"Hey, Vlad." Taro thumped down on the couch with two beers and handed one over. They were the only ones in the suite's common room right now - 'Bina-and-Cassidy were out with the babies, Kai and Conrad were out at Kai's practice. And 'Lisha and Mea, well… Vlad took the beer.
"Thanks, man." What else could you say? He'd thought things were getting better with 'Lisha. They had been getting better. They'd been spending more time talking. He'd been getting to know her - belated, maybe, but they'd been working on it.
"Has 'Lisha been acting weird?" Taro wasn't looking at him, he was looking at his bottle. "I mean, Mea… I thought things were going okay. I mean, what do I know, right, but I thought they were."
"Yeah." Vlad moped around his beer, not really hearing Taro at first. Taro had girl problems. Taro always had girl problems. "Wait, what?" He sat up, a thought beginning to percolate. "Weird how?"
"Angry? I mean, not…" Taro's gesture took in a world of stuff neither of them wanted to talk about, most of it Megan-related. "But angry at me. Angry at everyone. I mean, everyone but Emrys and Agatha. She says they're her family, they're the ones she should be paying attention to."
"That's harsh." Vlad shook his head. "'Lisha's not doing that. I mean, as far as I know, neither of us have any family here, except my mom, I mean. But she's spending more time away from the room, more time in her own room. It's like she can't stand to be around me."
"You do Own her," Taro pointed out, not for the first time. "You could just order her to spend time around you."
"And having her angry and resentful would be so much better?" Vlad shook his head. "I thought things were getting better. Ever since she got pregnant, it's seemed like things were improving, like she really liked me."
"I know that. But I don't mean like that!" Vlad put his bottle down on the table, harder than he meant to, beer sloshing onto the papers spread out there. "Shit, and that was my math homework. Solomon's gonna kill me."
"Man… you're acting like me." Taro toweled off the papers ineffectually.
"Tempero yaku." The toweling was stupid; he was a merman, or had rock-head forgotten? He Worked the beer back into the bottle. "What do you mean, acting like you?"
"Stupid and angry all the time. Trust me, it's not the charming tactic it seems like. So how's 'Lisha acting? Like girl-hormones?"
"Girl-hormones-on-crack. I survived the first pregnancy, and she hated me then. This is worse. I mean, we were getting along, and then bam."
"Same with Mea. I mean, a little different, it's Mea. Suddenly I'm pinning her down. I have never pinned a girl down less. I mean…" He flushed.
"I know what you mean." Vlad took pity on the big guy. Vlad himself hadn't ever been great with girls, but Taro was a walking disaster, and it really wasn't his fault. "She's acting weird, too?"
"Yeah. I mean, I think so. Man, I'd ask Cassidy if 'Bina was acting weird, but they're all tied into each other's brains. And Kai…" He shook his head. "Conrad wasn't think she was acting weird if she set the world on fire."
"They seem happy together." Vlad didn't want to think about how brainwashed his best friend was getting. "Wait, you said Mea was talking to Agatha a lot…?"
"Yeah. Her sister, she keeps saying. Like that matters for anything here."
Vlad frowned. "It does, sometimes, to some people, but Agatha having any family at all sounds like something new to me. I mean, aside from her mother. You know, 'Lisha's been going out strange places and not telling me where she's going, too.
"You know, you're her Keeper, you can…"
"I know, I know. Look, do you think it's possible that something's up?"
'Lisha chose that minute to sweep in through the door. "I hate you," she informed him, or the room in general. "I want a divorce. I want out of your life."
"'Lisha." He tried to be patient, although he was struggling with anger and a deep stabbing pain to his chest. "We're not married."
She tugged at the elaborate torque he'd given her in lieu of a collar. "I want to go live with my friends. I'm taking Min and we're going."
Vlad glanced at Taro. Taro was looking worried. That was never a good sign. "Tell me, 'Lisha," he ordered, "which friends?"
She pouted at him. She'd never stopped hating orders. "Agatha."
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder. All rights reserved.
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