"So, guess that's that, huh?" LJ said, concentrating on the road as he drove us back to downtown LA.

"Yep."

"I gotta say, despite yo' bullshit every now an' then, I had a good time workin' wit'you."

"Yeah," I said, the admission itself giving me a pleasant feeling. "It wasn't bad."

"So what you goan do wit' dat lovestruck fool?"

"I don't know. I should really get a ghoul of my own. And since he likes being drunk from so much, he's a good candidate."

LJ shrugged. "My boss-man's not gonna be back fo' a while. I can stick wit'you if you wanna?"

That got a chuckle out of me. "No, that's alright. I'm a terrible boss anyway. Just look at what happened to your head. And it's only been a day or two."

"Aight." His face was impossible to read.

We arrived at my apartment. "You uh, wanna come up for a coke or something?"

Leering, he said, "What up wit' dat, girl? Thought you people din' invite nobody up after a date anymore?"

I laughed. "It's nothing like that. Still need to pay you your extra."

"Aight, lead on."

No sooner had I carded my door open, or Malcolm jumped to his feet, holding his hands together in front of his chest. "You're back."

"Yep."

"Is she…"

I shook my head. "Best if you don't ask."

That seemed to have said enough. "I see. She didn't suffer, did she?"

"No. Didn't feel a thing."

He sighed and sat down on the sofa. "That's… good, I suppose. So what do you want me to do now?"

"I called my Master," I explained, "and he said it's okay if you stay with me."

He wrung his hands. "And uh… would you like me to?"

"Sure. Can always use a hand." From the expression on his face, I saw that reply wasn't quite what he'd hoped.

"I… thought you'd be a little bit more enthusiastic."

LJ chuckled and answered in my place. "You clearly don' know dis girl."

"I'll warm up to you," I told him, "if you prove you're worth it." But I had to hastily add, "I mean, warm up to you in a non-romantic way."

He was still somewhat disappointed, but I could see that he still harboured a tiny flicker of hope, that I'd get the same feelings for him as he thought he had for me. But that would never happen. Some Vampires allowed their ghouls to have sex with them just to keep them happy, faking enjoyment, but I didn't think that'd be something I'd ever do.

I walked to my safe, tapped in the combination, and took out a wad of a thousand. That should be enough to cover LJ's tab. And it was, judging from the satisfied grin he made when he counted the money. "Much obliged, girl. You need my help again, you jus' gimme a call, yo?"

"Will do. I'll follow you downstairs."

We rode the elevator in the same silence we'd kept when we'd gone up the first time, only this time the silence was far more bearable. The guy had done an okay job, apart from letting himself get surprised during the day.

We stood in the chilly night air, next to LJ's Discovery.

"You going to be alright?" I asked him.

"Mos' def. Just gotta step on the gas, y'know?"

"Yeah, you won't have that much time."

He held out his fist, and in what was for me a rare display of indulgence, I tapped mine on his and allowed him to do the same in reverse. Then he got in, and as parting words, said, "I got faith in you girl. Rise above, aight?"

"I'll try."

"See you again sumday, yo?"

"Maybe. But you'd best get going." I looked at the motionless body in the back seat. "You only have a few hours before she Awakens."