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A Muse's Tapestry: Part One

Updated: Feb 18

©Rosalie Thorne






A Muse’s Tapestry

By Rosalie Thorne



“To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.”

- The Matrix



To all the storytellers out there,

Our minds are a beautiful thing,

And I will be forever grateful.



A Muse’s Tapestry

Part I



When Queen Eadyth filled The Solar Realm with nothing but darkness, killing the last chance for salvation, Laocoon and his family fled to Earth not only with the hopes to survive but to thrive. Luckily they found they were not the only Fae among the Humans and were in fact a part of a bigger group of Others. And so time passed... so time was wasted... until one particular Winter Solstice....



Prelude


“Why did we have to come here though?” I whisper carefully, “I’ve already seen it in your mind.”

“I want to make sure you get the exact right thing.” She throws a glance at me as we cross the threshold of the store, “I hate not getting exactly what I want.”

Of course. Not my sister. She always explains it’s because she hates exchanging things, hates going to stores, but that’s a big fat lie. Any excuse to shop, she takes it. What it really comes down to is others not following instructions, not following the rules.

Even though she knows exactly where the bag is in the store, she has to wait for that particular wall to show me that particular bag, because there are too many Humans in the way. So, she waits, lazily eyeing the new display up front and center. Which, she thinks very clearly – though did not show outwardly in the slightest – ‘hideous’.

There is an awkwardly low, square, leather, plush-ish bench in the middle of the store. I suppose it is meant for people like me; for the males that don’t care. I sit down, only because it is empty, and close my eyes with a sigh.

“Hey, Calli, can you please gift wrap this?” the female at the check-out counter asks.

There are small footsteps. Slow breathing. No words exchanged in handing of the package. Everything about the whole moment is rather forgetful.

Except for her mind…. Oh, it is beautifully quiet. Unlike so many dreadful minds in this too busy mall. That are all so loud this close to Christmas. Panicked. Panicked because what if it wasn’t the right gift or what if they couldn’t find what they were looking for or because they were running out of time or because they knew they didn’t have enough money.

But her mind is quiet. Methodical. She does her job extremely thoroughly, as I suppose is needed for a place like this. She is careful to remember every step she needs to take. Make sure there is no plastic. Make sure there are no flaws. Make sure the price is ripped off the tag and place what’s left of the tag with the care instructions in a very specific pocket. Make sure there is no sensor. Then, grab the correct size gift box.

Only now, do I realize she is seasonal, new… having to hold the bags over the boxes to know for certain. She is a little proud when she chooses correctly the first time. She takes out the ribbon, the sticker, unwraps – no, unfolds the tissue paper. In her mind I can almost see her frown as she remembers making this box last night, desperate to be done, and the tissue isn’t exactly right.

But – shoot! The dust cover. Relief washes over her as she carefully, correctly places the product in the protective bag. Then, in the box it goes. Tissue over tissue, sticker, lid. Then… oh, she is flawless with the ribbon. Perfect little bow, and she feels a tinge of pride. Then the slight hesitance returns, trying to figure out what size shopping bag for that box. The labels – small, medium, large, etc., did not match – smalls do not always fit into smalls, mediums do not always fit into mediums, and larges do not always fit into larges. Finally, box perfectly in the shopping bag, even with the holiday tag, her soft steps return to the counter, and there’s another silent hand-off.

The male who completed the purchase thoughts become disturbed, even though the wrapping is perfect, ‘man, does the bag and the box have to have the logo’? And I try not to get defensive.

She – my she – goes back behind the back wall. Now with nothing to do, she sighs. Well, I don’t hear her little sigh among the slight chatter and soft music… the sigh is in her thoughts. Then, slowly, she thinks of earlier in the afternoon… almost too worried to get too carried away with those thoughts in the workplace.

What thoughts? I can’t help but wonder.

I take a single, inhuman moment to look at my sister, she found something she is mildly interested in, trying to find matching items for the endless list of things in her closet. Her motto: if you like it, get it in every color.

The quiet mind I am still tethered to, that is an easy focus against the crowd beyond the semi busy store, is still in the same flow as I left it, still the same thought – only a fraction of a second difference. But then, she lets it go, knowing it is hopeless to fight it, ‘That’s what my mind does, after all’.

The memory filters in, with such vivid detail I can almost see it as if it was one of Zen’s visions. The quiet girl had been sitting at the window, mindlessly petting a cat when a man walked across the street with a Huskey.

My brows come together, why was this so bad….?

There was no attraction, he was far too old. There was no… anything, between her and him.

So… why…?

But then! From this single moment – the very single moment to the next, it is not them at all. A woman sitting in front of a window with a cat and a rugged man walking a Huskey, yes. But a completely different woman and a completely different man.

Truthfully, I am a little startled by what happens next. Human minds don’t usually work this way. Maybe with Zen’s visions… as they were finalizing… but….

That single moment turned into a string. A string that leads to a yarn ball of thoughts. But instead of getting jumbled or confused or lost, these threads began to move… to weave themselves. And after moments, SECONDS, actual Human seconds – the time for a single Human heartbeat, I see the tapestry she creates.

A love story.

Not in progress. Not a daydream. Not for her.

They would be next-door neighbors. They would have been eyeing each other for a while. She, a proper Southern lady from her window, with her Maine Coon (not the girl’s cat, hers was a tabby), with her tea. Her house was vintage, homey, and everything had a place. That was very important to the lady. She would watch the man sometimes. The tall, handsome, rugged neighbor, with his sleeve tats and flannels and hiking boots and Huskey. Sometimes she would see him making a fire in his backyard. And this is often when he saw her…. He always saw her when he was outside. That’s why he liked the backyard. That’s why he walked the Huskey down the street, not in the woods. Because the beautiful woman in the window. Delicate, but… strong. He knew that from the very few times he had seen her eyes.

One night, she wouldn’t have her key. It was raining. These were the only reasons for the meet cute. Cold, wet, spent, the girl would have to go to her neighbor that had the key – she had done the proper thing and given it to her for emergencies; that’s what she was taught. She went over, shivering, drenched. He would have been… working out? (I wasn’t sure… this was from the girl's POV.) Shirtless, nonetheless. Later, from his POV, he would have been stumbling over himself because she was so beautiful and small and polite. She would come in, and get warm. Invite him for lemonade as an apology.

That’s where their love story would start and continue to bloom. The crux of it all, though…. So, the woman, apparently, had moved into the house because her parents died, and was unsure if she should stay. But it was home… so she, in all her Southern charm and traditions, would not want to upset her parents. The problem though… as she was falling so desperately in love with her opposite – which is what she needed to finally feel… ease and joy and adventure and freedom, he was planning to leave. He had moved into the house for his fiancé. Who left. He had moved in with a temporary job – which, well, yes had lasted three years at this point. But… three years always seemed to mark exactly when he felt restless and flighty and would move. He was in love, oh yes. But scared. After the ex-fiancé left… he couldn’t, completely believe his heart was mended and he was right for the girl next door.

The fight was going to be hideous. … and doing what she was taught, she would close up. She would tell him that he was a free man, after all.

Hm. That edge of the tapestry… it isn’t quite as complete.

In these holes, I am thrown back – pushed back into the quiet, still waters of the lake of the girl’s mind. She grabs her phone, pulls up the note app, pulls the section labeled Novels and types: Raining Cats And Dogs – opposites attract, girl next door… and a few other things that slip by, perhaps a repeat of what I’ve already learned.

So… she’s an author, then? I wonder –

“Lance?”

I have to force myself to look at my sister. Finally standing at the wall, she looks at me expectantly. As I get up, she doesn’t even wait for the salesperson and takes down the blue bag and meets me in the middle. As we’re almost done at the cashier, though, I feel alarmed. “Wait.”

My sister looks at me, so confused and now starting to get angry because this is exactly what she wants.

“Can we get it gift-wrapped?” I hear myself ask.

“Hey Calli,” the cashier asks in the same exact way, same exact tone. Pleasant but non-descript.

The girl comes around the corner, and their exchange happens more quickly than before. So quickly, that while Faith is also trying to have a silent conversation with me on how the gift wrapping doesn’t matter and I’m forced to be turned away, I hear:

“Can you please gift wrap this?”

“Yes, of course. Only one left, isn’t it?”

I turn back as fast as I can, only to see her hidden by a wall of hair as she looks over the product. Because… her voice? Oh, her voice! Always the mind I hear is exactly the same as the voice, but hers is different. Fascinating.

One step towards the back, she turns a fraction back to me and my sister, which is when I jump at the opportunity to ask, “If there’s a sort of holiday… ah, card, could you please write that it’s from me?”

Faith very subtly elbows me, drawing my attention away, right when the author asks, “Sure! What’s your name?”

I look over long enough to say, “Laocoon Espoir Vagrer,” before giving an expression to Faith to calm down.

“Of course,” said one voice, aloud. But the other went, ‘hmm, what a beautifully strange name. That would be perfect for something… supernatural’ she decides.

Which is fair. All Humans make stories about us. We have too many things that are a little too… off. Their subconscious mind, their humanity notices. I have heard, regardless of really wanting to sometimes, so many of their little stories prattle off.

But. That was it. ‘Hmm, what a beautifully strange name. That would be perfect for something… supernatural’. And then she doesn’t think of me.

…. I want to know though. I want to see the tapestry.

Who would that name belong to? Would he look like me? Would she do something so typical as a Vampire, maybe?

No… no, I know for certain. She would guess correctly. Maybe not from this world, exactly, but that name would belong to a Fae.

And I am going to wait… however long it takes, to see that tapestry form.

To see our tapestry form.



Chapter One


I focused on the love story. I focused on Raining Cats And Dogs. I kept going through it, trying to figure out how she would write the ending. After reading so many books, seeing so many movies, tv shows, and plays, and hearing so many songs, I am very good at predicting plots and endings. Ninety-eight percent of the time, I am right. Recently, only two movies shocked me: Knives Out and Red Notice.

So, all the way through the rest of the mall and the parking lot, I keep trying to guess. But… everything I try never seems right. He didn’t feel right for her and was leaving, and she told him to go. How would they – how could they reconcile?

My Mustang’s doors shut; I turn over the engine –

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Faythe screams as if I had killed Zenzian right in front of her.

Thank the Gods, my foot is now lead on the break, not the gas.

I turn to her, in shock.

Her eyes glow white, her extended fangs shimmer, her skin is vibrating, little static visible even through the fabrics. Though, it is her voice that clinches the fact that she’s gone full Fae. Not the language of our people, but the way it echoes, “What have you done-one-ne?” she repeats.

Her mind is stone, stuck on that thought.

I look around for Humans and scan for minds. We are far enough away no one would see her like this. For now.

“Faith?” I use her nickname to try and ease her.

But she doesn’t respond.

“Faythe… I don’t understand,” I would not hide, I would not manipulate. I can’t when she is like this and I am not – her power too strong, mine too hidden.

Finally, “No-o… you don’t, do you-ou?”

Shifting to ‘do you, do you, do you’, her mind echoes just like her voice.

The phone rings between us. Not knowing what else to do, I answer it, “Hello?”

“Hey, Lance,” Zen starts carefully.

“… yes?” ‘cause what exactly had he seen?

“… just bring her home. She won’t do anything stupid. But she’s also not going to say anything more.” He wouldn’t have called if it wasn’t set.

I sigh and get the car going.



Chapter Two


“I’m surprised you want to go back to the mall,” Faith comments carefully, her mind completely guarded – she’s been going through her eidetic memory of every textbook she’s ever read.

“I told you, I need something for Mom,” I emphasize the Human word lovingly.

“Coach though? I think she would much rather a Tiffany charm,” she starts leafing through a biology one next.

I shrug. “I want to surprise her.” Of course, I had gotten her exactly what she’d been trying not to think around me, to try and give me the chance to pick something out myself. But, regardless, I need to get back into that store.

As we bob and weave amongst the Humans, the fact that the Human race is so similar is bothersome. The fact we Fae can’t really see them… just like when Humans see a litter of puppies, seeing dog and cuteness, but no differences – to us Humans are sort of blurry and nondescript. (Which can make it even more frustrating and confusing when interacting with them in a group, sometimes making us get lost with who’s speaking and who we’re meant to be responding to. I’m so glad I can hear minds and know I am indeed talking to the correct Human.)

Another trick I have – we have when dealing with Humans is bumping into them on purpose, to seem more uncoordinated. So, when I’m so lost trying to find the author’s mind, my truly accidental bumping into a Human doesn’t faze Faith. She only slows when we are in eye shot and her mind finally slips away from textbooks as she remembers something else she wants to buy.

Even though it has only been twenty-four hours, the entire store has changed. Everything is in a different place… except for that square bench. As I leave Faith to hunt for a present for Mother, and herself I’m sure, I purposefully try to be extremely casual as I go to the middle of the store. While thinking about it all night, I decided I have to act like yesterday, rather disinterested. (Instead of being intense and perhaps unsettling as I act way too eager looking into faces I can’t really see.)

After a deep breath, I try to find her mind. Unfortunately, I am too hasty; I can’t focus on the small room. I keep jumping too far… streets away sometimes.

So, I slowly, lazily scan the room. One Human is at the cash wrap, another is helping a guy trying to find something for his wife. Though, I do suppose… if she is here, she would behind the wall again…?

I keep trying` to find her mind. Too far again. Down at the bookstore now. God, this is frustrating. I close my eyes. Maybe if I start with Faith, I can seep ever so carefully away to the next mind, until I circle to the back room.

A loud thud, too loud for my concentration, startles me. I look over to see a mess of brown hair falling towards a box being cut open. Brown, yes, but not a Human brown – a beautiful hickory. Hickory with a low burning cinnamon in the shadows, and as her hair shifts, the lights catching it differently, there are sparkling highlights of caramel.

Damnit,I practically growl, does another Fae really have to be here now?

Of course, a Fae would love to work here. So close to so many pretty things. And, of course, as is our way with manipulation and endless time, the ‘waste’ of time working would be worth the discount. But: I hate running into other Fae. Faith gets way too excited. And then, with the three of us? It draws too much attention.

As I try to calm, trying not to draw Faith’s attention to me and therefore the other Fae behind me, I close my eyes again. Four people could be working this close to Christmas. If she is the gift wrapper… maybe she is making boxes or stocking the backroom.

I start with Faith again. Wallets. Whatever. Okay… there is the male next to her. He speaks aloud, which makes it easier for me to find his mind. Okay, next one… the sales female.

“You look like you’re having so much fun,” she giggles.

She.

My she.

The author.

Calli.

Her voice was the same as last night! So, I look over, feeling a calm spread through me physically the way her inner voice spread calm through my mind. But… wait….

I look around.

The voice had come from my left. But only the Fae is to my left now. Had she said it in passing? I stare at the back wall.

“… do you like any of the backpacks?” Calli asks.

My head whips a little too fast, directly at the sound. Mahogany bourbon eyes look at me cautiously. With the connection – the connection I carefully never make with anyone unless they needed to speak with me nonverbally – I am in her mind unbreakably. ‘Maybe I should tell him I’m new… maybe… oh gosh, I wasn’t trained for this. Hmm, the men tend to start with the wallets…’.

The same voice. The one that made the beautiful tapestry.

“… we have some new wallets in, for the semiannual sale,” Calli weaves the words carefully, trying to sound confident but not invasive.

I can’t breathe.

Panic rises.

Have I finally gone insane?

… it happens sometimes, Fae too long in the Human world….

When I don’t respond, she breaks the eye contact, a very soft shade of peach pooling in her freckled cheeks. Her skin is… golden, I decide. Even though the Summer is two seasons behind us, the Summer hasn’t left her body. The golden skin is freckled with tiny little tawny spots like stars in the night sky.

Her skin has texture. I have never seen texture like it. Fae skin too smooth, too perfect, even under the beards of males. Texture… well, I wonder if it would still be soft and smooth under my fingertips?

She keeps her eyes down, focusing on unwrapping new products. Her hands work as methodically as her thoughts. Thoughts that explain that she likes being careful. She appreciates the items. And not in the way my sister does… not because it is beautiful and new and would look nice on a shelf or her arm.

I follow her hands with my eyes and very, very slowly let my mind lift just enough to know, for sure, I can stay linked without interruption.

Calm… like a lake at dawn. But instead of floating at the surface like last night, I cannonball with intent. And… there it is. Her idea of rich is being able to fill her gas tank. She is desperate to keep this job because it pays fifteen dollars an hour – more than she’s ever made before. So, she truly appreciates the merchandise that I had never cared to look at before; she knows how much time and effort had gone into making the handmade items.

I also hear how desperately she had wanted the bag Faith picked out yesterday. She had been hoping that all the things she had sold on eBay – that all the money would get into her account before the end of the sixty-five percent off the employees get until Christmas. It hasn’t yet. But, that’s why she had asked, “Only one left, isn’t it?”

She had dreamed of that bag since her interview. She loved the color… blue I had called, ‘sage’ she had sighed. She loved the detail of the darker color on the seam and the sort of pewter grey hardware instead of shiny silver. She had loved all the pockets. And ‘for once’ she would have a ‘big bag’, a ‘nice bag’.

I pull up, unable to take her sadness. I could kill my sister for taking that bag away from her.

Without realizing it, wanting to comfort her, I am now hovering over where she had bent down for another plastic-wrapped product.

‘LANCE’! Faythe mentally screams at me.

She had seen, about to get my attention for the gift for Mother. I had moved too fast, and I am much too close. Just as fast, before Calli can even start to uncurl herself, I take a single step back, the length of my shoe.

“Excuse me?” I try to act casual again, though everything, including panic, burns within me.

She pops up. When her eyes meet my face, that lovely peach color comes back. “Oh! Hi! Yes? Did you want to see something?” her eyes dart to the back wall.

“A wallet,” I answer. That’s where she said most men started.

‘Lance, what are you doing’? Faith’s mental tone is sharp.

I lift a shoulder for her to see and walk a full step behind Calli as she guides me to the men’s wallets. Inhumanly, I turn enough to say, “Shopping,” as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Calli looks at my clothes and then pulls a black leather wallet from the display. I look down, not really having thought of what I had put on. Faith had filled the closets of everyone in the house. She also made clear mental pictures of outfits for me to choose from. She likes fashion, so I trust her sense of it in the Human world. I notice my leather belt is black.

Hm. Calli is rather… clever.

“So,” she starts casually, unfolding the wallet for me. “I really like this one because,” and she slips out a folded part from one of the inner pockets, “two wallets in one.”

Her smile is kind, and she is proud of getting this far. “That’s very cool,” I try to sound like some of the male Humans.

“It is a little bulky, though,” she admits, reaching for a thinner, still black, one. “This is a very popular item.”

As I look down at her, I notice the little way the tip of her nose moves when she speaks certain words. Adorable, absolutely adorable.

I wonder though… I look at the wall more closely. Everything except something so grossly lime green, is black, navy, or brown. “I don’t suppose there is anything sage, is there?”

This catches her the way I want it to. She looks up at me and then at my sister. ‘Oh’, her thoughts mourn, ‘the Lori bag’.

But, still, perhaps for the sake of being professional or for the sake of conversing with me, she smiles, “No, not for the men… it is a gorgeous color though, isn’t it?”

I like this. I can now compare when she is speaking from a script, doing her job, and speaking from her heart.

“It is…. Ah, my mom was quite fond of the one I got for my sister,” which is true. “Is it possible to order another?”

I can see the stress in her eyes before I can hear it in her mind, ‘shit, what is her name’? she glances at her coworker. (Human, black hair, still a blur like a nondescript background figure in an Impressionist painting.) “Ah, yes… my associate should be able to do that for you.”

Her thought is so quick, I almost miss it, ‘it’s still online, I checked last night’.

My lips thin. I don’t want her to spend her entire paycheck on the bag. I am going to order this one for her and… well, hand deliver it to her address, maybe? Or… well…?

I follow her to the other girl and realize very intensely that I don’t like black clothes on Calli. The deep, dark, solid color doesn’t look right on her. No one would wear black in the Summer.

“Hi,” Faith’s voice startles me, and she steps very carefully on my foot as she naturally sways to put the product on the counter.

I don’t want to look away from Calli because I don’t want her to disappear into the back. But it’s impossible not to read the… rage rolling off my sister. My jaw twitches as I look over.

“Did you find anything you like?” she asks conversationally in front of the Humans.

“Ah, yes.”

“Oh?” Calli is surprised.

Her. Of course.

I happily take the advantage to look at her again, “The black wallet – the bigger one.”

Her smile is not polite, but truly pleased. Her full, plump, almost pouty lips that have a perfect cupid’s bow are two-toned flawlessly, rosy and salmon. And there’s texture there too! Sort of… beautifully drawn lines, like an artist wanting to bring very specific attention to how kissable they are. “Okay!” and she rushes off too soon.

Thankfully that part of the exchange can’t be over until the wallet is added. While I’m trying desperately to figure out how to stay in the store, to talk to Calli, she adds, “Oh! And he was interested in ordering the Lori bag… in sage.”

Would she stay to make sure the order would be completed? Probably not… this isn’t her side of the job. Should I ask for more gift wrapping? Maybe I could edge my way over to the wall and chat while she did so? Yes… that might work.

“Calli?” oh Gods in Heaven, the way her name falls through my lips so… perfectly, peacefully, smoothly. Like everything about me had been made in a very specific way to say her name. “Would you be able to gift wrap all this?”

For the first time, she looks at the damage. Her mind a little too loud, ‘oh… that’s a lot. Oh, no, I don’t want to have to rush’! I wince since I’d already been paying such close attention.

“We’re in no rush,” I add quickly, with the overwhelming urge to ease her.

I can feel Faith’s gaze boring into the side of my head. One thought slips through, though I had tried too hard to have tunnel focus: ‘What the fuck is your fascination with this Human’?

Calli! I want to growl at her in correction.

“Wouldn’t the gift wrapping be lovely for Mom?” I glance over at her dramatically.

Always so perfectly preserved on the outside, she nods, “Yes, she’ll love that.”

“Plus, didn’t you say you wanted to look around a little more? Maybe at the men’s section for Zen?”

This truly shocks her. But she would never falter in front of a Human, so she smiles, “Yes, of course.”

This eases Calli’s mind, and she takes the two bags and three wallets to the back. I barely listen as we pay and the order for Calli’s bag is placed. Dutifully, flawlessly as she likes to appear, Faith goes to the men’s belts; now, actually wondering if Zen would indeed like a new one.

I take as much time as I need to fake admiration and consideration and ease away to the back of the men’s wall closest to Calli. I hear the other Humans get busy, perfect! No one notices me pass the invisible line from public store to employee only.

If there are repeated thoughts, they slip into my subconscious. So, with the fact I am only listening to her and there is repetition while she gift wraps like the night before, for the first time in a very long time in public, my head is empty of voices. I watch her unabashedly in this freedom.

Through two wallets, then the third. Only when she grabs one of the bigger boxes for the purse, does she notice me. She doesn’t even flinch! Noticing me with a soft smile and kind eyes.

“Hi there,” I express warmly.

That peach settles in her cheeks as she peeks over at me. “Hi.”

“I don’t mean to make you feel rushed,” I explain, “I was just curious.” Yes… that does cover it nicely.

Curious.

I take a half step closer and lower my voice to be soothing, “You did a beautiful job yesterday.”

She looks into my face, and I very carefully look at her cheeks. I don’t want that unbreakable thought process right now. I just….

Am curious, I tell myself. I can see her. Maybe she is part Fae, and I was too busy yesterday? See, maybe she needs me. Maybe this is why. Maybe she doesn’t know, maybe she needs guidance home.

“Thank you,” and she is sincere.

I have spent some time studying astronomy. It was one of my first time wasters. It was something I brought over from the Otherworld. But, well, it was a brand-new universe here. So, I enjoyed myself a lot… learning the Human sky. But even now, as I reach all the way back to those memories, I cannot fathom her freckles into constellations.

She comes to the last purse and looks at me again, “Oh, I didn’t even ask…” she sounds displeased, I look into her eyes with concern. So warm and even in the dim area I can see the many fractals of shades of the iris. “With the gift tag do you want it from you and your sister or just from Laocoon Espoir Vagrer, like yesterday?”

Locked.

Weighted.

Anchored.

Stuck?

Chained.

“Laocoon Espoir Vagrer,” she had said.

Laocoon.

ESPOIR.

Vagrer.

My name. My Full Name.

what have I done

I cannot breathe

I am moving backward; the wall breaks my stare.

… but it does not free me from her.


I will never be free from her.



Chapter Three


‘Laocoon’?

I wince at the name, but not because I had been listening to Reyah’s thoughts too closely. No, simply because it is my name.

Of course, Faith had known. She is the smartest and second oldest in our family. She had called me a “stupid, younger brother” before, and finally it is true.

Getting away from… getting home was a blur. Of course, Faith had known exactly what to do. Had Zen seen it? Or was she really just that prepared and that flawless?

I had driven though…. Almost crashing my favorite car as it skidded too close to the garage door I’d failed to open. I got out and I ran.

Miles and miles away, I think. Deep into the Nature Reserve we’d carefully built our home against. Nature is the safest for us and the distance from Humans is nice. I found a river, needing water.

I cringed at the thought of how I used that – those terms with… her. But water is my element and I needed it. I need it still. … just, as I guess, I need… her.

Of course, Reyah was the one to come find me. Of course, she knew I would be along the river. My mother… for as long as I can remember.

“Lance?” she asks carefully, even though she hates to use the Human names for any of her chosen children.

But I can’t look at her, closing my eyes. I cannot face the forgiveness that would consume her expression. That’s why I ran. The forgiveness in her face and the… disappointment in Father’s.

I feel her palm against my cheek, “Lance…”

Fuck, I have to at least talk to her. “Yes?”

“You gave freely?”

“Yes.”

“Yesterday…. Did she give you hers freely?”

“No.”

No bargain. No trade. No cost. No power.

“You can see her.”

“Yes.”

I should have known. I had been taught the… history. Myths, legends, lore to my young, stupid mind.

Reyah moves slightly, away, to face me. I can feel the change in the water that she blocks a little ahead of me. “Can I see her?” a true, honest, almost hopeful, question.

With a sigh, I lift and open my hand.

Her fingertips brush the lines across my palm. She can see like Zen, but only the past. She had trained herself to do it only with touch, to let anyone keep their privacy. She is the third oldest, but my mother, the epouse to my father.

Is she going to yell? No… she is always too soft for that. Heart too big. Growl maybe… sometimes those are uncontrollable. So, what I definitely Did NOT expect is a giggle.

“Oh… Laocoon. She’s beautiful.”

My eyes open compulsively. She is… crying?

I lock eyes, forcing myself in. Happiness? How?

Because: I have damned us all. I have broken the most sacred oath. I have ruined everything we built in this world. The world that Reyah hand-picked and loves so dearly. We cannot go back to the Otherworld, I know, but, still, it is easy here. Would we find another universe so similar? It could take… eons for that.

Though. I suppose… I could not leave at all. Not until the Human died.

But Mother’s smile is wide, and she lifts her fingers so quickly from my palm to hold my face again. “I didn’t know Humans could be so beautiful!”

Her smile does not falter, “Zenzian asked for me to see something before Faythe came through the front door. It was so incredibly set in stone, a fixed point, an unbreaking point by the Gods… but it confused me. It was a very small moment, at least, from what I could see. You were standing, holding her hand. Her – well, a Human… a Human with brown hair.” She hums softly for a moment. “Of course, Zenzian could not see her as you see her. So, it must not be set in stone yet.”

For the first time, ever? I cannot follow her. Not her voice, not her words, not her mind.

“What’s not?”

She giggles the same, carefree giggle, “The mating ceremony, of course.”

I simply fainted.


In the bathtub, I could feel myself freely floating in the warm water. Face above, some random skin above, but barely. Eyes too heavy, unable to even twitch, I could only listen. I wasn’t strong enough for minds, and the water muffles the voices but….

Rey and Father.

Mmm… another set as well. Rey and Father and Faith and Zen…

“The laws!” Faith whines. Perhaps before she had yelled this… many times, probably, but now a whine.

“The law clearly states a Fae is not to bring a Human nor part-Human to the Solar Realm,” Father says matter-of-factly.

“The law,” she mutters through gritted teeth, “states a Fae cannot mate with any… thing,” she says bitterly, harshly, “other than pure Fae.”

Zen sounds so bored when he has to argue with her. Because he only ever argues with her when he knows, for certain, with every possible future, she is wrong. “We’re not in the Solar Realm, Fafe. We’re never going back to the Solar Realm. This is our home. We are not ruled by some psychopath here.”

We had our differences… he hated my gift, but in this moment my brother holds me as safely as this water. But I don’t want to hear any more arguing because of my stupidity. I let myself drift out again.


For the first time, I use Zen’s favorite line, “Brother… could you not?”

He usually says this when I answer his thoughts instead of his words or when our eyes meet. I have been working very hard for a few years now to only hear his thoughts if they pertained to me. (Which seemed fair, to him.)

But now… well, now she is so intertwined with me, most of the visions that come that pertained to me, that I had taught myself was okay to read, have her in them.

Zen is the only one younger than me. Funnily, enough, as Faith’s mate. As much as we tried to help and as much as he tried all sorts of ways, it seems that his ability is not to be controlled. “Sorry,” he mumbles softly.

“You still can’t see her though,” I notice.

“No.”

This is good. This means the mating ceremony isn’t fixed. She is simply… around me. Well, because she has to be. Because I have to be around her.

The ache is getting worse. The longer I fight it, the more it hurts. But I have to resolve myself to be okay if all she ever wants is a friend. An ever-constant, platonic companion… that wouldn’t be so bad. It won’t get her too entangled, too endangered.

“Actually, can you check something for me?”

This startles him, but he stops at the doorway, “S-sure.”

“Does she ever get… married?” I very specifically use ‘married’. Humans marry, we mate.

I do not want to watch the web as he looks, I try to remember every star’s name – no, freckles. I try to… remember every body of water on this planet – no… lakes. I try to remember every line and death in the John Wick trilogy.

Only halfway through the first movie, Zen offers “Huh.”

That was quick; now, I’m scared. “So?”

“Um. Actually, keep thinking whatever you’re thinking,” he knows my distracted face, “for a moment okay…? I need to be right back.”

I almost faint again. That’s a yes. She is going to love someone else. I am going to have to watch her love someone else. Yes… the fainting is coming; he would need support to get me to the tub. Breathing very carefully I start over on John Wick.

… whispers down the hall, “No, I don’t want to show him,” Zen says delicately.

“Don’t you dare try to manipulate me into being the one to show him that!” Oh no, Rey is angry.

“But…,” he is probably giving her a pleading look.

Her tone is much softer this time, “He’ll faint again. I’m scared.”

Yes… she had been very, very frightened when I fainted in the river. We don’t exactly do that. She worried that being in the Human world – the world she picked, the world she loves, was hurting us, weakening us somehow. She carried me, crying the whole way.

Father knew though that it was not physical. My “brain simply needed to sleep,” he said.

Hm. Maybe The Matrix would be better. I haven’t seen that in ages, that would be harder to remember, and I still want to watch the new one….

Father’s voice is soothing, “If he faints, he needs the break… we’ll figure this out. This had never happened to any of us before… we are all very unsure of how to handle this, but we have to be as supportive as possible.”

Breathing in. Breathing out.

“Lance?”

I close my eyes. I won’t listen. The Matrix.

She sits next to me with a heavy sigh. She knows my distracted face too. She is going to force me to look into her eyes. Father’s hand is on my shoulder, no way out.

I don’t want to see him, not yet. Because… her mind would see him clearly, so I would see him clearly. God, the only Human I ever want to see is her. But even if he is a blur, maybe that’s worse. Her loving and me being envious of some stupid, Human blur. I growl, deep from my chest.

Father’s hand on my shoulder, Reyah’s palm on my knee. I finally open my eyes and look into hers.

To be fair, I have only seen weddings in movies or tv shows or plays. My mental construct of a Human wedding is… well, just as nondescript as their appearances. But I suppose an event would not be so clouded to Zen.

Hm. It is beautiful. I hadn’t imagined it to be beautiful before… not compared to our mating ceremonies. And oh… oh god.

The ache is burning a hole in my torso.

She is… Perfect!

White suits her far, far better than black.

Hair down, gently wafting in the breeze. Sunshine shimmering in her eyes. I watch her hand as the words, “I love you,” came so powerfully it shakes her. Her hand that drifts to the chest of… him.

Okay. Now or never. Get it over with. Up the chest…

Get ready to faint.

Me?” I gasp.

I can now understand how Faith’s mind turned to stone. Not on purpose – I know now because mine does the same.

Me. Me. Me.

Fainting would have been better. The emptiness. The blackness. The silence would have been better than being stuck.

Me.

The groom.

The husband.

… me?

When I finally am able to unstick, at first I think with the fire that spreads, the ache is getting worse. And I suppose in a way it is. But now it’s not a hurt of pain, a fire of pain. Instead, a roaring fire of pleasure.

She is going to be mine.



Chapter Four


“Shit, man, do you want to see it again?” Zen asks with great agitation.

To read the snarled mess that his mind is? “No.”

“There are simply too many variables. I’m sorry. I can’t cheat for you,” but he is smug about this.

I try to stay level. “Can you at least try… to figure out, like, how I can… ugh, ask her out, not in the store? That’s kind of taboo.”

But he doesn’t need to even try to look. “Are you really that blind right now?” he chuckles at his personal joke of ‘blind’.

“What?”

“… I mean, okay, stalking will come into play. But… oh, wait, no, you never had a Human job before. You always go off to study,” he explains with a sigh.

I cock a brow, “Your point?”

“They come in at a certain time. They get breaks. If they need food, sometimes they leave the store. And then they leave at certain times. As long as she doesn’t feel threatened – like, after mall close, outside, in the dark,” he warns, “just… bump into her.”

Yes. I am usually much smarter than this. I should have realized it would be so easy. I won’t actually have to stalk her, (not that that bothered me). But I can easily wait in the food court and listen to her coworkers.

After being shown… the wedding, I think delicately, I had promised myself to try very, very hard to do this as Humanly as possible. For her sake. Which means I need to learn – and learn fucking fast, not to be so intrusive to her mind; (just like how Rey likes to give us privacy). I don’t know if it’ll work, I don’t know what will happen when I see her, but I at least have to try.

… really, I do know how to get what I want.

I could make her love me, easily.

She would only have to offer her name.

“What is your full name?” is all I have to ask.

Then my will would be her will.

But. The… bonding (the closest Human word in translation) wants it freely. Wants it truly. So! I will earn it. (Fae had their way of this… which would inevitably spill over. But unfortunately, so do Humans.)

When in Rome, wasn’t right. But when loving a Roman? Yes.

So, yes! I rub my hands together softly, tomorrow I will get over to the mall and slither into her life like Crowley up the wall to Aziraphale.

“Ah, brother?”

“Hm?”

“Tomorrow’s Christmas.”

“… oh?” I frown.

He chuckles, the vision slipping through to fair territory. I had gone to the mall and it was closed, only to rush back to an upset Mother because I hadn’t been there for Christmas morning. “Err, thanks.”

He smiles softly. We both hear Faith finally returning from the mountains, where she needed time in fresh air. He lifts, but then sighs, turning back to me. “I am really sorry that I am going to see so much. Not… clearly and rapidly enough as you would like – which, well, I actually think might be better. She deserves to be loved properly, just like any other mate. So, no cheating,” he clarifies with a little smile.

After a long moment, though, tipping his head side to side, “But… well, I watch out for you guys all the time. I’m so… what’s the word you use? ‘Attune’ to you guys that sometimes I can’t really stop it. Not that I really ever have been able to,” he whispers more to himself. “But, yes,” he stands a little straighter, “I don’t mean to… watch.”

What he really means is he doesn’t mean to pry. Which is why he hates my gift… and why he was so thankful for Rey’s control

But, for the first time, I envy him.

He is going to see our tapestry. The good, yes… but also the bad. The hideous fight between the Southern lady and the rugged man. I guess for them, the end of the tapestry will be marriage. But real life does move on after that. I would trade… if it were actually possible, to be able to see the full tapestry. Then I could stop some, and minimalize other, bad parts.

“What’s wrong? Shit, are you going to faint, again?”

Oh. I had wavered, falling against the wall where I had been standing. “… do you guys ever fight?”

“Huh?”

“You and Faith.”

“Not really.”

No. Because he would not argue unless he was absolutely sure, having already looked at every possibility, that she was wrong. “Do Rey and Father?”

His brows knot softly, “… they are bonded, just the same. I… think they squabble sometimes…?”

“But, what about big arguments? You and Faith or Rey and Father.”

Same answers flicked in his mind, centered around the bonding.

After a long moment of concentration, he can’t see anything. “… why? What’s going on?”

“Are you really that thoughtless right now?” I try to mimic earlier and joke.

He notices, his expression softening. “Brother?”

“She’s human. … she can’t bond, Zen.”

It is very difficult for him to understand but then movies – the romantic movies Faith loves to watch so much – flicker through his mind. Surprisingly, he doesn’t seem as distressed as I feel, simply shrugging in response, “Read her mind. Buy her something, bring her flowers… com’on, you are smarter than that,” and walks out the door.


Christmas passed in a blur. I acted my part, maybe even better than ever before. Because everything was an act, not just pretending I didn’t know my gifts. Because, my family was not complete, not from my eyes. She should have been here with us, being showered with gifts and love and joy.


I did something very stupid that night. When the bonded mates were off in their rooms… when no one heard me go. I ran – though my car would have been faster, this was silent.

Well, okay, I did two very stupid things.

I was full Fae as I broke into Coach. But! Full Fae was the only way not to get caught. As easy as opening the back door and walking through the back room. At the computer, I dreaded having to turn it on and try and figure out where the information I needed was. But the chair swiveled as I sat, and I saw the board behind me.

Thankfully the schedules were posted.

Calli… Calli… more on the back? Calli… ah yes, right at the bottom. Okay, yes, she would be working tomorrow.

Just in case, I also noted the schedule for the rest of the week – I just don’t want to waste my time being in the wrong place.

Not that I’ll waste my time ever again… not with her –

Oh no, I can’t faint like this. Finish the thought! Breathe.

– with her time being so limited.



Chapter Five


Standing in my closet I never realized how massive it is. And how full. I even tried really hard to remember the images from Faith, to get some sort of reasonable outfit together. But… well, I am rather distracted. With a sigh, I call out to her just as she passes down the hall.

“Yes, Lance?”

My eyes are wide, and I just gesture around.

“… you’re going to see her, aren’t you.”

I roll my eyes, ignoring the onslaught of insulting thoughts. Surely, she of all people… a bonded Fae, would understand? Apparently not….

“Please?”

She stares at me, arms crossed tightly over her chest… wondering if she could take me. To keep me here. But even she’s not that stupid.

Or perhaps she can smell the bonding scent flooding off of me. Usually, our house is so full of the bonfire and petrichor scents that no one really notices. Not until it’s their mate in private. But… well… the bonfire scent has never come off me before. It truly surprising her.

“… Zeni tried to tell me something this morning,” she whispers as she slowly makes her way passed me.

I turn, “And?”

“Well, first off,” she glares, “I hate that I can’t see it. Not like him. Not like Rey. Not like you. He had to describe it to me,” she adds bitterly.

“… what was it?”

She hands me an already folded and strategically piled together bundle. (I glance at it quickly: dark wash jeans and black turtleneck with a black leather belt and my new wallet on top.) “… apparently, I’m going to be very best friends with her.”

“A friend would do you some good,” and I truly mean that. But, “Oh….”

She shoves my shoulder, “Do not read my mind!”

I wince, (more from the emotional damage than physical), “I’m sorry! It was just really loud.”

I put the pile on the nearest shelf and throw my arms around her tightly. She can be a bitch. But I know why. I know… we all know what she went through in the Solar Realm. We all know why she still follows their rules.

“… don’t be afraid,” I tell her in my most soothing tone. “You’ll get to have her as long as I do.”

But we both shake, knowing it’s not enough time.


Calli is opening the store as I sit in my car. The plan had been to arrive just before she was scheduled to clock out and run into her on the way to her car. In the mall, not outside, (remembering the safety component Zen had mentioned). But… well, the fire was the ache of pain, not the burning of passion, as I waited. So, here I am.

I start slowly with the readings. Trying to find anything that at least relates to the store. Then, there’s a rushing girl, late to work… at Coach, with Calli. Thank goodness she’s a simple Human. The simpler the mind, the more likely they are a narrator of their own life.

It would be like reading a book in the car, waiting for my girlfriend’s shift to end. How normally Human does that seem? It makes me smile.

‘Late… late again! I know it’s after Christmas, but damn it. It’s still too close to the holiday and now with all the returns! Fuck, I’m going to lose this job, too, aren’t I? Mom is going to yell at me again. (She clocks in, under ten minutes after the hour.) Okay… okay, I’m okay. That won’t alarm the system. Calli’s too nice to say anything anyway’.

There it is. Perfect.

I ease back in my seat, closing my eyes, letting the warm air drifting through the vents feel almost like a tub of warm water.

‘Oh, she’s done her hair differently. I wonder why… hm, maybe she got the headband as a Christmas gift? It is black. Oof, I didn’t realize her forehead looked so big’.

I growl, for my Calli is perfect.

‘Maybe I can tell her she would look cute with bangs. Like Jessica Day! She loves Jessica Day’.

Note: look up who Jessica Day is.

Also… bangs? I tried to imagine it. But, well, I actually haven’t really looked at her whole face, have I.

‘Okay… okay… ugh, cleaning. Oh, why is this bag missing a pillow? (She quickly moves through the store, rushing through tasks that may have needed more time. Including grabbing things from the back.) Oh, wow… she is really good at making boxes. So swift but careful, I always break them’.

(The voice of her mind saddens.) ‘I really hope they keep her after the post-holiday rush. She’s so nice and polite and she actually looks at you when you’re talking. And she doesn’t, like… ever seem like she’s just waiting to talk. She’s listening’!

… if they don’t keep her, perhaps I will break in and destroy some stuff. An eye for an eye (that would at least make me feel better), since I know how important this job is to her. Though, she doesn’t actually need the income anymore, not while I’ll be able to hear every whim and supply it.

Hm… a customer comes in and Calli calls out she’ll be in the back to sweep.

If I could sleep through this, I would. I do sort of… doze. Only when Calli comes to the mind of the girl do I perk up enough to pay attention.

Four hours later, it’s finally time to awaken completely and get going. But as I turn off my car, the ringtone for Zen starts going off… since it is Zen, it could be important – I look at his message quickly: Hot Topic, Matrix. (I send a thumbs up and rush out of the car.)

I never realized how slow Humans move until this moment, having to move at their pace to get through the parking lot and mall to get to Hot Topic. (Which is a store I am familiar with, surprisingly, because Faith likes some of the movie and tv show merchandise and Zen often wants band merchandise.) Finally slipping through the doors, I can’t see Calli yet, so I drift to the left, towards the Harry Potter corner.

Knowing I won’t be able to hone down on her mind as she’s on the move, I revert to how my ability was in the beginning. Like pulling the cardboard dividers out of a Christmas ornament case, I take away any sort of wall or organization. All the minds of everyone within a certain distance start, a dam being broken. Some of the voices are more recognizable than others, probably those who work in the mall that I have now spent a decent amount of time in.

Then, finally, like picking out a very specific instrument in an orchestra, I hear Calli, ‘hmm maybe I should get a smoothie before going to Barnes And Noble’.

Looking around, I frown. Barnes And Noble? But Zen said here. Crap, and I put down a Ravenclaw mug.

But just when I step towards the door, she flows through the space. With purpose apparently, her beautiful face ever so slightly tense around the eyes, her gaze looking farther back to the right. When she’s far enough along her path, I follow, while ‘absently’ looking around that side of the store.

She gets to the Funko Pop wall, and her hands come to her hips, balled against her coat. Squinting a little, she goes from left to right, top to bottom. She doesn’t even notice me when I come up beside her left.

With a sigh, she turns right, (away from me), curling around a small standing shelf to ask the sales female behind the counter, “Are you guys out of the new Matrix pops?”

The sales female barely even glances at Calli, (rude), and doesn’t even look to the wall. “Yep, sorry.”

Calli sighs, her shoulders dropping, but I cut in with, “Oh? That’s unfortunate, that was going to be my question as well,” to the employee.

Human nature? Politeness? Calli looks over to me after. But! Double takes, recognition flaring across her chocolatey eyes. “Oh, hi!”

I can’t even stop my smile if I tried. But am careful to move my gaze to the sweeping hairs across her temple, that are pulled back behind the black headband her coworker commented on. “Hi… Calli, right?” (a Human touch.)

Her smile is soft, not polite, not superficial, almost intimate, “Yep! Laocoon…?”

My heart bursts in my chest. The way she says my name! Her pronunciation, her accent: soft roll on the l, the aye longer, a heavy oh, then completely dropping the kah, and adding a soft c to the oone with a curve down. (It has never sounded so strong, but smooth, almost silky… like a gently flowing stream.) “Yes. How are you?”

“Good! Good… just got off of work.”

I nod as my gaze slowly drifts to the bridge of her nose, which I notice has a tiny bump. “Any other plans today?”

“Oh… just running some errands, going to go Barnes And Noble next.”

My chuckle is short but soft, “Great minds think alike, then; that’s where I’m headed.”

Her smile widens, her now peachy cheeks lifting. Her mind becomes so loud, though, that I almost can’t keep track of both voices. ‘Oh, com’on, he’s so handsome, just do it’ and “I was thinking of grabbing something to eat first… do you want to join me?”

I let myself look into her eyes, for a very short – inhumanly short – moment.

I have seen myself in the mirror. I have seen myself in pictures. I have seen myself in Zen’s visions.

Most Humans find female Fae to be among the most beautiful of those on the planet, almost ‘inhumanly’ so, among gorgeous actresses and supermodels. Most Humans find male Fae decently attractive, but not in the most obvious way… never ‘inhuman’ in our looks, sometimes being compared to action actors or famous athletes. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

With our eyes locked, I cross from the shore into the lake that is her mind, going further and further, deeper and deeper. Sometimes, like about the bag, I can have an intent before I even get to this point, able to know exactly which thought to follow, and fish for it. This time, though, I don’t deep dive for a specific fish, instead simply following the first one that crosses.

Calli has determined that I am the most attractive man she’s ever seen. And, somehow, exactly what she’s been looking for. Regardless of the wide range of book and movie crushes, ranging from Rhage to Spike to Loki to Wolf, I somehow have come to be what she’s always wanted.

Perhaps because of her Human nature trying to define the inhuman qualities, as she looks upon me, she references her favorite characters: Wolf hair, Mick St. John with a long stuble beard, though with ‘perfect pale skin and shocking blue eyes’, Loki smirk, Rhage height and build, all with a ‘great fashion sense’ like Jay Gatsby. The Laocoon she sees is close enough that I recognize myself but altered enough that it’s as if I’m looking at a reflection in a window, not a mirror.

I am pleased not because I care about my appearance. I am pleased because she is viscously attracted to me.

Her eyes are unable to look away. Her golden cheeks going from peach to a deeper coral because of blushing, flushing with her undeniable, overwhelming attraction. Her chest flutters as her heart races and she has trouble breathing. Her body is running away with the thought of us, and she’s trying to get it to slow, maybe even stop – trying to be reasonable, because we’re still strangers.

The fire in my chest roars, waves of heat rippling across my skin, the bonfire scent blooming around us. “Yes, that would be wonderful. Where would you like to eat?”

Aforementioned… though I will try to play to the Human handbook, the Fae in me wants to provide food for her. Though the actual want – or need, really, is that I cook the food and she accepts it from my hand… we can build to that. (Perhaps with breakfast in bed.)

Unfortunately, however, her mind is going over finances and how she didn’t budget for the lunch she used as an excuse to spend time with me. So, she looks around the food court that’s right across from Hot Topic’s entrance. “Ahh….”

I step ever so slightly in front of her, her eyes coming to meet mine almost instantly. “How about it’s my treat? To thank you for all the gift wrapping.”

Her inner self fights with that idea since she was literally hired just to gift wrap, but I hold her gaze long enough, manipulating the situation long enough that she gives in to my ‘generosity’. “S-sure… that would be very lovely, thank you.”

My full smile apparently ‘dazzles’ her. She blinks quickly and then looks away as the coral spreads. “So… where would you like to eat, then?”

Oh, that’s not a fair question, now is it? What if I pick a place she hates? Faith usually takes us to either really fancy places or super hipster joints. I can’t even think of what chains are in the area…. “I’m up for anything… as long as there’s a vegetarian option.”

Her mind practically yells, ‘Vegetarian! Oh, gosh, see, now I’m glad I asked… the last thing I want to do is make him uncomfortable or give him no options’. “Hmm… what about Panera?”

“Sounds wonderful.”

We’re out of the mall now, the Sun bright in our eyes. Calli pulls out her sunglasses and then looks up at me, “There’s a Panera over by Barnes And Noble, does that work?”

The sunglasses are so helpful… I can look into her face and not be forced into her mind. “Yes, I’ll see you there?”

She nods, her smile so wide, her cheeks lifting against the black frames. “I’ll wait just inside.”

Both hesitant to leave, I’m honestly quite frightened that if we part now… maybe she was being polite this whole time and will not show up at Panera, totally ghosting me. Her attention gets drawn away by a passing car, though, and she takes the first step. Looking over her shoulder, she assures me, “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”



Chapter Six


My stomach is in knots the entire time we’re separated.

Also, how are the streets so fucking busy the day, a Sunday, after Christmas? Really that many returns and gift cards? Fuck.

Parked, rushed, finally into the Panera, Calli got here first, which ends up being so wonderful. Relief washes over me and for a moment, before she sees me, I just expand a second inhumanly.

How do my parents do this? How do Zen and Faith do this? How does anyone mated do this? Being away from her for a few minutes… and we’re so far away from the goal, right? From us loving each other and living together and spending as much time as she wants together.

I know she will be mine, but I try to think back to the vision. How much older had she looked? Would it be months? Years?

The concept of time ends up being irrelevant to Fae. Because no single realm has the same time construct…. So, well, what is time? Technically all of time is happening at once… all stemming from the Aether. So, personally, it all comes down to a single soul’s progression. That progression being what is considered “forward”.

I do not know how old I am, not really. The Solar Realm sort of, almost, has a ‘day’, a block of twenty-four hours, and then those group together in weeks, even months. But, well, that realm is still. Solid. Unmoving. The Sun holds tall, holds constant over the city. There is a Moon… that slowly circles the outer rim. But, well, what did that even matter?

I do not know how old I am, and this has never bothered me. Just like any other Fae, I fill my time – I “waste” my time. Zen had been right that I prefer to bury my nose in a book and fill my head with knowledge, rather than experiences. As a mind reader… experiences by proxy seems safer.

Faith being a prime example. She was with us, before and after – so, well, I had experienced it all by proxy.

There was safety in that choice. The choice I lived by. But that’s all different now, isn’t it?

I do not know how old I am. And the only reason I might want to know is to know exactly how long I have waited for her… for my Calli. My beautiful Calli who is looking at the menu over the counter. And just as her head turns towards the door, her eyes slowing and lingering, I am able to fully take in her face.

Her bone structure is strong, the shape almost square. Or maybe diamond, the curve of her cheekbones extremely noticeable, and the curve of her chin would be perfect for me to put a knuckle under. Everything is perfectly placed apart as if hand-crafted to fulfill the golden ratio. Beautifully curved, natural eyebrows, that are slightly darker than her hair, an umber, that are pulled together just a little bit as she concentrates. Her nose matches everything else, not too thin nor long nor whatever, only with that small pump at the arch. I’m also able to notice now, too, that her bottom lip is slightly fuller, heavier, compared to the light and soft top, and there’s…? A freckle! A freckle on her lip!

The relief that washed over me manifests itself in a sigh and I revert myself back to Human speed. Back, just as Calli’s eyes finally look at the door, seeing me. We look at each other and share a smile, (though I am careful to look at the curl of her lashes or the upturn of the corner of her lids).

“Hey you!”

I have to fight the very real urge to hug her. “Hey.”

“Lots of good options,” she gestures ahead.

With that we go ahead to the cashier and order, me being true to my word that I’d pay, Calli true to her word that she’d let me. Surprisingly, the restaurant is not busy, so we just hover by the end of the pick-up counter. I’d confessed I’d never eaten here and that left her on a happy little rave of how this is one of her favorite places. Though, her mind does slip in saying, just as how she considers filling her gas tank rich, eating here is rich.

Oh… do I have a wonderful world to show her.

My mind doddles on this as we gather our food and drinks and head to a table. Father likes to work consistently – though that is more from personal satisfaction than a need now. Zen likes to work often but also gets plenty of visions to help build our family’s wealth. Rey likes to keep a happy home just like in the Otherworld, expressing herself and using her natural designer talent, (even has ventured out to be an interior decorator to all sorts of Fae around Earth).

Faith is a little more like me, with keeping herself in school, and a little more like me, that she thinks this is safer. She used to use her gift of perfect memory – literally able to recall every single detail of every single thing she’s experienced – to help give advice… not just in a therapeutic sense, mentally, emotionally, and physically, but also to those who just wanted to be better in anything. Including Surrielle and her crafting.

But now she hides like I hide, focusing on learning, yes, so she doesn’t go insane. But also focusing on things that change… focusing on anything not permanent. Hence, her fixation, and her Stash, being fashion.

As I eye Calli carefully setting up the table, I wonder what her Stash would be. With a mind like that? Being an author? Surely, she would love to surround herself with stories. So her stash would probably be books, then, like me.

“So… Calli,” I offer a half-smile.

Her eyebrows lift softly in response, as she’s fully in mid-sip of her smoothie.

I chuckle a little, trying to think of tips from movies or tv shows, “Ahh… tell me about yourself.” Ugh, how lame?

She giggles too, “Hm. Well. I’m twenty-eight, I’m a student, and I work at Coach part-time. I live with my best friend and her husband while I’m at school. Umm…,” I shine another dazzling smile, she blinks slowly, “um… I’m an author.”

The hesitance and confessional tone of the last part makes me a little sad. “Anything I’ve heard of?” aside from Raining Cats And Dogs, (I wonder if she’s started writing it).

Her blushing goes straight to coral, and she focuses on her sandwich, “Probably not. I self-publish ebooks through Amazon – to keep the copyright – and post for free online.”

Curious, “… wouldn’t you rather make money on it?”

After a large, probably purposefully bite to give herself time, she continues, “That would be great, sure. To make money off of something I love doing and makes me happy. But… it’s also not really about that, at all, for me. I just…

“Like I said, it makes me happy. I cannot imagine my life without writing.” She nibbles on her lips softly, looking away momentarily. “Money would be great, but I’m not going to toil over it, make myself depressed over it, make myself feel like ‘I’m not a real author’ over it.

“I love making these loves stories from nothing. And I love the idea of sharing my work with the world… showing all my hard work, showing what I think to be pretty great, showing my own heart on the page. Writing is such a fundamental part of who I am that it is something I’m going to do until the very end.” Then her shoulder lifts and she keeps eating as if she hadn’t just said something so monumentally profound.

I have read and heard my fair share of Human minds. Most often than not, they are predictable: fulfilling a physical need, such as food; money and how to get it and where it needs to be used; relationship worries and sex; and always being so utterly self-conscious. Those four boxes are where everyone else in the restaurant sits.

But Calli?

Fascinating.

I lock our gaze and deep dive with the single purpose, a single question: Why?

Why does she do anything she does?

What is her greatest need? Want? What fuels her choices? What does everything about her stem from? What is the seed?

I swim deeper and deeper into her mind… the surroundings getting fainter and blurrier and grayer as I go, like the dark depths of an ocean. Perhaps breaching into her subconscious, but finally… a shining, shimmering, little pearl. Perhaps her soul… effervescent, iridescent… but white.

Father, our foundation, is indigo – devotion, justice, wisdom. Reyah, our mother, the glue of our family, is brown – warmth, foundation, wholesomeness, security. Zen, my brother-in-law, the youngest of us, is gold – compassion, courage, and magik. Faith… well, she has been so permanently damaged I watched her color change from maroon (strength, ambition, creativity, excitement) to grey – lack of emotion, logic, conservation.

I have been two-toned… silver and teal – glamour, grace, sophistication, (the Fae in me), self-sufficiency, communication, (with my gift) with a drive to stay modern (being in the Human world). Sometimes other colors may ripple across, but without a firm footing, without a clear-cut direction like everyone else, I flit and falter between silver and teal.

But Calli… white. At her very core, her very essence, the little seed, the immaculate pearl… pure selflessness and love.

“So… love stories?” I murmur.

She seems a little prouder now, a little more confident, “Oh, absolutely. I love love. I may have a few short stories that are not romance, but all of my novels are. It’s not just about two characters in love, though, I also like to delve into the love of friendship and the love of family and to love oneself. I genuinely believe love is the most powerful emotion in the world and perhaps the first emotion ever felt.” Again, a little shrug, as if she hadn’t said something so monumentally profound.

Starved for more, one thing she said finally catches up, “You said you have a website?”

“Mhm. I sort of rebranded myself a few years ago and then made the website… everything is under Amour Eternal.”

Already on my phone, I don’t care that it makes her blush and changes her body language from open to insecure. I Google the phrase and the very last search on the first page is the link to her website. Amour Eternal: Calliope Cartwright.

All wind is knocked out of me.

Calliope.

Calliope.

The Muse.

The Muse of Epic Poetry… the first forms of fiction. But, perhaps more importantly, the first written expressions of love.

“Calliope?” I whisper, my gaze slowly rising to her face.

The face of a goddess. Strong, beautiful, golden skin, with the night sky patterned across her cheeks. Hair and eyes of the earth… of the foundation of life… soil and trees. Her soul, her heart, her passion… to continue her work, to continue writing for all of time.

The goddess, the Muse who also presides over eloquence, so called from the ecstatic harmony of her voice. The mother of Sirens, the most beautiful voices of the sea.

And now I am fated to her.

I want to cry, to weep… to thank the Fates, but hold my Human façade. I even smile… yes, she had shrugged, for those words were not profound to her… just as she shrugs now, “I usually go by Calli.”

Yes, because like me, she needs a mortal name, a Human name.

“It’s beautiful.”

Thoughts flicker loudly about how I am the first person to ever say that… most people thinking it’s weird and odd and how could her parents ‘do that to her’. “T-thank you.”

I hold her gaze… not to read her mind, but so she can read mine. I speak softly to her, murmur to her, purr to her, a quote only she could inspire that is so perfectly meant for me, “I’m falling in love with Calliope…. She doesn’t belong to anybody – why not give her to me? She’s speaking to me, speaking with her eyes. I’ve grown so tired of chasing lies…. Mother of Muses wherever you are, I’ve already outlived my life by far.”

Further: ‘Take me to the river, release your charms. Let me lay down a while in your sweet, loving arms. Wake me, shake me, free me from sin. Make me invisible, like the wind. Got a mind that ramble, got a mind that roam. I'm travelin' light and I'm a-slow coming home.’

Her body reacts with complete satisfaction, her shoulders dropping, her chest heaving with a deep sigh. Her head ever so slightly tilts, an ever so subtle smile on her lips. There is a moment… a moment so intense it is inescapable, she shares in my inhuman moment, shares in this moment that could last forever.

But she can only hold on to it for so long, then her soul rubberbands back into place. Her smile widens, and then she giggles, “Bob Dylan.”

I nod slowly, “My brother-in-law is a fan.”

“My dad was too, and my mom was a literature professor who particularly loved The Iliad and The Odyssey and The Divine Comedy.”

How the grand design was made so that her parents would name her properly. “Is there where your love of storytelling comes from?”

We continue through our meals lazily, “I suppose,” but she smiles just the same. “My mom would read; my father would sing… storytelling surrounded me from before I was even born.”

“How long have you been writing?”

“Oof. Well, I mean, as a usual kid, I’d think, I would tell stories all the time… with dolls and stuff. But the first time I ever had to write a fictional story was fourth grade. I didn’t take a crack at a novel until I was a teenager, though.”

“And what inspired that?” A particular movie? A book? A first love?

“A dream. I… had this dream and something in me just ran away with it. I could see this whole universe form and the characters and their love,” she laughs with a little wave of her hand, “sounds a little crazy, I know.”

But it’s not. I had seen it happen. She must have… dozens, maybe hundreds of tapestries in that head of hers. “Makes sense to me. Do they always come out so completely?” How are the neighbors going to reconcile, for example?

“Not always. Sometimes, yes. Beginning to end, with the most important details. Sometimes, no. Sometimes it’s just a really important start and I go on this… adventure to get to connect it all. That’s my favorite,” she leans towards me, “when I don’t know everything. When I just start writing and it just seems to… flow.”

The same impulse pulls me to her the same day that I gave my name freely. I want to know. I want to see her mind when it flows. I want to see the slow forming of a tapestry. And I am going to wait… however long it takes, and every single time it happens I will fall in love all over again.

“Which has been your favorite to write so far?”

She doesn’t giggle, she doesn’t even chuckle, she straight up bursts with laughter, “That’s… tough. Trust me, not everything I’ve written is great. Sometimes they’re just little rom coms that are cute. Sometimes, I’m really proud and did a lot of research. Sometimes,” her voice softens a little, “sometimes it’s just a passion project I cannot escape. Those end up being my best work.”

She glances down at my phone, the clever girl that she is, “Unfortunately, I’ve only published and posted short stories and rom coms….

“Granted,” she breaks apart her candy cookie delicately, “that is changing. My mom used to be my editor but…. Anyway, now I read and re-read and use Word Editor and Grammarly. Especially since my purpose is to post for free? I’m going to do my best but if there are flaws, eh.”

I lift my phone, “Which one should I read first?”

Her mind speaks when her words evade her, ‘no one’s asked that before. I don’t think anyone but Justine has elected to read my work’. She clears her throat a little, startled, “Ah… um, have you ever seen You’ve Got Mail? It’s an older movie –”

“Yes, with my sister.”

She seems surprised. “Oh? Well, I sort of did a modern version of that. Um, have you seen While You Were Sleeping?”

“Yes, with my sister.”

She smirks, “Well, I sort of did a sequel to that.”

I’m obviously going to read everything she’s ever written, I just wanted her to tell me where to start. Those will be fine and dandy, I’m sure, but those seemed like a way to test the water. So, “Anything else that comes to mind?”

“Hhmm, there’s Loves’ Misery, a short story… that was really fun for me because it’s inspired by a Paramore song. But! Oh! My favorite short story might be Dawn. That one is really cool because I wrote a Werewolf that was actually born wolf and turns into a Human. That’s one where I had no idea… I knew the ending and just ran with it.”

Dawn. Perfect.

And speaking of sunlight, time has passed enough, sunlight starting to slip noticeably down the windows. This brings an unsettling reminder of how long we’ve been sitting here and how our food has been gone for a while. “I think you mentioned something about Barnes And Noble?” Please let it have been out loud.

“Yep, yep… since that’s where you’re headed too, want to meet there?”

“Of course,” I reply instantly.

She smiles as she lifts from the table, tucking hair behind her ear before collecting our trays. I follow close behind her like a duckling. After we’re all set, she hovers just outside the door, looking up at me again, “See you in a few minutes.”



Chapter Seven


I can slow down time, but I cannot speed it up. Perhaps that’s why we can move faster? Physically… to try and compensate, (to make it faster for ourselves). But since I can’t move inhumanly fast and I can’t speed time up, even for a few seconds, I loathe the few minutes it takes to get to Barnes And Noble.

Calli is waiting just inside again, eyeing the round table straight ahead. Only when I see her coat folded over her arm do I realize it is rather warm in here. Warm enough she’s pushed up the sleeves of her black tee, that is now notice to be untucked from her jeans. Her black jeans that cling to her curves perfectly. Curves that are noticeably different from Fae and I find myself enchanted by.

Slowly, carefully, I slide my palm against the small of her back. My fingers gently ripple across the thin fabric of her shirt, “Hey….”

She responds positively, right away, leaning towards me, and I hear, ‘Good sign’! Cute little smile on her face, she looks up, “Hey.”

“So, what was on the agenda? Do you read as many romance novels as you write?” I ask with genuine curiosity.

Her mind is so much clearer to me now, just like with everyone in my family. (Though I’m sure with our eventual separation, I’ll be back to square one.) Still, in this moment, I’m able to turn the volume down and focus on her voice as she speaks with me.

“Mhm! But first, I came to make two exchanges…,” and she reaches into her bag, (a reusable tote that must have been in her car). She pulls out one hard cover and one paperback. She holds the paperback between us first, Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson, “I need to exchange this for a hardcover and then this,” she slides it under the hardcover, Lover Unveiled by J.R. Ward, “for a paperback.”

Smirking, “Let me guess… all your other Morgan Matson books are hardcover, and the J.R. Wards are paperback?”

She giggles and then offers the widest grin, “Yes! Are you the same way?”

“Oh, absolutely.” That’s one of the steps I take when organizing my Stash.

She guides me to the romance section after slipping the books back into the reusable bag. “Do you have a lot of books?”

I follow in step, trying not to focus on, and get stunned by, the fact my hand is still on her back, “Yes… my room is pretty much a library now, the walls filled with hundreds of books,” and then I own a decent chunk of the collection in the study downstairs.

Calli nods thoughtfully, “If I had every book I’ve ever read since I was six, I’d bet my collection would be in the high hundreds. But my mom always insisted on donating books I grew out of, plus there were a few years when I spent my Summers at the library. Oh! And then, my grandmother got me a Kindle, which I used diligently at first.”

We’ve come to the Ward row and she grabs the correct paperback. Then, she backtracks, leading us to the teen section. “Now my room is kind of a library, too, since I live with Justine and Paul. Every surface, including the floor, has all the books I do have… which last time I counted – out of curiosity – was close to four hundred.”

“Four hundred?” I ask, extremely impressed. If that’s not counting ebooks, library books, and children’s books, she could have easily read… I don’t know, over a thousand. Two thousand?

She squints a little at the new bookcase, trying to find Matson, “Not in including textbooks or collections.” Hardcover in hand she looks back up to me with a silly smile, “There was a… mm, six-month time period where I lived with Justine and we didn’t have internet. I read a book, sometimes two a day.” She notices my expression and giggles, “It’s not like they’re all epic poems…,” she gestures to the shelves in front of us, “look how small some of these are.”

About twenty-two years of reading… with school and life and sleep to deal with as well, and she’s read that much? I thought, in the one hundred and forty-ish years we’ve been on Earth, I should be impressed, should be proud of what I’ve accomplished. But apparently, I pale in comparison.

First, I’ll start with her books, I promise myself. Then I’ll read through everything she’s read…. One day I’ll catch up, wanting to share this with her. “That’s still incredible.”

We are standing very close, her having turned to me, my hand now on her hip. There’s a shift in the air, the heat kicking on, and inhumanly I notice little stands of her hair drift forward. As the warm air flows through her hair and across her skin, I take a deep breath.

Oh, Calli… her feminine scent is impossibly alluring. A blend of berries, with fragrant midnight jasmine and burgundy rose, musky bergamot incense and dark amber.

I love it.

It’s heavy, it’s rich, it’s thick. Too many females, Fae included, smell awfully sweet, too sweet… artificial florals mixed with laundry detergent and white sugar and pure vanilla. But Calli… oh, I wanted Calli’s scent all over me. A weighted blanket over me, over my skin… in my hair, in my clothes, in my bed. If I could not have petrichor, I will happily take this.

Her cheeks flush barely pink then deep coral. “I really like your cologne, by the way.”

Yes, good. Just the same, I want that bonfire scent all over her. Her skin, her hair, her clothes, her bed. Even if Humans don’t understand the truth to the bonding scent, they would at least understand that she belongs to someone. To me.

“Thank you.”

She bites her lip ever so softly while glancing around. Her eyes drop to her books, “So… ah, what – why did you need to come here?”

I frown. Right, that had been the mislead. “Ah…,” shit, what was the last book I read? Author? Anything? Com’on! “I got a gift card for Christmas,” one of my stocking stuffers.

“Oh gotcha. Did you want to look around then?” her tone sounding hopeful.

“Sure… sure, sure.” Being bold, I raise my hand from her hip to her elbow and slip it down her arm. My breath catches as I hold her hand, and releases when she’s the one to intertwine our fingers.

“What have you been reading lately?” she asks as we sort of aimlessly move forward.

I think back to my life before her… which seems so blurry and grey. What had I been reading? “The Great Gatsby, actually. My sister wanted to watch the movie – the one with Leonardo DiCaprio – to get inspired for our New Year’s Eve party.”

She nods, “You guys having a big party then?”

“Yes… my sister goes a little overboard. You should come,” I add, trying to sound breezy about it.

We meandered over to the classics, but I truly don’t care about getting a new book today. Calli looks helpfully, though, bringing us to stand in front of the F. Scott Fitzgerald section. Apparently, she had a purpose, and pulls out a large leatherbound collection of his work, “This would be good if you like The Great Gatsby.” As I look at her expectantly, she realizes she missed something. “Sorry, what?”

“… are you free New Year’s Eve? Would you like to come to my family’s party?”

“Oh! Yes! Sure… I work until six, but then I’m free and have the next day off.”

I place the collection she just handed me down on the shelf momentarily, not wanting to let go of her hand. I pull out my cell phone and fumble a little with my left (non-dominate) hand, “What’s your number?” I finally get to ask, “So I can text you the address.”

She tells me, I send her a text immediately, then slide the phone back in my pocket. “Perfect.”

She goes for her phone with her free hand, her cheeks reaching a soft strawberry shade, her lips pulling into a beautiful smile. “Awesome.”

“Parking might be difficult,” I manipulate slowly. “Maybe I should come pick you up.” That pushes the odds in the favor of her sleeping over.

I hear, ‘Oh… date. Date-date. Oh gosh. Like, yes, of course. But… oh… his family’s party? How big is his family? Do I really want to meet them this soon? Would he call me his girlfriend? Or… well, it is a The Great Gatsby party… maybe the more the merrier’.

Fuck.

“We have friends coming from all over for New Year’s Eve… it’s kind of a big deal to us, it’s when we moved to,” Earth, “the area. But,” I look into her eyes, “I would very much like you to be my date.”

I can feel her heart quicken from the pulse between our fingers, I can see her chest start to flutter. With strawberry cheeks her mouth opens slightly for a moment, I hear, ‘Say yes. I know this seems… crazy. Like a dream… like some romance novel. But com’on… people write from real life all the time. Time to live a little. Be brave, Calliope’.

A dream… a romance novel… live a little… Calliope.

Be brave.

Be. Brave.

I close the space between us, raising our joined hands to my heart. With the other, I slide my palm along her chin, careful to up just under her ear, my fingers gently around her neck. Just as she gasps and leans into me, I close my eyes and bring my lips to hers.

Fire roars in my chest. Flames blooming and spreading rapidly. The fire rises through my being, but it does burn, it does not hurt. It tickles softly, a pressure as soft as her lips against mine, a pleasure. Every inch of my skin tingles, almost trembling.

I am alive.

My heart pounds erratically against my ribs for a long moment, until, it seems, to match Calli’s slow Human rhythm. We meld together in this, I can feel her on my fingertips, my tongue ready for her lips. Now she owns me, all I am…. Any air I held in my lungs, or I manage through my nose, thickens, almost like smoke. Bonfire.

Fully alive.

Her lips open gently, welcoming me. I can taste the strawberry smoothie and the sweetness of the candy cookie. She ever so slightly tugs on my tongue and my knees just about buckle.

But suddenly, her chin drops, and she moves back, gasping for air. She moves just enough, her hot breath on my cheek, but I keep us together for I am not ready. Not ready to part, not ready to open my eyes, not ready for life beyond this moment.

For life beyond us being together.

For those seconds, minutes? I felt whole. And I’ll take this piece of her and hold it for all eternity.

I find that love can be as simple as: we do not want the person to die or the object to disappear. And expressing said love is to show how grateful we are that the person has not died and the object has not disappeared.

Maybe it can be simplified even further, to the latter, that whatever it is we love, we cannot bare the idea of it disappearing completely and irreversibly. To love is to never want to lose (whatever form “lose” may be).

I. CANNOT. Lose Calliope.

Not mentally, emotionally, nor physically. This is now my greatest fear. This is now something I cannot imagine living through or getting past. She is… my love,

… my life.


TO BE CONTINUED in the novel. (Available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook.)

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