"You're still alive!" Anne-Marie observed as she came to stand beside Tristam. He couldn't help thinking that she sounded more than a little surprised.
"So far, so good." He started to get to his feet but Anne-Marie sat down beside him, so he tried to turn it into a shifting of his weight instead, a mere repositioning of his backside. He almost fell over. "How's everything out there?"
"Oh, I got yelled at by my boss a little bit when I got back but that's not unusual," she said with a quick laugh. "The streets are just crawling with Icepol though. They seem pretty determined to find whoever they're looking for - they even stopped me to inspect my documents!"
"Right, whoever." Tristam's entire body wilted. He kept his eyes on his boots to avoid looking at his companion, feeling utterly wretched about dragging her into this mess. A voice in the back of his head wondered how many toes lurked inside those boots, but it also triggered another question. "Hey, do you remember when I came into your restaurant?"
"No, Yakth does all the seating."
"Sure, of course. But, you remember taking my order, right?"
"I... well, no. But it was very busy." Anne-Marie seemed a little flustered by this admission. "It's not that you weren't memorable or anything like -"
"No, no, it's fine." Tristam glanced at her, flashing a smile before returning to his footwear study. "It's just that I wasn't... there until the end of the meal, if you know what I'm saying. I guess I was just wondering if I, like, took someone's place when I showed up."
"And whether or not someone took yours?" Seeing Tristam's face transform from hopeless to shocked horror caused her to bolt upright. "Oh! No, you weren't thinking that at all! I'm so sorry!"
"I have no idea how this... stuff... works," Tristam said with a low moan, allowing his head to fall into his hands.
"Well, we can't stay here all night. It wouldn't do either of us any good for the Icepol to come crashing through those trees right now."
"I'm so, so sorry to do this to you. I didn't -"
"You had no choice in the matter, right?" She waited until Tristam shook his head no before continuing on. "Then you have nothing to apologize for. Now get up, we have to get moving."
"Where are we going?" he asked as stood up and collected his bag. He looked at it properly for the first time since he'd arrived in that other place and wondered what had replaced his reports and financial statements. He wasn't at all sure that he wanted to know.
"My apartment, it's not far." Seeing his reluctance, her tone turned no-nonsense. "I've already come this far and there's nowhere else I know that's guaranteed to be safe, for tonight at least. So let's go... wait, what's your name?"
"Oh God," Tristam groaned as he moved to follow his only hope of escape and survival through the trees, "please don't ask me that."