Sorry about the long delay, hope I can keep this moving along better post holiday. Thanks for the reviews and the patience.
Catnip chapter six
Tori scrubbed at his face as though it had done him an injury all the while thinking furiously.
Talk to Cat, honestly. Just the kind of non helpful thing a mother was bound to say. Talk to him that was sure to help. Why not council casting his heart at Cat's feet? He could just imagine it being cheerfully batted about the floor and getting lodged behind the dresser. Well, he'd be damned if he'd get it out for Cat to damage further.
He paused in his ablutions, aware that he was skittering off the edge of rational thought.
He blamed Cat, he had been a sane and normal person preCat and look at him now, he was a wreck. And Cat was probably lolling about with his 'teacher', more like his tart, and having a lovely sensual morning.
They were probably laughing at him.
He splashed his face one last time and grabbed a towel, drying off while walking back to the bedroom.
Tori peered nervously around the towel.
Cat was standing before him with both hands behind his back.
"Cat? What are you doing? What have you got? If it's alive you put it back outside this instant!"
"It's not alive but it's not really dead either."
Tori buried his face in the towel.
"Spare me, don't tell me anything more, I don't think I'm up to this."
The towel was plucked away and vivid colors filled Tori's vision, so close it took him a moment to identify the objects.
Cat withdrew the bouquet a little and it came into clearer focus.
"They're ripped up so they're not really alive but they're still blooming so they're not really dead. They're for you."
Any quarrel about the eloquence of the presentation faded.
"Really? You picked me flowers?"
Tori took the straggly mass in his hands and examined them.
There was Queen Anns Lace and purple clover and a few ferns thrown in for good measure. Tori looked from the greenery to Cat and back a few times.
"You picked me flowers? Did my mother tell you to do that?"
"No, aren't the flowers right? Are they the wrong sort of flowers?"
"They're fine, they're really nice. I like them. We need a glass for them though; they need to be in water."
He snagged a glass from the bathroom and filled it with water, put the flowers into it and placed them on the bedside table in all their rather tattered glory. They promptly listed to one side and after fiddling with them a bit he let them.
"Cat, we have to talk."
"Yes. And it's not going to be real easy for me so be patient, okay?"
"Of course. Take your time, I'll wait. Would it help if I look away? Or should I wander about the room a little? Or…"
"No, and stop being so helpful. It's unnerving."
Cat sighed and flopped onto the bed.
"Okay, I'll just be myself."
"Good. And I'll just be myself. First off, I don't want lessons for a mate."
Cat slid off the bed and straight to his feet.
"Cat I didn't mean that quite how it sounded. Let me try again."
"No need, I heard you the first time. What else?"
"I meant I don't want a mate. No, wait, I don't want another mate. I want you."
Tori met Cat's eyes and there was a moment of awkward silence before Cat smiled.
"Oh. Well. Oh. I want you too. I'm not sure about exactly what the mating part would be like, I mean it's different for humans and I don't think we mean the same thing by it at all. But I do want you, I want us, I just don't know what an "us" will be."
"Neither do I but I know what I want it to be. I don't want it like with your people, where you just do the deed and wander off, never to be seen again."
"We don't just wander off never to be seen again, we run into each other all over the place. Sometimes we wave and smile. And it 's not really a matter of simply wandering away, it's more like getting out of the way usually."
"Out of whose way?"
"Other males, unless you're a big, older male it's best to mate and run. Or at least walk away briskly. I don't suppose that will be a problem with us though, will it? Because the thought makes me feel…not good."
"I don't expect an actual queue to form, no."
"That's good then. What else do you want us to be, or not be? And do we have to discuss it from a distance?"
Tori shook his head and went to sit down by him.
"I've been thinking about this and I think our best option would be to form a bond, the way your people do with mages. That way we could be together openly, you'd not have to hide what you are and after the initial wonder people would leave us alone. And you wouldn't have to continue humoring that woman."
"Humoring her? Oh, well, umm, good. That is good, isn't it?"
"Yes. That's good. Trust me on this, okay?"
"I always trust you, I just don't always agree with you. But aside from that, there are a few problems with this plan. Like, to form a bond with a mage I think we need a mage. And we need to deal with the clan mothers who aren't here. And probably a few dozen other things, but I'm willing to try if you want this. If you're sure."
"I'm sure. Pretty sure. No, I'm totally sure. Are you sure? Or at least reasonably willing?"
"Good then. Can we kiss on the deal?"
"So, that's our plan."
"That's a plan?"
"Mother, don't sound so dubious, it's not a bad idea and we can work out the details later."
There was an uncomfortable silence around the dinner table broken eventually by a deep sigh from Tori's mother.
"And where is your co planner?"
"I thought it might be best if I ran this past you with out him. He'll be along later."
Bri cleared his throat.
"I suppose Seril or I could come with you, added protection on the trip wouldn't be a bad idea. Do you have any idea how long this would take? And what about school? You don't mean to quit, do you?"
Tori's mother beat him to any possible reply.
"No, he doesn't. He'll go back and they can either leave next school break or arrange for time off or something. I have no idea how that works and I don't know how long the trip would be but I'm not sure I can spare either you or Seril right now. I don't see why you can't wait a bit, it's not like he's going anywhere. I wish I could talk to the dean in person, I hate to think of you ruining your education over this."
"He won't. Enhance it if anything."
All eyes turned to the doorway and the figure of a severely handsome woman with Cat hovering behind her.
"And you would be?"
"Think of me as a faculty advisor. Of sorts. And before your son grinds his teeth to stubs let me assure you I'm not here to cause trouble. If he feels the need we can air our differences later. Cat came to me for advice and it's a good thing he did. I have one phrase for you, research grant. Not only can this trip be done but it can be funded, and there might be a paper in it somewhere."
Tori rose, wishing he were taller, and nodded coolly to his rival.
She gave him a thin smile and turned to Cat with a warmer one.
"Are you going to introduce me?"
Tori spoke up before Cat had a chance and preformed the introductions with a minimum of fuss as Cat led Selene to the table. She took a seat with perfect ease, nodding graciously to all and sundry and affecting not to notice that Tori all but dragged Cat aside and took the seat between them.
"So, you're one of Tori's teachers? I'd not have guessed that, one of his classmates perhaps, but…"
Tori winced, Seril flirting was not something he could deal with over food.
"You're too kind. I've not actually had the pleasure of teaching Tori, teaching Cat has been a bit of a sideline of mine though."
"Ah, is that what they're calling it these days? I'm afraid I'm hopelessly behind the times. Now, tell me more about the funding possibilities."
Once his mother was on the case Tori could afford to sit back and relax a bit, taking the time to lean closer to Cat than was strictly warranted and let the conversation blur into a distant hum.
"Probably not the best idea, in retrospect."
"What? Did you say something?"
Tori shook his head and returned to poking the fire higher.
"I thought I heard you mutter darkly, something I've noticed more than once lately. Is something bothering you? Aside from the obvious, that is?"
"The obvious? I'm not quite sure what the' obvious' is at the moment. Or which 'obvious' you're referring to. The bit about being on a long and arduous journey? With my mother? And a woman lusting after my intended? And too little privacy? Which is the 'obvious' you mean?"
"The mosquitoes were what I was talking about actually, they're vicious tonight."
"Oh, sorry. I'm just a bit …"
"Broody. Perhaps travel doesn't agree with you. And I know it's a bit less than a romantic ramble with two women along, one your mother and one old enough to be but try to be a bit more cheerful will you? It could be worse, it could be raining."
"I'll try to keep that in mind. And where is the horny hag or Cat for that matter? "
"He's fishing for dinner, she's watching him fish."
"I wasn't aware it was a spectator sport."
"When did you develop this nasty jealous streak? Don't bother to answer; I probably wouldn't take this too well myself if I were in your shoes. Just keep reminding yourself that it's you he cares for and ignore the green demon if you can."
Tori nodded, resolving to do just that for the hundredth time since they'd set out.
They ate dinner, swatted at mosquitoes and retired for the night.
Tori lay awake wondering just how they had gotten to this sad point. What he had envisioned as a honey moon trip of sorts, a lovely ramble through sunlit trees interspersed with romantic nights under the stars had turned into a nightmare.
To be fair, not a high level nightmare, more a low grade annoyance.
His mother had stunned him with her decision to kick up her heels, leave the inn to the tender mercies of his brothers and head out for adventure. It wasn't like her at all, she had been rooted at the inn all his life, it was strange seeing her in a different setting. She wasn't a bad traveling companion, in other circumstances she'd be ideal, she was tireless, good humored and competent on the trail. She could cook over a campfire with a skill that made him green with envy and she had no fear of the creeping, flying or crawling beasties that sometimes made him blanch.
She'd even laughed off the snake in her sleeping bag, calmly removing the slithery thing and setting it gently out side the camp. If she would only disappear on a nightly basis she'd be great. As it was he lay there every night seething with jealousy and lust and started every new day just that much crankier.
He knew that if he requested some quality time alone with Cat she would likely step aside but embarrassment kept him even asking. The thought of her sitting and waiting while he and Cat …or worse yet miscalculating and walking back into camp before they were done…it was creepy. Even cuddling while knowing she was close by made him anxious and so he was reduced to the occasional hug and hand holding.
And then there was Selene. She seemed to be always two steps from Cat and it was driving Tori mad. He had never imagined her accompanying them; she didn't seem a woman cut out for such pursuits. Yet here she was, and worse yet showing no signs of the ravages of living rough. He would see her first thing every morning, clean and neat, while he clawed twigs and leaves from his hair and wondered if there was any justice at all in the world. He was beginning to suspect not.