Evelyn Farseer looked at me levelly. The bee on her shoulder did, too. “Just checking in on a wounded colleague.”
My gaze flicked into the room, but Dichall was not visible from my vantage point. “I think I can take care of him.”
Evelyn held my gaze and blinked, slowly. “We’re all Councilmice here. You don’t have to be a current teammate to take interest in someone’s recovery.”
Evelyn started past me. My paw reached out and held her by her sleeve, stopping her. Evelyn looked at my paw and raised her eyebrows. The bee buzzed. I’m out of line… I let go of her.
“You know, Eve, if you care so much about your team, why would you put them all at risk by fighting a fae?”
“I’ll remind you I killed that fae.”
Evelyn snorted. “You and your team could be killed the next time you try to pull a stunt like that. I’ll be sad if that happens, but I won’t be surprised.”
“How about you express your `care’ for Dichall when I’m around, eh?”
Evelyn smoothed her robes with her paws. “It’s no secret you and Dichall are in a relationship.”
“Nice to hear you recognize that.”
The bee crawled from one of Evelyn’s shoulders to the other. She flicked her ears as the wings fluttered against them. “Ensure it doesn’t cloud your already-compromised judgment.”
“My judgment—” I heard that my voice was a little loud, so I took it down a notch, “is not for you to judge.”
“True enough. What did Beatrice Brownbrow say about it?”
I gritted my teeth and clenched the fingers of my paws. We both knew that Beatrice had scolded my team for its recklessness.
Evelyn stepped closer. She smelled faintly of perfume. “I suggest you channel some of that angry energy into fighting evil out there. I’m not the enemy, Eve Pixiedrowner.”
“Just buzz off, Evelyn!”
She clucked her teeth and walked away.
It wasn’t my proudest moment.
I peeked in on Dichall. He looked like he was sleeping, but I couldn’t tell. “Are you awake?”
His back was to me. “Rather not be!”
“Sorry. All the female attention keeping you up?”
He chuckled and waved his paw at me. “Yup. So are you going to be a part of the problem, or part of the solution?”
“Sleep well.” I had to go to guard duty soon anyway.
Beatrice had made it sound like guard duty was some terrible punishment, but I was glad for the opportunity to rest. The three of us were battered and exhausted, not only from the fight with Yonya, but from days of non-stop battling the forces of evil. Yeah, overseeing the safety of the cafeteria was boring, but a little bit of boring was just what I needed.
I’d put Evelyn out of my mind and headed to the cafeteria when I ran into Gretchen in a hallway. She was just standing there, looking out into nothing, while on shelves above full acorn traps rattled with imprisoned essences inside. I put my paw on her shoulder. “Gretchen?”
She looked at me with sad eyes. “I’m just thinking about my Alexander.”
I knew that this beetle had died in the field during a mission, but we’d never really had a chance to talk about her lost familiar. “Want to tell me about him? I could use some company while I watch the cafeteria.”
Gretchen brightened at this and nodded. We walked in the passages between walls toward my post.
“He was about this big.” She held her paws about two centimetres apart. “He was a Necrophorus vespillo, with gorgeous black and yellow stripes.”
My post was inside the north wall of the cafeteria. There were tiny pinholes in the wall, spaced about a foot apart. I started walking down the mouse hallway in the wall, peeking in them one by one, looking for food that humans had let drop on the floor.
“This was back in Germany.” Gretchen looked through a hole to help me out.
“What happened? I mean, if you want to talk about it.”
“It was painful, ja, but sometimes it’s good to talk about it. I was working at the Rat der Mäuse in Hamburg. My team, which included my father, were tracking down this creature. Some hive-minded thing with ephemeral tentacles in the Electrum Museum of Electricity.”
I gestured with my head that we should move on to the next hole.
“I was using Alexander to look around. I’d done it dozens of times. Sitting, sending my spirit into him. He’d fly around and I could see what he could see. But I’d never encountered a creature before who could look at a bug and know that it was some shaman’s familiar. I guess anything’s possible.”
Her voice was cracking. I hopped over to her and put my arms around her. She choked on a single sob. “I know it’s been a while but losing a familiar is like having your heart ripped out.” Gretchen pulled away and wiped her nose. “Someday I might attract another, but I don’t know if I want it… I don’t know if I could stand to lose one again.”
Gretchen looked through one of the holes, so I did the same, sensing she didn’t like being the subject of pity.
“Hey!” She turned to me and smiled. “Somebody dropped a piece of croissant in there.”
I looked in. She was right. “Good eye, Gretchen.” We told a scout, who snuck under the table to get the scrap. I thought of some Councilmouse who would be able to use it to get a ride from a bird. I didn’t have to be out there, risking my life killing monsters to do some good, I could help just by watching for dropped croissant crumbs.
At the end of the day I returned to my room. Dichall was inside, licking some water from the bottom of a paper cup, the top of which had been gnawed off. He stopped and looked at me.
I looked at him back. “What is it?” He said nothing so I walked to our bed and put down the wood scraps I had been carrying.
“Yes?” I placed the wood scraps just so.
“Are you… are you building a nest?”
I froze. I was. Mon dieu.
“Eve! We’re pregnant!”
I wanted to tackle him with glee, but I was wary of his injuries, still not quite healed, and gently held his paw. It was true. I felt the strong instinct to build a nest. And I’d been in heat the past few days, so… yeah, I must be pregnant! I smiled, thinking of a bunch of cute little pups in my arms.
We looked into each other’s eyes, not knowing what to say, just happy and in love, for about half a minute, before Beatrice Brownbrow knocked on the wall and poked her head in.
“Hey, you two. Sorry, I’m going to have to send you out. There’s a child in big trouble.”