Chapter Eight: Tibo
First Class - Just Not the Same
A sleepy curse answered the phone. “Ti? What in blazes? It’s…seven fecking o’clock in the morning.”
“Hey, Rolls. Sorry. Where are you?”
“In bed you daft bastard.”
“At home. Where you’ll be soon. Why do you sound like you’re in an echo chamber?” Rolly grunted and Tibo envisioned him rucking his shoulders up against the headboard. “Oh, hell no. I know you didn’t call me just to tell me you’re at the airport. What are you doing, Ti? Whatever it is, stop it. Come home.”
Tibo closed his eyes and swallowed hard. The way Rolly said it had almost sounded like…but no. He meant home to Asheville, to Tibo’s own house two streets over from Rolly’s. “I can’t. Don’t yell. Please. I just can’t yet.”
“Damn it, Ti.”
Rolly’s voice sounded so weary, so frustrated that Tibo felt nearly bad enough to change his mind. “I have to go, Rolls. My dragon’s landing. Take care of Slinky for me, okay? I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“But where the bloody hell are you going?”
“London. I’ll call you when I land.”
Tibo cringed at the yelling and hung up like a coward. Would’ve been better to have Slinky with him. Smartest ferret in the world, at least Tibo thought so. Would’ve been even better to have Rolly with him, and possibly some actual luggage. He hefted his backpack and hurried down the concourse to his gate. No time now. If he’d stopped back home to pack, he might have lost his nerve and let people talk him out of going. Not to mention Rolly would never agree to go with him. Daft git, Rolly would say. You have obligations here. You’re not an action hero.
He pulled his cap farther down to hide as best he could, no time for Tibo sightings now. He’d nearly made it incognito when the young woman at the gate entered his ticket and her eyes went wide.
“Oh my gods! You’re T—”
“Shh.” He held a finger to his lips and leaned in close. “No one knows I’m here. This is just between you and me. Just another goblin on vacation.”
She nodded and handed his ticket back, mouth still gaping, and he took that as his cue to hustle down the ramp. A quick peek out the window at the end confirmed the presence of an intercontinental dragon, one of those newer, sleek gray ones with the wingspan longer than his house. Lansings? Was that the breed? He’d never been good with the names, though he had toyed with the idea of getting guild licensed himself to own one of the fast little Sikorskys.
He had to excuse himself to get to his window seat in first class with the sour-faced woman in her business suit barely getting out of the way for him. Fine. Maybe he looked a little rough, but fuck her. His money was as good as hers was.
What am I doing in first class, anyway? It’s not like I need the legroom. It was comfier for long flights—heated seats, better food—but the mechanics of flight were the same. You still got that horrible jolt as the dragon launched herself skyward, the initial stomach churning rise and drop as she beat her wings for altitude. Shandi would never have been able to afford it, though.
Shandi would never have been able to afford a trip out of state. Put in those terms, Tibo suddenly felt ashamed. Wasteful. His mother would’ve been horrified. All that money and he spent it on making sure he had a warm butt when he reached his destination. Tired, anxious, and disgruntled at his own thoughts, he turned away from Madame Sourpuss and curled up to sleep the flight away.
* * * * *
As usual, Heathrow was a nightmare—dragons circling because their gates were occupied, delays getting the dragon to settle and the ramp attached to the passenger pod, and wall-to-wall people once he reached the concourse. At least everyone was too harried and hurried to notice him. Just another body to get in the way.
He called Rolly when he found an open space to breathe while waiting for a taxi, but it went right to voicemail. Rolls was probably busy taking care of the business end of things, which he tended to do when Tibo flaked out on him. The thought made him cringe. Far too many things he’d been taking for granted or as his right somehow.
The next call went to Meerah’s London contact, someone named Pearl. Tibo nearly screamed in frustration when that went to mail, too, but the voice made his ears perk up, a musical, sultry voice he couldn’t peg as male or female, human or Being.
“You’ve reached Pearl. If you have a business question, please leave it after the beep. If this is a personal call, you’ve got the wrong number, sweetie. If this is Robert, I’ll remind you again that there’s a restraining order.”
Caught off guard, Tibo was still laughing when the damn thing beeped. “Sorry. Damn. Sorry. Um, Meerah said I should call when I got in. This is Tibo. Tibo Glent.” Good gods, he sounded like an idiot. He left his number and ended with, “You can call me anytime. Um, that came out wrong. I mean I’ll answer…oh gods, never mind. Please call me back.”
When he reached the Central London Bed and Breakfast he’d managed to book the day before, he could barely concentrate on what the owner told him about breakfast and tea.
“I’m sorry, Mrs…”
“Doncaster, dear. You’re dead on your feet. Up you go and get some rest. We’ll talk later.”
She patted his hand and all but shoved him toward the stairs. Tibo managed a watery smile and tamped down on reminiscences of his mother.