Fated Fruit Cake: A Glass Fate Tale

(This stand-alone short story is set right after the 2018 Christmas tale Fairy Knights. Minor spoilers for it ahead.)

Caldyr climbed from the car and stretched her legs.

“Morgaine’s not so bad,” Reynardine continued talking.

Caldyr hadn’t replied back, or even nodded, in a while.

Reynardine often rambled while driving and Caldyr found being quit was better than trying to keep him quiet. He’d often fade into a gentle background noise after a while.

“She’s always been decent to me, anyway.” He got out. “Never been perfect, but who is? Guin and Arthur are more like her Isengrim. Just they can’t deal with each other. It’s in the stories. But that doesn’t make her really evil.”

“A cŵn annwn almost ate me?” Caldyr said. “Did you miss that or?”

“She probably didn’t mean for that. Can’t control everything when you play a trick.

“Oh so she’s a trickster?” Caldyr asked.

Figures he’d vouch for one.

“More or less. She’s clever and driven, at least. You want a gingerbread latte or a peppermint mocha?” Reynardine asked, nodding to the shop.

“I’ll go in,” Caldyr said. “What did you want?”

“Large gingerbread latte. You should really try—”

“I like my vanilla ones,” Caldyr said. “I’m not into seasonal flavors.” She’d been hurt bad by a chocolate orange latte that hit all the right notes shortly after coming to Earth and never tried the short-lived drinks again.

No use in temporary love.

“You should try their fruitcake, at least. Got figs and those fake red cherries you like.”

Caldyr ignored him and headed into the warm cafe. The line started right near the door, and every table was packed.

She plugged in her headphones and focused on enjoying the sights of a different town than her own. The light tour had been nice, Reynardine found a ton of great houses to admire, and the city itself had been rather pleasant. Even waiting in line, wide windows showed off a giant department store with plenty of gorgeous scenery and—

Hello there…

A tall man wearing a baseball cap and clothed in all white pushing a woman into a dark alley.

Caldyr’s wing tingled, a quick blast of nervous energy signaling danger, and walked straight out the door.

Reynardine caught sight of her and raised a brow.

Caldyr pulled out her headphones. “Something weird,” she said. “Tall man, all white. Sound familiar?”

“Vaguely, but I’m not an expert in this sort of thing. Should I call Ursie?”

“Not—”

A scream echoed from the alley and Caldyr took off across the street.

She turned the corner and came face-to-face with the man in white. He wore a dark mask with steel lips. They split and blue fire shot out.

Caldyr ducked, dodging the flames and kicking for his knees, but the bastard danced backward.

The woman, farther down the alley, screamed again. Her hands clutched at her face.

“Fucking dickhead,” Caldyr muttered, attacking again.

He didn’t fight, just laughed fire and bounced backward on light heels.

Caldyr caught him in the chest with a hard right and he stumbled.

Something wet and hot blasted into Caldyr’s face. She coughed and hit her knees before diving backwards.

Reynardine rushed toward them, but the man in white laughed and bounced twice before leaping over a building and into the night.

“Person,” Caldyr choked out, nodding to the woman.

“Are you okay?” Reynardine asked.

“Pepper sprayed. Check on them, the injured person.”

Reynardine followed orders. She’d been pepper sprayed, too, it turned out. He helped her into a rideshare to the hospital and returned to Caldyr.

“Help me up,” she ordered, blinking against the pain.

Reynardine simply lifted her into his arms. “Still hurt?”

“The fuck? Yeah, still agony,” she grunted. “Milk helps, I think.”

“It does. We’re walking around to the other side of the mall and I’m going to get you a ton of milk, okay?”

“Please.”

Reynardine was true to his word, setting her down on the grass in front of a large store and darting inside. He returned with a half-dozen little milk cartons and poured them one at a time onto Caldyr’s burning face.

She sighed as the cool liquid melted through the heat. Pain ebbed, returning soon as the flow of milk stopped.

Another twenty minutes passed and she opened her eyes. “I’m going to murder that thing.”

“Spring Heeled Jack,” Reynardine said. “The hopping gives it away. And yeah, soon as we find it, have fun.”

Caldyr rung the milk out of her hoodie.

Reynardine shrugged out of his bright green suit jacket. “Take that off and wear this.”

She coughed and shook her head. “Or I could use it like a little tent.” Another cough, the pepper still clung to her lips and burnt worse when she moved. “That’s not gonna work, Foxass.”

“Just for a minute,” he said. “I’ll go get you a new shirt in the mall.”

Caldyr wrapped the suit coat tight and carefully shimmied her hoodie off. She wore a threadbare tank top and a tight wing bandage underneath, but still felt awkwardly unclothed for a public space. “Hurry,” she told Reynardine. “Nothing I’ll hate, either. Got it?”

He nodded.

“I’m going into the diner,” she called, nodding to a bank of light in the lot with a familiar yellow-and-red sign.

“Order whatever you want. I’ll join you there in ten,” Reynardine said.

Caldyr crossed the parking lot, buttoning up Reynardine’s massive, neon green coat as she fought with the large door. She probably looked slightly less ridiculous than with the pepper spray and milk-soaked hoodie.

Very slightly.

But Caldyr didn’t stand out nearly as much as the woman in the nearest booth wearing all black plate mail with a dented front.

Guin’s shotgun left a helluva mark on Morgaine’s cuirass.

She looked up, deep green eyes swirling with confusion.

Caldyr paused and backed toward the door. “Wrong diner,” she muttered.

Morgaine stood up and lifted both hands. “Wait,” she said. “Are you okay?”

The waitress stepped out from behind her little stand. “Want me to call someone, hon?”

Caldyr was more interested in the worried villain, to be honest. “No, I’m fine. Pepper sprayed. Random weird thing. I’ve got a friend on the way.”

The waitress nodded, face twisted into a sorry smile. “You’re the third woman that got hit at the mall this week. Freaks out there lately, I swear to god.”

Morgaine shuffled in her plate armor before gesturing to the other side of the booth. “Need someone to wait with?”

Caldyr looked to the door, then slowly sat down across from the Scourge of Camelot.

The waitress took their orders, Caldyr got a breakfast burrito and Morgaine ordered the fiesta platter. Both asked for extra salsa and iced sodas.

“I’m Morgaine LeFay,” she said after the waitress left.

“I know,” Caldyr told her.

“Uh, and you are called…”

“Oh, right. Caldyr Prayers.”

“Reynardine’s fairy detective?” she asked. “I’ve heard of you.”

Caldyr knew their story had reached a few ears, but being mildly famous always felt kinda weird.

Kinda right too, though.

“So you and Reynardine know each other?” Caldyr asked.

“Everyone knows Reynardine,” Morgaine said. “The General, he loved being called that. Although I served under Tyr. Not literally underneath him ever, unfortunately, but he was a good leader.”

Fair enough. Tyr is pretty… interesting.

“You were on our… on the Fated side?” Caldyr hadn’t even been alive during the war, but she still felt a connection to Artemis’ Army. Probably because their victory allowed her current way of life.

“The suffragette side,” Morgaine said. “And Artemis was an inspiration to me when I was a child, so I was only too happy to be part of her cause.”

Caldyr definitely understood that. Artemis had always been her favorite deity in the old stories. Her death at the pinnacle of the war just made the tales that much more inspiring.

“So,” Morgaine began in a low voice, “What’s the deal with the pepper spray?”

“Oh, uh, a Spring Heeled Jack. Bastard followed some woman down an alley and I intervened.” Caldyr looked at her arms. “Is my glamour okay?”

“Sure, looks pretty good. Damned Jacks are a nuisance this time of year,” Morgaine said. “They hate women, and women having fun is even worse. Christmas is like… well, bloody Christmas to the fucks.”

“Whose job is it to handle them?” Caldyr asked.

“No one,” Morgaine whispered as the waitress approached.

She sat down the trays of food and Caldyr checked her eyes on her phone’s camera. The glamour had cracked, actually, leaving what would be silver, if it wasn’t so bright red at the moment, in plain sight. Pain still echoed with every twitch or blink.

Fucking murder that fucking thing so damned hard I swear to Fate.

“That all?” the waitress asked.

“You got fruit cake?” Morgaine asked.

“Got a fruit cake shake,” the waitress offered.

“Close enough. One of those, please.”

“Milkshake for me too,” Caldyr said. “Vanilla.”

Soon as she was gone, Morgaine cleared her throat. “We can report it to Fate’s offices, if we have the number. I do, but I’m one of the few and you know I can’t share it.”

“Sounds like living in SF is kinda risky.”

Morgaine nodded. “But it’s a lot like—”

“Camelot,” Caldyr finished. “I’ve heard.”

“We even had a place there,” Morgaine said. “Us witches.”

“Why’d you turn on Arthur then? If things were so good?”

Morgaine snorted. “I said we had a place there, didn’t say it was a good one.” She picked up her fork and mixed her beans and rice together with some of the sauce from her enchilada. The meal came with a beef taco, too.

Caldyr looked at her own, an open ended burrito teeming with crispy chorizo, fluffy eggs, and potatoes. Greasy salsa and melted cheese leaked from a small tear in the browned tortilla. She grabbed her fork and dug in.

They munched in silence for a moment before Morgaine opened her mouth slowly. “So, you’re friends with Miss Prissy.”

“Guin is… is a decent enough person, okay? But no, we’re not super close. Guin hired me through Reynardine to find Arthur.”

Morgaine rolled her eyes. “He runs away. Did it when we were kids, too. Back at Uther’s. He used to disappear for days at a time. Just sit in the woods by himself. Meditate, or masturbate, whatever boys do when they hide from the world.”

“Suffering from some serious nervous depression is what it looked like. Brought on by someone attempting a coup.”

“C’est la vie.” Morgaine poured salsa on her taco. “I’m ambitious. I won’t apologize for wanting power. Men are venerated for what I’ve done. Look at Perseus. Right little git and I have to see his dangles all over Greece.”

“Fair enough,” Caldyr said. “You’re still evil but good point.”

“Evil is subjective. Especially when it comes to matters of life or death.”

“Wouldn’t be life or death if you didn’t start it from what I hear.”

Morgaine bit into her taco and sighed. “This era has the best food,” she said around a mouthful. “Just period, it’s brilliant.”

Caldyr had to agree, but she pulled the conversation back. “Life or death. Much like tonight.”

“Oh, like I could kill either of them.”

Caldyr gestured to herself. “A cŵn annwn did almost eat my pretty face.”

“And you ran down an alley to defend a stranger a few hours later. Don’t tell me you aren’t a risk taker.”

“Doesn’t mean other people are. Or should be. Setting cŵn annwn loose—”

“After Guin,” Morgaine cut in. “I didn’t think they’d bother with anyone else.” She took another bite of her taco and chewed slowly.

The waitress dropped off the milkshakes.

“For what it’s worth,” Morgaine muttered around her straw, “I’m sorry about the cŵn annwn.”

Caldyr sucked at her shake, but the plastic straw collapsed. She reached for a spoon. “Apology accepted.” Caldyr decided to change the subject. “San Francisco is packed with… odd beings.”

Morgaine nodded. “A little lawless, but it’s a nice place to hang your hat and oddities get ignored easy. You could probably get away with dropping the glamour on holidays. Especially in the right areas. We kinda take over the beach nearest the edge of town.”

“Sounds interesting.”

Morgaine smirked. “It can get that way. Also kinda nice to let your hair down. Or glamour.”

“I’ll see about checking it out. Reynardine would probably like to know.”

“Great, the Fox is always a good time.” Morgaine looked around. “Is he with you?”

Caldyr tugged on the coat collar. “Picking me up new clothes. Should be here—” Caldyr’s phone beeped. She pulled it out and tapped the unlock button.

Reynardine’s number, but the text speak alarmed her right away. <cum alone if u want the fox back. Baker beach.>

“Oh, that’s a trap.” Caldyr shook her head.

“What?” Morgaine stood up to lean over the table.

Caldyr shielded her phone. “It’s just a thing. Probably a kidnapping. Foxnapping. Whatever.”

She texted back to Reynardine’s number. <new phone, who dis?>

<spring heeled jacks United bish>

<fuck you how do I know you didn’t just steal Reynardine’s phone>

Picture mail. Reynardine, stripped to the waist and tied to an old steel door.

<he took his own shirt off,> the accompanying message informed her.

Morgaine had come around to Caldyr’s side of the booth to peek at her screen. “That’s Reynardine all right.”

Caldyr rubbed a palm over her face, but had to agree.

“Can you forward me that picture?” Morgaine asked.

“No, I’ve… just ewww, no.” She stood up and started rummaging through her pockets. “I’ve gotta go beat some Spring Heeled Jacks back into the Victorian era—”

“I’ll cover the check,” Morgaine told her. “You know he’s immortal, right?”

Caldyr snorted. “The Jacks aren’t… right? I mean, I’ve gotta rescue Foxbutt. He’s a friend. But the Jacks, they’re a problem. Harassing people. I’d rather fix that if I can. Two birds, one heavy ass stone. Or probably a sword. I like blades—easier than blunt weapons, although admittedly not quite as satisfying.”

“You don’t even live here.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Caldyr said. “If people are in trouble, I’ve gotta help. It’s what I’m here for. And it’s just the right thing to do. I’m strong enough to make a difference, so I will.”

“Fair enough. Good luck,” Morgaine said, clenching the empty air as if searching for a sword hilt. “Bellona’s light guide you.”

“Nah, it’s late. I’ll give her the night off. She’s a busy war goddess.” Caldyr headed for the door. “I’m not the one who’s gonna need the help anyway.”

 

***

 

Three Spring Heeled Jacks guarded the entrance to the state park.

Caldyr flew over them. She’d shrunk to fly here in the first place so she simply skipped the front and headed straight for the tall trees on a hill overlooking a series of squat stone bunkers. Waves from the Pacific ocean sparkled just yards aways and Caldyr felt their power in every watery muscle. This close to the ocean, she would be unstoppable.

Beneath her, an old entrenchment and gun battery leftover from the world wars stood as a sandy sentinel. Caldyr had watched a documentary on San Francisco once and remembered that they never saw use.

Least not from any military action. The out of the way beach and dark stone alleys were perfect for clandestine lovers, drug deals, and, apparently, supernatural kidnappings.

Caldyr squinted into the dark spaces, and recognized the glow from a cell phone. She grew to full size and then texted Reynardine’s number. <Omw. Where r u?>

Listening close, she caught the faintest hint of Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man. Reynardine did seem to like that song.

The screen lit up and she could barely make out the white face of a Spring Heeled Jack as he texted back. <by the guardhouse up front>

<gotcha> Caldyr sent the text right as she dropped from the tree.

The song started again, as both of her feet connected with the spring heeled Jack’s hat.

He slammed chin first into the sandy concrete floor with a satisfying crunch.

Caldyr stepped off the smashed skull and picked up Reynardine’s phone. “Bet he’ll feel that for a while.”

“Not sure he’ll live to, Bluebird,” Reynardine said from behind her.

“Oops. Probably shouldn’t fuck with my friends if he wanted to do that.” Caldyr shrugged.

“Fair point.”

“Want me to untie you?”

Reynardine shook and then stepped away from the rusty old door. “I’d have left, I just didn’t want to miss you when you came to beat these fellows senseless.”

“Good thinking.”

“I know how my friend’s amazingly impressive mind works.” Reynardine picked his shirt up and pulled it on, adjusting the collar to a rakish angle. “So, what’s the plan for getting out of here? I could transform and carry you.”

Caldyr raised a hand toward the west. The ocean was only a hill away…

With a slight shudder, like a sudden gust of cold air in the bright sun, the ocean answered.

Gallons of water streamed over the hill, wrapping themselves around Caldyr. They locked together, creating a suit of chain mail and a plate skirt. A bubble formed around her head and tightened.

She made a small hole to speak through, but layered the magic, so that she could seal her mask instantly to protect against more pepper spray. “You can go. I’ve got some parting words for these jackasses.”

Reynardine changed to his fox form. “I’ll be careful to stay out of your way.”

Caldyr shaped heavy, dual sabers from the sea water. “That would be for the best.”

She charged down the alley, sliding low at the crossroads between two bunkers. A flat, wooden bat smashed into the wall just above her.

The Jack that swung the weapon coiled for another strike. Caldyr swung her blade upward, slicing through his upper arm. He yowled, an inhuman screeching whine, before Caldyr slit his throat.

“More on your six,” Reynardine’s voice carried from somewhere above her.

A sound like cracking thunder broke the night and a whip slapped across her armored back. No pain, but the force carried through to stagger her.

Caldyr spun, twirling her swords over and blocking another attack from the whip. The Jack, a tall one with a simple top hat, slashed again. Caldyr twisted her swords, clipping the tip of his whip in one smooth motion.

The whip’s severed end thunked to the concrete. Weighted with some coins duct-taped together.

With a giggle, the Jack swung again. Caldyr blocked with her right sword, and threw the left.

The blade sunk deep into the Jack’s shoulder. Caldyr grabbed the whip with her free hand, yanked hard, and slid forward. The wounded Jack stumbled, she caught him with her sword tip and impaled the bastard.

One last bloody giggle and the Jack faded.

His buddy, a shorter man with an old bowler hat, pulled a pistol as Caldyr drew her sword from the Jack’s chest.

Bowler hat raised his gun, Caldyr leapt forward and to the right. He fired, but she rolled across the narrow path. Another bullet whizzed by as Caldyr closed the gap and slashed underhanded.

Her sword cleaved him in two, but Bowler hat still managed a trigger pull.

The bullet cracked Caldyr’s armor, ripping through the left sleeve to her skin.

Reynardine landed beside her. “Are you okay?”

“Fucking fantastic,” Caldyr snapped. She pulled the armor back together as another wave of white clothed Jacks stepped from the darkness.

“We can run,” Reynardine said.

“Or, I can kill the rest and feel like I’ve done my part for the community.”

Reynardine sighed and disappeared again.

The first of the Jacks closed the distance waving a machete.

Caldyr called her second blade, it twirled through the air into her hand, and met him with everything she had. He blocked one swing, her other blade took his head cleanly.

Another Jack, the one in the baseball cap from earlier, raised his pepper spray.

Caldyr sacrificed one blade, turning it into a wall of water to catch the spray. She closed her armor’s vent and wrapped the pepper spray soaked wall around the Jack. Just enough to feel the burn, before she drove her sword through his chest.

She kicked the corpse off her sword.

“Suck on this, you bitch,” a voice yelled.

Twenty feet away, in the shadows of an old tree, a Jack raised a hunting rifle to his shoulder.

“Shit,” Caldyr said.

Morgaine dropped silently from the tree above and landed on the Jack’s skull. The bastard crashed into the ground, neck snapping and head popping off.

“Guess I weigh a bit more with the armor and all,” Morgaine muttered. “Wow, that was about as satisfying as it looked, though.”

“I know, right?” Caldyr said, letting her armor flow off. “Nice timing.”

Morgaine shrugged. “I wanted to get your number. Good detective is always useful.”

Reynardine dropped from the sky, landing as a human in a superhero style crouch and then standing up with a smile. “Morgaine! Lovely to see you,” he said in a terrible British accent. “Absolutely spiffing. It’s been ages.”

“Reynardine,” she answered. “Surprised you remembered me.”

“I never forget a friend,” he said. “You two know each other?”

“She bought me a breakfast burrito,” Caldyr said as she looked up. “Were you flying?”

“No, I just stumbled real hard,” Reynardine said. “Thanks for that, Morgaine. Saving Caldyr and the burrito and all.”

“Anytime,” Morgaine said. “Don’t suppose you all want to split a Care-ed and get out of Baker beach, though?” She looked around. “Pretty sure we just wiped out the Jacks and I don’t feel like catching a ticket. Illegal to be here at night and we did get a little noisy.”

Reynardine made the order while they walked to the park entrance.

If the Care-ed driver thought anything of Morgaine’s armor, he kept it to himself. They got dropped off at the corner near Caldyr’s car and Morgaine climbed out with them.

“Nice meeting you,” she said to Caldyr. “And it’s always nice seeing you,” she said to Reynardine’s lips.

They parted a bit and Reynardine raised one eyebrow to manho level. “Stockton ain’t so far, Miss LeFay. Anytime.” He winked.

Morgaine chuckled. “I’ll keep that in mind. And San Francisco isn’t either. It’ll be safer, too.” She looked around. “I’m… I’m not a good person, but I can help keep my own little Camelot safe. At least keep groups like the Jacks from fucking with my ladies. If Ares approves, of course.”

Reynardine winked again. “I’ll put in a good word. Good with my mouth, I’m sure I’ll work something out.”

Morgaine bit her lip.

“Okay,” Caldyr said. “I’ll drive myself home—”

“No,” Morgaine said. “Later, Reynardine. Call me. And post that picture to your LifeTrees, Caldyr knows the one. Long day. I’m going to catch a few beers and hit the sack. Merry Christmas, friends.”

“Merry Christmas,” Caldyr told her.

“Happy Christmas, poppet,” Reynardine said, British accent back in all its horribleness.

Morgaine LeFay faded into the night, literally, with a tiny smile.

Reynardine sighed. “She was always gonna be a good guy—” he looked at Caldyr— “Person. She was always bound for the light.”

“And here I thought my sunny personality did the trick.”

“Seeing good in someone else can help,” Reynardine told her. “Ice cream? Or more coffee?”

“Cocoa,” Caldyr said. “All the marshmallows.”

“Heroes create heroes,” Reynardine whispered, looking at the moon. “Beautifully done, Butterscotch, really. Just perfect. Merry Christmas indeed.”

Caldyr yawned and stretched. “What? Never mind, ‘weird as fox’ should be a thing. But don’t forget about my marshmallows! I’m gonna warm up the car.”

“Sure,” Reynardine said. “All the marshmallows.”

“And a piece of that fruit cake,” Caldyr said. “Doesn’t sound horrible, I guess. And don’t grin like you’re winning something, Foxass!”

“Nothing winning about it. Happy to treat a friend is all.”

End Tale

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Mixed Feathers

(Content Warning: Possibly like sexy times ahead…)

Knoel loved to rant about the decay mortal culture brought on Angelic society, but Quizazael kinda liked his morning coffee. His cell phone too, if he admitted it. Which he had on occasion, just Knoel loved to talk in general and interest, or agreement, with her rants didn’t seem to be a factor.

She always rambled to fill the spaces he left and Quiz kinda liked that too.

coffee-2406443_1280

“…we didn’t even have a proper meeting last Sunday.” Knoel pinched off a bite of her blueberry muffin. “Only about half-full. Not that you would know.”

“People are busy,” Quiz replied, yawning and stretching. His left wing hit the counter, brown feather tips bent, so he pulled in fast. Left had always been a little long and he didn’t like people to notice.

“We’re angels, Quizazael, we can’t just skip church to lay around in our boxers and eat cheesy crackers.”

Quiz almost spit out a sip of coffee. He gulped it down and ran a napkin around his mouth. “Those were running shorts, I wouldn’t have answered the door in my boxers.”

Knoel ripped off another hunk of muffin. “Are you going to be ready this Sunday?”

“I promised didn’t I?”

“Whatever that means,” she muttered.

“Angels can’t lie.”

“Yet.” She snapped up the last bite of muffin and crumpled the paper. “Only a matter of time before we’re nothing but winged mortals.”

“Mortal life ain’t so bad.” Quiz watched a taco hut spring from nothing across the street. “I like a lot of mortal stuff.”

“‘Isn’t’ Quiz. ‘Ain’t’ isn’t even a word. And where did you get that… silly drawl from?”

“I downloaded it from the webstore last night.” He sighed and added, “Thought it sounded good,” in a lower voice.

“It’s weird, what’s wrong with your old voice?”

“Nothing, I just… I thought some people might like the deeper tone. And accent,” he said, clearly meaning a very specific person.

Knoel threw her cup toward the trash, and missed both the can and the obvious. “As a Class One Arch-Examiner, I think we should be looking deeper into mortal culture’s effects. Your turn to grab dinner. Want to meet at my place? Seven?” Knoel rose to pick up the trash, but Quiz grabbed it first.

He looked over the room and then into Knoel’s scarlet eyes. “I thought maybe we could go out tonight.”

“Out?”

Without looking, Quiz tossed the cup over his shoulder. It sailed directly into the can dead center. “Maybe get a nice dinner. Out and alone. Together. Like humans, kinda.”

Knoel’s cheeks flared bright red, but she just nodded quietly.

*

The day passed slow. Quiz worked in the Arch Archives, sorting the incoming files and retrieving the occasional requested ones for upper management. He didn’t particularly love his job, but he’d just now gained free emotion about heaven and life entirely, so that’s not much of a surprise.

Emotions weren’t so new, but until recently they were just exotic concepts humans seemed to struggle with.

Then came the update last fall. One day, they were all simple beings, purpose built to do angelic works and and the next, they were a little more human. Suddenly, emotions weren’t nearly as distant or easy to deal with.

Obtaining them gave Quiz new perspective on the mortal experience, which might have been the point.

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Didn’t provide much else he enjoyed so far, besides the new point-of-view about Knoel. She didn’t notice, or seem to feel many of the same issues as him. Mostly Knoel got smarter, louder, and the attraction may have bloomed from those bare trimmings. Quiz saw beyond them, of course, to the new little dog she spoiled and to the sudden interest in old television. To the lovely way her hand twisted a few strands of hair before a rant boiled over, or when she was nervous.

Quiz sighed and added another file to his ‘F’ stack.

The phone rang twice, and he answered both times. Nothing important, a file that needed to be rushed upstairs and another that needed to be rushed back. He didn’t do the rushing, just collected the files or left them in a tray. The Metatron ordered tighter security, so they rushed and hid the files these days. All very official and secure that way, Quiz guessed.

Even mundane ones about everyday people, which described most of the files. Heaven didn’t see much excitement, so angels rarely saw any.

Quiz did one strange thing today, and that may have been the seed growing into the bravery to try something else off-kilter. He left two minutes early. Just walked out, even though the day normally ended at five P.M. exactly. Logic barely touched his decision, it was more an impulse—a flare of desire.

He wanted to start home early, and take a shower before meeting Knoel. Maybe even get a bottle of cologne.

*

Knoel answered the door in blue jeans, a red shirt, and smelling rather different herself.

“You look nice,” she said.

“I know,” he replied without thinking. “I mean thanks, thank you. It’s a new shirt.” And slacks, and shoes. Even got his feathers groomed, the long brown wings shone with the cleaning. “You look amazing.”

“Just what I had in the closet,” Knoel said. “And new makeup. Lipstick.” She pursed her lips and stuck them out to show off the shining purple and Quiz held back another new, but already common, impulse.

“It looks nice.”

Knoel nodded and stepped onto the porch, close enough that Quiz had to step back. She took a deep breath and smiled. “Perfume?”

“The male version is cologne.”

“Is there a difference?”

“No, but men on Earth are touchy about those things.”

“Ah.” Knoel locked the door. “So where are we headed?”

“Um… How does Chinese food sound?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “When did heaven get Chinese food?”

Quiz remembered an advertisement on TV, but he couldn’t place the exact date. “Must be recent. Just started with the restaurant update in the last month or so, right?”

“But… Chinese? That sounds… weird and spicy… I don’t know…” Knoel’s lips twisted to one side.

Quiz wondered how he’d never noticed their funny motions, or why he couldn’t help but focus on them now.

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“We can try it,” she said, finally, reluctantly and with a distinct morose edge.

“Oh, well thanks, your grace. I’d hate to impose.”

Knoel tilted her head back and laughed. “You’re quite welcome, and it is a terrible imposition. If I don’t like it, you’ll have to buy me an ice cream afterward.”

Quiz shook his head. “Ha, nope. Your turn for dessert, that’s the way it is.”

“Fine, but we’re coming back to my place. I’ve still got some of that cake I made in the fridge.”

“On second thought, maybe I will spring for ice cream.” He focused on the cobblestones to hide his smile.

Knoel punched him in the arm. “Gonna hold you to that.”

“See, even you didn’t like that cake.”

Knoel frowned. “Still not sure why it turned out salty.”

“We’ll go over the recipe together later and figure it out.”

The autumn breeze carried their conversation away from botched baking and onto some of Knoel’s favorite subjects. She’d built up a decently long winded case against the use of wing dyes by the time they approached the restaurant.

Heady charred spices scented the air, and cooking meats; steam from vegetables and noodles, some type of sweetness Quiz couldn’t place.

“Smells amazing,” he muttered.

Knoel stared up at him with a raised eyebrow. “The dye?”

“No, the food.” Quiz shook his head. “I don’t know anything about wing dyeing.”

“Oh. Well it’s human hair dye and I’m pretty certain it’s bad for wings.”

“Humans use it. Can’t be that bad.”

“Yeah, but pink!” She rolled her eyes. “They’d have never even tried that in the old order.”

“If some angels want to dye them,” Quiz held the dark wood door open, “then that’s their business.”

Knoel flicked her own soft white wings forward and examined them. “Maybe the tips in a mild color, but full on is just a little garish.”

“Yours would look good bald,” he said. “What color were you thinking?”

She blushed and pushed her wings back. “What does it matter how mine look? And no color, I’d never dye my wings.”

“Sure.” Quiz imagined she’d have purple tips by Friday at the latest. “What looks good to you?”

Knoel looked up at the menu and then to the few dozen red wood tables in the dimly lit room. “Nice place, but the sun is about to set. Let’s eat outside.”

“Whatever you’d like, but what are we actually eating?”

In the end, after the traditional debate, they settled on ginger noodles, fried chicken, and dumplings. The food arrived in little white cartons with dark wings stamped into the side, the seal of the Metatron. He ran a lot of the new businesses.

Quiz carried the bag and Knoel grabbed two canned drinks from a strange vending machine that hadn’t been there when they entered. The writing matched some of the lettering in the restaurant, heaven must be diversifying their districts again.

Good, Quiz liked the idea of exploring Earth cultures and Knoel adored complaining about new things. They’d both have fun.

The sun lingered in the South, and their normal park had turned into a shopping mall while they ordered. Instead they carried their food to the outskirts of town and time itself, and sat overlooking a nice little void on the edge of existence that Quiz liked to stare into.

Knoel picked up the noodle box first. “We should have got plates.”

“Want me to run back?”

She grabbed a set of chopsticks. “If you want to.”

“I don’t mind sharing.”

“Fine with me, if you’re good with it.”

“I’m perfectly okay.”

“Me too.”rose-3121249_1280

The noodles were good, spicy and sweet at the same time, and Knoel ate every last bit of the chicken. Quiz finished her share of the dumplings, as she only tried one, and spit half of that into the endless maw of rainbows under heaven’s border.

But Knoel didn’t seem to mind the food adventure overall. Progress, although what Quiz had been counting remained a mystery even to him.

After dinner, she let him toss the trash into the void. He liked to the way the little boxes crumpled and twisted, falling into a singularity and repeating before disappearing entirely. (Quiz never knew, but the trash ended up a mile outside of a landfill in Hoboken, New Jersey per universal law.)

“Want your—” Quiz picked up the little cookie. On contact, the information flowed into him. For a long second, his eyes flared gold. “Want your fortune cookie?”

Knoel grabbed one and got the update as well. “No, I don’t like the taste.”

Without opening the package, Quiz snapped his cookie. He ripped one end and pulled out the slip of paper. “What about the fortune?”

She shook her head. “What does yours say?”

“‘She’s cute. Good luck, you’ll need it’,” Quiz read aloud.

“Really?” Knoel snatched the little paper. “I’ll be danged.” She opened her cookie. “ As a Class One Arch-Examiner, I have to check, of course. Hmm. ‘Go easy on the featherhead’.”

“Fortunate cookies indeed,” Quiz noted and flicked his paper into the void. The cookie tasted okay. A little bland, but he didn’t expect much from complimentary sweets that already included prophecies. Real dessert sounded good about now. “Ice cream?”

“Walk a bit first?” Knoel countered with a smile. “And then maybe we’ll just go back to my place, I’m pretty tired.”

“Just a candy bar then? Can’t be a date without dessert…”

“Eating take-out with your best friend isn’t a date anyway.”

Quiz steeled his courage and tried for a small smile. “What if we make out afterward?”

Knoel coughed, stumbled over her own feet, and turned to stare back at him. “What kind of question is that?!”

“We’re two blocks from your place, so a rather urgent one,” he replied in all seriousness.
She blushed and looked over the street. “I’ve changed my mind. Buy me ice cream.”

“Is that a no?”

“That’s a buy me ice cream while I stall for time to think,” she said. “Take it or leave it.” Panic was half-a-second from overwhelming her scarlet eyes—better reaction than he expected, really.

“It’s plenty, let’s go.” Quiz held out a hand.

Knoel studied her own first and then carefully took his.

Her skin was soft and she smelled a little like velvet feels: soft, shimmering, warmth. Easy to sink into and just always about right.

Floriel’s Confectionery served the best ice cream in heaven since they opened last week, so Quiz led straight there. Knoel hadn’t been joking about the thinking, she barely even noticed as they entered the shop and let him do all the ordering.

“A large waffle cone sundae with everything and two spoons.”

The server nodded, eyes on Knoel.

She’d started texting, probably Idriel or Caniel for advice, and her thumbs quickly became violet-polished blurs on the poor screen. They were her best friends, besides Quiz, and Idriel was half of heaven’s first couple.

“And two coffees,” he added, remembering she mentioned being tired. “Something cold and sweet.”

Quiz deposited Knoel in a corner, not too close to the door, and went to collect the food.
The phone was gone when he returned, although it buzzed away in her pocket.

“I get the okay?” he asked.

“Traitors is what they are,” she muttered, pulling the sundae to herself. “What kind of friend…”

“What?”

“Nothing. Them, not you.” Knoel’s eyes narrowed to bare scarlet slits. “You’ve done quite enough tonight, Quizazael.”

“What did I do?”

“You tricked me into this date,” she replied. “I was expecting a quiet evening watching TV…”

“We can still watch some TV. And we’ve been friends a while… would trying more be so bad?”

“More like what?”

Quiz’s turn to blush. “Like… kissing. Holding hands was nice too. I want to do romantic things, sometimes. Like be a couple…”

“A couple? Sleep together and everything? Like Idriel and Hyatel?”

“Yes, like that!” The first two were both male, but Quiz knew love’s true androgynous nature. He and Knoel could make it work too. “Would you be a half of my couple?”

“I’d be willing to give it a chance.” Knoel’s eyes flicked to the door, but she took out her phone and stared at that a moment. “Your place is closer,” she said, finally. “And I’ve already walked Lottie today, so I can… we could maybe go there. For coffee.” She gulped at the one already in hand. “Private coffee.”

“Let’s go watch that TV,” Quiz offered. “I’ll get a to-go box.”

“Thanks, that sounds nice.”

The server’s eyes bordered on scandalous, but so did Quiz’s intentions—he didn’t worry too much.

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Knoel carried the food this time, and they sipped at their coffees and walked slow. No one replaced the moon after the last war, so only stars lit their walk, besides the occasional street lamp or wandering gaseous being.

Quiz enjoyed a ruby glow from a passing one. The light really played well of Knoel’s nervous face.

The neighborhood he lived in hadn’t converted to modern row houses yet. The older style wasn’t very nice, simple square buildings with little outer color. Quiz filled the inside of his with posters to make up for the bland outside. Movies, art, and music, and whatever caught his eye. A particularly vivid zombie dragon Knoel hated occupied the space above his TV.

Normally criticism came easier than breathing for her, but tonight she just shook her head. “Put on that witch show.”

Quiz turned on FeatheryFlix and Knoel went into the kitchen. His freezer door squeaked and she returned a long moment later without the sundae bag, but glowing with a strangely attentive smile. Quiz watched every motion as she sashayed across the floor, his mind lost somewhere in the pleasantness of her company.

Knoel bit her bottom lip and dropped onto her normal end of the couch. Both hands flew to her mouth. “Ouch.”

Quiz held back a laugh. “Are you okay?”

“It’s nothing, I’m fine. It’s healed. Bit my lip.”

A touch of blood still shined. Quiz wiped the drop with his thumb and held back a laugh.

“Don’t grin at me, Quizazael! I was trying to be seductive for your weirdo couple thing.”

“Thanks.” He leaned down. “But you’re plenty seductive just lookin’ at me.”

Knoel turned red again and Quiz lost all patience. He closed the gap, capturing their first kiss in a clumsy bump.

Her lips twisted beneath his own and he mirrored the smile. Knoel pulled her leg onto the couch and Quiz dropped his at her crux. She shifted downward slightly, pressing against him, and broke the kiss.

Their eyes locked for a stark, intrusive, and blistering moment.

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Knoel grinned and sighed.

“What?” Quiz asked, leaning forward to kiss her cheek.

“I’m feeling warm and buzzy and happy.”

“Buzzy? Was it the kiss?”

She winked. “We should double check, I’m really not sure. As a Class One Arch-Examiner, I’d imagine it was my duty.” Her hand wandered upward and twisted a lock of brown hair. “To explore this, I mean.” The hand teased down and stopped at her belt.

Quiz traced the path with the tip of his fingers, enjoying her twitch and the slight flutter from her wing. “I’m always willing to be your test subject.” He stole another kiss, and a longer caress upward. She tasted of chocolate and coconut—her favorite sundae toppings and forever an indelible path to this memory.

“How do my lips feel to you?”

“Like I’ve been missing a bit of heaven,” Quiz muttered.

“You should shave more,” she said.

“What if I grew it out?”

Knoel laughed and shook her head. “We’re…” She looked down at his knee and then at her own breasts. Both nipples were taught under the red fabric of her shirt. “It could be worth trying, if you wanted to.”

With a push of her wings, Knoel sat mostly upright and leaned close. “I like the scent, thing. The colony.”

“Cologne. And thanks, I hoped you would.”

“You’re wearing my lipstick now,” she muttered into his ear. “That’s incredible for some reason. I feel possessive. Like I should mark you.”

“Why?”

“So no one else thinks they can take you.”

“Oh.”

Knoel gripped him a little tighter. “You don’t want other people, right Quizazael?”

“No, no, not at all. I didn’t realize you thought others might want me.”

“Of course they would.” Knoel leaned back and eyed him up and down. “Tall, dark wings, bright orange eyes and… well the drawl might be nicer than I let on.” She looked down at her body. “Would others want me, you think?”

“Certainly, but I feel confident that I’ll hold onto you.”

Knoel frowned. “I don’t feel confident about any of this. Do you think that’s strange?” The frown deepened into something close to panic. “Am I weird?”

“Nah. That’s natural, I’m sure. My confidence comes from foolishness, or love maybe… they feel about the same right now.” Quiz stopped his hand on her belt and slipped it under the clingy shirt. “You are weird about stuff, Darlin’. It’s strange that you’re worried about things other than my hands. I’m gettin’ a mite insulted.”

Her body twisted; warm muscles shifting under his palm. “I’m starting to lose focus, if that makes you feel better.”

“It does.”

“I should be writing this down. Maybe recording.”

Quiz blinked and chuckled. “We can if you want, but you want to experiment more first?”

Before he finished speaking, Knoel shook her head. “Not… no, not like that. Wow, you do take to this couple thing, Quiz.”

“I’ve thought about it a lot.” He caught one of her earlobes with his teeth and tugged.

“About you, a lot.”

“That feels amazing.”

“Me thinking about you?”

“The ear nibbling! Do it more.”

Quiz repeated the process then mixed the formula, playing teeth over her neck. He tickled behind her ear and searched her warm body for any reaction. Knoel wiggled downward, and her wings pushed her body up into his. Quiz knew the buzzing himself now, the soft tingles and pops of sensation. They rang deep inside and on his surface. As often happened when thoughts of Knoel infected his own, he found the pressure working it’s way south.

One of her hands followed the sensation, down his body and to his belt. “Can you take this off?” she asked.

“Sure, but I think we’re supposed to undre—”

“Just sod the process, okay? Clothes off.”

“Yes’m.”

Quiz stood and yanked his shirt off. The cloth ripped, not made for angels. Didn’t matter, he’d buy another one.

Knoel watched, nodding slowly and with a wicked smile.

“Are you joining me?”

She wiggled her eyebrows. “We’ll see. Might decide to just observe for tonight.”

“That’s what I’m worried about. Shirt maybe?”

“In a second.” Knoel leaned back on the couch. “When did you know you liked me?”

“Remember that day last June? The summer’s first heavy blood rains… We got soaked on the way into work, ‘cause I just had to try the ‘dang’ coffee thing.”

“The week you cut your hair?”

Quiz looped his thumbs into his slacks and forced them off. He stood naked and hard, with her scarlet eyes burning over him. “I just knew. You smiled, I stared, you told to me to stop staring and I was in love.”

“We’ve known each other since the dawn of time and it took that long? And why today?”
Quiz considered that while Knoel pulled herself off the couch. “Maybe good love just takes it’s own time. Can’t rush forever.”

She gripped his hand, and pulled him toward the bedroom. “Now that sounded pretty great in your drawl. Let’s go to your bedroom, I don’t want zombie dragons to see my privates.”

“I’d follow you anywhere,” he said, urging her forward. “But let’s hurry.”

Knoel did, stripping her clothes with far too little care. She rushed down the hall to Quiz’s room and left her panties at the door. The slow shift onto the bed revealed well-thought dreams and more in full life, and Quiz tried to forge the view to memory. Her rosy nipples caught his attention, and the soft curve of her inner thigh.

He climbed after her, throwing a quick and hard kiss onto her lips, before they collapsed to the bed. She groaned and pushed on his chest. Quiz sat up, and moved himself between her legs to look down at her pussy.

“I thought you squashed me,” Knoel gasped.

Quiz trailed a finger down her skin and past the small patch of curly hair. “Shh, I need to figure this out.”

“Wha—”

He stuck a finger in and she shuddered, covering her mouth.

“Warn me!”

He removed the finger. “Sorry.”

Knoel pulled the hand back. “Don’t stop, just say something.”

A little slower this time, he slipped a finger inside. Warm and just a little wet. Softer than anything I can imagine. Twitches a bit as she shudders…

Quiz grunted and grabbed the back of her leg. A yank and she laid back. Her wing spread out, tips inches from the walls. He moved his fingers, thumb resting on her mound and she responded with twitches and gasps. Each motion seemed to carry through her, rocking her body and dancing her wings.

After minutes, Knoel’s hand moved in, circling his wrist. She pulled him away, and examined the wet fingers. “Do you enjoy this?”

“No.” He used the other hand and she let go of him to clasp at the bed. “Your questions are normally fine, but right now it’s wearing my patience something awful.”

“Fingering me, I mean. Featherhead is right…”

Quiz nodded. “So very much, Darlin’. Looking forward to going farther too, of course…”
Knoel teased her fingers down his bare stomach, leaving a trail of sensation that pulsed even as it faded. Her nails touched first, cold and hard before warmer flesh cupped his cock.

“Ah,” Quiz twitched and pulled back, she moved with him.

“What?” Knoel let him go.

“I didn’t expect you to grab that.”

She shrugged. “It’s the next step, I Googled it earlier.”

“Me too, did you watch the videos though?” He dropped over her again, careful not to crush her entirely.

“No. I was thinking maybe we can try—Ack!”

With a push, his penis slid to her core, and she bucked. He grunted, low buzz turning to a fevered pitch in a heartbeat. “That’s definitely quite good.”

Knoel nodded. “Yes, we can agree that was mutually—”

He drew back and the air around his dick felt cool and uncomfortable for a short second.

“Pleasurable,” Knoel finished. “Nice. All very nice.”

“I’m not sure what I’m doing.”

Knoel grabbed the back of her knees. “We’ll figure it out. Just keep trying different stuff until it works.”

Quiz rocked in and out of her, finding rhythm for a few strokes and losing it just as easy. Slowly, and with a few fumbles, the concordance built. She gripped his back and pushed upward to stay joined. Gasps filled the bare spaces between moans.

With a shattered cry, her whole being twitched, wings curled inward, and Knoel collapsed under him. Quiz joined her in ecstasy, finding a moment of purity beyond words in their oneness.heart-2028655_1280

Moments later, he rolled over and stared at the ceiling.

Knoel climbed onto his wing and scooted close. “You feel anything?”

Quiz shuddered at the touch of her breath against his neck. “Happy. Hungry. You?”

“Sore. Those things too. I think I’ll want more in a bit though.”

“Already? Was I bad or…”

Knoel rolled her eyes and slapped her wing against his chest. The cool breeze felt nice. “No, but like I had fun. You were fun. Being a couple is good, Quizazael. You think too much sometimes.”

“Try not to. Want to split that sundae?”

Sadness overtook her sweaty face. “I… I’m not moving, Quiz. Just no.”

“I’ll get it.” He shoved Knoel softly to she side, and took a moment to enjoy her skin under his palm.

She pushed back against him, angling for a better view. “I’ll have to think of a nice reward.”

Quiz chuckled on his way down the hall. The sundae waited on the freezer’s middle shelf, still in the bag, and he grabbed some drinks to go with the snack.

And a bottle of chocolate syrup for other purposes entirely.

On the way back, Quiz stopped to untack his zombie dragon. He rolled the poster and shelved it until he could find a new home. Something else could go above the TV, he had plenty to brighten the place up now.

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Authors’s Note: Thanks for reading and have a great Valentine’s Day! Hope you enjoyed and if you did, maybe leave a like? Sharing would be great too! Also I’ve got a novella out that’s pretty much very not like this. An action, mystery about a sassy water fairy and a tricky fox. Still weird and funny.

Check it out on Amazon for just 99 cents!

TybaltCover one

Ember

At first, the nights were solid things, heavy and encompassing.  In time they wore away like the lining of a cheap pan. Flakes of black caught in my meals but fewer each time, until they revealed a tarnished undercoat.

Since then, I lie awake less each night.  The moments still pass, they must, but there’s a little more bitter shine to them.  Guess I’m healing, or at least forgetting but that’s not a proper choice, not really.  Either one or the other and I’m the path is too close to see.

But I’ve always been a leaf in the breeze, until you.  Now, I’m just a few embers, dancing madness on the wind.

Dawn comes slow today, like normal in winter.  Maybe I just sleep worse in the rain.  I wake for breakfast without much thought, beyond the need for coffee and toast.

Broke a fried egg, but I mix in some pico de gallo and call it good.  Tastes fine and I’m not as picky as I used to be.  Guess embers make no nevermind.  Few shells, still, but that’s rarer too.  Toast is fine and the butter’s always real, now.

Shower and out the door, still sipping coffee.  It’s raining—and my drink won’t survive the walk—so the cup stays by the ashtray.  Seven little paper filters, still.  Told you I was done emptying it last September.  No use in compromise now.

A year past and smoke still clings.  The others see, but it’s bare wisps to my eyes; ghosts I’d rather glimpse than forget.  So, I float amongst my spirits for the day.

Time was, I could pass through the day without a proper sense of the ground.  But ember’s gotta stay up, touching down can be the end.

Or, stick to kindling; the remains of one fire can start another.  But a quick blaze, the roar and rage, hold little warmth.

In the spark and fire, the dreams alight, embers can get lost in too much fire.  I char carefully, a quick singe, an unbidden scorch; unsure but aloft.

Dead Habits

(A bit of fiction partially inspired by the three songs in the above playlist.)

***

Casey crushed the paper between his fingers, loosening the stiff rectangle to make rolling easier.

He’d started in Kansas with a simple mission: carry an envelope to San Francisco.  The gunman didn’t normally take delivery work, but for the price offered Casey would change his name to Pony Express. Continue reading