Rating for this section: PG-13
Pairing: Adam/Kris, others
Warnings: Earlier sections may be triggering for some people
In 1683 the first boat carrying fey landed in Virginia. Receiving ill welcome from the young American colonies, most of the passengers and the ones who followed after chose to go west, eventually establishing the new kingdom of Western Faerie in the Pacific Northwest. Distrust of Faerie persisted in the east and traveled outwards as the United States
and its ally, the Kingdom of Texas, spread west into the lands bordering those claimed by the fey.
Two years ago Kris Allen, lost to himself after a bitter three-year war, answered a newspaper ad and headed west to the chaotic borderland known as South California. He'd hoped, in a land with no loyalties, he could find respite from his own divided nature. What he found was something else.
“Kris, can I talk to you for a minute?” Danny called from his office.
“Yeah,” Kris said, ducking into the room. “But I was on my way to dinner so if it’ll be awhile I’d just like to tell Adam.”
Danny crossed his arms. “You’re having dinner with Adam.”
“He is my roommate.”
Danny sighed and gestured at his computer screen. “I’ve been doing some research on our new guest. Have you seen this?”
The computer was open to one of the endless sites devoted to the love life of LA’s resident prince.
“Danny, seriously, what the hell?” Kris said, backing up a step. “That isn’t any of my business. Yours either.”
“He’s in my house. He’s around my people. That makes it my business,” Danny said, lifting his chin.
Kris shook his head but stepped forward again. Danny wasn’t going to let this go and if they had to do it Kris wanted to end it before Danny could bring it up in front of Adam.
It wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before, mostly just pictures of Adam with his arm around some boy or another. Compared to a lot of these sites the pictures were pretty tame. The vast majority were with the same man, small and sharp and pretty.
“Do you know who that is?” Danny said, gesturing at the man.
“Yeah, he’s Adam’s ex. I think his name is Brad.” That was not what Danny meant, of course, but Kris wasn’t going to let him make this conversation easy.
“He’s the Duke of Eastland’s son,” Danny said, scowling. “Do you really think the Duke is excited at seeing his heir plastered all over the internet—and like this? I don’t think he’s the type to piss off.”
The Duke was definitely not someone you wanted to annoy. His territory was the biggest holding in Texas after the king’s, stretching along the entire Louisiana border and continuing halfway to the panhandle to the west. Even before the war he’d had a reputation for being a man difficult to oppose and even more difficult to predict. Nearly alone amongst the other human powers in the West, he’d studied and actively courted the great fey kingdoms for years and was said to be a favored friend of Queen Eilín. He’d collected fey art and literature and regularly hosted artists and philosophers from amongst their kind at his estate. There were those before the war who’d called him a traitor for it. None of those voices remained afterward and not only because many of them were dead.
“You’ve met him, haven’t you?” Danny insisted. “Tell me he’d be happy about this.”
Kris had met him once during the war when the Division had joined forces with the Duke’s men in the third year’s great assault on one of Thistleleaf’s fortresses. He was a small man with an ironic, intelligent face and manners as exacting as the Sidhe. It had been hard to reconcile their elegant, witty host with the man who was responsible for the Alliance’s few early and intensely bloody victories. At least until the following day when Kris had finally seen him in battle, that is.
“I think,” Kris said, “that it would be pretty stupid to think you know anything about how the Duke would react to anything.”
Thistleleaf had learned that mistake only too well. He’d set up his personal base and strongest troops in Nebraska, trusting some of his lesser people to lead his forces to the south. It was a tactic that worked like a dream—at first. The Texans had some of the most professional soldiers in the world, but they were suspicious of magic and didn’t train in even the most elementary of defensive spells. Thistleleaf’s lines had rolled easily across the panhandle and towards the capital, defeating the Dukes of Plainview and Sweetwater on the way.
Two-hundred miles north of Austin the fey had run headlong into Eastland’s forces. It was the farthest south they were ever to get. As it turned out, the Duke’s obsession with all things Faerie had been no idle curiosity. He’d trained himself and the strongest of his soldiers in all of the offensive spells humans could manage. They could never match the fey for sheer magical ability, but they didn’t need to. It was enough that they blunted the worst of the fey magic and allowed the human troops to finally engage the fey on the ground. Thousands died in grinding Thistleleaf’s lines to a halt, but he was stopped. And then Eastland began the slow bloody drive pushing them back north again.
As a general, the Duke was clever, fast, and brutal. Once his own territory was safe he’d accepted transfer up north to the thickest of the fighting. He’d been the one to eventually break the defenses at Thistleleaf’s personal fortress. Rumor had it that he’d also been the one to finally kill Thistleleaf. That he’d had Thistleleaf’s body roped up in plain view while he executed his fey prisoners in swift batches in the fortress’s central square beneath was undisputed. Eastland had sent the pictures to all the major newspapers himself.
“I don’t really care what he thinks. I just don’t want his attention at all,” Danny said.
“If Eastland didn’t want these pictures to be out there, they wouldn’t be,” Kris said. “And from what I remember of him, he wouldn’t care if his son was cavorting around with a hundred princes so long as he was still taking care of the Duke’s business.”
But then Danny knew that. Kris didn’t believe Eastland had ever been the real issue.
“Just tell me,” Kris said, “is it the fact that Adam’s a fey that’s bothering you? Or is it that it’s a guy with him?”
“Those people, they’re not like us,” Danny said, gesturing at the screen. “Look at that and tell me you’re comfortable with it."
Kris looked. The ones at the top of the page were Adam and Brad in a series of increasingly elaborate costumes, Brad poised and aggressive and Adam looking indulgent and fond. That look left with Brad. In the later pictures there was a changing array of men, a few lasting longer than others. What didn’t change was the bored, cynical expression on Adam’s face.
“I think it’s sad,” Kris said.
Danny blinked, obviously nonplussed. “Sad?”
“These two people are happy,” he said, pointing to a picture of Adam and Brad. Brad had his hands twisted in the fabric of Adam’s shirt and Adam had laid one hand on Brad’s jaw line as they leaned into each other.
He motioned at the later photos. “That went away somehow. Yeah, I think it’s sad. That shit is hard enough without it being used as front page news.”
“I’m not doing this,” he said. “And you better not say a word to him either.”
He turned for the door, but Danny grabbed his arm.
“I’m just saying you don’t know him. How do you know you can trust him?”
Kris yanked his arm away. “I know he bound himself to me to save my life. And I know he fed himself to a damn llus-gorn to save my sanity. Maybe I’m being rash, but that’s enough for me.”
“I didn’t know that,” Danny said quietly.
Kris realized he was clenching his fists and relaxed them with an act of will. “Yeah, well there’s a lot you don’t know.”
“I’m just trying to watch out for my people, here. And that includes you even if you don’t want it.”
“This isn’t watching out for anyone,” Kris said, gesturing at the computer, “and it’s sad just how much you don’t get that. I’m going to dinner. We’re done here.”
Danny’s pursed his lips but didn’t say anything.
Kris stomped off to his place, trying desperately to wipe the anger off his face. The last thing he needed was for Adam to ask him what was wrong.
He rounded the path into the private garden space that had miraculously appeared around his bungalow to find Mike sitting on their new patio furniture sharing a beer with Adam.
“Mike!” he said. “Man, it’s good to see you.”
He took the beer Adam offered and perched himself on the edge of one of the chairs. The beer was something expensive and unpronounceable. Good, though. It reminded him a little of something he’d had when serving in Burma.
“Likewise,” Mike said. “They told me you got out fine but I had to make sure for myself.”
Mike looked different, more centered and there than Kris had seen him for a long, long time.
“I needed to tell you something else, too,” Mike said, looking down at his beer. “I, uh, I got a job. I don’t know if you’ll approve, but it feels right.”
“It’s amazing!” Adam said, practically vibrating with excitement.
“Yeah,” Mike said, his eyes crinkling as he shared Adam’s smile. “I think so, too.”
“Do I get to know what it is?” Kris asked.
“The Sanctuary—she asked me if I’d be willing to take on managing the place and I told her I’d do it.”
Kris sat back. “Are you sure about that? The Canyon isn’t really a place for humans.”
“I’m sure,” Mike said. “It’s got potential. No one has cared enough to take care of it is all. And she’s lonely and needs someone to help her. It’s not right that she should be stuck down there all alone.” He looked down at his beer. “It’s been a while since anybody needed me.”
He lifted his head and looked at Kris, eyes pleading. “She told me she can make me my own doorway. One that goes somewhere safe.”
Kris remembered the way he’d been in the bar—in charge and natural, like he’d been in their early days of service.
“I think you should do it, then,” he said. “I think you’ll be great. Really.”
“Thanks,” Mike said, swallowing hard. “Your opinion means a lot to me.”
Kris gave his knee a quick squeeze and then got up to get him another beer.
Mike stayed long enough to finish it, but then he got up, pleading the need to pick up some things for the Sanctuary before the shops closed. Adam scribbled down the names of some suppliers he knew and Mike went off with a final wave.
“I’m so glad for them,” Adam said, looking a little bright eyed himself. “She’s been alone for so long now.”
“What happened to the last manager?” Kris hoped he hadn’t just sent Mike off into the lion’s den after all.
“He died of old age,” Adam said. “He was her creator. There’s been no one since then except the occasional fey who finds their way into her garden some other way.”
“How long has she been by herself?”
“At least fifty years,” Adam said, face darkening. “Usually Sanctuary spells are handed down between human generations. The Sanctuary gets people to take care of and they get a home and someone to look after in return. That’s how it’s supposed to work. But he didn’t care enough to find someone for her after he was gone. Like she didn’t matter, like she wasn’t even a person.”
“Hey,” Kris said, wrapping his hand around Adam’s wrist.
“I’m sorry,” Adam said. “It’s not your fault. I should really go see her myself. Mike said she was pretty worried.”
Kris frowned. “I’d like to go, too, but I don’t see how it’s possible. I think we’ve established how badly I do down there and I can’t say I’m excited about you going by yourself.”
Adam gave him that look that Kris was beginning to recognize. The one that said he thought Kris was maybe a little dim, but that was okay because it was just adorable.
“Hello,” Adam said. “Prince of Faerie? I can open a portal myself.”
“We’ll have to go outside your compound here. Baraz put a teleportation block on this place, but any doorway will do.” He paused and looked down at himself. “I’ll have to change first. No one I know can see me looking like this.”
Kris sighed. “I keep telling you. Ugly and cheap are not actually the goals of human day wear.”
They were five days into Adam’s fashion adventure. Kris didn’t know if he could take any more. He was by no means a fashionista, but clothes that hideous didn’t belong on a person that pretty. It was just wrong.
“I have eyes, Kristopher.”
Kris glared at him. “Danny Gokey is not representative of all humanity.”
The corner of Adam’s mouth curled up. “Point.”
Kris settled back in the chair to wait while Adam changed. Even short experience suggested it might be a while.
A voice in his head asked him what he thought he doing preparing to follow someone he hardly knew that deep into Faerie through a portal he couldn’t control. That voice sounded a lot like Danny, though, so he just mentally gave it the bird and finished his beer.
When Adam reappeared, this time in a normal t-shirt and jeans, Kris was feeling pretty mellow. It was easy to follow him out the front gate and around the back of a neighboring warehouse, Danny or no Danny. Adam touched the doorframe in the alley entranceway and a bright portal flashed into existence.
Adam grabbed his wrist and pulled him through.
“You really have to stop doing that,” Kris said, rubbing his wrist.
They stood on one of the paths in the Sanctuary’s garden. She appeared in front of them and made a small high-pitched sound of surprise. Adam opened his arms and she threw herself at him, basically climbing him like a tree.
“You came back,” she said, wrapping both arms and legs around him and pressing her forehead against his.
Adam just gripped her around the waist and let her cling to him. “Yeah, honey, I came back.”
“That spell made the garden sick for days,” she said. “I was so afraid you were going to be trapped like that.”
“If it weren’t for you I would have been,” Adam said.
“I had help,” she said. She looked up over Adam’s shoulder and smiled at Kris. “Hello, Kristopher.”
Kris gave her a little wave and Adam set her down on her feet.
“We’ve come for dinner,” Adam said.
“Oh, good,” she said, clapping her hands together. “I have so much to tell you!”
“Yeah?” Adam said, letting her take his hand and drag him off down the path. She took them to a wide clearing set with a large picnic blanket and dozens of huge pillows.
“You’ll stay here?” she said, searching Adam’s face.
She crossed her arms and frowned at them until they’d both taken off their shoes and sat down on the pillows.
“I’ll be right back,” she said and disappeared with a slight pop of air.
Kris looked around the garden. It felt brighter now that the spell was gone. “How did you find this place?”
“It was by accident, really,” Adam said. “I’d just moved into the Embassy and got myself completely lost. I took the wrong door and it led me here. She was so happy to see me I started coming maybe a couple times a month.”
He looked down and twisted a stray thread between his fingers. “It was just nice, you know? To have somewhere where people weren’t watching all the time.”
Oh God, Kris thought, remembering all those pictures he’d been looking at just an hour ago.
“Sounds pretty stupid, right?” Adam said with a little self-mocking twist. “Poor little prince, can’t even deal with a few cameras.”
Kris was going to kill Danny, seriously. “I think it sounds sane.”
The relieved gratitude in the look Adam gave him only made him feel worse.
The Sanctuary reappeared with a tray heaped with food. One of her muskrat helpers scurried out from behind and then set out some dishes before disappearing again.
The Sanctuary told them about Mike’s new job and all her plans for improving the garden while they ate. Adam, patient and gently interested, let her babble on at him.
The food was good, if mostly vegetarian. The Sanctuary kept pushing food on them even if she did seem a little impatient about something.
“Finally,” she said when Adam put down his plate. “Can we? Please?”
“If we must,” Adam said, trying to act aggrieved although the smile kind of ruined it.
She dragged him to his feet and over to the grass as baroque music started playing from somewhere. He gave her an elaborate bow to match the deep curtsey she gave him. They started in on one of the older fey dances, one of the ones just a little too complicated and intricate for most humans to match. Kris had seen a few of them before at the official balls in DC when he’d served on Queen Eilín’s honor guard. This one had quick interlocking footwork that reminded him a little of Argentine Tango.
Kris would have fallen on his ass in about three steps, but those two looked easy, practiced, like this was something they did a lot. After a little while the music abruptly lurched into something faster.
The Sanctuary stepped up onto Adam’s feet. “This way,” she said imperiously.
Adam just shook his head and gripped her around the waist, leading them in something that started mostly like a waltz but ended in him just spinning them around and around to her increasingly wild shrieks of laughter.
This was the guy Danny wanted him to be afraid of. This.
Adam finally spun them to a halt and dramatically collapsed on the pillows.
“I’m done,” he said. “You’ll have to ask Kris if you want more.”
She eyed him hopefully. It was easy enough to get up and give her a bow of his own, even if it felt a little creaky. It was even easier after he spotted Adam’s quick smile of approval.
He stuck to the few social dances his grandfather had taught him back in high school. She followed along gamely, catching on after a few steps.
“This is easier,” she said. She glanced at Adam and then leaned up to speak in Kris’s ear. “He’s just so tall.”
“Yeah,” Kris said. “It’s really kind of freakish.”
“Jealousy,” Adam pronounced, “is not a good color on anyone.”
“I thought about asking you if you’d like to stay with me instead of Mike,” the Sanctuary said quietly. “You seemed so sad that night when you stayed here before.”
Kris wasn’t really sure to make of that.
“But I thought Mike maybe needed me more,” she said. She gave Adam a sly sideways glance. “And you have someone now, too.”
“Yeah,” Kris said, “I guess I do.”