Directly after Chapter 176
Kai wasn't happy to see him.
This was ending up being the case more often than not lately. It probably would have given Tolly a complex, but he was pretty sure he had one already. His closest female friend hated (with decent reason) his Keeper, who (with probably even better reason) hated her right back. His best buddy thought he was crazy, again probably with good reason. And his cy'ree was more than a little pissed at him.
("Okay, man," Smitty had said, in a private moment in the hallway, "doing what you did and getting her knocked up, okay, that was harsh. Not the sort of thing you ought to do to a friend's girl, even if it is Addergoole. But then taking her collar, too? Could you be more obvious about trying to steal her?")
Tolly hadn't been trying to steal Kai. He was pretty sure she wasn't steal-able, and, even if she was, he wouldn't have known how to manage that. But the cy'ree were hearing none of it, Conrad was back to glaring daggers at him, and Kai spent a lot of time frowning. And this was the best solution he could come up with,
Aggie had been plotting again (Aggie was always plotting), talking to Ib and Ardell. She'd visited Rozen, too, but come back angry and sulked in her room for an hour after that. And Tolly…
…He didn't want to go against his friend, but she had made this mess for herself, and she was dealing with it badly. He had to do what he could to protect Kai, without fighting Agatha. So he presented himself at her doorway, despite the glare he knew he was going to get.
"Anatoliy. Come in." He wasn't sure if she meant it as an invitation he didn't need, or a command, but he came in anyway, noticing the way Conrad was flopped on the bed, tail lashing. Damn. He had the world's worst timing.
He tried to ignore the stab of jealousy; it wasn't going to do him any good. Instead, he focused on what he had to tell her, and how he would get around to it without actively betraying Aggie. "I think you should watch out," he told his Keeper solemnly. "Especially around people like Ardell and Ib."
She frowned at him. "Sit down… please sit down," she corrected, but not before he was looking for a clear spot on her floor to sit on. She didn't have any furniture except her bed that would support him, and that…
"You've been telling me that for weeks," she complained. "Months. You had to come over today to tell me again?"
"I think you should take special care watching out for them this weekend," he tried again, against the rising shame of bad Kept. Bothered your Keeper. Please, please let her get it this time.
"Because they're more evil this weekend than they normally are?"
"Kaia," Conrad cut in. "I think he's dancing around something. Order him to tell you."
"You don't like it when I order you," she pointed out.
"Yeah, but my best friend didn't swear revenge on you, either."
"Oh." She frowned at Tolly again. "Tell me what you mean."
He squirmed, and hedged, "they've been talking to Agatha."
"Everyone talks to everyone, it's a small school," Conrad complained. "Kaia, you're going to have to tell him to be completely honest. And thorough."
Tolly didn't know whether to thank his cy'ree-mate or hate him for that. From the look on her face, neither did their Keeper. "Tolly, tell me exactly what you're talking about and why you think it's more of a concern than normal."
The order yanked words out of him; he tried to stem them enough to make them make sense. "Aggie's always been the sort to plot. She always has at least one or two schemes going on, you know. And Conrad's right, she practically swore revenge on you-"
"Technically, she just promised she wouldn't forget it."
"Well, yeah, but she meant 'I'll get you, and your little dog, too.'"
"Wizard of Oz," Conrad murmured, clearly to Kai. Tolly flushed, and fell quiet, until the order pressed more out of him.
"So she's been spending a lot of time talking with Ardell and Ib, and… I don't think you've upset either of them directly, but if they found out about your little book project…"
"Hunh." Kai frowned. "No specifics, though?"
"Tell him…" Conrad started. Kai lets out air in an explosive, irritated raspberry.
"Tell him yourself. Tolly, obey orders from Conrad as if they were from me."
They stared at each other, Anatoliy and Conrad, for a long, uncomfortable heartbeat or two. Then Conrad, looking apologetic, finally, said, "come tell us, tell Kaia, if you find out anything specific about plans against Kailani."
Tolly relaxed. It was out of his hands now. He didn't have a choice anymore.
"And don't tell anyone else about these orders," Conrad added, smirking tiredly, "or any orders Kaia or I give you. That oughta cover it."
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder. All rights reserved.
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