Chapter Five: Puff

“Calm down, wings. You’re fine,” Nicole said, her voice still full of sleep.  Arms wrapped around her and Annabelle realized she had been crying.  Her eyes were dry and she had trouble controlling the heat in them.  “Shh, shh, you’re okay.”

The fairy rolled over and wrapped her arms around the girl.  “He’s gone.”  The dream where she had not sat, and watched him throw his life away felt real, for a lot of it.  She could almost see him, in the store, earlier that night.  Odd new earth clothes, and nothing left but paradise to worry about.

“Shh, it’s fine.  He made his fate, and he died a hero’s death.  It’s all we can hope for sometimes.”  It was a long time, before her sobs stopped.  Nicole was already snoring softly again.  The sun was still gone, at least in the sky she could see.  Part of her wanted to stay up to see if her first new world sunrise.

She must have passed out at some point, because next she knew Nicole was shaking her awake again.

“Up, Annabelle, up,” she said, her words sounded more awake than her.  “Eleven o’ nine, we got places to be.”

Wrapping her wings took longer today, they just didn’t seem to want to hold still.  Eventually Nicole had to hold them down while she did the wrapping herself.

“This is uncomfortable,” she said.   Somehow Nicole had wrapped looser but still tight.  Annabelle had done her best and it still felt weird.  “How long until we get home again?”

“Least you don’t have to wear a bra,” she said, then considered.  “Well, I’m not sure which is worse here actually.”

She didn’t argue just followed Nicole.

“We’re never too late for coffee,” the leprechaun explained as they climbed into the car.

They stopped off for coffee Annabelle just got an orange juice.  They drove straight to the doctor’s office next.  Nicole explained the concept of a rolling stop at lights she had previously said to stop at always.

“Don’t ask him about anything,” Nicole said, her voice low.  “He’s a great doctor and a great dragon. Not such a nice man.”

They walked straight into the room, a small well lit one with dark wood walls.  There were a few humans sitting in the chairs at the edges of the room.

“Special patient,” Nicole said in a low voice to the selkie behind the counter.  “Glasses.”

“Ahh,” she said with a nod.  “Go right in.”

They waited about ten minutes in a white room with a little table in the center.  The walls were lined with cabinets and the whole place smelled like almost nothing but a faint odor.  Sweet and tangy.  Almost like fruit but sharp.

“Antiseptic,” Nicole explained as she watched her sniffing.  “Kills germs,” she added.

“This is a murder room?” she asked jumping off the table.

“Oh fucksakes,” Nicole said quietly, as the doctor walked in.  His lip curled and he looked like he had just stepped in something unpleasant.

“Good morning too, I’m Doctor Cowell,” he said his voice dry.   A scar sliced diagonally across his face, starting somewhere on top of his head and cutting between his eyes to his chin.  A half inch up or down and he would have lost an eye.  Gray hair with flecks of black hid the top and a thin gray beard helped cover the bottom.

“Lucky Dragon. Could have died, or lost one of those nice blue eyes,” she said, without a thought.  “You could glamour that scar but you’re very pretty anyway.”

Nicole cowered under his look.  He raised one eyebrow, and then looked back to Annabelle.

“I’m going to pretend that I walked in here and you both politely, and quickly, returned my good morning.”  His tone was flat, and he looked between them as he spoke.  “You need glasses?”

“Yeah,” Nicole said.  “Strong ones. She said Nicky was cute.”

The doctor just glowered at her.  “Don’t you have something else to do?”

“Gotta piss, but I don’t trust you not to eat her while I’m gone, Puff,” Nicole said and sipped her coffee.  Annabelle saw a flash of a smile from behind the cup.

“I only eat virgins,” Cowell said.  He moved a chair over, leaning  a little closer to Nicole than seemed necessary.  Annabelle thought she saw his lips move but the scrape of the chair made the whisper inaudible.

“Nevermind,” Nicole said standing. Legs stiff she walked to the door.  “Car, when you’re done.”  She didn’t look back, but after a moment there were three soft thumps from just outside the room.

“Don’t dent my wall with that thick skull,” the doctor called.

Nicole said something back but she sounded far away.

“So, what brings you to Earth?” he asked.  The fairy didn’t like him asking, in Otherworld it was rude to ask travel plans.  She couldn’t see it being a lot better here.

“I was-,” she started but he cut her off.

“Nevermind, I don’t really want to know.”

“What did you say to Nicole?”

“So you need glasses?”

“I guess,” she said.  “I can see fine.”

“No, you can see fine, for a fairy, for a human you’ve got terrible vision,” Cowell said. He rolled his sleeves up.  “Never go to a normal doctor. I’m sure Nice told you but they’ll probably be confused by the 114 temperature and bleeding fire.”

“‘Nice’?”

“Nicole,” he said.  He put two fingers to the bridge of his nose.

“You call her ‘Nice’?”

“Old nickname,” he said and smiled.  Only half his face rose but for a dragon that was a dance of joy.

“Are you guys a—.”

“Nothing,” he said.  “Head clear.”

“What?”

His fingers were cold, like midnight in December, as they gripped her face.  The part of his mind he sent in to control her body was colder.  She shivered as he forced her eyes open.

“Stop,” she said barely able to control her own tongue.  In a snap it was over and she laid on the ground next to the chair.

“I got what I needed anyway,” he told her.  “Here’s a few lollipops.”  He held the candy out to her, but she did not grab them.

“You could have asked, before you did that,” Annabelle said.  As she stood her hand slipped a bit on the chair, her body still unsteady.  She wanted to go burn down a village and hoard gold.

“A lot of things could happen, when you’re alone with a dragon.”  Smoke curled from his mouth, and the polite voice had lost any human softness.  “I suggest we call it good little fairy, before you find out what a murder room this place can be.”

It took a lot of control not to fly as she left.  If her wings were free surely she would have.

***

“He still calls me Nice?”

“Then he took control of my eyes.”

“Yeah, there’s a reason we broke up,” she said.  “He’s got problems.”

“Dragons are dicks.”

“He’s not so bad, just scared. That’s why he does all the weird stuff, to keep you off your feet,” she said.  “Also the scar! I told you not to say anything.”

“You didn’t say he had a huge face scar, why doesn’t he glamour it?”

“His own deal, let’s go get some breakfast,” she said.  “You like pastry?”

“How long were you together?”

“A long time,” she answered.  “Things still happen sometimes. If you weren’t in that office? Or hell if I’d stayed even?”  She shook herself.

“We could go back?”

“I’d rather have a coffee, sweetie,” she said, her voice didn’t sound so sure, but Annabelle let it go.  They grabbed some and a pink box of donuts they shared while Nicole explained the basics of bus travel.

After they drove to back to the bus station but Annabelle’s glasses were ready, so they skipped the actual bus ride.

Instead of driving back to the doctors they drove across the town.  Nicole pointed out buildings of interest and did her best to explain the few questions Annabelle asked.  After a while they pulled up to a large white brick building with a blue sign.

She hadn’t picked the frames but they were black with pink stars along the arms.

“I love stars. How did you know?”

“I didn’t. Well you did the flash thing last night,” she said waving her hand around.  “I figured you did after that, but I didn’t order them.  Try ‘em on.”

As soon as the fairy slipped the glasses on the world became clearer.  Annabelle wasn’t sure how she felt but she noticed that her sight farther off was really better.  She could see the car from the office as they exited.  It was strange, seeing her path instead of just guessing or following behind someone else.

After they left Nicole texted a few times, her expression darkened after each message.   “Let’s boogey, A.”

“Something wrong?” Annabelle asked.  “You need more coffee?”

She stared at her for a long time, and then started the car.  “Nothing worth talking about.”

“That sounds slippery,” she said and tried to imitate Nicole’s long stare.  The leprechaun squinted her eyes back, then reached a hand out, and flicked the fairy just above the bridge of the glasses. Annabelle recoiled, clutching at her forehead.

“You’re about a intimidating as a Syilaette.”

“You sound really good in fairy tongue,” Annabelle replied.  “You’ve got a really musical voice anyway, but it sounds so nice when you say that word.”

“Everything sounds like singing in Fairy, but thanks,” she said.  “You ready to pick up some lunch?”

“Yes!”

The pizza place was quick.  She explained paying in English this time, and Annabelle tried to listen, but the huge ovens in the back were so beautiful she had trouble concentrating.  The metal links flowed along by some magic, and the pizza went in one end, coming out the other cooked.  The group working in concert to make the pizza’s was interesting too, but she always loved ovens, and this was the most beautiful one she had ever seen.

“They have a nice oven,” she said without thinking.  “I like ovens.”

“’Cause of the fire?”

Annabelle froze, unsure of what to say.  She liked Nicole though, the girl de

“They keep a family fed and warm. It’s nice of them, to live out their time in service of others. I’m thankful to them,” she said.  Even made of fire, she blushed at the odd thought being spoken.  “Saw a lot of people around them when I was starting out. They always just seemed happy and warm and together. Paid me a half-a-coin to burn out the chimbley and light them up. Good luck on holidays.”

Nicole sat the pizza on the seat, before taking Annabelles and setting it on top of those.  After she grabbed the fairy in a tight hug.  “You’ve got to come back. We’ll give the Stydran’s a while, to realize this isn’t worth hassling a portal, then we’ll drive you back. Get you some proper training, or something. Maybe the Stumptown Path needs a fairy.”

“I don’t want to go,” she said. “I’m scared.”

“You’re scared? What are you scared for? It’s a journey, I thought you loved new things?”  Nicole tousled the fairies pink locks and didn’t wait for an answer.  “You’ll be fine, kid. It’s the boys of Modesto I’m worried about.”

“Might not be in the mood for that sort of thing.”

“Sure,” she answered slow drawing the word out.  “Nicky? Like 8 hours ago?”

“Well him, he’s cute as hell. Tattoos and all wounded knight”

“You the Nightingale type?”

“No idea what that is.”

“Use your phone. Click Wikipedia, should be the first link.”

“That search thing?”

“Yeah. Florence Nightingale.”  Annabelle opened the little icon, and entered the words as best she could.  She clicked the first ‘link’, the little blue string of bigger letters.  Some of the words were strange, and the places didn’t make any sense at all, but she was stunned at all the information.

“Can I change my na-.”

“No.”

“It’s like a book,” she said.  “A little magic book.”

“Wait until you get into e-readers.”  Nicole launched into a long explanation of another aspect of the internet.  Annabelle listened hanging on every word.

***

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