Valkyrie Cain does not want to get out of bed.

There are a lot of reasons she has for herself, not entirely unreasonable reasons, either. It's a horribly rainy day. She wants to sleep. Work is going to be deadly dull.

Well, maybe not dull. Work has never been dull. But it might not be the best idea.

She doesn't think she's avoiding Skulduggery, per se. That would be silly. At the same time, though, she is avoiding getting out of bed, which is also patently silly, and since she's in such a foul mood anyway, she'd much rather sleep.

She picks up the phone on the fifth ring, having wormed her way out of her burrow of blankets.

"What is it?" she asks, listening to the rasp of her voice and wondering how she'd look if she shaved her head.

"I wondered where you were," her partner-in-crime—well, not exactly crime, but close enough—tells her. "You see, it's sort of past noon."

"I'm sleeping," she tells him, letting her eyes close. "I'm exhausted."

"Oh," he says. "Do you need the rest of the day off?"

"Indubitably," she says. "God. I just said indubitably. Think I have a fever?"

"How do you think I'd look with a shaved head?" is the first thing she asks him the next day. Having spent quite a bit of quality time together with her bed, she is invigorated and entirely ready to deal with Skulduggery.

"In great need of various painful-looking piercings, possibly a few tattoos, and the perfect reason for your parents to viciously murder me."

"Awesome," she says.

"Why do you suddenly bring it up?"

"Since I spent most of yesterday in a state of apparent delirium, I have been practically a font of bizarre thoughts and fancies."

"You don't say?"

He does not pick the best moment to ask her, with his soft velvet voice, whether there is something she needs to tell him, because the moment he does choose happens to be just after she has picked up a cup of coffee, which she promptly drops onto her lap.

He cannot quite tell whether she is actually avoiding his gaze or whether she really is that intent on getting the warm liquid off her clothes, but the latter seems unfortunately likely. He makes a mental note to check for hot beverages the next time he asks something potentially sensitive.

Now with a cup of lukewarm water and coffee-grounds dusted neatly into her hand before being thrown out the window, since Skulduggery might have been upset if she had simply transferred them from her lap to the Bentley's interior, Valkyrie schools a smile onto her face before she turns to Skulduggery.

"I am very sorry," she says, keeping the smile as well as she can. "What was it that you were saying?"

"You've been somewhat distant recently," he answers, still looking to the road. "I suppose that it could just be you coming down with a fever. But I wondered."

"Any other symptoms?" she asks wryly. She thinks she possibly sounds a lot less casually than she should, but she's somewhat beyond caring.

He hesitates before he answers. "Don't kill me if I'm wrong," he says, slowly, carefully.

"Okay," she says.

"You've been spending a lot of time with Tanith," he says quickly. "A lot. And you just asked me how I thought you'd look with your head shaven. I just want you to know that no matter what happens, I'll still support you and, you know, the magical community's perfectly fine with all this, I'm sure Tanith's told you—"

"You think I'm coming out?" she asks him, raising an eyebrow and trying not to laugh. Her hands are shaking around the cup that once contained coffee, and she thinks she should probably put it down soon.

"Maybe," he says diplomatically. "Am I wrong?"

"Skulduggery Pleasant," she says seriously. "You have been my teacher, my mentor and my dearest friend for many, many years. We have saved each other from death many times, and lived through many things together. And I love you, in a more than friendly way. I love you."

She stops to smirk at him rather cheerfully.

"However, and I do hope you won't ask how I know this, quite a lot of queer people consider one definition of lesbianism to be a feminine individual who is attracted to other feminine individuals. I do consider you to be rather feminine, honestly."

"So was Fletcher," he says lightly, vacantly. "So was Caelan."

"Exactly!" she says brightly. "I doubt I'm going to start packing or anything," she adds. "But if you want, I will happily be the butch in this relationship."

"Was that a joke?" he asks. "Because that sounds fabulous."

"Great," she says. "In that case, it wasn't."

"I can't believe you thought I was going to tell you I was gay," Valkyrie comments lightly. They are stretched out together on the sofa, and she is tracing the lines of his clavicles.

"Neither can I," he says. "That was certainly nowhere near the mark."

"Are you glad I'm not, then?" she asks affectionately.

"Very much so," he says. "Fervently."

She laughs. "Why Tanith, though? Why not China, or Portia, or Melancholia?"

He sighs, shaking his head. "Are you absolutely sure you're not gay?"

"I'm madly in love with you for now," she says. "Isn't that the important thing?"

Valkyrie Cain does not want to get off of the sofa.

She has a lot of good reasons to. It's a nice day. She's sort of hungry. There's a lot of fun work to be done.

But right now, her partner (in so many more ways than one) is meditating against her chest, and it's rather peaceful, and she kind of wants to never leave this place, would rather cling on to the person she loves forever.

Except, perhaps, to shave her head, acquire various piercings, tattoos and a motorbike. She really wants to take Skulduggery out riding, one day.