50 – Topaz

Funny how they could be hours from home, but things stayed the same anyway.

Topaz curled up on the couch, acutely conscious of Lord Andreas' presence at the desk, going through gathered notes. He should probably, himself, be going back through the rather long interview, looking for anything he had noticed that Lord Andreas might not, but his thoughts kept drifting.

Lila was here and happy. He reflected on the word, and decided that it was the right one. He hadn't seen much, but from her description of her mage as an angel, and the way she moved, how healthy she looked... she was definitely happy.

He hadn't expected, knowing her independent streak, that she could possibly be happy without being free. Lila had always been too strong, too wild, the one who took the lead. But at least she was safe and loved. There was an awful lot to be said for that. And given the way her Lady followed hints, maybe she had enough freedom to make it okay.

“Topaz?” Lord Andreas sounded puzzled. “Are you all right?”

“My Lord?” Topaz hastily sat up, found that Lord Andreas had swivelled the chair around to face him.

“That's the third time I said your name.” No anger, which was a blessing. “Is something wrong?”

“No, my Lord. I was... just thinking.”

“About something uncommon, given how intent you were.” Topaz heard the thoughtful frown in his voice. “No, I'm not going to start insisting on knowing what you're thinking, but if it's anything I can help with...”

He cares about me, he really does, a voice inside sang joyfully. He really means that, that I don't have to tell, and that he wants to help. I'd know, after all this time, if he didn't.

“It's... Lady Catherine's sensitive Sable, my Lord. We knew each other. A long time ago.”

“Hm. I think it must have been more than a passing acquaintance, to make you think so deeply about it.”

“We were very close, my Lord. We... both of us lost our mothers.” Not even to Lord Andreas in a receptive mood was he going to talk about that, about the deaths of both mothers, a few months apart. “And we stayed together after that. Until I, um, just didn't come back one day.”

The silence worried him; he dared look up, not quite to his mage's eyes, but as high as he felt it safe to chance. “My Lord?”

“It had not, in fact,” Lord Andreas said slowly, softly, “occurred to me that there might be someone out there who missed you when you came to live with me. Which, now that I think about it, is more than a little ridiculous. Well. Would you like to have free time to spend with her?”

The instinctive response was, yes, oh yes, please!

Topaz considered that for a moment. “It matters to her, that you win this case, my Lord,” he said, thinking it out even as he said it. “The best gift I can give her is to be of as much help to you in that as I can.”

“You always are.” The gentleness in it made Topaz shiver and long to slide off the couch to kneel at Lord Andreas' feet, to feel his Lord's touch... “And I'm sure I can arrange some time when I don't need you present.” He chuckled. “Somehow, I think Catherine will be agreeable to anything that makes Sable happy. So that's why Sable wanted to help you bring everything inside, hm?”

I shouldn't be surprised that he noticed that.

It isn't like Lila was all that subtle about it, anyway...

“That would be... beyond wonderful, my Lord. Thank you isn't enough.” Time to spend with Lila, to hear how she's been, how she ended up with her Lady, just to be together for a little while before I have to go home...

“I'll see what I can do,” Lord Andreas said, and it sounded like a promise. “For the moment, do you remember where Dimitra Nicodemos' analysis of rights and responsibilities under the laws is?”

“That's the blue one, my Lord?” Topaz slid off the couch and headed for the bags, rummaging swiftly.

“Is it? I thought it was grey...”

Topaz handed him the—blue—book requested.

Lord Andreas laughed. “I stand corrected. You do realize that I'd never be able to find anything without you.”

Topaz smiled to himself, went back to the couch. “That's why I'm here, my Lord.”

With Lord Andreas' approval and a promise of time to spend with Lila, and even his own shape for the moment for simplicity while travelling, there really wasn't much more he'd have asked right now.

Not nothing more, just... not much.

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