Chapter Thirty-Five: Tibo
Leaving on a Charter Dragon
“Have the doctors agreed to discharge?” Akemi asked from where she perched on the arm of one of the visitor’s chairs.
Rolly lifted the hand he held and kissed the backs of Tibo’s knuckles. Damn banshee, trying to get him to smile. “Da’s sending a charter dragon with the family doctor. With those conditions, they’ve said yes. Tibo can rest better at the family pile in Ireland and be fussed over by Mum and the aunties. We’ll go home from there.”
Tibo tugged on the hand still holding his and got out in his sternest whisper, “I didn’t agree to that. Any of it.”
“You’re not well enough for the longer flight yet, Ti.” Rolly’s forehead creased in obvious concern.
“And you hate hospitals.”
“Yeah, I mean—”
Rolly smiled and leaned in to kiss his forehead. “All sorted, then. The dragon comes for us tomorrow.”
“Not fucking sorted.” Tibo smacked his arm, though he was so weak it was more like a polite tap. “Spoiled, rich bastard. You can’t do that to a person… Nonconsensual dragon flights and shit.”
Akemi’s rich, warm laugh rolled over them and Tibo fought to keep his scowl nice and dark. Rolly shot her a dark look of his own before he straightened up with a hand over his heart. “Mr. Glent, I would very much like to introduce my parents to you. If you would do me the great honor of accompanying me to the family estate aboard the dragon my pater has so generously provided, I would be most grateful.”
“There. Was that so hard? Sure. I guess.” Tibo wasn’t at all sure he was ready to meet the parents. Though now that he and Rolly were serious, it probably wasn’t something he could put off for long. Damn McFarlands and their damn clannish social rules. “How long are we staying?”
“A week? Ten days? The doctors said it depends on how good of a patient you are.”
Tibo wriggled back into his pillows, trying not to scowl quite so hard. That half smile on Rolly’s face meant he was trying real hard to hold it together and, damn it, he hadn’t wanted to hurt his lover’s feelings. He’d almost lost Rolls. That thought was unbearable to dwell on.
He squeezed that beloved hand hard and nodded, breathing slowly and carefully against the pain in his chest so he could talk again. “Good. Cool. Then home to Asheville and getting the wedding planned.”
One of Rolly’s eyebrows shot up. “Really, Glent? That was the worst fecking proposal I’ve ever heard.”
Tibo waved a hand in dismissal. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it right when I can, you know, do it right. Bended knee and shit.”
“Make sure someone gets video,” Akemi said with a chuckle. “You owe me, ah, your fans at least that.”
“Maybe. Don’t even think I don’t know who leaked me and Rolly getting together to the fan sites.”
Akemi gave him a tip of her head. “Guilty. I don’t do things without reason, though. The leak will make it easier for the two of you to explain your absence and resume your lives. Think of how it will play in the media—old friends who never had the courage to speak their love running away to Europe for the privacy to do so. Very romantic. You understand how vital it is that you never disclose actual events here?”
“No one would ever believe us. And if they did, we’d have to confess to several things that would get us arrested,” Rolly said with a wry smile. “No worries about us.”
Akemi stared at them for a long, tense moment. Finally, she nodded. “We understand each other, then. Be prepared for contacts from time to time. The first will be after you return home. I will send someone to you for the laptop. How you accomplish the retrieval is up to you.”
“Got it.” Tibo felt suddenly tired again, thinking about how to do it without endangering Meerah’s privacy. So much awful shit to suppress a technology that could benefit Being and humankind. “So the portals are gonna get squashed? All Shandi’s work deleted?”
Akemi did that thing again where her face went entirely still. Tibo was pretty sure that meant her scary brain was running through a hundred scenarios and answers at once. “It is a great tragedy for RL to lose Chumin. He was one of the best administrators the organization has ever known and one of my mentors when I was young. Chumin…” She stopped, eyes squinched nearly shut. “Chumin was over proud. Too sure of himself. So his scheming in secret led to where we are. Understand that he did not directly order violence. He knew which ears to whisper into, though. The right words to say. Guild, Rubrum Lux, certain governments. He ensured that violence would result. And he will be tried by the highest authorities in the organization.”
Tibo had heard things like that already. “Yeah, but—”
She held up a hand. “Much more than that, I can’t say. Chumin was right in one thing. Dark spaces portals are dangerous. The technology must be handled delicately and introduced slowly, if at all. Shandi’s work is safe, rest assured. We will honor her as she should have been.”
“Thanks,” Tibo croaked out as his throat closed over.
Akemi came to the bed and leaned in to kiss his hair. “You are a foolish, impetuous goblin, Tibo Glent. Abrasive and often rude, but you are so very brave and your heart outmatches your size. Be good to each other. Be kind.”
Then she was gone. She hadn’t walked out. Akemi was just gone.
“Damn kitsune,” Tibo sniffed and reached for a tissue.
* * * * *
After lunch, Rolly begged a geriatric chair from the nurses’ station. Tibo was restless, which surprised no one, and the padded rolling chair with its ability to recline and offer a footrest was better than a wheelchair. Since they would be leaving in the morning, he thought they would go visiting.
Also, since Rolly had been one of the few of their party up and mobile, he knew where everyone was.
Tibo grumbled about the old person chair, about the blankets and slippers, and about taking his oxygen with him, but all the grouching didn’t fool Rolly one bit. The little blighter was pleased as a salmon with an easy fish ladder to be leaving his room.
The first stop was Kaden’s room where their werewolf friend was sitting on the edge of his bed with his own lunch, which he kept subtly pushing away and Mal kept sliding back toward him on the tray.
Mal rose from his chair with his biggest smile. “G’day, you two! Fancy that, our rock star up and about.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Tibo grinned when he said it, though. “Rolls thought we should say goodbye in person. Be polite and shit.”
“You’re leaving?” Kaden pushed his tray to the end of the bed. Good excuse to ignore it, Rolly supposed.
“Will be in the morning.” Rolly leaned in to give Kaden a gentle hug. “Da’s sending a charter and it’ll be his people, so we’ll probably be bundled right off and won’t get a chance then.”
“Well, I can’t say it’s all been a pleasure, but it’s been good to get to know you.” Mal opened his arms and wrapped Rolly in a bone-crushing bear hug, then bent over the chair to offer a softer, more awkward one to Tibo. “Come look us up if you’re in Straya, right?”
Rolly didn’t miss that us, though he didn’t mention it. Made warm fuzzies settle in his stomach to know they’d stay together, romantic sap that he was. “And you, if you ever make it to Asheville. We’d be happy to see you again.”
They repeated the scene in Ashe’s room where Jaxx had been dozing by the bed. Ashe was mostly all right now, but concussions and doctors meant extra time in bed. Why it was always the most restless people who were ordered to bed was one of the cruel ironies of the universe.
Ashe and Tibo shook hands solemnly, whispering to each other while Jaxx and Rolly tried not to chuckle.
“Good to see them behaving,” Rolly murmured with a nudge to Jaxx. Then he turned and pulled the satyr into a hard hug. “Thank you. So fecking much. For all your help and for believing in us from the start.”
“That goes two ways, you know.” Jaxx set him back to look him in the eye. “And I can’t even tell the nurses at work that I hugged Rolly McFarland.”
Now Rolly laughed. “Let us know when you’re coming to visit. Or coming to a concert. We’ll make bloody sure you’re taken care of and you can hug the whole band and tell everyone.”
He went to Ashe and hugged him, too. Equal opportunity hugging. “You take care of Dr. Jaxx. We’re counting on you.”
“Promise.” There were still shadows in Ashe’s eyes but something brighter had settled there as well. “I think it’ll be a mutual thing.”
He kept Aegeus’ room until last, knowing it would be harder on Tibo. Edwige’s voice drifted into the corridor as they approached, her tone rising and falling steadily. When they peeked in, they found her perched on the side of the bed, reading something to Aegeus.
“Is he awake?” Rolly whispered.
Aegeus cracked an eye open. “He’s awake. Yes.”
“Oh, hey. You sound as bad as me,” Tibo wheezed as he hooked the bed railing to pull himself closer. He shocked Rolly by laying his head next to Aegeus’ shoulder. “I’m glad you’ll be okay, big guy.”
Aegeus patted the glossy black hair awkwardly. “Well, I’m glad you lived through it, too. What brought this on?”
“You’re so damn nice. You and Edwige.” Tibo straightened and wrapped his arms around Edwige’s waist who had risen from her spot in concern. “Would’ve sucked if some of the bad guys lived and one of you didn’t.”
She exchanged an alarmed glance with Rolly as Tibo began to sob. Carefully, she wrapped her arms around him. “It’s all right. We’re all going to be all right now.”
Pain flitted across Edwige’s features, though Tibo couldn’t see it with his face buried against her stomach. “Even Nootau. He has...farther to go. But he will. We’ll make sure.”
“Tell him I’m sorry? That I was stupid?”
Edwige sighed and Rolly knew it was time to cut this short. She was in such pain and from the short conversations they’d had, he knew that Nootau was far from all right and might not be for a long time.
“I’m sure Edwige will.” Rolly rubbed Tibo’s shoulder, urging him to sit back in the chair. “We’re going in the morning. Edwige...if you need anything, you call us. You have our numbers. Anything. A place to stay, legal help, whatever you fecking need.”
Now Rolly was tearing up.
“Stop. Both of you.” Edwige shook Rolly by the arm. “I have your numbers. I have Sean’s. It’s good to know you’re out there but we’d never impose. Go make new songs for us. Go make people laugh and sing and cry again.”
For them, the extended and strange association was done. Everyone else remained and it felt strange to be leaving them, almost as if they were fading into some misty dreamland. Rolly and Tibo were indeed surrounded by McFarland clan the next morning once RL security had them out of the building, and hustled off to the charter dragon waiting in the nearby takeoff field. She was a sleek gray Corsican skimmer, fast and agile, with a luxury passenger cabin strapped to her back. Rolly stared down at the receding castle for a time, thinking about things lost and things won. For him, the most important thing had been won. Though the next time his little eejit decided to go crusading, Rolly was going to have the entire band sit on him.