Ctirad was almost letting himself relax when Signy bowed her head – just a little, but it was a bow – at him. At him. “I apologize.” She seemed to be thinking about what to say next, but decided on a smile that was unlike the predatory expression he’d seen on her at other times and sat back down.
Ctirad turned to Timaios, hoping his expression successfully conveyed enough what the fuck that his owner understood without relaying that message to the rest of the room.
Timaios pulled Ctirad into a one-armed hug. “Let us go sit and talk with Sara, shall we? There’s some issues I want to bring up with her. And, as it turns out, with Signy. I hadn’t expected her to be in town today. You’ve been out for a while, haven’t you, jae’Xanthus?”
“Yes, sa’Slingshot, for several months. But I flew in just the day before yesterday.” Something about her demeanor had changed completely. “And since sa’Single-Blossom wanted to talk to me,” she tilted her head at Sara Florentia, “here I am. I didn’t realize that I would be disrupting plans,” she added, sweetly but with an edge to it.
Ctirad was still reeling from the apology, but he sat where Timaios indicated – at his Owner’s feet, which was a very nice place, as long as Signy didn’t want her feet rubbed – and leaned against Timaios’ legs.
Signy was looking at him. Most people didn’t look at him when he was on the floor unless he made himself known. She had one eyebrow raised.
“Do boyfriends sit on the floor where you come from, Tim? Because from where I come from, they sit next to their boyfriend.”
Was she… Ctirad looked at her in confusion. What was she…?
Timaios had flushed slightly. He tensed. That seemed like a bad idea, to get his Owner irritated when he was the only –
“Do you see a love seat here, Signy?” he rumbled. He didn’t sound all that irritated.
She waved her hand at the chair Timaios was sitting in and sing-songed a Shape Working. “There you go,” she purred, as the chair stretched.
Timaios sighed. “She has a point. Come on, Ctirad. You don’t belong at my feet.”
Ctirad looked up at his Owner and raised his eyebrows. “I belong where I want to be and where you want me, sir. Don’t I?” What was Signy up to? Was she trying to get him in trouble.
“Of course. But right now, to avoid more fuss with jae’Xanthus, why don’t you come up here?”
That was an order, even if it was nicely padded. Ctirad slunk up to his owner’s side and snuggled in under Timaios’ arm. “Thank you… Tim.”
“There. Much better.” Signy smiled broadly. “Come on, Ctirad, it’s nice to see you looking like a person.”
He raised his eyebrows at her and risked it. “Says the woman that was calling me a ‘pretty thing’ a few minutes ago?”
“Well, ah.” She cleared her throat and looked to Sara Florentia for help. That woman, however, was looking far too amused and appeared to have no interest at all in helping Signy.
Timaios took pity on her. “Signy is young. And Ermenrich, while a thorn in the side of several of us, is much older than her. So she felt, probably, that she had to fit in with how he preferred to have his… his companions treated. Since she didn’t know that you were now my companion-”
“But she doesn’t mind giving you trouble?”
“I’m a nice guy,” Timaios informed him dryly.
“I’m right here,” Signy complained.
“You weren’t answering,” Ctirad countered. Should he have done that? He looked over to Timaios.
His Owner patted him on the shoulder. “Like I said. I am not an asshole – at least not to my juniors in one way or another, and Signy can act as she feels comfortable around me. As for how Madame Florentia wants her to act, well, that is between the two of them.”
“I want Signy here to be a competent businesswoman and an interesting conversational partner. Since she seems to be doing quite well at both of those with none of my encouragement, I have nothing to wish from her.” Sara Florentia smiled, an expression that looked more predatory than amused. “As for how you act – if I may, Timaios?”
“Of course, Sara.”
“-young Ctirad, is it? I would hope that around our company you wouldn’t feel the need to act. Ermenrich, if he was your former Owner – he is a toxin. I hope you’re not fond of him.”
“Not in the least, ma’am.”
“Good. Well. He is a poison on our society. Someone needs to provide an antivenom.”
Ctirad tasted those words in his mind. A poison. He nodded slowly. “Yes. I hope – I hope someone does,” he agreed quietly.
“Well.” Timaios’ interruption was smooth enough that it seemed planned. “That’s what we’re here about.”