay?"
Eve opened her mouth, but couldn't say anything. What kind of question was that? Why wouldn't she be alright, she was with Hal all night... It wasn't like she'd been here when the fire started. When Eve closed her mouth, her eyes stung with unshed tears. She nodded. She was fine. She'd be fine.
"Can you drive?" Hal asked. Eve nodded again. "Take my car and get to my place. You need to get inside before the sun comes up. I'll handle the fire department, then I'll get an Uber home. I have my phone on me, so you can call me if you need anything, okay?"
Eve nodded again, but Hal didn't release her.
Eve looked at Hal's face for the first time since they got here. The roar and crackling of the fire behind them was everpresent but less so in Eve's mind. Hal looked troubled and sympathetic.
"Talk to me," Hal said. "Say something so I know you'll be alright for a while."
"I'll be fine," Eve's voice was no more than a whisper. She had to be. They didn't have time to stand around being upset. She had her stock and she had a place to stay. That was more than she could've asked for. She would survive this, she just needed to stay composed for a few more minutes.
"Okay," Hal exhaled. She wrapped Eve in a tight hug, one that Eve reciprocated, and walked the woman around to the driver's side of the car just as the wail of sirens reached their ears.
Eve's entire body trembled slightly and felt numb as she navigated through the residential area to reach Hal's sunlight-proof house. Eve struggled with the house keys for a moment before finally finding the right one and getting inside just as the sun was about to peek over the rooftops of the neighborhood. Once inside, Eve left the keys by a short table by the door and stood their in the foryer, clutching her satchel and staring at the empty apartment. Processing, even to a slight degree, what happened.
After what felt like minutes or hours, Eve finally moved. She put the thermoses in the fridge between a jug of orange juice and a can of whipped cream. It felt odd sharing a fridge with a human. After that, Eve wandered into the living room and sat squarely in the middle of the sofa. She sent Hal a quick text message, saying she made it safely, then set her cellphone on the coffee table in front of her. She decided not to worry if the girl replied.
Eve had never been in Hal's apartment by herself before. She wasn't even sure she'd been in every room yet. Hal had given her permission to stay here, but Eve wasn't sure what to do now that she was here. It felt wrong to watch TV and act like nothing had happened. Perhaps Hal had books somewhere that she could read...
But Eve didn't move. She didn't rest, but she didn't act. She simply sat there, letting the dread of the situation settle in her and fester for a while.
After supervising the putting out of the fire and feeding the firemen some line about being a housesitter, Hal did as she'd promised and got a ride home. The sun had already risen by the time she arrived, so Hal hastily paid the driver and rushed up the front steps and to the house. The door was unlocked, and her car in the driveway, so at least Eve had made it safely. Hal locked the front door and cringed at the mild burns on her arms and legs that had already formed after just a few seconds in the sun.
Hal held her arms awkwardly in front of her and stiffly lumbered through the house. She made a mental note to put some aloe on her wounds later, but first she wanted to locate Eve. She thought about calling, but if the woman was already asleep, Hal definitely didn't want to disturb her after such a stressful night. Hal rounded the corner into the living room, where Eve was sitting on the couch in the complete dark.
"Hey," Hal whispered. "Can I turn the lamp on?"
Eve nodded once. Hal tugged the chain on the lamp by the sofa and sat down beside Eve. At first, Hal worried that she was being to forward, but any such thoughts left her mind as Eve lied on her side with her head in Hal's lap and reached up to grip one of Hal's arms. Hal held her there, running her fingers over Eve's tangled hair gently.
Neither of them spoke for the longest time. What would they even say, if they needed to say anything at all? Eve was still distraught over losing her home, but she'd had time to herself already. Now, she just wanted—needed—to be with someone.
After some time, Eve's clingy grasp became a gentle carress, and her body relaxed. The despair and grief wasn't invalid, but it would do her no good to dwell on it now. She was in one piece, she was safe, and she had a month's supply of blood with her, and for all that, she was grateful. She moved her hand to hold Hal's and pressed the back of Hal's hand against her lips. Only then did she realize how red and hot Hal's skin was. Eve turned Hal's hand to get a better look at her arm.
"Are you burned, darling?" Eve asked, sitting up and loosening her grip on Hal.
"Just a little," Hal shrugged with a wince. "I'm glad you left when you did. The sun came out pretty soon after."
"Oh, I'm sorry you had to stay out," Eve fretted.
"Don't worry about it," Hal smiled. "I'll heal soon. And I'd rather stay outside for a whole day than risk you being in the sun for one minute."
It was a fair preference. Eve relaxed again and got to her feet.
"Where do you keep the aloe vera?" she asked as she passed Hal and headed down the short hall to the other rooms.
"By the bathroom sink," Hal replied, letting the woman go.
Eve returned shortly with the blue bottle and sat with Hal again.
"I'll do it," Hal mumbled, taking the bottle and spreading the coolant on her arms and hands. Eve propped her elbow on the back of the couch and rested her head on her hand.
"How bad is it?" she asked.
"Well, it probably won't be liveable," Hal replied monotonously. "There's probably thousands in property damage on the house alone. We'll need to appeal to the fire marshall to get permission to go into the house again, but..."
Hal timidly looked at Eve. She wasn't sure how much of this was damning or comforting. Eve stared at the far wall, but gave Hal an appreciative, sad smile when Hal stopped talking. Hal took one of Eve's hands, and Eve reciprocated the grip.
"You should probably call Adam and tell him what happened," Hal said.
"No," Eve shook her head. "He'll worry out of his skin if I told him. I don't want him to do anything rash; he might drop everything and come see me, and I'll have interrupted his projects and—"
"That's why you need to call him. It would be even worse if Adam went to the house in an emergency and found that it had been burned down."
Eve fell silent. Even though Adam wasn't one to surprise people, Hal had a point. There were circumstances where Adam would show up unannounced, and whatever troubles he may be in would only double if he went to the old apartment. Hal relented, content that her point was made. She took Eve's phone from the coffee table and handed it over.
"Call him," she said.
Eve nodded and took the phone. She leaned against Hal's shoulder and whispered a quick, "Thank you, Hal."
"Anytime," Hal smiled, kissing the top of Eve's head.
Adam did worry, of course, but he was much easier to calm when Eve talked about how Hal had taken care of the human interaction aspect and was now providing shelter for Eve for as long as she needed.
"How are you on supplies?" Adam asked.
"I just received this month's stock tonight," Eve replied. "I'm all set."
He was worried, but he was relieved, she could hear it. Eve couldn't help the small grin that spread across her face. She felt worlds better just talking to him. Even though most of their hour-long phone call was spent trying to reassure him that he didn't need to rush out the door and book a flight to come see her right this instant.
We'll handle this, she'd said. Countless times. We'll sort this. We'll survive this.
They'd been in worse situations before. Eve decided to be grateful for all she had in the midst of the turmoil.
"I'm still coming to see you," Adam insisted. "It'll be a few days... Next week, maybe?"
"Yes, of course, darling," Eve nodded. So long as he made a plan of it instead of flying off the handle. "I can't wait to see you."
Adam was quiet for a moment, then he let out an audible sigh that crackled over the phone. "Eve..."
Oh, so they were going to talk in circles again for a moment. Eve indulged him, pacing slowly around the living room, tiptoeing around stacks of records, movies, and CD cases. She'd talk to him as long as he needed her too, and happily. They hadn't spoken for some time.
Hal was in the kitchen, glancing around the corner at Eve periodically. Eve seemed to have it under control, so Hal left her to it. The human was currently fixing a meal for herself. As it was almost noon at this point, it was practically the middle of the night to Hal and Eve, but they were both wired after last night. Hal planned to eat something and then figure out a sleeping arrangement for them. Her bed was big enough for the two of them or the couch could be covered in sheets.
Hal raised her eyebrows at the thermoses in the fridge. She'd almost forgotten about that. Not that it bothered her, of course, but it occurred to her that she'd never seen Eve feed before. Could she... be in the same room with Eve? Was drinking blood just like eating to a human? Or did Eve prefer, or worse, need privacy? Hal shut the fridge and returned to the sizzling pan of ham and scrambled eggs. It wasn't anything to worry about right now.
Eve surprised Hal by joining her in the kitchen and leaning against the door frame just as Hal put the food on the plate. Hal stuck a fork into the scrambled eggs.
"Did Adam let you go so soon?" Hal asked. "I figured it'd be another hour, at least."
Eve gave her a lightly scolding smile. "Adam says hello. He insisted on coming see me in a few days. I didn't want to put you out, but he can book a hotel room if you can't have him here."
"He can stay on the couch if he wants," Hal offered, rather hastily given her concerns just moments previous. "Or... we can figure it out when he gets here."
Eve nodded. "Thank you again, Hal. I don't know what I'd do if you weren't here."
"I'm glad I could help," Hal replied with a smile. "You do so much for me; why wouldn't I care for you?"
Eve wrapped her arm around Hal and bury her face in Hal's shoulder. Hal awkwardly held the plate of food away from them and wiggled it onto the counter.
"Okay," she raised a hand to pat Eve's back affectionately. "Can you please let me eat now?"