Fiction, Kingdom of Rust

Building Relationships with the Fair Folk: 3

Fairies are whimsical and enjoy changing their shapes. They can even take the form of animals and plants for fun and to play pranks.

Content warning: Coarse language

“…Pidge?” Wes said warily.

The pigeon stayed where it was, looking fat and stupid. It was sitting where Judd had said it was, on weathered boards of their porch, legs sticking out in front of it, feathers puffed out, dull eyes staring in opposite directions.

“Did you fly into the window?” Wes asked it gently. “Or get mauled? I think you’re in shock, but maybe you’re just a pigeon?”

The pigeon continued to be a pigeon.

It was lucky Judd hadn’t stood on it while taking the trash out. It was lucky the cat hadn’t eaten it. It was lucky it’d found possibly the only person in Worcester willing to put on rubber gloves and scoop it into an old shoebox, the better to nurse it back to health.

It was unlucky that there was a nonzero chance this bird, sitting dopily in the nest of old socks Wes had made it, was his boyfriend.

Nonzero didn’t mean likely – Wes was fully prepared for Pidge to stroll up in a couple of hours and call him an idiot for thinking he’d turn himself into a crappy, shitty bird – but dating a fairy meant there were certain assumptions you just didn’t get to make anymore.


Responsibility demanded that Wes first google ‘how to help a sick pigeon’, and put a pile of bran flakes and a bowl of water in the shoe box with the bird, and then go over his notes for next week’s clinical care exam. Curiosity had him putting his flashcards aside in favor of his laptop and websites with names like witchscholar.org and ask-fairies.com. Dunking what might be a real pigeon in a bath of salt water seemed cruel, and Wes didn’t have any selenite crystals or white rose petals. He tried burning some sage, but it just made his room smell nostalgically rank, and the pigeon didn’t seem to take notice. That was probably a strike against it being Pidge.

There was one sure way Wes knew to break a curse, if not from websites where your cursor left a trail of sparkles, then from a hundred fairy tales and Disney movies.

Gently, carefully, he scooped the pigeon out of its box and stroked a soothing a hand over its ruffled feathers. It seemed to have recovered a little and pecked at his wrist, maybe in an ineffectual attempt at self-defense, maybe in the misguided belief that the mole on Wes’s wrist was edible. It was a healthy looking pigeon with sleek, slate grey feathers frilled with black, and hardly any mites. It was missing a toe on its left foot, but that was a good sign; Pidge was missing that toe too.

Oh god, it really was his boyfriend. Before he could reason himself out of it, Wes lowered his head and kissed the pigeon’s beak. It was dry and hard, and up close the bird smelled musty, like Pidge when he didn’t wash his hair.

Was it weirder that Wes had kissed the pigeon, or that he was actually surprised when it worked?

There was the fwoomph of a lot of air being displaced very quickly, a blur of grey and iridescent green, and a horrible, snapping, cracking noise that had Wes wincing and looking away. When he looked back, it was to see his boyfriend was sitting in the remains of the shoe box wearing a look of confusion that quickly gave way to one of utter mortification.

“Don’t say anything,” said Pidge, raising a hand. After a moment he remembered how to point, and jabbed a wobbly finger at Wes. “Not a word or I’ll curse you mute.”

They both knew he wouldn’t and, more importantly, couldn’t. “But why were you – ”

“In’t I suffered enough?” Pidge said plaintively, brushing soggy cereal off his pants. His pants, Wes realized, which had made the change with him, as had the rest of his clothes, and all his piercings, and how did the magic account for that?

Wes surreptitiously prodded at Pidge’s boot and, when Pidge glared, said hurriedly, “Did you turn yourself into a pigeon? On purpose?”

“Maybe.” Pidge charmed his pants dry with a snarl, and picked up the broken halves of the water dish. “I told you there was a reason I don’t do it,” he said, jamming them back together. On the second attempt, they stuck. “But Wren came and started some shit, and I din’t have better options.”

“Why didn’t you say it was you? Or- or peck out a message or something?”

“Pigeon brains don’t got the space for literacy or self-awareness without some really fancy spellwork. Which obviously I didn’t have time for. It’s pretty much just seeds, sex and homing instinct.”

“So you came here? Aww.” It was a touching, albeit inadvertent admission of affection, and Wes looped his arms around Pidge’s neck. Pidge, apparently still struggling with his return to humanoid form, overbalanced and collapsed into Wes’s lap.

“I’m not kissing you,” he said, dignity further wounded as he tried and failed to sit up. “D’you know how many diseases pigeons carry?”

“Yes. Histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, psittacosis and toxoplasmosis are most common but – ”

“You’re such a fucking nerd.” Realizing that ungainly flopping wasn’t accomplishing anything, Pidge went still. His hair had come loose, and he blinked up at Wes through the grey tangle of it draped across his face. Wes smoothed it out of his eyes for him, which seemed to have the same quelling effect that petting him as a pigeon had. “Thanks for the cereal,” Pidge said gruffly. “And fixing me and stuff. I mean, it would’ve wore off by itself but – ”

“It’s my job,” Wes said and kissed him again. It worked a lot better without the beak.

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