modus vivendi

Disclaimer: The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones comprises the following books to date: Charmed Life (1977), The Magicians of Caprona (1980), Witch Week (1982), The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988), Mixed Magics (2000). Spoilers for all books, takes place in the period between the short stories "Stealer of Souls" and "Carol Oneir's Hundreth Dream."

Note: Contains slash themes -- if that alarms you, please do not read it. This was written for Afrai, who had requested Cat x Tonino. See the 2003 WWTOYT "obscure fandom" secret santa challenge for details. Many mistakes were corrected for this version (aided by Afrai and Jamjar -- thanks so much).

Angelica Petrocchi had been incensed. "Well, I don't care," she'd said hotly. "I'm to go next year, you know. So it doesn't make you more special! Ha, so there!"

Tonino Montana had been confused. He didn't think he was 'more special' to have been given an invitation to stay at Chrestomanci Castle in England. He knew it was only so that his peculiar magic could be studied. In fact, although Tonino had always been curious about England, his reluctance to leave Casa Montana was stronger.

Yet everyone in his family had been thrilled for him, especially his mother who was English and once had stayed at the Castle herself as a girl. He couldn't face them with his ungratefulness when they were all so pleased on his behalf.

He'd thought Angelica might understand. But then every sort of bread and bun and pastry imaginable had been visited upon the Casa Petrocchi, raining down on their towers, bouncing about in their courtyard, bursting from their closets. The knee-deep piles of baked goods had made it rather difficult to walk. He'd accidentally stepped in one of the cakes; it had been somewhat squashed looking before, so Tonino thought it probably was not salvageable anyway.

After Chrestomanci had told them that Angelica's unique form twisted-sideways-and-backwards magic was a source of pride rather than embarrassment, her family had been anxious to grant her more liberty to use spells. As a result, Angelica had become famous throughout Caprona for more than her father's occasional green hair. Tonino had slipped quietly by the shouting queue at the Casa gate of angry bakers from all over the city, who'd immediately arrived to demand the return of their morning's work.

Because she had stomped off with a shout of rage when he'd asked, Tonino still didn't know what Angelica's spell had really been meant to summon, or even if it had been a summons at all. He supposed that teasing out the twisted logic of it might give him something to do on the lengthy trip, besides being seasick, and train-sick, and carriage-sick. Perhaps even something other than being homesick.

Tonino should have known that Benvenuto would be more understanding.

"Why can't you go with me?" Tonino said, stroking the day's mats from Benvenuto's mottled fur with his brush. "I shouldn't mind it if you were there."

Benvenuto flicked his tail in annoyance, and pointed out that a boss cat could not abandon his responsibilities in such a fashion. For example, the recent rapprochement of the two feuding spell-houses had given the Petrocchi cats far too puffed an opinion of themselves. He was needed to keep them firmly in their place -- and out of the Montana courtyard at night.

"And I have no responsibilities," Tonino sighed. "Angelica is right. I'm useless and can be sent off to England without a thought."

Ridiculous, Benvenuto said. He had thought Tonino had set aside such childish notions. If Tonino were truly useless, why would Benvenuto continue to bother with him? After all, how would attending to such a person reflect on Benvenuto?

"Oh. I'm sorry, that isn't what I--"

At any rate, Benvenuto said, now grooming his right paw, even though the English were known for their independent attitude, Tonino would no doubt uncover a means to be of use. Such things were a matter of time. Rats who ran from their holes at the first sight of a cat were hardly worth the trouble of catching.

"I hadn't thought of it like that."

That was because Tonino was barely past kittenhood, Benvenuto pointed out kindly. Benvenuto was pleased to offer him the benefit of Benvenuto's own experience.

"I have always been grateful," Tonino said with perfect sincerity. "I say, that reminds me. Would you know of anything special about buns?"

Benvenuto knew only that they were amusing for batting about the floor once in a great while. He preferred steak.

"Oh. Yes, of course."

Benvenuto wondered at his question.

"Angelica and the bakeries."

Benvenuto stretched. He had found Vittoria to be quite as perplexing, he admitted. But Benvenuto knew that Tonino would solve this puzzle much faster than he could himself. After all, Tonino's talents inclined in that direction -- had he not found the Angel of Caprona? Also, Tonino should now brush under Benvenuto's chin.

So Tonino did.

Later, Angelica wrote to him in England rather constantly, a cherry red beacon amongst the grove of green Montana missives. In with the usual insulting remarks, she told him about the Casa, about school, about odd things the Duke had done lately. But she never once referred to the bakery incident, so Tonino tactfully did not bring it up either in his replies. He would figure the spell out on his own.

(chap. 1 of 8)