Episode 60: Eve: Boundaries
I jumped down to my companions, the smell of cat looming. “Back on the shelf! The cat’s coming!”
I shoved Dichall toward escape, grabbed Gretchen’s paw and dragged her with me as I raced toward a chair. We leaped from the floor to a chair to a shelf, where we went quiet and still. I peeked around a book and watched the cat slink toward us, low to the ground and ready to pounce. Stalking.
Animals were supposed to respect the Micean Council, but I was learning that you never knew with cats, as we’d found out back in Ottawa with a nasty piece of work named Sophie.
The feline padded silently into the living room, head low, in stalking mode. She was a sleek creature, with rich black, white, and brown fur that shone was shiny in the morning light. I felt my heart rate increase, and my paw went to my belly, and I thought about my litter of pups. Dichall must have sensed my unease, as he took my other paw in his. My tail relaxed.
The cat put her front paws on the coffee table and sniffed near where we’d been standing, then jumped onto the table and stood, ears pricked forward, tail tip twitching. Every whisker on her face stuck out like little antenna.
I made an executive decision and took a chance. I let go of Dichall’s hand, stepped out into the open, held up my red bead necklace, and squeaked. “Micean Council!”
The cat stared at me, and my bead, for what seemed like an eternity, then sat down on the table and curled her tail around her feet. “Welcome, Councilmouse.” She licked the back of one front paw and ran it over her face. “What can I assist with?” Her tail tip twitched again, but this time it seemed friendly, not threatening.
The toilet flushed in the bathroom.
I glanced in that direction, then focused on the cat again. “We think your owner might be in some trouble.”
The cat’s tail twitched again and she stopped washing her face. Her ears went back and her eyes narrowed. “He most definitely is!”
Josh walked back into the room at that moment and I ducked back behind the books. “Talk later!”
We poked our three heads out after we heard Josh flop back on the couch. He picked up his phone, frowning at it, then furiously tapped on the screen with both thumbs. Waited. The phone pinged. He smiled, tapped even more furiously. Then he slapped the phone down on the table and held his stomach, moaning in pain.
The phone pinged again, on the table, ignored.
We backed up, hid behind the books and I loosened my cloak around my neck. This house was warm. “So. Madison. I’m guessing that’s the significant other that Morgan is worried about?”
Gretchen nodded. “Ja, I think so. If we are lucky she’ll come over soon. Otherwise… maybe I can get to his phone again and try to get her to come over myself.”
I slid down one of the books and sat on the shelf, cuddled up next to Dichall. Our tails intertwined. “It might be nothing.”
Gretchen sat across from us. Her eyes rose to meet mine. “Sometimes. Sometimes it’s nothing. But usually….”
Dichall snuggled closer. “I don’t us want to get too sidetracked, here. Whatever is happening to Josh, it’s just a part of our larger mission.”
I wrinkled my nose and frowned. He was right, mostly. We were only tangled up in Josh and Morgan’s problems so we could get the glasses, so we could put them on Vivian, so she would see she was being held by a monster and follow us out of Pananima. But we were Councilmice first – and unnatural things were behind his issues… “I know.” I leaned my head over and rested it on Dichall’s. Our ears touched and I felt his flicker. “But I mean, we’re here, and if we can help…”
Dichall pulled away and to face me. “You have a fearless heart, my love. Bravery is an important virtue.” I felt him shift his posture slightly. “But so is wisdom.”
I stopped leaning on him, sitting up and turning to face him more fully. “What are you getting at?”
“We’re about to have a family. You’re a brilliant warrior, but there is always some risk.”
I opened my mouth, but Dichall held up a paw.
“I know, Eve, our work is important. And it’s important to you. I respect that. But suppose whatever’s hurting Josh is too much. Too big. Too widespread. What if he is just the tip of the as-yet undiscovered iceberg? I think we should tell the owls and focus on getting our own mission finished. Time is not waiting for Vivian.”
“You know, I killed a fae.” Never mind the fact that I had a special sword that was now long gone, I’d still done it.
Dichall laughed softly. “I know. Everybody knows! I wouldn’t be surprised if they started calling you `Faeslayer’ instead of `Pixiedrowner.’ I suppose…,” his face took on an unfamiliar expression and made me uncomfortable. “…you could use that trump card to justify getting into anything, no matter how dangerous.” He looked at me and forced a smile with his eyes.
Part of me wanted to argue with him further, but the truth was I was haunted by thoughts of my litter’s safety, too. I sighed and leaned back into the books. “I promise I…,” I hesitated, struggled with both halves of my mind, then gave in to the sensible one. Sorta. “…won’t jump into anything too dangerous.”
Gretchen stroked Emerson’s back. “We all have those we love. Things to live for. Things we can lose.” She looked back up, her gaze sending daggers through my heart. I heard Dichall clear his throat. “Risking ourselves, risking them. It’s a part of our work.” She looked down at her moth. “Doesn’t make it easy.” She looked back up again, her eyes narrowed and intense. “But we do what’s needed, regardless.”
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks and I felt a cold chill run up my spine. I looked at the expression on Dichall’s face, then took his paw in mine, feeling a vague, growing unease about our relationship. Little things surfaced in my memories, stuff I’d ignored or missed – until now. I tried to read between the lines of what he’d just said but being so tired and safe in a warm environment got the better of me. I couldn’t think well enough to analyze what I thought I was looking at, so I tabled it for the moment. “Dichall, I love you, and I know you’re only trying to protect me. But I know what I can do, and I know the risks. You focus on your parts of the mission, and let me worry about me. Please.” I looked him in the eyes and held his gaze.
Seconds of silence ticked by, bits of emotion I couldn’t quite read fled across his face, then he smiled. “Of course, you’re right, Eve. I’m sorry for being over-protective.”
We heard a noise. I sat up and peeked around the books.
Josh had fallen asleep too, apparently. He rubbed his eyes as he got up from the couch, one hand pushing on his stomach.
I braced myself for what would come in next, every nerve quivering in anticipation.
He stumbled to the door, opened it and in the doorway, surrounded by frigid winter air, was a woman we feared might be a monster.
She was adorable.