Chapter Eighteen: Tibo
A Proper Appointment
He left out specifics, of course, no mention of Meerah or Pearl and he was vague about what was in Shandi’s computer, but he didn’t lie about a single flipping thing. “So, it’s that simple. Shandi died. The authorities didn’t care. I do.”
The satyr was nodding, but the phoenix was staring at him like he had two heads. Tibo barely stifled the urge to flip him off. “What?”
The phoenix’s face went blank, void of expression. Probably came with being a phoenix, that need to clamp down on anything like strong emotion. “Were you two related? You and Shandi?”
“No.” Tibo spat out. He flung himself out of his chair to pace. “No, I never knew anything about her before that night. Never. And fuck you. Like someone needs to be attached to me before I’d care.”
“Hey, sorry.” Ashe held his hands up in the air. “I just meant… it was really hard for me when my father died.”
“Yeah...yeah. I get that.” Tibo blew out a breath and scraped both hands back through his hair. “I lost my folks a...while ago. Guess there’s no way it’s ever easy.”
Something in Ashe’s expression had softened. “When did it happen?”
Don’t you dare pity me, Tibo’s frustration howled inside him. But it was just a question and not a state secret or even asked in a condescending way like the reporters so often did. “I was young. Nine, I think. Stuff from back then’s kinda blurry. Apartment fire.”
And damn it, he was pretty sure the phoenix meant it.
Rolly gave him a kiss on the top of his head as he went by, phone in hand, and his voice soon came from the next room, obviously on a call. “Yes, I was a student of Dr. Lemnos some years back. I’m hoping I could make an appointment with Dr. Zoss? Yes, McFarland. Rolly. Yes, ma’am. I’ll wait.”
After a long pause during which Tibo resumed his seat and his beer drinking, Rolly finally said, “Thank you, yes. That would be perfect. Good day.”
He strolled back to them with a grin and flopped into the chair beside Tibo’s with a shit-eating grin. “I have dropped names and been excruciatingly charming and got us an appointment for tomorrow morning.”
“For all of us?” Jaxx asked.
“I was a mite vague on how many of us there would be, but yes.”
Tibo nudged Rolly’s boot with his foot. “Don’t look so damn smug.”
“What meager talents I have are at your disposal, oh god of goblin rock.”
“Oh, fuck you, McFarland,” Tibo said with a helpless laugh.
If they’d been alone, he would’ve pounced on Rolly and there would’ve been a short but heartfelt scuffle, most likely with Tibo ending up on his back. Which he wouldn’t have minded at all right then. But, yeah, guests.
“So, um, you’re welcome to stay,” Tibo said, waving his bottle at the house. “I mean, it’s not my house and shit, but we’ve got plenty of room.”
Ashe frowned, maybe he thought it was too much like charity, maybe he liked his privacy, but Jaxx, who wasn’t as closed up and awkward, answered for them. “That would be great. Safety in numbers, right Ashe?”
Rolly’s eyebrows had crept up in surprise, though he didn’t contradict the offer. “Something like. Yes, stay. We’ll get takeaway, play some cards, and you’ll be here in the morning rather than us trying to meet up somewhere.”
While Ashe still looked like he was trying to protest, his satyr friend’s fingers were digging into his knee hard, the signal painfully obvious.
When it was all said and done, it wasn’t a bad evening, really. They weren’t people Tibo would usually choose to hang out with. Jaxx’s taste in music wasn’t terrible, but Ashe’s was stuck in some decade none of them were old enough to remember. Probably. Tibo had never been good at guessing phoenix ages. Or really most Beings ages. They seemed like good people, though. Regular, non-clandestine, normal people who’d probably grown up in nice little houses somewhere outside the big cities.
Not shockingly, when it came to bedtime, they picked the smallest bedroom at the other end of the hall. Still a nice one with its own bathroom, so ha! There was no way they were getting out of having a nice, luxurious night whether they wanted it or not.
There wasn’t much in the house in the way of perishables, so Rolly made waffles the next morning which he served with coffee and cherry preserves. Heaven for Tibo. I could eat Rolly’s waffles every morning. Gods, that sounds dirty.
The three big guys threw on coats and shoes and were ready, waiting for him while he wrapped his scarf around him, pulled a sweater over his head and then his coat, stomped into his boots and finally pulled his gloves on.
“Ti, we’re not hiking through the tundra,” Rolly said in his driest tone.
“It’s winter. The city’s windy. I’m gonna dress like a reasonable person when it’s freaking cold.”
Not that it was a long walk back to the dome of the ETVH, but the pointed tips of his exposed ears still stung by the time they reached the entrance hall. Should’ve worn a hat. This time they went to a departmental reception desk and were ushered to Dr. Zoss’s office by the assistant.
“Dr. Zoss? Your nine o’clock.”
The assistant retreated and Dr. Zoss stared at them while Tibo all but hid behind Rolly just in case she remembered him and was still pissed off about it.
“Yes, Frau Professor Doktor,” Rolly said with a little boy smile that managed both charming and abashed somehow. “We’re terribly sorry about yesterday, but we hope that you might be able to help.”
“So. It was a lie about Dr. Lemnos?”
“Oh, no, Frau Professor Doktor. I was his student in college. Wonderful course on magical theory.”
“Hmm.” She frowned, but her snakes remained quiescent. “Sit. Tell me what is so urgent that jou resort to such strange tactics.”