Cats and Dogs Ch. 01byingarlm©
'I guarantee it won't be me. I don't know what made you think that. Perhaps I should explain I wasn't just raised by any wolves, I was raised by his family, as part of his litter. Genetics aside, he's my brother and has been since we were cubs.'
Tilly studied Tom's face as she replied. Something was going on here with the information he was trying to get from her. He was getting her life story, but somehow she had the feeling this wasn't about her. He was keeping a tight lid on his emotions though, and she couldn't work out exactly what his motives were. Still, she would plenty of time to work things out over the coming weeks. Her hopes that Tom might also like her brother started to raise.
Tom's mind was racing now. Sister rather than mate. That put a whole different spin on things. Since the whole idea of this mission was to foster cat-dog relations, perhaps he still could try and do his part. He smiled at the thought. Still, stage one was always information gathering, and he had been learning plenty that would be of use. Of course a good operative would also make sure their reasons for asking questions were not obvious.
'You've been very good telling me all about you. I didn't expect so much help, especially considering how rude I was to you. I know I'm not your Alpha and you don't have to be open with me.'
'Sam told me I should treat your instructions as if they came from him. I have no problem having two bosses for a while.'
'And what happens if we end up giving you conflicting orders?'
She laughed again. 'Then I decide which one of you makes the most sense!'
Tom was amused at this response, even though it was quite cheeky given that he was an Alpha. 'So you consider yourself more intelligent than us?'
'Only one of you!' she replied, still smiling.
After that they continued their run for a while, Tilly pointing out the various outbuildings and training areas, but both keeping their conversation light while they considered what had been said so far and what it might mean.
Suddenly they both heard noises coming from a little way away. It sounded like the first clash of characters had started. Snarling and hissing sounds caused both he and Tilly to start running towards an obvious altercation, he hoping desperately that no major fight would erupt and also cursing Dill. He knew it was the youngest member of his team involved in whatever was going on. Even if he hadn't recognised the voice, he would have bet Dill being the first one to get into trouble, being the most immature and also the most prone to feline pride. It would be just like him to try and wind up one of their new colleagues if he saw an opportunity.
The two panthers soon reached the clearing where all the noise was coming from. Thankfully there was no actual fight in progress, although the panther and wolf were almost nose to nose and making their most angry noises. He noticed the other members of his team were closing in, almost at the same moment as two more wolves rushed towards the scene, staying back but raising their hackles and growling softly to indicate they would be backing up their team mate if required. While Tom assessed the situation quickly, Tilly was straight in there, pushing between the two and turning them away from each other. He couldn't hear what went between her and the wolves as she had directed her thoughts, but the wolf backed off and went to stand with the other two, although none of them relaxed much.
When she turned back, clearly ready to take on Dill, he had to intervene. 'I will deal with my own people,' he said clearly, making it obvious this was an order.
She lowered her head to acknowledge his superiority over this matter, and moved to watch with the rest of her team. Tom turned to Dill, who had not backed down even a little, and almost looked ready to start another fight over his first attempt being broken up.
He directed his thoughts before starting to talk as he saw no need for the wolves to know exactly what was going on.
'What the fuck do you think you are doing?' he snarled. 'I told you to respect our hosts and you try and start a fight? I should have known better than to trust you to behave yourself.'
'The dog started it.' Dill snapped back.
Tom groaned internally as he realised Dill was not stopping everyone from hearing his side of their conversation, a fact which was confirmed by the snarls of the wolves behind him. He was glad when he heard Tilly making a soothing sound, and the snarls subsided quickly. At least they were used to following orders. Dill was another matter altogether. His next comment was said with some surprise in his tone, but whether he was trying to or not, he made things a whole lot worse.
'They have a pet cat?'
This time the noise coming from Tilly was not soothing, and she wasn't going to stop her team snarling either. None of them were impressed at Dill's comment. To Tom's slight surprise, Dill actually seemed to be backing down, and he started to crouch in a submissive gesture as Tilly came towards him showing her teeth and hissing. The fact that Tom and the other two cats were also expressing their displeasure with him probably helped. Tom hoped that Tilly had enough self-control to deal with this without violence.
She walked right up to Dill and looked down her nose at him as he made an attempt to cower and purr an apology.
'I am no-one's pet. You need to learn to show some respect, kitten.' she hissed at him, before turning tail and walking away.
Tom was impressed with her handling of the situation, but wanted to reinforce her comments. 'She is their Second. I'm sure you won't make a mistake like insulting her again.'
Dill knew he was in trouble. His big mouth was getting him into difficulties already, and they had barely arrived. Getting in a contest with one of the wolves was bad enough, but insulting a female and their Second... 'Shit', he thought to himself. He'd heard his own team all rebuking him, and he'd deserved the kitten insult. He'd been aware of the other cat when she pushed him aside, but in his anger he hadn't noticed she wasn't one of his own, or that she even was a she. He hoped grovelling would help the situation, especially now he had noticed that important fact.
Tom decided that now things had calmed it would be a good time for introductions. 'Team, you'll meet their Alpha, Sam, later. This is Tilly.' he indicated the other cat, and pointed to his own team. 'This one is Dill, who you've all met for the wrong reasons. The others are my Second, Alex, and Cal.'
Tilly nodded and completed the introductions starting with the wolf who had been in the argument. 'Finn, Den and Rob.'
Tom nodded at each of them as he learned their names, then addressed his team again.
'I think it's time we went back to the house and got our car unloaded, and perhaps lugging all our stuff will help Dill work off his excess energy.' He turned to Dill for a moment. 'And later we will have another discussion about your behaviour, and you can apologise to everyone.'
'I'll come and show you your rooms.' Tilly responded.
There was a quick exchange between her and Finn that Tom couldn't hear, but he got the impression that none of the wolves were keen to leave her alone with the other cats. Whatever was said, they left the clearing, although obviously with some reluctance. Tilly said she would lead the way and the five cats headed off.
In only a few minutes they were back at the car parked at the bottom of the steps. Tilly headed straight into the house, picking up her dress in her mouth as she went. Before the others had time to change she was back at the door, clothed and in human form. The cats looked up as she threw them some jogging bottoms. 'I hope you don't mind too much, but we try and keep a little discretion here, Sam's instructions.' She vanished quickly to give them chance to change form and get dressed. So far she had only seen Tom, and she wondered what the others looked like. It would be interesting to see how young Dill was, as she suspected from his behaviour he wouldn't be very old. 'Of course, he could just be an idiot,' she thought to herself.
She might have been amused to know that Dill was calling himself an idiot just then. The vision at the top of the steps had made him feel even worse. He'd insulted a woman who looked that good? 'Well done. She'll not look twice at you now,' he told himself, and resolved to take the earliest opportunity to apologise properly in the hope he was wrong.
He considered his chances if she would give him the time of day. Alex and Cal had mates who they had left behind, and wouldn't be chasing Tilly. Tom, he rather doubted would be interested. Dill had his suspicions about him, but had never had any proof, not that it usually mattered. Perhaps Tilly would impress his boss unlike the other women who had tried to get him as a mate in the past? He sighed loudly as he pulled on the trousers and went to get their bags from the boot.
Dill was not at all surprised that he was left to collect all their stuff. Thankfully they hadn't brought a lot as most things they needed would be provided. He could just about carry all the bags in one trip. He followed the sound of voices up the large staircase in the hall and to the left wing of the house. Tilly was showing each person their room, and he handed over their bags as they went to settle themselves in. When she spotted him she moved to the final open door and spoke to him. 'This is your room. Bathroom is directly opposite.' She moved away almost immediately.
Dill dropped his bag and moved to block her path. She stared at him rather coldly, but at least didn't try and push past. 'I want to apologise properly for my behaviour. Sometimes I get carried away with my own importance and forget my manners entirely. I was an idiot, sorry.'
Dill thought he almost saw a smile before she replied. 'At least we agree on something. Lunch will be in an hour, you can settle in until then. And try not to start any more fights in the meantime.' She walked away then and his eyes followed her. She had spoken to him which was a start, even if it had only be agreeing that he was an idiot. He liked the sway of her hips as she walked down the hall, her long dark hair moving against her back. Once she turned the corner and he could no longer see her he managed to move from the spot and head into his room. It was nicely furnished and after dropping his bag and trousers on the floor he settled down on the bed for a quick catnap.
* * * * * *
Tilly headed back to her room to get some shoes. She wanted to meet Sam at the gate when he got back, but fancied walking on two feet for a change. The gravel wouldn't hurt her paws, but was painful on skin. It had been an odd morning and she wanted to think. She had been surprised by Sam's reaction to Tom, and Tom's questions, but more than anything right now she was confused about her own feelings. She'd never spent much time with cats, even though her adoptive parents had introduced her to them in her youth. Suddenly being surrounded by them was actually unnerving. The rest of her team hadn't wanted her to go off without them, and once she was alone with the cats on the way back to the house she had felt uncomfortable until they were back in human form. She could deal with men, but was going to have trouble getting used to other panthers.
As she walked, she considered the new men. She didn't really have the measure of Alex or Cal yet; they had been fairly quiet except for rebuking Dill. Tom was puzzling because he kept a tight lid on his thoughts and feelings, and she hated not knowing what was going on in his head, especially since Sam was clearly interested in him. She would be asking about that as soon as possible. Then there was Dill. He had indeed been an idiot, but perhaps had redeemed himself a little by acknowledging the fact. She'd resolved to be offhand with him, but had trouble doing so when he came along the hall with the bags. He wasn't as young as she had expected, although younger than the others.
She had tried to dismiss him quickly so as not to spend any longer looking at him. Her cat side found him intriguing, and she'd also felt her human side reacting to his appearance. He was muscular, but like the rest of the cats much more lean than the wolves were. His eyes and hair were light brown, and the hair continued over his chest. When she had spoken to him she'd had the strangest urge to lean forward and run her fingers through it. And unlike his Alpha, she'd had no trouble feeling his emotions as he watched her walk away from him. If he hadn't started off by insulting her, she'd have had a lot of difficulty walking away. She sighed. Things were turning out to be complicated.
Sam heard her question in his head as he headed down the road towards their driveway. 'You nearly back yet Sam?'
'One minute,' he replied, starting to turn. 'You had a good morning?'
'Eventful.' came the reply as he drove through the iron gates and saw her at the side of the drive waiting for him. He stopped and she got in. He sensed she wanted to talk so didn't drive any further.
'So what has gone wrong so far?' he enquired.
'Dill.' came the reply, with the name almost hissed in exasperation. 'One of the new guys, managed to nearly start a fight with Finn and then insulted me when I broke it up.'
'Where was Tom?'
'Just behind me. He did sort it, but said he'd have more words later. To his credit, he let me get a word in as well.' Sam smiled. He had a suspicion she hadn't minced her words.
'So what have you shown Tom so far?'
She looked at him oddly before answering that. 'Not much. We headed out and were talking when we heard the fight. As soon as that was sorted he took his team back to the house. I've shown them their rooms and they are unpacking.'
'What were you talking about?' he asked, trying to surpress his interest.
'He wanted to know about you and me.'
'Huh?' he said, startled. 'What about us?'
She started laughing. 'He seemed to think we were rather close. So close that we were either mates or wanted to be. I had to enlighten him, I thought you'd want him to know the truth.'
Sam was so caught up in wondering about what Tom had thought about him and Tilly he nearly missed the inflection in her voice. 'What do you mean by that?'
'I saw how you looked at him. Felt it too. He had quite an effect on you.'
He glared at her. 'We are not talking about this,' he growled. He was not going to have her getting involved, especially when nothing was going to happen.
'You are kidding me? I can't let you sit by and not even find out if you have a chance with him. I know what you felt.' Tilly was shocked at the denial coming from Sam about what he was feeling.
He growled again. 'Consider it an order. I don't want to hear another word.' He restarted the car and shot up the drive before she had chance to say anything more. Wisely she did stay quiet. He didn't want to examine his feelings, particularly not with her. As he pulled up in front of the house Tilly jumped out almost before he had stopped. She headed straight into the house and he could tell he had annoyed her. Still, it would be worth it if she actually listened to him for once.
Tom had heard the car coming and was just inside the door. He wondered at the scowl on her face as Tilly walked past him, and wondered what had gone on. Time to apologise to Sam for Dill, he thought. He had no doubt that whatever else might have happened, Tilly would have mentioned that. He walked out to the car, which Sam was still sat in considering what had been said. He jumped when Tom knocked on the window.
'Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. You guys okay?'
'Yes, fine.' His tone of voice didn't back up the comment, but Tom decided not to push it. Sam was glad of that. After Tilly had made him aware his feelings for Tom were obvious, he wanted to get a hold of himself, and probably the last person he needed to see right then was the object of his lust. He steeled himself to be all business and got out of the car.
'I gather there have already been teething problems?' he asked.
'Yes, sorry. Not the best start to be honest. I was going to have a word with him later, and I wondered if you wanted to sit in on that, and if we could also speak to Finn.'
Sam's reply was curt. 'You think my man started it?'
'No, definitely not.' Tom replied quickly, wondering at the accusation. 'Dill is just the type to start to show off, and I'm sure he provoked Finn. I didn't see the start, but he insulted Tilly in front of everyone. I would like to speak to Finn to find out what happened.'
'Okay. We'll have a word with the both of them after lunch. I'm starving.' Sam headed into the house, leaving a bemused Tom behind him. He thought they had got on well so far, but this time Sam had seemed distant and as though he didn't want to talk at all. Perhaps Dill's actions had really caused problems. Of course, it was just as likely that whatever he and Tilly had been speaking about was the cause of it. He would love to know why they were both in a mood. Whatever the cause, this wasn't the best start either for the mission or in fulfilling his own desires.