Ah! Boys on the road together – it'll be quite the trip, won't it, mate?

"Boys? You have a gender now, do you?"

Well, Blue. It's slightly more complicated than that but for now, yes.

"Good, good." Bluebear pressed his lips into what he intended to be a smile and rearranged the pack on his shoulders. He'd gone for the spotted hanky rucksack; traditions are always nice.

Cheer up, mate. Perhaps, if you bring her back something really special, she'll forgive you.

"She's not like that!" Bluebear protested, blinking as he marched through the forest where the dappled light skittered across his eyes. The days were still warm and he could feel the beginnings of sweat beginning to bead between the strands of his fur. It matched the colour of the sky today. "She thinks I'm…you know. Doesn't she?"

Most likely.

"I can't believe I didn't notice – obviously she was going to draw that conclusion!" He thwacked his palm against his forehead and huffed. "And if I try to tell her about you now, she'll only think I'm crazy or that it's just some excuse! Some horrible cover-up. Sometimes I think I should just hand back all my fancy degrees and awards. I can be so stupid sometimes, can't I?"

Hm. I suppose that emotional inaptitude it is a type of stupidity.

They walked, or rather Bluebear did, for a while longer in silence before, "You knew the whole time, didn't you?"

There was a pause. Then, I don't want to lie to you, so I'm just going to stay quiet.

The thought process for a reply was just flitting through Bluebear's brain, when the Bacteria interrupted him.

I'm your friend! I'd just like to point that out. I like you and I don't really want to leave.

For a voice coming from the inside of a head, it was sincere. Sad, even. Bluebear sighed.

"Well, a gift isn't a bad place to start, is it?"

Not at all, not at all! What does she like, this wife of yours? Its voice perked up, far more cheerful now. Though, he inwardly wished that the Bacteria wouldn't refer to his wife in such an offhand manner. This was ever so shortly before realising that it heard all his thoughts.

Sorry. Does the lovely Avriel like books?

"That's better," he smiled. "She loves them, actually."

That's excellent, mate! Should we detour to Florien on the way to…wherever it is we're going? Or Wolperting? Or what about the place itself – Bookholm!

"Oh, but I can't be away too long. Avriel…"

Oh. Want to get back pretty sharpish, do you?

"It would be best, I think."

Where are you taking me?

By this point, Bluebear had reached their log. Their little spot where they had spent so many afternoons together chatting and laughing and hypothesising about the meaning of life or just how many cats could Kat Gryll grill, if Kat Gryll could grill cats. He smiled to himself and sat on the end of the worn-smooth wood. He thought long and hard and in silence. The Bacteria left him to it this time.

"I know of a Troglotroll," he said at length. "I don't know if he's still around. If he is, you can go and live on his brain." The words came out like a command and Bluebear wasn't entirely sure that he had tried to make them any different.

He shut his eyes and he thought of Avriel: the shade of her fur, the feel of her fingertips against him when she pulled crumbs from the hair on his chin, the look of nervously excited bliss in her eyes just before she told him she loved him, and how he had resolved to see that look as often as possible.

What's this Troglotroll like, then?

"You're in my brain, you know exactly what this Troglotroll is like."

I thought we were friends. Best friends, I would have called us.

"We are."

Are you punishing me?

There was a long pause, Bluebear opened his eyes. He looked up at the leaves in the trees and forced himself to think about photosynthesis. The reaction in which a plant uses sunlight and carbon dioxide to make glucose and oxygen. Chloroplasts. Chlorophyll. The conversion of glucose to starch for long term storage of energy.


All done within the leaves of the plant. Other areas are used for other things. Like the xylem and phloem that travel around the stem. Active transport in the roots. The travel of water against the concentration gradient.


He mentally sighed. "We'll go to Florien and see if Abdullah Nightingale wants you."

He could have sworn he felt something in his head nodding solemnly.