Building Relationships with the Fair Folk: 5

Fairies are finicky creatures, and so we must not expect a lot from them and we must be patient in our search for them

It had been almost two weeks and Wes wasn’t worrying. He was much too busy with papers and rotation and shopping and food prep, which took up way more time than he considered reasonable. But Pidge would want him to eat properly, even if he wasn’t there to bully Wes into it.

Leaving the window open with a glass of oat milk on the sill hadn’t lured Pidge back, and nor had the pile of glitter or the Claire’s plastic bracelet he’d got out of the hospital’s lost and found. His WhatsApp messages were left unread too and no birds had tapped on the window to tell him, in Pidge’s voice, that the Alaskan Thunder Fuck was budding and he’d be right over when the harvesting was done. Wes knew, because Jessica kept repeating it, that this was to be expected, it came with the territory of dating a supernatural creature, or a guy who was almost thirty and sold weed out of a derelict warehouse. Wes worried anyway though because maybe another of Pidge’s siblings had hurt him, or maybe he’d gotten bored of playing house with a mortal, or maybe he’d just gotten bored of Wes.  

Also, nice Mrs Silvetti, who’d only been in for a hip replacement and shown him endless pictures of her poodle, had come down with pneumonia. Yesterday she’d been fighting with Doctor Calderwood over whether Wes replacing her IV bag was more or less important than looking at Winnie in her favorite jacket, and this morning she was fighting to breathe, and now she was in a drawer down in the morgue, not fighting anything.

Patients died, Wes knew that. It came with the job. Just, it would be nice knowing it while his boyfriend spooned him and told him that changing the saline solution five minutes faster wouldn’t have helped, and that probably he didn’t need to call her daughter to check that she knew that Winnie ate chicken and rice, and never kibble because she has a delicate stomach.

Instead, Wes spent four hours going over his notes, belatedly scraped the weird crusty bits off the bowl of leftover dahl that was his dinner, and dragged himself to bed. The sheets were soft, but they smelt of his own sweat now, not detergent or Pidge. He ought to wash them, Pidge would want him to but he wasn’t here. And nor was Mrs Silvetti. Here in the world, not here in Wes’s bed.

Even if it didn’t smell like Pidge anymore – and Wes pressed the sheets to his nose to check – his fingerprints were all over it, in the ash and cigarette burns wiped off the sheets, and the softness of the mattress, which was so much more comfortable than it had been but still not comfortable enough to let Wes sleep.

There was a joint hidden inside a disposable pen in Wes’s backpack, and he crawled out of bed and rummaged, shivering, through the detritus of crumpled note pages and candy bar wrappers until he found it. One of Maple Dale’s, but Wes didn’t care. Anything that’d slow his pulse and his breathing and the churn of his mind in what wasn’t quite a panic attack but had ambitions and aspirations, and would meet them if he let it.

The weed helped. It always did.

Wes fell asleep with the stub of the joint still between his fingers and woke up to a figure crouched on his windowsill, black against the night. “Hey Wes’r,” it whispered. “You asleep?”

“Pidge?” Wes asked, and was rewarded with a sudden weight on his stomach as Pidge straddled him, and the press of night-cold lips against the corner of his mouth. It was a shock; Pidge usually gave out heat like a volcano with good abs. “Where’ve you been?”

“Out and about,” Pidge drawled. He sounded beat, but Wes couldn’t always tell weariness from his usual posturing. His smell was the same as always; herb and cold winds and something that sparkled in the nose like good cocaine, which Wes thought of as the scent of magic. “Over hill, over dale.”

“Is that Shakespeare?” He searched Pidge’s face as much as the half-light allowed for, as Pidge slithered out of his boots and pants and crawled under the covers.

“I dunno. Maybe.” Pidge’s nose brushed the curls at the nape of Wes’s neck, followed by the press of his cold lips and warmer tongue, and then a rumble of disapproval deep in Pidge’s chest. “You been smoking?”

“Yeah,” Wes said, as one of Pidge’s cold hands slid up under his shirt and Pidge’s knees pressed against the backs of Wes’s. And then, “You were gone for ages. And you didn’t text. Or send a bird.”

“Got a bit tied up.”

Wes waited for him to elaborate but, true to form, Pidge didn’t. “I’d like it if you texted,” Wes pressed. “So I know you’re okay. I was worried.”

The blankets rustled and Pidge’s fingers tensed against Wes’s stomach. “Like I said, bit tied up.” Wes recognized the brusque, uncomfortable tone from all the times he’d tried to press Pidge about Sparrow and Chick, and what his life had been like before he’d bailed on Faerie. So probably it had been something bad, and probably he wasn’t tired of dropping in on Wes.

Probably.

Rather than press, Wes lay a moment in the dark, feeling Pidge’s hands grow warm against his belly and his breaths go slow like they did before they tipped into snores. “Mrs. Silvetti died,” Wes blurted before they could.  

Pidge snuffled and then went quiet. “The old biddy with the poodle?” he said, sounding wide awake again.

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry, bud. That’s a bitch.”

“Yeah.”

“That dog got a home to go to?”

The question made Wes’s eyes burn a little because he was ninety per cent sure Pidge didn’t actually give a damn about Winnie the poodle. “Yeah. Her daughter’s taking care of her. I keep thinking about how one day there’ll have been so many Mrs. Silvettis that it won’t even hurt, and I don’t want that, but also I kind of do. It doesn’t seem fair that helping people ends up hurting all the time. I just keep thinking, if I’d paid more attention – ”

“The hurt ain’t fair but you don’t gotta make it worse by poking at it,” Pidge said firmly, tightening his arms and pressing his chin into Wes’s shoulder. “You done everything a body could.”

“Thanks, Pidge,” Wes mumbled. Embarrassingly, even with the weight of anxiety and lingering annoyance at Pidge, hearing him say what Wes had known he’d say still reassured him.

“Anytime, baby. Always here to tell you not to be a dumbass and get some sleep.”

Wes yawned. “Except when you’re tied up.”

No answer was forthcoming, but Wes hadn’t really expected one. In the long quiet, he closed his eyes and felt the rise and fall of Pidge’s chest against his back, the brush of his breath against his neck, the slow, soothing movement of his hand along Wes’s side. If Wes couldn’t rely on Pidge to be there when his heart thudded like the bass had dropped, and the air in the room pressed against his face and clogged his lungs like wet flannel, it was really nice when he was.

That was fine. Wes didn’t expect more than that.

Building Relationships with the Fair Folk: 4

To welcome fairies to your home, leave out a small bowl of milk before you go to bed. Fairies love milk, and will take this as an offering to them.

In some ways, Pidge was a lot like the stray cat that Wes left food out for on the porch. He came and went as he pleased, and you never knew for sure how long he’d stay.

The cat, actually, was a bit more predictable.

“Seen him?” Wes asked, scratching the orange tabby’s ears as it butted against his shin and pushed its nose into the bowl of kibble he’d set out. “Down an alley maybe? Up a tree? Is he hanging out in the colony with you?”

The cat made no answer beyond enthusiastic chewing noises, so Wes stroked its back once more and went back inside. He futzed around in the kitchen a while and then retreated to his room. It was getting late – even for Wes, for whom bedtime was usually when his face collided with his laptop – and so he shut of the lights, arranged something on the windowsill, just in case, and rolled into bed.

He was awoken just before dawn by a drop of something landing on him. “Whum!” said Wes, and sat up fast, shaking his head like someone had just dribbled milk in his ear.

Which they had.

“Ey,” said Pidge, who was perched on his headboard and wiping his mouth. “Din’t mean to wake you.” He set down the bowl he’d been drinking out of and which had previously been on Wes’s windowsill.

“I’m glad you did,” said Wes, reaching for him. Pidge let himself be dragged down into the blankets and only winced a little as Wes’s bony knees jostled him in the groin. “It’s why I left the milk out.” Other lovers might leave notes or flowers – Jessica had occasionally left Wes both, when she was feeling especially sweet – but Pidge wasn’t much of a reader, and Wes still hasn’t figured out what kind of flowers would be non-offensive to someone who frequently addressed plants by name.

In the opaque grey of pre-dawn light, he could see Pidge quirk a pierced eyebrow. “Oh yeah?”

It hadn’t been the most interesting trivia about fairies he’d found online, but it was certainly prevalent. “It’s supposed to be welcoming.”

“Is that why you keep getting me glasses of milk ‘n’ shit everytime I come over?”

Wes didn’t answer, just stuck his nose into Pidge’s neck. Probably Pidge didn’t come just for the milk, but it couldn’t hurt to encourage.

“I appreciate the thought,” said Pidge, and then winced and suppressed a burp. “Never one to turn down your hospitality, me. But hey, Westopher?”

“Yeah?”

“You couldn’t offer a brother some Lactaid, could you?”

Sometime later, remorseful, Wes hugged his knees as the toilet flushed and Pidge emerged from the bathroom, one hand on his stomach and an expression of regret on his face.

“You didn’t have to drink them just to be nice,” he said, as Pidge slithered under the blankets and nudged at him until Wes made a lap for him to rest his head on. “I didn’t know dairy disagreed with you!”

“Yeah, well, ‘snot whimsical to include ‘but the occasional fairy gets milk shits somethin’ dreadful’ in those pithy little elf blogs you keep finding.”

“Noted,” said Wes, strangely touched that Pidge drank all his offerings and damned the consequences. Maybe it meant that he would come by anyway, without the encouragement. Still, some things didn’t quite add up. “But Pidge?”

“Yeah?”

“Wouldn’t Lactaid not work on you anyway? Other human medicines don’t.”

Pidge groaned. “I dunno who’s more of an idiot here, you or me. It’s a good thing we can’t reproduce.”

“Can’t we? Well, obviously you and I can’t, but maybe you and a female human -” Wes started to say speculatively, but Pidge pushed him aside and made another dash for the bathroom.

“Sorry,” said Wes again, and hugged his knees. He looked surreptitiously at the open tab on his phone and wondered if he should just trust in Pidge’s dubious affection to keep him coming back. Or maybe he’d try leaving out sparkly objects like wyrd-wondrings.com recommended instead.

It would be easier on the plumbing.

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.

“…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.

Building Relationships with the Fair Folk: 1

How to summon a fairy queen

She was slim and beautiful and covered in peanut butter.

“Pidge?” said Wes, and then said it again, higher and more desperate. “Pidge??”

Pidge said something barely audible from the kitchen where he was wrist deep in a fucking turkey, Westopher, this better be a fucking emergency.

“It’s an emergency,” said Wes, and leapt back as she swiped for his ankles. “Pidge! It happened again!”

It had started – well, obviously, it had started with Pidge. It had started when Wes had stitched up the hole in his dealer’s gut and consequently saved the life of an exiled lordling of Faerie. Or, depending on who you asked, created a damned inconvenient blood debt with a scapegrace middle child whose family was just comfortable, okay, you don’t gotta turn everything into hyperbole you dramaqueen.

But he had rescued Pidge, and had discovered that magic was real, Faerie was a sewer grate away, and fairies tread lightly between the boundaries of worlds. He had also discovered that Pidge was lousy at answering questions, due to a combination of natural reticence and even more natural ignorance, and when Wes got tired of hearing ‘I dunno, can you describe exactly why a refrigerator works?’ he had turned to the internet.

It had been helpful, almost, in allowing him to discover the concept of geas and glamour; of lore and law; of over hill and under mound and the concept of the court. So he had kept reading, digging through Wikipedia and academic texts alike, and some of what he found seemed plausible; some of what he found even seemed probable.

And some was ‘how too grow yourown fairie wings’, and was mostly bullshit.

Wes had read Pidge the one about wings, since Pidge hadn’t had a good answer for ‘why don’t you have them?’ and Pidge had laughed himself sick over ‘clap eight times and put your magick symbol on.’ So Wes had kept digging through ‘1018 Free Magic Spells’ because Pidge was pretty cute when he laughed, and because you never knew what you might find.

The problem was when Wes started trying them out.

The greater problem was when they started working.

“God fucking damn it,” said Pidge, wiping his hands on the dish towel tucked into his belt as he stepped out onto the porch and looked down into the tupperware. “What did I tell you, Westopher? What did I tell you?”

“You told me they wouldn’t work and to stop being an idiot.” That had been before Wes had successfully mastered what the website had called frigokinesis and had made it start snowing, very briefly, in the vegetable crisper.

“And then I said best not to test them, just in case.”

“I’m a scientist,” said Wes. “Testing is what I do. It’s basic empiricism, oh, help -” Thin, spindly fingers had seized his shoelaces and tiny, needle teeth gnashed as he frantically shook his shoe off and crowded back towards the door and Pidge’s broad chest.

Pidge wrapped an arm around his waist and lifted him backwards, depositing him none too gently on the other side on the lintel. “She won’t be able to cross the stoop,” he said gruffly. “Not unless you invite her. Though shit, you summoned her, didn’t you? Idiot.”

“The spell said an ice cube in a tupperware would work for the water element,” said Wes from behind his shoulder. “And peanut butter, for earth I guess? But it said it would only work in a bonsai grove, which sounded dumb, do they even know what a bonsai is? So I took that ficus you got at Echobrook and figured it was a decent substitution but I didn’t actually think it would work.

Pidge shook his head, and Wes clung to his arm as the figure dragged herself through the peanut butter, beads of venom dripping from her fangs, lacquer wings beating furiously. “Never thought your problem would be not believing in something enough. Where the fuck do you find these things?”

“It was a 5/5 rated spell,” said Wes, into Pidge’s bicep. “But they all are, really, I don’t know who rates them. Even the grow your own wings one was 5/5. It said ‘how too summin a fairie queen’ and I thought, well, I have all those things, except the bonsai grove, so I got the ficus -”

“Ain’t a fairy queen,” said Pidge. “Just your average pixie jenny, not even a queen, those are a lot bigger, but the jennies are mad for nut butters. Dunno why.”

“Protein content maybe? Or the fats? Or – ahh, Pidge, she’s biting!”

“Stand back,” said Pidge, unnecessarily, and raised an open palm.

“Don’t hurt her!”


 

“Don’t hurt her!” said Pidge in a high, scathing voice. “You really are the limit, Andrada.”

“You knew what you were getting into,” said Wes, but scooted his chair a little further from the high pitched chittering coming from the top of the fridge. “Trapping all those spiders under cups should have tipped you off.”

“That and the sympathy for cold-blooded murderous fey beings trying to kill you.”

“Jenny wasn’t trying to kill us! She was just a little upset.”

“I was talking about my siblings. But yeah, no shit she’s upset. She’s in a tupperware and stuffed next to a cuisinart, she’s fucking livid.”

Wes cast an unhappy glance at the top of the fridge. They’d tried to let the pixie free on a string, so that Pidge could assess whether her wing needed splinting, and she’d immediately dived into the turkey and sent stuffing flying everywhere. Wes had only prevented fairy on fairy violence by throwing his shirt over her and giving Pidge his best pleading look, one which was especially effective while topless. Not for the sex appeal, he guessed, but for the tragic patheticness of it all.

“And for the record,” said Pidge, “when I fell for your ass I did not know what I was getting into. If I’d known what I was getting into I woulda tried a lot harder to die in that sewer.”

Wes reached across the table – across the distressed carcass of the turkey and scattered piles of stuffing – and took Pidge’s hand. “I’m glad you didn’t.”

Pidge twisted his face around in the way he did when he was trying not to look besotted – a look Wes only knew because Jessica had pointed it out to him – and said, “Right, well, we gotta find a way to stop these dumbass spells from wreaking havoc on your life and my cooking.”

The dumbass spells, Wes might have pointed out, wreaked a lot less havoc on his life than anything that had happened within the first month of meeting Pidge, but he didn’t want to give Pidge another reason to start talking about dying in the sewer again. Instead he asked, “Why do they even work? Does this mean they’re out there working for other people?”

“Not unless they got a magical boyfriend too. It’s a proximity thing, like I’ve told you – warned you. My innate magical whatsit is subject to tainting your environment and making you susceptible to gimcrack internet spells actually working for you. Wisest thing would be to stop trying ‘em.”

“Hmm,” said Wes, noncommittally. “You could stop dripping magical essence around the house.”

“You like my essence.”

“Hmm,” said Wes again, more commitally, and picked up Pidge’s hand to kiss the knuckles. He considered suggesting that if it was the quality of spell Pidge objected to, he could always give Wes something better, but then decided it would be better for Pidge to reach this conclusion himself.

“Fine,” said Pidge, watching Wes’s lips on the back of his hand. “Fine, we’ll figure something else out, mebbe cast some wards around the areas you wanna spellcast in, mebbe get you some better resources.” He caught sight of Wes’s face and added, “After we splint this biddy’s wing.”

“See? You know exactly what you’re getting into.” This time, Wes leaned across the table and kissed him, and Pidge didn’t bother twisting up his face at all.