THE QUIET MEN
Here's a Wednesday chapter for you! Enjoy. Ran
Chapter 12: Justin's POV
Okay, I've had it. I level a glare at Ariel, the fucking perfect looking fairy! "Brian already has a key, a destiny. He's already following it. We have a life together, as partners, both personally and professionally. I'm getting a little sick of that life being made to sound irrelevant."
Ariel levels a look at me, and suddenly that beautiful face looks a little...scary. His silver-blue eyes narrow, become almost translucent in the light, and then he retreats from whatever little pique he was experiencing and smiles. "Jealous, mortal? Don't be. Brian can have his human indulgences, we're not about interfering with that."
"How swell of you. And what's with this `mortal' crap? Are you trying to tell us that you're not mortal?"
"By your way of marking time, I'm what you would consider immortal. But we all begin as a baby and we all grow older. We all die, eventually. Nothing is forever. But we mark time in centuries as you mark time in days."
Brian snorts derisively. "Unfortunately, I seem to be aging at the same rate as every other generation X'er, which is to say, too damned fast."
"You're not immortal, Brian," Ariel states the obvious. "You're blood is tainted. Were you to mate one of our kind and live among us, you could stay where you are at our rate of aging, but only so long as you remained beyond the portal, in our kingdom. If you set foot again in yours, you'd return to your human age, all at once, and that's irreversible. Only full blood can walk between the worlds, unaffected."
"What other world?" I demand, watching Brian take in the concept of remaining where he is, age-wise. I don't like that carrot. Aging is a hot button with my partner. Being able to preserve what he has would hold a lot of appeal, and how do I compete with that?
"The world of the fey, the world beyond the portals, that exists parallel with this one. You were in one of our anterooms when you entered the club called Sidhe. Beyond that anteroom is our world."
"Then why don't you stay in your world?" I ask, as Brian reaches over and squeezes my hand as if to still my combative demands. I ignore his silent directive.
"Because there is only so much space in this small corner of the universe, and your kind has been squeezing my kind out of our due for eons. I can't make you understand, your mind won't grasp it, but this earth is ours as well as yours. While we have an alternative warp, it's still part of this earth, which is finite. Your damage to the planet damages our home. Your greed steals from us. Our space diminishes as yours expands. We foresee a time when there's no more room for our warp to exist, when it must combine with yours. And so, we prepare."
"Prepare for what?" I ask. I'm a smart guy, but even Einstein couldn't unravel this crap about alternative warps within the same planet. It's such incredible hogwash and yet they do seem to come and go, and where they go, I have no fucking clue.
"Prepare a seat at the table of humankind, for the fey."
Brian sighs. I see that he's as frustrated as I am, if not more so. "Humankind won't even allow my kind of fairy to eat at their table. They'll never be ready for you. They'll either fear you as godless, demonic creatures or exploit your powers. Either way, you lose. You become a freak show, and quite possibly the enemy."
"Aye, we see that risk. And so, we need to operate from a position of strength in your world, not just rely upon our ancient charms and bindings to protect our kind."
"So where do I come into this picture?" he demands, and Ariel smiles.
"You're a spinner, Brian. You spin your myth around us and you sell us to the humans, as if we were Faery washing up liquid."
Brian and I exchange a look and I laugh. "You want him for his abilities as a spin doctor?"
"We want him because he's one of us, because we can rely on the blood, and because he tells people what they want to hear and they believe him."
Brian shakes his head as I continue. "Easy enough. We have a fee schedule. We represent all kinds of enterprises, why not yours? If that's all you want, and you're willing to pay, you could have avoided all this drama and picked up the fucking phone."
Ariel gives me that tolerating the brat look again and I want to smack it off his pretty face if I didn't find him so oddly terrifying. He says, "This isn't just about your trade, Justin, mate of Brian. This is about the necessity for Brian to find his heart among the fey folk, to recognize what he is, to ensure his loyalty."
"You sign the checks, I'm loyal," Brian quips, and Ariel turns to him.
"As you were loyal to this guardian you campaigned against behind his back while you took his money?"
We look at each other, not expecting the Stockwell debacle of several years ago to have made it into fairy lore. "How do you know about that?"
"We watch. We know everything about Brian."
Brian smirks at him. "Hope you learned a lot, if you've been watching me all these years."
"We learned you were driven, much like a satyr, until you found your mate. We learned you were never at peace with your human family. We learned you conceived a son with a mortal woman, but not as man lies with woman. Rather the way your medical shaman permits. So primitive, that."
Uh-oh. I know he won't like the mention of Gus. I'm right, his jaw takes on that steely clinch. I pat his hand and say, "Stockwell was unique in that he was working to destroy our entire way of life. We were justified in what we did."
Ariel nods. "And there are those who will say we are intent on destroying the human way of life. And they may well be right about that. It's important that we be empowered."
"Pixies in Parliament?" I tease and Brian laughs. Ariel doesn't.
"Don't you be dismissing the pixies with your derision when you know not of what you speak. The wee folk are a powerful lot who can do you much harm."
"Not if I have a fly swatter."
"Tempt not your fate, Justin, mate of Brian."
"Who are the Quiet Men?" Brian intervenes and I see Ariel lean back, considering his answer.
"While the most of us in the realm of the Tuatha de Danaan are in the Seelie Court, the blessed among the sidhe, there are those who live in the Unseelie Court, the unblessed, living in darkness and thriving on despair. We may fear them and we may turn away from them in fear or horror, but we must accept that they too are Tuatha de Danaan, under the same rule as are we, so we pay them homage as they respect us. They serve our King and Queen, just as we do. They defend our realm, for what force can defeat an army of darkness? The Quiet Men, the tall, shining ones, rule the Unseelie Court that is made up of all manner of dark creature, from misshapen troll to changeling to dragon breeder to the bain sidhe, who heralds death and misery to humans. Under the sea creatures like mermen and water sprites belong to the Unseelie Court, as do the sirens who lure ships to their destruction. We co-exist, but live separately, coming together only rarely to present a unified pledge to our monarchs. Tonight is such a night. Tonight, the Quiet Men join our rank."
"That sounds like a party we can miss," I quip, as Brian chuckles.
"You'll be there, sure enough," Ariel says with a definitive smugness that makes me want to challenge him.
"Actually, we have other plans," I say, ignoring Brian's inquisitive stare.
"But don't arrive before the witching hour, midnight," Ariel addresses his warning to Brian as if I don't even exist. He stands, looking so eerie in that suit and his bare feet. Aren't his toes cold in this damp chill? "Come, Brian. Let me show you a treasure," he motions to my lover, who takes my hand to pull me along as he stands. I reluctantly go with him, following Ariel through pocket doors to another drawing room, this one smaller, but more gilded and formal. Two gold-leafed chairs covered in crimson brocade and canopied with gold velvet are at one end of the room, while plain ladder back chairs with seat covers of red velvet line the walls. Above the hearth is a painting of a man and woman who seem vaguely familiar to me. Were they at the club last night? Did they make a grand entrance?
They are both fair, dressed in white and crowned with flowers. Glowing pixies surround them. On other walls are paintings of other sprites, including Ariel. But he directs Brian's attention to a painting of a couple clad in purple and silver, seated on a river bank in front of a ruined castle. The woman is lovely but less eerie than the others depicted in paintings, and the man is...Brian. Brian with a twist. Straight Brian, eerie Brian, but Brian with Brian's eyes and Brian's lean body and Brian's smile, but pointed ears and an elfin line to his chin and skin that's translucently perfect.
"The Seanmhaithair," Ariel is saying, but it's clear that Brian's looks descended through the man. It's equally clear the man is elfin. So why do they emphasize the woman? I ask that and Ariel shrugs.
"Many a sidhe has bred with a mortal and thus spread the blood through your population, but few are the mortals who forsook all in their world to live with the sidhe, leaving behind even their own bairn," he replied. "Thus the Seanmhaithair's sidhe progeny remain strongly aligned with our kind, and the blood runs deep every third generation. Three generations ago, your great-grandfather was our hope, but he died in the troubles that spring up among the mortals of this land. Fooking British. And now we look to you, and what you've done with yourself is what we hoped for. The time has come, we leave it to chance no more."
"All those celebrities on the walls of the staircase...." I say as Brian stares transfixed at the painting. Ariel casts his silver gaze on me, wearing his usual expression of annoyed tolerance.
"All have sidhe blood. Those and many more."
"I need to get out of here," I hear Brian say, and suddenly I'm being pulled along behind him as we leave the room, trot down the stairs and leave the house. The gate to the park is open to us, as all gates appear to be, and we escape to that enclosure, where Brian sits down heavily on a bench, gasping for air as if he just surfaced from the floor of the ocean.
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July 25, 2004