"Amber?" Richard turned to me while we sat on the couch after everyone had gone to sleep. He looked pale for the past couple of hours, and frowned once in a while. Was he sick?

"Yeah?" I asked, turning to the figure laying down. He definitely looked sick.

"I think I'm sick?"

"What's wrong? Are you cold? Clammy?" I frowned and leaned over to feel his forehead. There wasn't a temperature there.

"You know how it looks when you drop stuff into acid and it bubbles and fizzles until the thing isn't really there anymore?" A stomach virus would be pretty bad. Could Richard really get sick? I supposed at this point he wasn't actually a ghost anymore, so it was a possibility.

I nodded, not sure what that had to do with anything.

"It's like that. But… Here," his hands moved to his middle, focused just under his ribcage to one side. "It hurts."

I looked at where he was gesturing. And back up to him. And frowned.

"Is that bad? A hospital would be bad. I don't have an ID, and—"

"Richard." He stopped talking and looked at me. "Do you think that maybe you're hungry?"

It took a moment for the idea to really register and take shape in his brain, I could tell. He hadn't had to think about it for a long while.


And so it was back to the tip-toeing. Dad got caught up on what was going on. And while he didn't like it, he didn't have a choice but to allow the unfortunate boy whose parents were hitting him to live with us until he got his feet on the ground. That was what I'd blurted out before I completely thought things through. And Richard, not one to call me a liar and not particularly feeling up to explaining and proving the existence of ghosts to my parents, played along splendidly.

It probably hit a bit close to home when dad heard it. He probably wanted to somehow make up for what he'd done to me by taking Richard in and proving he could do well. He was already doing well, of course, so that didn't worry me very much. What did worry me was that Richard suddenly had a part time job in a restaurant in a less than stellar part of town, thanks to the fact that his actual identity was that of a dead person. It worried me that he'd not only taken on the job, but taken on every possible chore that could possibly be done.

Last night he shampooed the carpet. The night before he was dusting the ledge over the windows.

"What's going on?" I asked during one of his weekdays off, when it was just the two of us in the house. Richard was back to normal chores. Washing the dishes, drying them, putting them away. Then sweeping and mopping the floors. I sat on the dining room table, keeping my feet off of the floor.

"What's going on with what?" He asked, sweeping underneath my chair.

"Everything?" Maybe I was being selfish. I didn't want Richard running around working, doing chores and… ignoring me. That was what it felt like. "We're still… Friends, right?" Even I was tiptoeing.

"Amber." He leaned the broom against the wall and pulled my seat out from under the table, though I remained in it. "I love you," Richard stated it clearly, and I was a bit shocked. That wasn't where I'd expected this conversation to go.

"But?" There had to be a catch. How could he both love me and ignore me?

"No." He shook his head, and stood in front of my seat before leaning forward and kissing me again. More pesky, steroid-happy butterflies fluttered their way through my stomach. "I love you," Richard repeated.

"I love you, too," I nodded. "But you're—" I got caught off by another kiss, and became pretty sure it was a consequence of saying the word 'but.' My cheeks flushed red when he pulled away just to look at me.

"All I'm doing is trying really hard not to get carried away with myself," he smiled, and I watched his face also turn a bit pink. "What do you suppose we'd do all day if I didn't do chores? Do you have any exams to study for?"

I did not. "…This?"

"Exactly," he nodded, and gave me a peck on the lips for getting the answer correct. "How do you think your parents would feel if we had nothing to show for the nine hours of the day when they're not here and we're completely unsupervised?"

"…Oh." Of course he made sense. Richard always had reasons for what he was doing. "Hey, Richard?"

"Yeah?" I watched him bite his lower lip, and realized he'd gotten closer to my face again. Butterflies.

"Next time you have a genius plan, let me help?" I pouted, and he nodded.

"I have a plan right now," he smiled, and I could tell my face went redder.

"What's that?" I asked, and was promptly answered with another kiss.