Tobias is perched in a tree above my scoop, stewing.
He explained to me what stewing means, but I had to teach myself how to recognize the signs in my fellow Animorphs. When Prince Jake stews, he grinds his teeth and paces back and forth. When Cassie stews, she feeds animals in their cages and uses a very large fork to lift hay. This is different from her regular work because she avoids eye contact and looks very sad and distant. When Rachel stews, she escapes. She morphs to eagle and flies away, sometimes with Tobias. I have hardly ever seen Marco stew. Despite appearances, I believe he is a very private person.
I can always recognize when Tobias is stewing. I can even determine whether he might be open to conversation. I believe this moment is one of those times.
«What is the matter, Tobias?» I ask.
«Nothing,» he says, automatically. He says this to the other Animorphs so they will not worry about him. He does not seem to realize that we worry anyway, because we are family. «Actually, I was thinking about us. How we got thrown together. Out of all the kids in the world, it was the six of us. I guess it couldn't have been coincidence, what with the Ellimist and all. But I was wondering...» He hesitates.
«What were you wondering?»
«What if you could have chosen? What if the Ellimist had given you a line-up of all the humans in the world, and you got to pick which ones to form a guerrilla army with? Would it have worked out better? Would we have won by now? How would things have turned out?»
I ponder this for a moment. «I would not have chosen you,» I admit. «I would have chosen highly qualified soldiers. I have, however, learned much about warriors over the course of this war. I know now that the six of us have become finer warriors than the majority of the Andalite fleet. More than that...» I focus all four of my eyes on Tobias and smile. «I would not have chosen you, but in the end, you were precisely what I needed. If the Ellimist allowed me to choose knowing what I know now, I would not choose differently.»
Tobias is silent for a moment. When he speaks again, he sounds overwhelmed. «Well, I know this for sure: I couldn't pick a better uncle than you, Ax-man.»
«You're welcome, Tobias.»