Dawn sends tendrils of muted light through the window and around the edges of the drapes in Jared’s bedroom. Jensen yawns and knuckles the sleep from his eyes. Rolling onto his stomach and pillowing his head on his bent arm, he idly trails his fingertips across Jared’s chest, back and forth, back and forth, lightly enough that Jared does not wake.
There is a basket on the bed with pillows and blankets for him to sleep in. The first night he slept over at Jared’s house, way before the Grand, Super-Awesome, Fantastical Odyssey Into the Human World was even conceived, a debate ensued as to which was safer; for him to sleep in the basket and risk touch starvation during the night, or for him to sleep on top of Jared and risk being crushed if Jared rolled on top of him while he slept. Since Jensen could not image falling asleep without touching anyone, they settled on him sleeping on top of Jared with the basket there just in case he awoke and felt threatened by Jared rolling around. So far, Jensen has never slept in the basket.
Today is the third day of their Grand, Super-Awesome, Fantastical Odyssey Into the Human World. It seems strange to him that he has only been here for two days. So much has happened during that time. On the other hand, he cannot believe the end will come in only four days time.
Unless...his life takes a different path.
Morning seems to be the time when humans hold their most serious discussions, at least that seems to be the case for Jared. Today it is Jensen’s turn. He has given his topic a lot of thought, mulled over all the pros and cons from every angle. His next step is clear, he must get Jared’s opinion.
It is a long time before Jared begins to rouse. They are going to a place called a fair today, but not until after Jared has eaten lunch. There is no reason to rise early or to rush about this morning. Jensen uses the extra time to go over the upcoming discussion in his head, suss out his own motivations to determine whether they are true, whether he is following his guiding light down the proper path. Many lives will be impacted by his choice, not the least of all Jared’s. If he agrees, that is.
Jared’s waking is preceded by a groan as one hand comes up to scratch along his stubbled jawline. He snuffles a couple times, then cracks open an eye to peer down at his chest where Jensen still lies. “Morning, Comet. You been awake long?”
Jensen sits up. He’s nervous and excited and hopeful and nearly giddy all at the same time, much as he was before leaving his quadral mates two days ago. A lot rides on his getting this just right.
Making sure he observes all the formalities of a ‘serious discussion’ as he has observed them over the last two mornings, he says, “I am glad you are awake. I want to talk to you about something.”
Jared frowns and sits forward enough to prop his elbows behind his back. “Is something wrong? Aren’t you having a good time?”
Jensen adjusts his sitting position to account for the new incline of Jared’s chest. “I am having the best time of my entire life. That is what I need to talk to you about.” His nerves intensify. With a deep breath, he jumps right to the crux of the matter. “I do not wish to return to the world of the fae.”
Jared’s frown dissolves, becomes a faint smile. “That’s completely normal. It’s like you’re on vacation, right? No one ever wants to go home when they’re on vacation.” He lies back down, one arm behind his head. “Hey, if it were up to me, you could stay here longer than a week. Hell, you could stay as long as you wanted. Think your quadral mates might have something to say about that, though. Not to mention Christian. I really don’t wanna get on the wrong side of those horns. Dude can be scary when he wants to be.” Chuckling softly, he closes his eyes like he might be thinking about going back to sleep.
Not exactly the response Jensen had been hoping for. Jared isn’t even taking him seriously.
“No, Jared, that is not what I mean. I do not mean that I wish to stay here for longer than a week. I mean that I do not wish to leave here ever.”
That gets more of a response. Jared hauls himself into a sitting position in one fluid motion, his stomach muscles flexing and contracting.
Jensen goes tumbling off to the side for the fraction of a second it takes him to register that the nice flat surface he was reclining on is no longer horizontal. Wings unfurled, he quickly rights himself and settles on Jared’s thigh instead.
“Wait,” Jared says. “What do you mean you don’t want to go back ever? Are you talking ever, ever?” A baffled furrow appears on his forehead.
Jensen gazes up into Jared’s dear face. “Yes, I am talking ever, ever. I can visit them frequently, but I will no longer call the meadow my home.”
“Okay, but, um.” Jared seems to have lost the ability to form a complete sentence or a coherent thought, for that matter.
This is not going well. “I know it is a lot to spring on you all at once. I do not blame you for being disconcerted. It may seem as though this is a sudden decision. It is not. It has been brewing inside me for my entire life. Only now, I have come to perceive where my restlessness comes from.” His wings flicker behind his back - an outward manifestation of his nerves. “Do you know how many other fairies have left their quadrals to go in search of humans?”
Jared’s sleep-mussed hair swings side to side with the shake of his head.
“None. Not a single one. They would never dream of such a thing. I am the first. The guardian is forever despairing of my curiosity. It is not something I can control or reign in, no more than the wind can stop blowing or the flowers can keep from blooming. Life in the meadow has never felt right. It is a wonderful life, a peaceful life, but it is not my life. This life...a life among humans...this is the life I believe I am meant to lead. I am drawn to it, with everything that I am. I wish to remain here, with you if you will have me, but if not...I suppose I could find another human-”
The bed quakes when the stupefied bafflement seems to get swept away as if by a storm, and Jared is suddenly in motion, chest heaving, arms flexing, hands gesturing. The only parts of him not moving are his legs in deference to Jensen, who is still perched there. “Nuh uh, no way. You won’t go off to find another human. If you’re staying, you’re staying here with me.” The storm blows over just as quickly as it came, and Jared seems to deflate. “Just...are you sure? What will the others do without you? Misha’s going to be heartbroken. And Alona, jeez. And Felicia...”
An ache behind his ribcage causes him to wince. The pain is an unexpected physical reaction to an emotion he has never felt before, one he cannot even identify. If he had to put a name to it, he might call it...guilt. “A fairy has never purposefully left their quadral before. That is true. It is also true that, despite our magic, our lifespans are not particularly long.” The pain in his chest stabs harder. “We fae do not die of disease or from the aging of our bodies. Our deaths are usually more violent then that. Rabid animals that cannot be reasoned with or animals driven mad by hunger during lean times in the forests, rock slides or trees falling unexpectedly, lightning storms that catch us unawares, and, of course, touch starvation.” That last one hits closer to home than he would like. He shakes off the memory. “My point is that there is a system to replace missing members of a quadral. My spot in the quadral will not remain empty for long.”
Voice hushed, Jared says, “Jensen, you have to know you can’t be replaced that easily. Christian’s going to be devastated if you decide not to go back. They all will.”
Wings drooping and head hanging, Jensen threads the edge of the undergarment Jared wears when he sleeps - boxers, he believes they are called - through his fingers just to have something on which to focus. He knows Jared is right. But it is like he told Colin, now that he knows where his destiny lies, he cannot let anything stop him. “My decision has consequences. This I know. I shall do everything within my power to ease the pain of my departure for them. At least they will have the comfort of knowing that I am alive and happy. Is it not better for them to know I am living my life as fate would have me live it than for me to be lost to them due to my demise?” At this he looks up, searching Jared’s expression for a clue as to his thoughts.
Jared swipes a hand under his nose. “I guess, if the two choices are for you to leave them voluntarily or for you to be dead, they would gladly pick for you to leave voluntarily. I know I would. Are those actually the two choices we’re talking about here?”
“I am not saying I would die if I could not stay here. I do not mean to sound that dramatic. No, I am just saying that I could have died, easily, that first time I went looking for humans. If you had not found me in time, I would have died and they never would have known what happened to me. This is better than that, I believe. At least, they will know where I am, and can visit whenever they like. I will visit them often in return.”
A deep breath from Jared sends a minor upheaval in Jensen’s sitting surface. He rides out the wave.
“Any time you want to go back to the meadow for a visit, we’ll have to work something out so you don’t ever go alone.” Apparently, Jared’s mind has already jumped past the ‘if’ of the situation and directly to the ‘how’. He still has not expressed how he feels about the matter, however. His feelings are the most important, and heretofore, unknown aspect of Jensen’s plan.
“Jared, I know this is a lot to ask of you. Of all those affected by my decision, you will be the most inconvenienced. It does not escape my attention that ensuring my safety causes you stress. And yet, here I am, asking you to voluntarily take on even more.”
Jared begins to vehemently shake his head, but Jensen forestalls any protest he may be about to make.
“No, hear me out. I want you to know that I do not make this request lightly. I well know the difficult position I am putting you in. If you do not wish this, please be honest with me, I will understand.”
All the confusion and bewilderment with which Jared began this conversation seem to have transformed into a steely resolve. His handsome features have hardened, his jaw muscles have clenched. “Okay, my turn,” he says. “For starters, you aren’t any kind of inconvenience. Sure, I worry about you, but that’s because I can’t stand the thought of anything happening to you. I’m beginning to think I’ve been overly protective though, especially if I’ve made you feel like you’re a burden. It’s just the opposite.”
Reaching out a hand, Jared strokes his wings and back. The sparks Jensen has come to look forward to from Jared’s touches, sizzle down his spine in the most delicious way.
“The more I’m around you, the more I come to realize how special you are. You have a way of relating to people. By sincerely trying to understand humans, you connect with them on a personal level. I’ve seen you do it everywhere we go, at the park, the restaurant, the petting zoo. What you did for Colin? The way you talked with him? The self-confidence you instilled in him to pursue his own interests? That was amazing! You made an impact on him. I’d love for you to have the chance to help more people. I’d love to be a part of that in any way I can.”
Jensen feels his face flush with pleasure. It is nice to hear such things, however, they also make him feel self conscious, not an emotion with which he has much experience. He tries to look away, but Jared cups his chin, locking their gazes together.
“I’m not done. There’s more.” Jared wets his lips. “Comet, you’re special to me. The feelings I have for you...they’ve grown. They’re bigger than just friendship, and I’d like to explore them with you. If that’s...you know, if that’s something you think...Look, I know you said fairies don’t feel romantic love for one another, so we don’t...”
Jensen takes pity on him and cuts off his rambling. “I too have feelings for you that go beyond friendship. It is true that fairies do not feel romantic love for each other. I think we have just established, though, that I am not a typical fairy.”
A smile blooms, warm and bright, making Jared’s dimples deepen. “We can give this a try then, and see where it goes? This thing between us?”
“Most assuredly.” Jensen returns his grin.
“Alright. Okay. That’s settled then.” Jared shimmies on the bed as though he is having a difficult time remaining still.
Jared’s adorableness when he shows this goofy side of himself rivals even that of Precious the Baby Cow.
Sobering, Jared says, “We can continue on with our plans for the rest of the week. No need to rush things. At the end of the week, you can go back to your quadral, explain your decision to them, and give them time to make their own plans. Then, we should start to think about next steps. We’ll need to decide what you’ll do while I’m at work. My shifts can get pretty long, too long for you to go without touch.”
“I have thought about that, and I would like to make a change in our Grand, Super-Awesome, Fantastical Odyssey Into the Human World, if I may,” Jensen says. “Instead of going to the sporting event tomorrow as we had planned, could we go to your hospital instead? I would like to see where you work. And maybe I could be helpful there. It seems to me that people in a hospital will be in need of cheer. Perhaps, I can provide some.”
Jared is quiet as he thinks this over. Then, he nods. “Yeah, that might work. We can go there tomorrow and see what happens. I’ll talk to the chief of staff, ask what he thinks about having a fairy ambassador at the hospital. It can’t hurt to try, right?”
Sheer happiness washes over him, and Jensen spirals up out of Jared’s hand. He is not sure what a fairy ambassador is, but it sounds rather impressive.
More deliberately than last time, he closes the distance between them, places his hands under Jared’s chin and brings their lips together.
The sparks that zing between them turn the sweet kiss into something much more profound. Magic coalesces inside him. He is not controlling it, rather it is responding to his emotions, veritably feeding off his joy, his fervor, and creating a new-found passion within him. He surges forward, pressing his mouth against Jared’s with more force. A wind kicks up, buffeting him, buffeting Jared, stealing their breath. Fairy dust swirls around them. Like it has been charged with an electric current, Jared’s hair stands up from his head in a chestnut-brown halo. The prickling on his own scalp indicates his hair is likewise statically charged.
When they break apart from the kiss, the wind dies down, leaving their hair in messy tufts.
Jared’s pupils are blown, giving him a smoldering expression. “Wow,” is all he says, breath coming fast and sharp.
“Indeed.” Jensen pants, not unaffected himself.
“There’s never gonna be a dull moment with you around, is there?” Jared asks around a grin.
Jensen licks his lips and pats his hair back into place. “Would you have it any other way?”
Jared lets himself fall backwards on the bed, arms out to his sides as though he is leaving himself wide open to whatever may come. “Nope, nothing could be more perfect.”
After the talk they’d had that morning, Jared has determined not to be such a worry wart. Jensen is fully capable of taking care of himself, and it’s not right to treat him as though he’s in any way inferior or mentally deficient. Also, while it may be impossible not to show any concern for his welfare, Jared can at least tone it down a notch or two. They’re here to have a good time and that’s what they’re going to do.
They’ve waited until dusk to leave the house. Jared wants Jensen to get the full ‘local fair’ experience, to see the kids running around with glow sticks and illuminated wands, to smell the grease from all the fried food vendors, to hear the screams of mock terror and actual delight from the people on the coasters.
The fair Jared found by doing an internet search is within an hour’s drive of the house. It’s a county fair, just like any other. There are the typical carnival rides - a ferris wheel, bumper cars, a couple wooden roller coasters that look as though they were hastily constructed by day laborers in a few short hours. Lights flash from every stall. Carnies cajole and heckle those walking past the various water gun, ring toss, and balloon popping games while pointing out all the prizes to be won. Booths and food trucks selling corn dogs, cotton candy and deep fried Oreos are set up all around the perimeter.
The fair is crowded tonight. Lots of families out and about. Plenty of teenagers determined to have a good time.
For once, no one is paying Jensen any mind. What with all the sights and sounds vying for their attention, he seems to be nearly invisible to most of the other fair-goers. The strobing effect of the lights on every ride and booth combined with the interspersed darkness, help to keep him under the radar, as does his size.
Jared can’t say he’s upset about that. It’s nice to have Jensen all to himself while the excitable fairy experiences the hustle and bustle of a carnival for the first time.
Jared used to love a fair when he was a kid. He used to beg his parents to take him whenever one was in town. The last time he’d been to a fair was when he was in high school. He’d gone with a couple friends. It was fun, but nothing spectacular, and he’d ended up deciding his carnival days were probably over.
Being here with Jensen is different. He’s finding that lots of things are different when he’s with Jensen. Having him around is like experiencing everything for the very first time, through eyes made wide with wonder, fresh and unspoiled. He makes the mundane seem new and amazing.
He would equate it to seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child, except Jensen is no child. He proved that this morning. Jared is still reeling from the Kiss. There are still a lot of questions Jared needs answers to regarding what that kiss meant to Jensen, how much Jensen knows about relationships, what kind of relationship he’s interested in. Physical expressions of affection may have totally different meanings to fairies. Heck, they probably do. Just because Jensen wants to move in with him, and the kiss they shared was literally electrified, doesn’t mean he understands all the ways humans express their feelings.
Watching him now, Jared feels the thrill of seeing a carnival at night as if it’s something wondrous. Jensen’s head looks like it’s on a swivel as he tries to look everywhere all at once. Every bell, whistle, and blinking light catches his attention. His mouth has dropped open in amazed delight. His wings make a flickering, humming noise each time he darts from Jared’s left side to his right, intent on seeing everything.
Their first stop is the funhouse. The slanted, unstable floors don’t phase Jensen at all since he’s flying. It’s the mirrors that have him absolutely rolling with laughter. He holds his sides and throws his head back, doing backwards somersaults, when he gets a look at his distorted image. Even more so when he sees Jared’s. Jared makes faces and cavorts around like an idiot just to keep him laughing. The musical sound of Jensen’s laughter is the best sound in the world.
While they’re trying to decide what to do next, a clown runs out from behind the funhouse and begins juggling bowling pins. A second clown runs up behind him and pulls down his pants, revealing a second pair of neon orange pants underneath. The first clown acts as though he’s super embarrassed while continuing to juggle.
Several of the young children nearby squeal with laughter.
Jared has never been a huge fan of clowns. They’ve always kind of creeped him out, truth be told. Jensen seems amused though, so they stick around to watch the rest of the performance. And Jared has to admit, they are the funniest clowns he’s ever seen, or maybe that’s just because Jensen is there.
Next, they walk around, looking at all the rides, Jared explaining each one as they get close. They pass by the tilt-a-whirl, the drop tower, the kamikaze, the UFO, the octopus, and a whole bunch of other rides whose main purpose is to fling you around, drop you, or otherwise cause you to lose your lunch. As much as Jensen enjoys watching the humans ride these rides, he’s not interested in riding them himself, and Jared can’t blame him. There’s not a ride in existence that can do what comes naturally to Jensen. His aerial acrobatics put them all to shame. Besides that, there is no way to strap his tiny body into the seats so that he can fully experience the ride mechanisms.
“What is the purpose of that ride?” Jensen points at the Ferris wheel which has a place of honor in the center of the fairgrounds.
“It’s called a Ferris wheel. It doesn’t go real fast, just goes high enough to give you a bird’s eye view of the fair.”
“Or a fairy’s eye view,” Jensen grins.
“Yeah,” Jared shrugs. “As far as rides go, it’s really tame. You can fly higher than that on a whim any old time you want.”
Jensen cocks his head, looking at the couple currently at the highest point on the Ferris wheel. Then, he slants his gaze back at Jared. “I should like to ride that one with you.”
“You would? But why?” Jared can’t imagine what it is about the Ferris wheel that Jensen thinks he might like. To a fairy, it must look rather boring. It’s not like fairies are thrilled by heights the way some humans are.
“Because,” Jensen smiles brightly. “You have been showing me all about being human, and I would like to share with you a little of what it is like to be a fairy.”
Warmth spreads through Jared, turning his insides to goo. He buys two tickets, and they get in line for the ride.
Jensen reclines on his shoulder until they’ve boarded their capsule. As the ride starts moving, he flies over to sit on the restraining bar, facing Jared. “To truly experience what it is like to be one of the fae, you must first imagine that you have wings sprouting from your back. Big, strong, mighty, beautiful wings. What color are your wings, Jared?”
The answer comes to Jared immediately, although he hesitates for a moment before he says, “When I was a teenager, I read these awesome books about dragons. The Dragonriders of Pern. The dragons came in several colors, with the rarest being golden females. But the dragons I admired the most were the male bronze dragons. They were fierce and loyal and brave.”
Jensen’s expression becomes uncharacteristically solemn. “In that case, bronze wings suit you very well. Now, imagine your wings unfurling and extending to their fullest width. Feel how they catch the wind, how the air currents are suddenly at your command, how your body becomes weightless and buoyant.”
The ride carries them upward, and as the wind hits his face, Jared has no difficulty imagining his bronze wings beating proudly behind him, carrying him higher into the sky with each powerful stroke. He closes his eyes and listens to the sounds from below getting fainter the higher up they go. A breeze tugs his hair away from his face.
“Open you eyes, Jared. Look around. See how the world appears from on high. The air responds to you. It favors you and will obey, as long as you know the proper way to ask.”
He opens his eyes. They are just cresting the tallest point of the ride. He looks down, imagining that his wings are the only things keeping him aloft as they pump the air in time with his beating heart. He spreads them as far as they’ll go and glides on high. The ride, the capsule, the other passengers, all fade away. It’s just him and Jensen, floating on the air currents, slip-sliding along with the breeze. No gravity to hold them down. Soaring to ever higher, lofty peaks.
Even though he’s ridden the Ferris wheel many times before, it’s never felt like this, like the air all around him is simply awaiting his word, ready to do his bidding.
Reality returns only when the ride comes to a stop.
He blinks, disoriented for a second. “Wow,” he breaths. “That seemed so real.” He wants to reach behind himself to touch his majestic, bronze wings, saddened by the knowledge that they won’t be there. “Did your magic have anything to do with how real that felt?”
“Mayhap a little bit.” Jensen flashes a brilliant, eye-crinkling smile, then, flutters over and speaks directly into Jared’s ear, his breath warm and ticklish, “Now you know a small part of what it is to be fae. I do hope you enjoyed it and are pleased.”
Pleased doesn’t cover it. Jared isn’t sure how to describe how amazing that was. So instead, he puts his hand gently around Jensen and cradles him close against his cheek. “Thank you,” he whispers, voice choked.
“You have done so much for me. It is the very least I could do for you in return. Anytime you wish to fly with me again, you have but to say the word and we will devise a way to make it happen.”
From there, Jared decides he wants to indulge in a truly iconic carnival treat. Cotton candy in hand, he finds them a bench where they can relax and do some people (human) watching.
Holding the paper cone in one hand, he tears off a large chunk of the fluffy pink candy floss. “Watch this, Comet.” He places the wad into his mouth, leaving it open, so Jensen can see how the candy dissolves.
Jensen hovers close enough that Jared can see the tiny freckles dotting his nose and high cheekbones. His eyebrows arch up in amazement. “That is truly magical,” he exclaims. “May I touch it?”
“Yeah, here.” Jared pulls off a much smaller tuft and hands it over.
The pink floss flutters in the breeze. Jensen handles it very daintily as he transfers it from one small, but elegant, hand to the other. Pink food coloring stains his fingers. “Sticky,” he says, wrinkling his pert nose. “May I smell it?”
Jared can’t think of any reason why sniffing the confection would harm him. Not like alcohol or smoke could. “Sure.”
Jensen plunges his whole face into the candy cloud, and inhales deeply. “It smells sweeter than the sweetest honey ever made by the bees near my meadow.”
“You’re really close. It’s made from sugar refined from plants. The sugar is heated until it’s gooey like honey, and then, spun into fine threads that harden and stick to the cone. No actual nutritional value, but it’s a lot of fun to eat.”
Jensen flies the candy back over to Jared. “Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.” When he does as asked, Jensen places the morsel onto his tongue where it quickly melts.
Jared smacks his lips. The taste brings back many fond memories from his childhood. Hot summer days spent with family and friends at fairs much like this one.
The last couple days have been eye opening for him. More fun than he ever could have imagined. Chances to have fun don’t seem to come around all that often anymore. Med school and then his career have taken precedence for too long, limiting his options to do other things, like enjoy himself every once in a while. He glances over at Jensen, who has settled into the crook of his arm. “Are you having a good time?”
Putting a hand on Jared’s shirt over his heart, Jensen says in all sincerity, “Our Grand, Super-Awesome, Fantastical Odyssey Into the Human World, thus far, has exceeded all my expectation. I could not be happier.” He gives a contented sigh, and snuggles back against Jared’s bicep, looking out at the throngs of people walking past on their way to one ride or another.
They are silent for some time, each lost in their own thoughts.
Jensen is the one to pipe up first. “Why do some humans hold hands as they walk?”
Jared follows Jensen’s sight line and sure enough, there’s a couple walking by, hands clasped.
This is the opportunity Jared has been waiting for, the perfect opening for that discussion he needs to have with Jensen about the differences between the ways fairies and humans show affection. “Okay, yes, let’s talk about that. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that humans don’t touch each other often. Not as compared to fairies, anyway.”
“Most adult humans have personal space bubbles - areas around themselves they don’t like other people to enter, especially people they don’t know well.”
“I have no such personal space bubble.” Jensen nuzzles into his arm.
“Yes, I’ve noticed,” Jared chuckles, stroking Jensen’s cheek, the shell of his tiny ear. “But when two humans like each other very much, their personal space bubbles tend to merge together. They not only get into each other’s personal space more, they also touch each other more. They enjoy being connected to one another and that’s why they hold hands.” He bites the inside of his mouth to keep from smirking at himself. Is he really giving the birds and the bees talk to a fairy? His life has taken a crazy, left-handed turn into the land of strange. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jensen hums in thought. “So, two humans who do not know each other, would not hold hands?”
“No, strangers wouldn’t hold hands. Holding hands is only done by two consenting adults who want to show affection for each other. It’s an acceptable way of showing affection in public.”
A disgruntled frown pulls Jensen’s lips downward.
“What’s wrong, Comet?”
“I feel great affection for you, Jared, and yet I am denied this fundamentally human method of expressing my feelings for you, all because I am too small to properly grip your hand in mine while we walk.” His lower lip protrudes in the most adorable pout.
The image of Jensen’s tiny hand engulfed in his as they try to walk along together makes Jared’s eyes tear up, trying to hold in his laughter. One look at Jensen’s unhappy face, though, dispels his amusement. This is the most distraught Jared has ever seen him. Jensen is almost never sad.
“Hey, there are other ways humans show their affection for each other publicly.”
“There are? What ways are those?” Jensen’s wilting wings perk up.
“Well...there’s hugging. Humans hug people they feel close to.”
“Do they hug those they feel closer to than anyone else in the whole wide world, either human or fae?”
“Yes, they do.”
“In that case, I should very much like to hug you, Jared.”
“I’d like that, too.” Jared is surprised to hear the roughness in his voice, his eyes now stinging for an entirely different reason.
Arms held wide, Jensen launches upward and attaches himself to Jared’s neck.
Jared returns the hug by cupping his hands and clasping them around Jensen’s slight body, careful not to damage his wings. The muscles in Jensen’s back and shoulders ripple and flex. Small he may be, but there’s strength there, too, Jared reminds himself.
The hug goes on for a long time, neither feeling the need to end it. Jensen is a warm and welcome weight where he rests right on top of Jared’s heart. Jensen’s hair tickles the underside of his jaw. A pleasant undercurrent buzzes along his skin everywhere they touch. More fairy magic at work, no doubt.
“Jared, do you have a personal space bubble?”
The question makes him chuckle. “I do, although my friends might disagree. But it’s different with you. I want you near me all the time. I like how much I get to touch you.”
Jensen hums against his neck.
Eventually, the fairy releases his tight hold, flitting about Jared’s head a couple times before reclining against his chest to continue his human observations (people watching). On autopilot more than with any real desire to eat all that candy, Jared’s hand goes from cone to mouth. The candy melts on his tongue, bite after bite, while his thoughts whirl.
Jensen is no ordinary fairy, that much is clear, even if nothing else is.
Once the cone has been picked clean, they wander over toward the carnival games.
“Hey you, gigantor! Yeah, you,” yells a carny. “Com’ere. You’re tall enough. You should have no trouble playing hoops.”
Jared looks over. The guy is spinning a basketball on his index finger and smirking at him.
He knows the carny is just trying to provoke him into shelling out his money. But the truth of the matter is that he’s a decent basketball player. Also, he played this particular carnival game enough times as a teenager that he knows the trick. The hoop is smaller than a regulation sized hoop. You have to use a slightly different angle when you release the ball to get it through. Of all the games here at the fair, this is the only one that the odds are in his favor.
“Yeah, okay,” he says, digging out his wallet.
In his excitement, Jensen begins a complicated series of barrel rolls, arms outstretched at his sides, toes pointed. “I have been watching other humans play this game. It looks very simple. All you have to do is throw the ball through the metal circle there. I do not know why none of the other humans looked very happy at the end of the game, but I am sure you can do it. I will yell for you. That seems to be an important part of the game from what I have observed.”
The carney takes his ten dollars and gives him three basketballs.
“Okay, you do that, Comet.” He grins at the fairy’s enthusiasm. Taking careful aim, he lets the ball fly.
“Woohoo!” Jensen yells. Right in his ear.
He shouldn’t have been startled by it. Jensen did warn him. He just hadn’t been expecting the yell to be quite that loud nor quite that close. He winces as the ball bounces off the edge of the hoop.
“You missed.” Jensen sounds surprised.
The carney gives Jensen an appraising look, eyes squinted, then turns back to Jared. “You have a fairy with you. I’ve heard fairies bring good luck.”
There are all types of misconceptions about fairies out there. Jared’s not surprised in the least to hear this one. Since it’s not worth the effort of convincing the guy otherwise, Jared gives a noncommittal shrug.
“Tell you what, my tall friend. You have two tries left. You get both balls through the hoop, I’ll still give you the best prize I’ve got.” He holds up a large stuffed animal.
Jensen’s eyes light up.
Laughter bubbles up and bursts from Jared’s mouth. It’s a fluffy, purple penguin.
His competitive spirit awakens. He has to win that penguin for Jensen. “Okay, Comet. I appreciate you cheering me on, I really do, but this time, maybe not so loudly. And maybe wait until the ball goes through the basket.”
Jensen clamps both hands over his mouth, nodding.
Jared takes his time, lines up his shot, and whoosh, the ball sails through the hoop.
Jensen doesn’t make a sound, but Jared is too busy concentrating on his next shot to think much about it.
He weighs the ball in his hands, shifting it from one to the other, getting his fingers into just the right position. The ball soars up, the trajectory true. Swish.
“Winner, winner, winner! We have a winner here!” yells the carney. He hands Jared the stuffed penguin.
Holding the prize aloft triumphantly, Jared turns to grin at Jensen.
Only Jensen isn’t there.
Jared looks up. A splash of water hits him the eye.
Jensen isn’t flying celebratory circles above him.
Jared does a full 360 degree turn, eyes darting around everywhere. Raindrops begin falling in earnest.
Jensen is nowhere to be seen.
Lighting flashes, and almost immediately behind it, thunder booms.
Jared’s heart is pounding in his chest, so hard it’s painful.
“JENSEN,” he screams.
Rain pelts down.
People run past him, holding jackets and plastic bags over their heads for cover.
The fair erupts into chaos, people scurrying in every direction, trying to find refuge from the pop-up thunder storm.
Jared feels like he’s trapped in the worst nightmare of his life. He turns back to the carney, frantic. “Did you see where he went? Did you?”
Hastily stuffing prizes into large plastic bags to keep them from getting drenched, the guy doesn’t even spare him a glance, “No, man. I wasn’t paying attention.”
Rain is coming down so hard, he can barely see his hands in front of his face. His hair is plastered to his head, strands of it hanging in front of his eyes, obscuring his vision further. Impatiently, he rakes them back off his face.
“JENSEN,” he screams again even though it’s pointless. He can barely hear himself over the rain and the sounds of all the people, running around like ants from a disturbed anthill.
There’s another flash of lightning, thunder close on its heels. Wind gusts, and debris on the ground gets pushed along before it.
Someone bumps into him and keeps running without the slightest apology. Not that he would have paid any attention if they had.
He stumbles from the impact. Somehow keeps from falling to his knees in the quickly forming mud puddle near his feet.
His breath is gusting in and out in panicked bursts. He can’t think because the only thing running through his head is a constant stream of Nonononononononono. He doesn’t know what to do, can’t even seem to move. He’s frozen in place. Can’t leave this spot. This is the last place he saw Jensen.
Jensen is gone.
This can’t be happening.
Abruptly, through the slashing curtain of rain, Jared sees a green blur, streaking towards him.
“JARED,” the green blur calls.
Jared’s legs go out from beneath him. He sits heavily in the mud, and doesn’t remember how he got there. Doesn’t care either, because Jensen is back. Jensen is alive and holding his face in his wee hands, saying, “I am so sorry, Jared,” and “Breathe, Jared, just breathe,” and “Please forgive me, Jared,” and “I did not mean for that to happen, Jared, you have to breathe.”
He takes a breath.
“That is good. Everything is all right. I am fine,” Jensen croons. “I did not mean to worry you.”
Jared wraps his arms around the fairy. “God, Comet. I thought I’d lost you. I didn’t even know where to begin looking.”
“I know. I am very, very sorry. Let us get back to the car. This storm is too powerful for me to influence. I will explain everything once we get you out of the rain and I can dry you off.”
He stands, legs shaky, and they make their way back to the car. Jensen never tries to leave the confines of his arms, which is good because Jared really isn’t ready to let him go yet.
After a scare like that, he may never be ready.