A Fairy Tale
Soft, musical chimes went off somewhere near Rain's head and he grumbled as he yanked his pillow up over his head to block out the sound. He didn't want to get up; he wanted to stay in the warm, soft, too-comfortable bed and actually get more than a few hours sleep. It wouldn't happen, but it was nice to think about.
With a reluctant groan he shoved back the covers and slid out of bed, stopping to carefully tidy the sheets and bedspread until everything lay perfectly. That accomplished, he paced barefoot and nude into the bathing room, taking a quick shower and drying off with an offensively pink towel. That too was replaced exactly where he'd gotten it from, leaving no sign that it had even been used.
Next was hair. It mostly behaved itself, but it still needed to be brushed out and threaded with flowers, beads, and multi-colored ribbons after being teased into gently flowing waves. After that came makeup, subtle but necessary, and finally he could pace, still nude, into the closet.
Dozens of shimmering, sparkling, glittery confections of silk, taffeta, and gauze greeted him in a myriad of shining colors. Ignoring the elaborate gowns for the moment he fished a relatively plain corset from a hook and exhaled slowly before yanking it on and doing up the laces as tight as he could manage on his own. When it was done he felt he could barely breathe, but his waist was small enough to fit into the assembly of dresses hanging like a brilliant rainbow before him. He selected one at random, squirming into it and adding a few matching accessories before fetching a pair of slippers done to resemble vines climbing up his legs.
Finally, he returned to the bathing room and regarded his reflection in the wide mirror. White-blond hair with the faintest iridescent sheen, pouty lips, delicate features, silvery eyes and sparkling wings to match. He frowned, turning and striding back out into the bedroom, going immediately to a small table upon which sat two items.
One was a delicate crystal diadem set with jewels every color of the rainbow. The other was a matching scepter, glittering jewels wound around it, all of them put to shame by the shining, color-shifting gem at its heart.
He picked them both up, returning with them to the bathroom where he carefully set the tiara atop his head. Drawing in a slow breath, he raised the scepter and regarded his reflection. Both objects began to faintly glow in response to his request, their colors spreading slowly across him, drawing out the colors in his hair and turning his silver wings and eyes to a bright, sparkling rainbow instead.
Smiling sadly, Rain stepped back and inspected himself to make certain everything was as it should be. Even to his own carefully scrutinizing gaze, there was nothing about him to suggest that he was anyone other than who he appeared to be.
"Good morning, Queen Amaryllis," Rain greeted the mirror softly. He drew in as deep of a breath as his tightly corseted waist would allow, then turned and swept out past the bedroom and into the sitting room. Waiting for him on a small opalescent table was a handful of fruits, biscuits, and cold tea. Exactly where he'd left it the night before.
For a moment he wondered what it would be like to actually have a warm breakfast, but the thought was an idle one. He didn't have time to prepare warm meals. Hadn't for the last ten years.
Rain grimaced as he washed down one of the biscuits with a gulp of tea. There was no use fretting about what he didn't have. He'd made his choice and that was all there was to it. Tia-na-Niara, the Faerie Lands, needed him. Her people needed him. That was all that mattered.
Overhead, more chimes sounded. To his jaundiced ear, they sounded insistent, scolding. Once, he'd found them pleasant. A long, long time ago.
Taking one last sip of tea, he stood and crossed the sitting room, scepter in hand. From this moment until sunset, Rain did not exist. There was only Faerie Queen Amaryllis.
With one more deep (or as deep as the corset would allow) breath, he pushed open the doors and stepped out into the hallway. It was as lovely as everything else in the royal palace, beautiful and breathtaking. Crystal and gemstones everywhere, accented with shining silver and white gold. A sparkling jewel that served as both beacon and symbol for everyone in Tia-na-Niara.
He stopped, casting a critical eye over the faintly shimmering floor and making a note to come back later that evening once he'd changed back to Rain. There were dull spots that needed polishing and his practiced eye could see some dust gathering in the corners. Entirely unacceptable, if he'd been doing his job properly. But of course he hadn't. There wasn't enough time to clean properly and pretend to be the Faerie Queen. It was all he could manage just to keep the public areas of the royal palace looking spotless.
There were many days he sorely wished he could bring in someone else to help, but then he would have to deal with the questions of why Rain couldn't handle the task alone. Or worse, where he disappeared to during the daytime. Questions he couldn't answer, for the sake of the people. They would panic, to know that their beloved Queen was missing - had been missing, for ten long years.
But no one had to know that anything was wrong. Not as long as Rain continued his masquerade until Queen Amaryllis finally returned from wherever it was she'd gone. And she would return. She had to. He was sure of it.
It was all he had left to hold onto. One tiny belief that meant everything.
He owed everything to Amaryllis. She'd taken him in, given him a place and a purpose. In return, he would do everything in his power to keep her land and her people safe until she returned to resume her crown. It was the least he could do, for Amaryllis, and for Tia-na-Niara.
Shoulders set, head held high, he swept out of the private halls of the palace and out into the Audience Hall. As always, he wasn't certain whether to be impressed or horrified by the throne, with all of its sparkling rainbows of gemstones twining all around it. It fit with the theme, a visible representation of the Faerie Queen's power, but it was still a bit... much.
Not his call to make, however.
Settling himself carefully, taking careful, shallow breaths to make sure he could still breathe properly while sitting, Rain raised the crystal scepter and pointed it toward the shimmery double-doors at the far end of the room. A moment later they swung open, to admit those inhabitants of the Faerie Lands seeking an audience with the Queen.
As the first of the supplicants approached him, a young man who'd been cursed in a rather spectacular fashion, he surreptitiously felt to make sure Amaryllis's crown was still in place. It and the scepter he held so tightly it turned his knuckles white were the only reasons he could pull off this deception at all. Within them flowed the power of the Faerie Queen. By their power he could protect and aid the people of Tia-na-Niara.
Concentrating hard, he let his eyes fall closed to better feel the power flowing all around him. Wild, mostly untamed. A riot of color and feeling and magic that defied description, it was completely unlike his own insignificant water magic. He sometimes wondered if his parents' magic had felt anything like this. They'd been weather faeries, he remembered that much. Wild and free. He wondered if they'd ever been disappointed in their son's minimal skill with magic.
Something he would fret about in his own time. For now, he had a duty to perform. He shaped and guided the Queen's power until it knew what it was supposed to do, wrapping around the cursed fairy and drawing away the dark magic, feeding it back in to itself and cleansing it until it was only a harmless wisp of power. The young man shuddered in relief, turning tear-bright eyes up to Rain, professing his thanks almost in desperation.
This was the part he'd never get used to. He was only doing what was right; there was no need for thanks, for gifts, for anything. It embarrassed him horribly when they pledged their undying gratitude or offered him things he had no need for. Though if any of them thought to offer such a base thing as hot, buttered bread he very well might cave.
"No thanks are needed," Rain managed to get in around the man's speech. "If you truly wish to repay me, then do a good deed to another who needs it. That is all I ask."
It was the same request he made every time, and the same awed, worshipful look he got in return. Really, what was so strange about wanting everyone to help one another? Better that than another pointless necklace or elegant rug that he'd just have to keep clean.
The rest of the morning went much the same, difficult problems that the Color Guard hadn't been able to handle and so the fairy in question had made the journey to the palace to reach the one person with the strength to help them. The day had shifted on, the angle of sunlight shining down indicating that it was now early afternoon, when suddenly the doors were thrown open and a tall, impressive figure strode swiftly in.
Rain managed to keep from reacting, though only barely, and he subtly shifted the folds of his elaborate gown to hide the inevitable reaction. It would be the height of foolishness if his elaborate masquerade was undone simply because he couldn't keep from acquiring a hard-on every time Hyacinth was in the room.
One of the seven Color Guard, the Guardian of Blue, Hyacinth was one of the strongest faeries in the kingdom aside from the Faerie Queen. He was tall, breathtakingly handsome, with vivid blue hair done up in a series of braids that never seemed to be quite the same style each time Rain saw him. His eyes were a darker blue, like the sapphires embedded in the Queen's throne, and his snug tunic and breeches did absolutely nothing to hide the perfectly sculpted body beneath. He was completely and utterly gorgeous.
And totally out of Rain's league.
Petitioners scrambled out of his way as Hyacinth strode up to the base of the dais and knelt, making the fabric of his tunic stretch across the broad planes of his back. Rain silently chided himself for admiring the sleek figure, reminding himself that Queen Amaryllis would not be staring at Hyacinth's sculpted thighs and toned arms and wondering what they'd look like without clothing in the way.
Rain yanked his attention away from Hyacinth's lips and managed a slight nod. "Hyacinth."
Belatedly he noticed how tense the man looked, how utterly unlike his usual easy cheer. Something was very wrong, then, to cause this kind of reaction in the easygoing Guardian.
Hyacinth drew in a slow breath. "Kobolds, my Queen. In the Spring Meadows."
There was a collective gasp from the listening faeries, and Rain could feel the blood drain from his face. Kobolds were dangerous indeed, especially when they attacked in numbers. "How many?" he heard himself ask.
"I would hazard nearly a hundred, my Queen," Hyacinth replied. "Worse, they have a poison wyrm with them."
The resulting din was nearly deafening. Rain winced and stood, cutting off the chatter as all eyes turned toward him, everyone holding their breaths as they waited to see what he'd do. Or more accurately, what the Faerie Queen would do.
Rain stepped off the dais, gesturing for Hyacinth to rise. The man obeyed, putting him over half a head taller than Rain in a way that should have made him feel small an insignificant and yet all it did was make him want to lean in against that broad chest and see if Hyacinth smelled and tasted as good as he looked. It was a measure of how badly infatuated Rain was that he could still be thinking such things after being given such terrible news.
"Very well," he said softly, carefully looking away from Hyacinth to avoid further distraction. "I'm afraid I will have to cancel audiences for the rest of the day to deal with this difficulty." He smiled, touched and grateful when there were immediate reassurances from the waiting petitioners that they wouldn't mind waiting another day at all. There was something very significant that had drawn each and every one of them here, to the palace, something that only the Queen could fix, and still they would step aside for the sake of others.
He was vaguely aware of Hyacinth falling into place a half step behind him as they made their way out of the Audience Hall, through the Foyer to the Courtyard where Rain spread his wings and lifted off into the sky. It felt good to fly. He didn't get all that much opportunity, as crises that took him away from the palace were (fortunately) rare. But he was still a fairy, and the sky and the wind still called to him, laughing, teasing, asking why he didn't come to play more often as they wrapped around him, flowing past his wings and through his hair.
Hyacinth was still behind him, just far enough back that Rain couldn't quite see him. Which was probably all for the better, but it wasn't a short flight to the Spring Meadows and he didn't get to see Hyacinth all that often as the man was normally occupied tending his section of the Faerie Lands and, really, he'd take any excuse he could get to spend time in the man's presence. The only trick was, what sort of conversation would Queen Amaryllis have in a situation like this?
With every passing day Rain was finding it harder and harder to remember exactly how she'd behaved. He was terrified that one day he'd slip up and do something entirely out of character (worse than getting the inevitable erection in Hyacinth's presence - thank goodness for flowing, layered dresses) and reveal himself. So far, no one seemed to have noticed, but...
"When did you first notice the kobolds?" Rain asked.
Hyacinth's voice carried forward just ahead of the man himself as he came up to fly evenly with Rain. "Late yesterday, but I was in the middle of another problem that I couldn't leave. By the time I managed to confront them they'd spread throughout the meadow too far for my power to have much effect. When the wyrm began spitting poison at me, I decided to seek aid."
Not an unwise decision. Poison in any form was dangerous to faeries, and that carried by poison wyrms was amongst the most potent. Just thinking about it made Rain want to shiver, though he knew he was safe enough. The Queen's crown would protect him.
It was late afternoon before they reached the Spring Meadows, the sun beginning to paint the sky a brilliant orange and vermilion. The once-bright riot of green grass and multi-hued flowers was dark, faded, dying. Death hung so heavily in the air that Rain could feel it even with the protective power of the Faerie Queen's crown. Beside him, Hyacinth gagged and flitted back, away from the meadows to a place less saturated with the stench. Rain flew on alone, slowly circling the destroyed area to get a good feel for what he would have to do.
The damage was extensive. From his vantage point high overhead he could see the dark figures moving about, spreading the sickness, their grating chatter only a faint din given the distance. Once, he would have fled in terror from what he saw now just as any other fairy would, but that was before he'd had to take up the role of the Faerie Queen. A lot of things in Rain's life had changed that day.
Power sparked up his arm from the scepter as matching power flowed down from the crown. He gathered it, focused it, detailing out in his mind exactly what would have to happen. It would need to be quick, to prevent the dark magic from having any time to re-infiltrate the tainted areas. First, to return the kobolds and their pet to the shadow lands from whence they'd come. So many, and over such a distance. It took his breath out of him to do it, but it worked.
He took a moment to steady himself once they were gone, wishing the damnable corset would let him breathe. Hovering, he drew in slow, even breaths until he didn't feel quite so dizzy, then let the power build again. Life magic, this time, to restore what had been destroyed. He let it spread slowly from a central point, working outward to where the edges had only just begun to brown, gradually turning it green again. As he watched, tiny points of color began springing up as flowers poked their heads out of the new greenery.
It was enough. It would heal. His role was finished, and he could return home to the palace. But his wings felt like lead and the horizon seemed to spin and swirl around him. He felt completely drained, though it was the Queen's crown and scepter that had done all the work. He'd only directed and shaped the power - though that also took magic. Apparently the shaping had used up what little magic he possessed. It had happened before.
Though not usually so far from home and his bed. His head swayed and he sank in the air, dimly aware of the ground getting closer, then abruptly his slow fall was stopped by something very sturdy encircling his waist.
Rain blinked, looking down at the blue-clad arm holding him steady, then turned to look over his shoulder at Hyacinth. Oh. Hyacinth had caught him. He was pressed up close against that chest he was so fond of drooling over. And didn't it just figure that he was far too tired to do anything about it.
Hyacinth frowned in concern, his grip strengthening just the slightest amount. "My Queen... are you all right?"
Oh, that's right. He was still Amaryllis. He couldn't drool over Hyacinth no matter how close the man was and how good he smelled and that was a scent Rain doubted he'd ever be able to get out of his head. Or body. He had a hard-on again. Hopefully the skirt of his dress was still concealing it properly. He couldn't see around Hyacinth's arm to check.
"Fine, I think. Just a little tired. I'll be fine..." Would it be entirely out of character to bat Hyacinth away? Probably, but if he stayed this close he was absolutely certain he was going to do something he'd regret, like lean a little closer to that warm, muscular chest and try to taste that arching neck that rose up from the collar of Hyacinth's clothes.
"You don't look very good," Hyacinth observed doubtfully. "I can take you to my manor and let you regain your strength before heading back to the palace in the morning..."
Rain started silently. Morning? Spend the night in Hyacinth's house? Where Hyacinth changed clothes and bathed and slept? Bad idea. Very bad idea. Besides that, he refused to sleep in the dratted corset.
"No, thank you, but I need to get back in case I am needed," Rain managed to protest, drawing on energy reserves he was fairly certain he didn't have and pushing away from the all too warm and comfortable embrace. Hyacinth let him go, though he still looked worried as Rain turned to face him fully. "I thank you for your concern, Hyacinth. It is appreciated. But I will be fine."
Hyacinth's sapphire eyes narrowed slightly, then he nodded. "I will escort you home."
Oh Light, that wasn't much better. But it was a lot harder to refuse, especially as Rain really wasn't all that certain of his own ability to fly straight. He nodded finally, turning toward home, well aware that he was flying far more slowly than he was capable of. Or perhaps he was flying exactly as fast as he was currently capable of.
It really was too bad that he was too exhausted to really appreciate the trip back with Hyacinth hovering so very near, just close enough that if Rain stretched out an arm he could probably touch. On second thought, maybe it was good, given that his self control seemed to have gotten washed away with his energy. Dealing with Hyacinth took every ounce of willpower he possessed on a good day. On a day like today?
It was with a sense of abject relief that the royal palace finally came into view, though it also meant Hyacinth would leave him now, and he was having considerable difficulty remembering why that was a good thing.
They landed just inside the grand Foyer doors, and Rain was quite pleased to note that he didn't stumble (much) as his slippers touched the floor. He turned and smiled at Hyacinth as the blue-haired fairy landed, striving for 'polite and grateful' rather than 'I want to strip you naked and lick every inch of your body'.
"I trust you are reassured that I have made it home intact?" he asked, wondering even as he said the words whether he should have taken the opportunity to 'accidentally' fall a few times on the way home and make Hyacinth catch him.
Hyacinth smiled. "Yes, my Queen. I wish you the most pleasant of dreams, and hope that you are much refreshed on the morrow."
Rain didn't quite manage to stifle a grimace. It was already late, well into the hours when he would normally have been cleaning, and he wanted nothing more than to sleep for a week. Preferably with Hyacinth, but that was a very bad thought and he stifled it as quickly as it formed.
"Perhaps I will take the day off tomorrow to rest," he mused aloud, thinking how wonderful it would be to spend an entire day in bed. Not that he would, but it was still a nice thought.
"I think that would be a very good idea, my Queen," Hyacinth replied, a small smile touching his lips in a way that did entirely bad things to Rain's cock, regardless of how tired the rest of him was.
"Then I shall take tomorrow off," Rain decided. It would give him the opportunity to catch up on much of the cleaning that he'd fallen behind in, and if he worked hard enough he might actually have enough time to make himself a hot meal. The thought was almost enough to make him drool.
Hyacinth smiled again, and Rain was extremely glad for the dark as he doubted even his flowing dress could entirely hide his aroused state. "Then I bid you good eve, my Queen, and a restful day off." He bowed and turned, spreading his wings and lifting off into the sky. Rain watched for a moment, admiring the curves of the man's ass as he flew, then turned and walked, somewhat awkwardly, back through the silent hallways to the Queen's suite.
Once securely hidden away behind closed doors he stripped out of all the finery, hanging it up properly though he did give in to the impulse to kick the horrible corset across the room. Evil thing. Necessary, but evil.
For a moment he debated dressing again and at least getting a little work done tonight, then dismissed the idea as he slid into the soft, luxurious sheets of the Queen's bed. He had all day tomorrow to work. It would keep. And he really was very, very tired.
With a soft sigh, Rain snuggled up to a pillow and exhaled slowly, picturing in his mind a certain pair of blue eyes and a beautiful smile, remembering warm arms and a delightful scent. He had the feeling he was going to have extremely pleasant dreams that night.
On his hands and knees in the middle of the Foyer, Rain scrubbed fiercely at a particularly offensive spot. Given that practically everyone in the Faerie Lands flew wherever they went, it was amazing how much dirt their feet could track into the palace. It was definitely a good thing that he'd taken the day off from impersonating Queen Amaryllis, given the sorry state of the Foyer and Courtyard.
Not for the first time he wished his small gift of water magic wasn't quite so small. It would have been nice to have a little extra help with the cleaning. As it was, it would probably take him all day to finish. So much for the dream of a hot meal. He really ought to know better by now.
Redoubling his efforts, he finally got the dark spot to go away, leaving only shimmering crystal in its place. That was more like it. He sat up a bit, brushing back the few strands of hair that had escaped from his long braid as he contemplated his triumph.
"Admiring your handiwork?" a cheerful, musical voice asked, and Rain's head snapped up to stare. He hadn't heard anyone arrive... oh. Oh dear.
Hyacinth smiled that warm, dazzling smile of his as he sauntered across the Foyer in that easy, confident pace of his that always made Rain's brain promptly think of sex. Then again, everything involving Hyacinth made Rain think of sex.
"Um..." He looked up at the tall, handsome fairy, cursing the blush he could feel spreading across his face. It was so much easier to deal with his pathetic infatuation when he was pretending to be Amaryllis. For one thing, Amaryllis's dresses hid his crotch. His servants' clothing wasn't nearly so accommodating.
"I'd say it's clean," Hyacinth observed, crouching down in front of the spot Rain had been working on and casting a critical eye over it. Rain promptly stifled a moan, jerking his eyes away from the man's very prominently displayed crotch. Why, oh why, did Hyacinth have to crouch like that?
"Yes, it is. I just spent the last ten minutes making it that way," Rain retorted, resisting the urge to sigh as his mouth ran away without his brain's permission. Honestly, this never happened when he was Amaryllis.
Fortunately Hyacinth seemed amused rather than offended, and he looked around thoughtfully at the part of the floor Rain hadn't gotten to yet. Spotting another particularly bad spot, he snagged one of Rain's spare scrub brushes, dipped it in the bucket of soapy water, and began scrubbing.
Rain did his best not to stare at the man's ass. "Lord Hyacinth..."
Rain sighed. "Hyacinth, you're not a servant. You shouldn't be scrubbing floors. It's beneath your station."
That blue head came up to blink at him. "We already had that argument. I won. It doesn't make sense to repeat the same argument every time I see you."
Resisting the urge to tell Hyacinth he'd only won because it was taking all of Rain's concentration to avoid jumping the man, Rain picked another dirty spot and began scrubbing out all his frustrations on the floor. Sneaking the occasional peek at how Hyacinth's muscles rippled ever so splendidly as the man cleaned, of course.
For all that he complained that Hyacinth shouldn't be doing such menial tasks, the man was certainly a hard worker. In far less time than Rain had originally allotted they were finished and the Foyer practically gleamed. Now all he had left to do was clean up the courtyard and the palace would actually look respectable again.
"So..." Hyacinth was eyeing him in a way that Rain had learned years ago boded no good. "The Foyer is sparkling clean, you're ahead of schedule because of my help, and you missed lunch an hour ago." He smiled in that manner of his that went straight to Rain's groin. "So, why don't I treat you to a meal, hmm?"
"I have work to do..." Rain protested feebly, fully aware that Hyacinth wouldn't let him get away with it and that he did 'owe' the man for the help. Even if that help hadn't been requested in the slightest.
"You're ahead of schedule and you can pick up where you left off when we get back," Hyacinth refuted cheerfully, snagging Rain's arm and tugging him away from his scrubbing brushes and weak protests. They both knew he'd eventually give in, and about a year ago Hyacinth had taken to forgoing the 'protest' stage entirely by simply dragging Rain along to wherever Hyacinth wanted him.
Almost four years it had been going on, this strange thing they had. The very first time Rain had been mortified, certain that Hyacinth had somehow noticed his watching, but the Guardian had only appeared to want to talk, asking all sorts of questions about Rain's life in the palace. At first it had only been talking, Hyacinth showing up whenever he was in the area and holding (often one-sided) conversations while Rain worked. Two and a half years ago the 'helping' thing had begun, and no amount of protests had ever worked. Hyacinth was very good at getting his way.
And today, getting his way meant hauling Rain off to a small cafe on the outskirts of the city. It wasn't one he'd ever been to before, but that wasn't surprising. There were a lot of places Rain had never been. He just didn't have the time to go anywhere.
"Whatever you like," Hyacinth announced, sitting Rain down in a little wrought-iron chair and taking the seat opposite him. "My treat."
Rain stared at him for a moment, wondering as always what went on in that head of his, then finally smiled faintly and looked up at where the little cafe had their menu hung. It all sounded delicious; he had no idea what to get. He finally settled on cheese eggs, a sweet roll, and rose tea. All hot. Hot! Just the steam from the tea alone made him want to melt in pleasure. There had only been a handful of times that Hyacinth had dragged him somewhere for food, but every single one was ingrained in his memory. He got almost as much pleasure out of the warm meal as he did from Hyacinth's gorgeous, distracting presence.
"I have never seen someone get such enjoyment out of a pastry before," Hyacinth commented in amusement as he watched Rain bite into his roll. "You look almost like you're in the throes of pleasure."
A hot blush spread across Rain's cheeks and he swiftly hid it behind his teacup, drawing a laugh from Hyacinth. It was bad to think about pleasure when he was sitting not three feet from his long-time obsession. At least the bulk of the table would hide his reaction until it went away.
"I just don-" Rain cut himself off abruptly. He'd gotten hot meals when he was just a servant and nothing more. It was only after he'd had to be two persons that things had changed. "It's good," he managed lamely.
Hyacinth grinned. "So I should just bring you pastries and maybe you won't try to take my head off?" he asked. "Good to know."
"As long as they're still hot," Rain muttered, biting into the flakey pastry. It was still delicious.
"Hot pastries. Got it." Hyacinth finished off his meal with far less care for the food than on watching Rain, which made Rain want to squirm. Hyacinth was far too nice to be doing it all as a game, but there was just no way that one of the eight most important faeries in the land would be interested in a lowly servant. Even if that servant did work in the royal palace. It made no sense.
Not that Hyacinth ever made sense. Of all seven Color Guardians, only Apricot came anywhere close to being as openly cheerful and easygoing as Hyacinth, and she drove Rain crazy with her mothering ways. Logically Hyacinth should drive him crazy as well, and he did, just not in the same way. Hyacinth simply drove him crazy with suppressed lust and vividly impure thoughts.
Like now, for instance, where he was licking his spoon clean with almost a single-minded air. Rain managed to quash a whimper, but only barely, and he was completely unable to take his eyes off that pink tongue as it diligently cleaned honeyed yogurt off the silver spoon. His pants were far too tight.
"You are the most dedicated fairy in all of Tia-na-Niara," Hyacinth announced when the spoon was finally clean. "I somehow doubt there will ever come a day when you don't object strenuously to being dragged away from your duties, am I right?"
Rain forced a smile, wishing he could tell the handsome fairy that when the day came that Queen Amaryllis returned to take up her crown and throne again, Hyacinth would be free to steal him away all he wanted. If he wanted. If he still saw something worthwhile in a mere servant boy whose sole point of interest was that he'd been hand picked by the Queen to be her one and only palace servant.
"I have a lot to do," he demurred instead, looking down at his tea. "There's only one of me, and the whole palace to keep up. It's a full-time job."
"Hmm..." Hyacinth's voice was as beautiful as the rest of him, in Rain's admittedly biased opinion. "I wonder why the Queen doesn't use magic to keep things up. It wouldn't take much..."
Rain jerked his head up, eyes going wide. "Oh, no, she couldn't," he protested. "A little bit of magic for such a selfish purpose is that much less she has available for the people who truly need it. I don't mind the cleaning at all, I really don't! Better that I do it and she saves her strength to help the people who really need the Queen's power."
When he'd finished with his outburst, Hyacinth merely sat there and contemplated him for a long moment. Rain wanted to crawl under the table and hide to get away from that gaze, absolutely certain that he'd just given himself away. Surely a mere, ordinary servant wouldn't presume to know the Queen's thoughts. Hyacinth would find out, and then he'd be in trouble, or worse, everyone would find out, and people would panic, and-
"You really are the most fascinating fairy," Hyacinth said slowly, a slight smile tugging up the corners of his mouth as he regarded Rain. "You really believe what you said... you have faith in so many things. How can such a small fairy have such powerful ideals all bottled up inside him? Don't they overwhelm you?"
Rain flushed and looked down at his lap. Oh yes, his beliefs gave him nothing but trouble, that was for sure, but he couldn't really help it. Asking him not to care would be like asking him not to breathe. It just wasn't possible. Though no one had ever put it into words before. No one had ever noticed, really. Until Hyacinth.
"Sometimes," Rain admitted softly, still not looking up. "But I manage. I wouldn't change me even if I could."
Hyacinth laughed. "I wouldn't change you either," he said cheerfully. "Even if you do throw scrub brushes at my head."
Rain flushed hotter. "That was an accident!" he protested, making Hyacinth grin broader.
"Of course it was. And so was the bucket, and the wash water, and-"
"You deserved that one," Rain muttered.
Laughing again, Hyacinth shook his head in amusement, agreeing cheerfully, "Probably."
The faint sound of chimes sounded in the distance and Rain shot up, swiveling his head to stare in the direction of the palace. "Oh! The time... I need to go..." Those were the supper chimes, which meant he'd stayed out with Hyacinth longer than he'd meant to, and he still had so very much left to do, and then he had to make breakfast for tomorrow, and-
"I'll fly you home," Hyacinth said, standing as well and holding his hand out to Rain, who stared at it uncomprehendingly for a moment before slowly accepting.
Hyacinth's hand was warm, and Rain was reminded sharply of the feeling of being held in warm arms, safe and secure, and he knew he had to be crimson-faced. Hyacinth didn't comment on it, however, simply spread his wings and took off, leaving Rain no choice but to follow. Letting go certainly wasn't an option. He didn't ever want to let go.
The day was fading into twilight when they set down on the veranda above the wide crystal steps of the courtyard. Hyacinth still didn't release his hand and Rain found that, despite his need to get back to work, he didn't really want to let go either. These rare times were the dreams that kept him whole, gave him the strength to do what he had to every day. Surely he could begrudge himself just a little bit longer to pretend.
"There you go, safe and sound," Hyacinth announced, though his customary smile slipped a bit as he looked down at Rain. "I'm sorry I made you late. If you want I can apologize to Queen Amaryllis and explain..."
Quickly Rain shook his head. "No! No, that's okay. I can catch up. You don't need to bother the Queen..." Especially as the 'Queen' would need longer than it took for Hyacinth to reach her chambers to get ready. "I... it was nice. Thank you."
"Hmm, if you're sure..." Hyacinth said doubtfully, though the smile was back. Rain had always loved that smile. He knew the man worked hard, he'd seen it himself many times, and still Hyacinth looked as though he hadn't a care in the world. No matter how bad things ever got, he always had an unshakable belief that everything would turn out fine. It was part of why Rain loved him.
"I'm sure," Rain replied firmly, struggling to resist the desire to snuggle up closer, to breathe in that heady scent, to bask in the warmth that was as much a part of Hyacinth as his smile. It was hard. And he was hard. Again.
When he managed to actually meet Hyacinth's eyes again the Guardian fairy was regarding him with a strange expression. Thoughtful, perhaps. Searching. Something oddly serious for the easy-going man. Rain tilted his head up, parting his lips to ask what was wrong, but he didn't manage to get even a single word out before Hyacinth's head descended and then there was something soft and warm pressing against his mouth and he realized in a moment of pure shock that Hyacinth was kissing him.
Hyacinth was kissing him and he wanted to melt, to fly, to latch on and never let go. So much so that his hands clung of their own accord to Hyacinth's tunic, perhaps taking pity on his legs which didn't seem to quite want to hold his weight anymore. There were arms sliding around his waist, surrounding him with warmth everywhere, then Hyacinth parted his lips and, oh, he tasted even better than he smelled.
Rain was dimly aware that he's all but plastered himself to Hyacinth but he couldn't bring himself to care. He was flying with his feet still on the ground, wild and dizzy and wonderful in a way that was almost like the rush he got from using the Queen's magic, only better.
The thought brought him up short like icewater. If he gave into this, if he let it go any further, there would be no way to hide his dual roles from Hyacinth. If his secret got out, then everything he'd worked so hard to prevent for so many years would be ruined. The people would panic and Hyacinth would... what would Hyacinth do, if he knew what Rain did in the daylight hours? He didn't want to know.
For so long he'd put the good of the people above his own wishes and desires. He'd thought that taking one tiny wish, one little dream for himself wouldn't be so bad. An impossible dream, in which he could love from afar without ever coming too close. Only he had. And no matter how badly it hurt, how much his heart wanted to break, he couldn't have this one selfish wish he'd wished for himself.
Pulling away was the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life. He took several steps back, hoping that distance and the deepening twilight would hide the hot tears that pricked the corners of his eyes. Exhaling slowly, he kept his gaze downcast to hide his misery. "I... I'm sorry..." he whispered.
There was an agonizing moment of silence, then a soft sigh from Hyacinth. "No, I'm sorry," he said, an air of defeat in his lilting voice. "I thought you might... I guess I was wrong. I apologize, Rain." He bowed stiffly, formally, and the pieces of Rain's heart stabbed his chest like the sharpest daggers as he watched the man close in on himself. There was disappointment in his eyes, but worse than that, a deep hurt. One that Rain had caused.
He couldn't let it stay this way. For Hyacinth's sake, if not his own. It would tear him apart if he was the one to break that beautiful smile.
"No, Hyacinth, it's not... you're not..." He swallowed, trying to remember how to speak, frustrated that the words just wouldn't come out right. "I would, if I could," he managed finally, softly, gazing miserably into Hyacinth's dark eyes and feeling the first of the tears spill hotly down his cheeks. "But I can't, and I can't even tell you why. I'm so sorry, Hyacinth..." The last came out as barely a whisper in the darkness as his voice deserted him entirely.
Before he could remind himself that it was a bad idea, he flung his arms around Hyacinth's neck, kissing the man softly, tasting the salt from his tears overlaying the flavour of Hyacinth himself as he backed quickly away again and turned, running as fast as his blurred vision would allow.
Only the familiarity of having done so for so many years allowed him to find his way back to the Queen's suite without mishap. He yanked open the door harder than he intended, flinging himself inside and closing the door behind him before sinking to the floor and finally giving in to the sobs that had been threatening to consume him since the moment he'd realized he couldn't have the one thing he'd truly ever wanted.
For the first time in ten years, he found himself bitterly wishing that he'd never begun this masquerade. That he'd let everything fall apart when the people realized their protector and Queen was gone. At least then he'd be free to give his love without having to worry about what the consequences would be.
Eventually he managed to crawl across the floor and pull himself into bed where he silently cried himself to sleep.
If anyone noticed that their Queen was a bit more subdued than usual the following week, they politely didn't mention it. Rain went through the motions with only a fraction of his usual cheer and determination, as even the slightest glimpse of blue, be it blue wings, blue eyes, or blue hair, threatened to send him into tears. All he could cling to to survive the day was the unwavering belief that the Faerie Queen didn't cry. No matter how much he wanted to.
It was late, the last of the day's supplicants having just been dealt with when the very last person he wanted to see walked through the open doors into the Audience Hall. It hurt to watch as that handsome figure strode gracefully closer, bowing and kneeling at the foot of the dais. At first glance Hyacinth appeared the same as he always had, strong and confident and perfect. It wasn't until he raised his head that Rain could see the misery deep in his eyes, a painful echo of his own.
After a moment to compose himself, Rain nodded. "Hyacinth. What news do you bring of the Blue Lands?"
Hyacinth shook his head slowly, his usual smile only a shadow of itself. "All is peaceful, my Queen. Today... Today I come to you only as myself, and not as the Guardian of Blue. It is... personal."
Rain's heart felt like it would hammer through his chest. Surely Hyacinth wouldn't come to the Queen about what had happened between them! Would he? Would Rain, if their positions were reversed and he had been rejected with such a strange, confusing excuse? Rain was a servant in the Faerie Queen's palace. Surely, to Hyacinth's mind, Queen Amaryllis would know him better than anyone.
And she did, but not for the reasons that Hyacinth would be thinking.
"What is the problem?" Rain managed to ask, finally, hoping that he didn't sound as trapped as he felt.
There was a brief hesitation, and Rain could see the way Hyacinth set his shoulders as he drew in a breath. This was as hard on him as it was on Rain, it seemed, though for vastly different reasons.
"For the past several years I have been courting a young fairy in your service by the name of Rain," Hyacinth explained. "I... He seemed to welcome my attentions, and I certainly enjoyed his company. A week ago I thought to see if perhaps there was more between us than simple friendship, but..." He trailed off, several emotions flickering across his face faster than Rain could identify them. Except for the pain. That one he knew all too well. "He did not tell me 'no' my Queen, he told me that he could not." He made a sound of pained frustration, looking up at Rain beseechingly. "I have thought and thought and I cannot understand what there could be to pain him so. Certainly there is no curse nor dark magic that could harm him, here in the sanctity of your own palace. Had he a love already I would like to believe he would have told me, and I just cannot understand..."
What could he say? Was there anything? No one but Hyacinth ever noticed Rain, which had worked to his advantage in perpetrating the ruse, but it also meant he'd never before had to come up with any excuses for why Rain and Queen Amaryllis couldn't be parted. Or had to explain one from the viewpoint of the other. This was even harder than trying to explain to Hyacinth the first time had been.
"Rain is... currently tied up in a project for me," he managed at last, grasping on the only thing he could think of that Hyacinth couldn't question. "I am sorry that this has created problems for you, but secrecy is essential or the results will be disastrous for Tia-na-Niara."
Hyacinth swallowed once, then nodded, disappointment clear in his eyes. "I understand, my Queen. Might I ask... how long until this secret project is finished?"
If only he knew how badly Rain wished it was already over. Half hidden in the folds of his dress, Rain's entire hand had gone numb from how tightly he was clenching Amaryllis's scepter. "I wish I knew," he said honestly. "It was never meant to last as long as it has..."
Stiffly, sadly, Hyacinth nodded again. He rose, bowing again, and turned to go. Rain watched him for a moment, refusing to give into tears again, and whispered, "I'm so sorry, Hyacinth..." He hadn't thought he'd spoken loud enough to be heard, but the man paused briefly before continuing on out of the Audience Hall.
It was so hard not to break down crying right then. Rain took several deep, unsteady breaths before rising slowly to his feet. There was a sharp pain in his hand as it abruptly protested being clenched so tightly, cramping and rendering his fingers numb enough that the scepter slipped from their nerveless grasp and crashed to the floor, rolling down the dais steps to the floor below. Rain grimaced and stepped carefully down, kneeling to reach for the object with the hand that wasn't shooting pains up his arm.
Something shot over his head, tingling faintly in the manner he'd come to associate with the Faerie Queen's crown nullifying hazardous magic. He looked up quickly, spotting a curvaceous woman standing near the open doors and staring at him coldly. She seemed somewhat familiar, but Rain saw so many people every day that it was hard to remember a particular face. Dark gold hair to frame a heart-shaped face, red-brown eyes and wings that gave the impression of a slightly imperfect ruby, and a gown of a matching color that hugged every single generous curve of her body.
"Who...?" he asked, grasping blindly for his scepter.
The lovely woman scowled at him. "Oh come now, Amaryllis. Don't be stupid," she spat. "Or is this more of your stupid games? Pretending you're better than the rest of us? Not given to the same base desires and all?"
Rain stared at her blankly. "What?"
It took a moment, during which she glared at him in furious disbelief, before he realized that this woman must be someone that the real Faerie Queen Amaryllis knew. Or had known. More than ten years ago...
"I'm tired of your games, Amaryllis," the woman continued icily, pointing one jewel-bedecked finger at him. "And I'm tired of hearing 'Amaryllis this' and 'Amaryllis that' from Coriander. I don't know why you didn't just disappear the first time, but this time I'm making sure you vanish for good!"
There was a flash of crimson light, and Rain only barely managed to dodge in time. If what she was saying was true, that she'd been the one to make Amaryllis vanish ten years ago, then Rain doubted the magic of the Queen's crown would be able to protect him. Or would it? He'd found it sitting on Amaryllis's dresser right where it belonged that first morning after she'd gone missing, so maybe she hadn't been wearing it when this woman, whoever she was, had done whatever it was that she had.
All this not knowing was driving him crazy!
He ducked another spell, feeling the tingle as it got far too close for comfort's sake, and blinked as something finally registered with him. A name the woman had spoken. Coriander... He did know that name. A letter that had come a few months after he'd begun the ruse, one he hadn't been able to make heads or tails of and had simply set aside to give to the real Amaryllis when she returned.
Only she hadn't, and the letter had been forgotten for ten long years. The letter from someone named Coriander.
"I got a letter from Coriander," he offered, grateful when the hurled magic ceased for the moment. "I... I didn't answer it. I didn't know how to answer it. I'm sorry..."
It was the wrong thing to say. With a scream of rage the woman hurled the strongest spell yet at him, one he couldn't dodge entirely. The crown he still wore managed to take the brunt of it, but enough still got through to knock him backwards onto the floor, shredding a good part of his dress and lining his chest and arms with welts that slowly began to seep blood. He struggled to sit up, getting tangled up in the strips of fabric that had once been one of his favorites of Amaryllis's gowns.
"Ow..." he mumbled, gingerly touching one of the worst of the scratches and quickly rolling out of the way as she threw something else at him. Something glinted nearby and he jerked his gaze toward it, tensing as he realized he was looking at the Queen's scepter, still lying on the floor where it had fallen. If he could get to that, he'd have the power he needed to protect himself.
"I see you've learned a few tricks," the woman spat. "But so have I. I've spent a long time planning how to get you out of our lives for good. I don't know how you managed to escape the binding spell I sent, but it won't do you any good this time, Amaryllis."
Binding spell? Was that what had happened to Queen Amaryllis, Rain wondered. But even with Amaryllis's crown and scepter he hadn't been able to sense anything...
He yelped as another spell came perilously close, scrambling on his hands and knees to try to reach the scepter, so tantalizingly close. He'd almost reached it when the woman flung something else at him, no, at the scepter! It shuddered and crackled, then shattered into a fine dust that rained down upon the Audience Hall floor.
Rain stared in disbelief. The Queen's scepter, gone. And with it, all the power to protect and defend his people. What was he going to do now?
"Aw, did you lose your favorite pretty toy?" the woman taunted cruelly. "You always were entirely too obsessed with your jewelry and gowns. The vain, arrogant queen, so much better than the rest of us..."
"I'm not!" Rain shouted in frustration, hugging the tatters of his clothing to him. "I'm not any better than anyone else. All I have is a little bit of power... to protect my people..." he finished weakly.
"Yes," the woman spat. "Your precious people. Your precious lands. So much more important to you than the people who loved you! Arrogant, selfish Amaryllis!"
"You don't understand!" Rain cried, frustrated, her words cutting sharper than they had any right to. This woman had no idea what it took to be the Queen of Tia-na-Niara. What he had to give up for the sake of the people. She had no right to speak of the Faerie Queen that way.
He struggled slowly to his feet, tears beginning to fall at last. "You don't understand anything. What it means to be Queen, what it means to put the lives and happiness of everyone else before your own. Never having a single moment to yourself, always giving everything you have and taking nothing for your own, giving up your one chance at happiness because you can't... you can't..."
A sob choked off his voice and he shuddered, arms wrapped tightly around himself in a pale imitation of the embrace he really wanted to feel. It shouldn't hurt. She wasn't talking about him. And yet it felt so very much like she was, and he couldn't stand the pain it caused. His vision blurred, making everything a wash of indistinct colors through the tears that flowed hotly down his cheeks. He could feel gathering magic, though he couldn't see clearly enough to pinpoint exactly where the woman was now, and then footsteps...
"My Queen?" A low, musical, painfully familiar voice called out, making Rain's head snap around toward its source. "I apologize again for the intrusion, but I just wanted to..." Hyacinth trailed off, no doubt taking in Rain's disheveled state and the presence of the woman whose magic Rain could still feel like an itch in the back of his head.
No... Hyacinth was far too close to the woman and her magic. If he closed his eyes he could still see the Queen's scepter shattering into dust. If a spell like that came too close to Hyacinth...
"Hyacinth," he croaked around his tear-closed throat. "You can't... go, leave! Quickly! Before you get hurt!"
Rain blinked away his tears as swiftly as he could, desperate to be able to see what was happening. There were no sounds, no voices, no footsteps. And that magic was still buzzing, so strong he could practically taste it.
"... my Queen?" Hyacinth asked at last, the confusion and surprise in his voice impossible to miss.
Equally impossible to ignore was the hatred in the woman's voice when she spoke again. "So, that's how it is... you went and found yourself a new toy, did you Amaryllis?"
Rain felt his stomach turn. She thought that Amaryllis and Hyacinth... she couldn't... But the magic shifted, and he knew exactly what the woman intended. Through the blur he saw Hyacinth take a step back as the woman swung around to face him, felt the spell take shape in her hands.
"No!" he screamed, launching himself across the room as fast as he could fly, crashing into the woman and feeling the burn of the spell as it enveloped him before the magic of the crown managed to dispel it. Rain balled up his hand into a fist and swung hard, sending them both crashing to the floor from the force of the blow.
He lay still, hand throbbing, welts burning, but alive. Still alive. And so was the woman, though she appeared to be unconscious. Rain wasn't sure if it had happened when he'd hit or when she'd struck the floor, but either way meant she couldn't cause any more damage. To him, or to...
"Hyacinth!" he exclaimed, getting to his knees and twisting around to stare up at the tall Guardian. The man looked unharmed, to Rain's immense relief, but he had a strange expression on his face again. As Rain watched, his lips parted.
Rain felt his face drain of color, realizing belatedly that with his gown in tatters and the corset not much better, his true gender had to be obvious at this distance. It was over. Hyacinth knew. Not that he'd have been able to continue on without the scepter anyway, as his own meager magical power stood no chance of solving even one of the myriad of problems brought before the Faerie Queen.
"Hyacinth." Even to his own ears, he could barely hear himself. "I... I..."
There was a faint rustling as Hyacinth knelt, then the vague impression of warmth on his arms and abruptly he was being pulled into Hyacinth's lap and held close. His injuries stung, but the tears in his eyes stung more as they began flowing again. He buried his face in Hyacinth's shoulder and gave up entirely, sobbing out ten years of worry and fear and anxiety into the soft blue fabric.
When there were no more tears left to cry Rain slowly became aware of Hyacinth's hands gently stroking down his bare back and realized that the corset had been removed at some point, leaving him clad only in a ripped skirt and a few tattered bits of cloth. He flushed, trying to pull away, though Hyacinth didn't release him from the circle of his arms.
"Well, that explains a lot of things," Hyacinth said, smiling softly, almost whimsically as he brushed a few strands of hair out of Rain's face.
Rain knew he was staring and couldn't manage to summon up any other emotion but shock. "I... you... what?" That wasn't what Hyacinth was supposed to say at all! Not even close!
Hyacinth's smile warmed. "I'll explain anything I can, though I think you might want to change your clothes first and heal those wounds..."
"I can't," Rain said miserably. "She destroyed the scepter."
"Scepter?" Hyacinth blinked. "What scepter?"
"The Queen's scepter," Rain explained, reaching up gingerly and pulling the tiara down off his head. "As long as I had it, and this, I could use the Queen's power. But now... now it's gone."
Hyacinth frowned down at the tiara, freeing one hand from Rain's waist to run a finger along the edge of the delicate item. "There's magic in it, but it's not Amaryllis's," he said slowly. "It's yours."
Rain blinked and shook his head. "You're wrong. It's the Queen's. My magic isn't strong at all. I'm the weakest water fairy ever born."
Gentle laughter met his protests and a warm hand ran down his face, cupping his jaw and tilting his head up so that their eyes met. "That's because you're not a water fairy," Hyacinth said, amused.
"I... what?" Rain stared, unable to process what he'd been told, and Hyacinth took the opportunity to lean down and touch his lips to Rain's. They were still warm, and soft, and absolutely perfect, and Rain was helpless to do anything but melt into the kiss. He'd wanted it so badly for so long, and now there was no terrible secret to get in the way.
"You," Hyacinth said when they parted, still close enough that Rain could feel his breath, "Are a wish fairy."
Rain blinked again. "A what?" he asked. "What's a wish fairy? I've never even heard of one before..."
Hyacinth laughed. "That's because they're very, very rare. For as long as I can remember, Amaryllis was the only one, and she's older than me. I have no idea if there was more than one when she was born."
"So I'm... the same sort of fairy as the Queen?" Rain asked doubtfully.
Hyacinth grinned. "Exactly. I always wondered why she brought you to the palace as a servant when she'd never needed one before, but I never imagined you might be a wish fairy until today... only another wish fairy could have done what you did. How long have you been pretending to be the Queen?"
Rain flushed and looked down, which changed his view from Hyacinth's face to Hyacinth's chest. Not exactly helpful. "About ten years," he muttered.
Dark blue eyes widened in surprise and no small amount of shock. "Ten years?" Hyacinth exclaimed. "That's... you..." He stopped, tilting his head and looking rather thoughtful when Rain snuck a quick look. "Actually, that makes a lot of sense..."
Rain's doubtful frown must have been obvious, because Hyacinth laughed again. "It may not have been obvious to you because you lived with her, but Amaryllis was getting increasingly unhappy somewhere between ten and fifteen years ago. Then one day whatever was bothering her just seemed to go away and everything was fine." He smiled faintly. "But apparently that's because she was actually you." Hyacinth frowned. "What happened to the real Amaryllis?"
"I don't know," Rain admitted softly. "When I went to bring her breakfast that morning, she just wasn't there. I thought, if the people knew, there'd be a panic, so..."
Hyacinth nodded slowly. "Yes, I can see that. Without the Queen to protect us, the Faerie Lands would be easily overrun by the dark creatures. And without even knowing it, you were the only one capable of taking her place..." He laughed. "Dresses and all. I prefer you in your regular clothing, though."
Rain scowled. "So do I. Sitting all day in a corset is really uncomfortable. Not to mention breathing is next to impossible."
Smiling, Hyacinth kissed his forehead and stood him up slowly, neither of them seeing any reason to mention it when Rain continued to cling to him for 'support'. "So, you need to heal yourself, and figure out what you're going to do with Lucerne, and change clothing, in more or less that order."
Rain blinked. "Lucerne?" He looked down at the unconscious woman on the floor. "Is that her name?"
"Yes. She used to come by the palace rather frequently, sometimes in the company of a shorter, green-haired fairy. I think they were friends of Amaryllis."
Rain stared down at the golden-haired fairy for a long moment, then murmured softly to himself, "I think maybe they were more than just friends..."
"Hmm?" Hyacinth asked, peering down at him.
Rain shook his head, dredging up a faint smile. "Never mind. But you're going to have to explain this whole wish fairy thing to me. I've never been able to use magic very well without Amaryllis's scepter."
Hyacinth laughed again. "Wish fairy magic relies heavily on the strength of the fairy's will. On belief, in your case, I think. You were convinced that Amaryllis's crown and scepter had power, and so they did. If you believe that your injuries are gone, then they will be."
Frowning doubtfully, Rain stared intently at the welts criss-crossing his arms, sighing when they didn't change a bit. "I think this is going to take some getting used to," he muttered.
"Probably," Hyacinth agreed. "How about this - pretend you're the Queen, and that you have the Queen's power in your hands, and order the injuries to heal."
Drawing in a slow breath, Rain closed his eyes and summoned up the calm, confident mask he wore when in his role as the Faerie Queen. He pictured what the magic felt like when he was using it to break a curse or reverse a transformation, that wild, dizzying rush of power flowing through his entire body. Like kissing Hyacinth. Only kissing Hyacinth was even better.
He smiled as that gave him an idea. Tilting his head up, he stood on his toes and pressed his lips to Hyacinth's, pleased when the man immediately responded. He ran his tongue along the part and Hyacinth's mouth opened to him a moment later, giving him access to that delicious taste that was better even than hot tea and sweet rolls. Heady, consuming, and warm. Always so wonderfully warm, Hyacinth was.
When they finally parted for breath, Rain glanced down at his arms and smiled to find that there was no sign that he'd ever been hurt. Eventually he'd have to figure out how to use his magic without a crutch, but for the time being he had an extremely pleasant way to summon it.
"Hmm, that did work," he observed cheerfully.
Hyacinth looked from Rain's face to his arms and back again, laughing at something he saw there. "I don't think I want to ask why kissing me works as well as a few pieces of gaudy crystal to focus your power." He grinned. "Are you going to change clothes now? You have no idea how hard it is to touch you when you're half nude and not give in to the temptation to make it all nude."
Rain looked at Hyacinth for a long moment, then to the still-open Audience Hall doors, then down at Lucerne's unconscious body on the floor. "Technically, I stop being the Queen and go back to just Rain when audiences are over for the day," he stated slowly. "So, if you still want to divest me of my clothing after I get her bound so she can't do any more damage, I wouldn't mind at all."
With a rather strangled noise that sounded suspiciously like a moan, Hyacinth kissed him again.
It was both strange and pleasant to wake up in the morning and realize he was not alone. There was an arm draped over him, holding him snug against a warm, broad chest, and a leg flung over his, pinning him in place. It was, Rain decided, the very best morning of his entire life.
Then the soft sound of chimes cut into his blissful moment, making Rain jerk and wince as the movement yanked on where his wing was pinned underneath Hyacinth's body. He shoved at the larger fairy, getting a sleepy murmur for his trouble. "Hyacinth, move over. I have to get up!" Rain whispered, poking him again. "I'm late!"
There was another sleepy mumble, then Rain yelped as he abruptly found himself on his back, pinned beneath the other fairy's weight. "Hyac-" His protests were cut off as a hot mouth descended to cover his, melting away his words in the dizzying sensation of mouths and tongues and lips and that wonderful flavour that was Hyacinth's own. When the man finally let him breath again they were both panting, and Rain struggled to remember what he'd been fussing about before his wits had gotten scattered so pleasantly.
"Good morning, Rain," Hyacinth murmured, bushing his lips over Rain's again for the brief moment it took for Rain to associate 'morning' with 'duty'.
"I have to get up!" Rain exclaimed again, trying and failing to move Hyacinth from atop him. "Hyacinth!"
"You don't need to go anywhere," Hyacinth objected cheerfully, snuggling close and sprawling out on top of Rain so that Rain hadn't even a hope of escaping.
"Yes, I do," Rain protested. "I have to get up and get ready for audiences and that takes forever and I'm already late and-"
Hyacinth cut him off with a finger to the lips. "When's the last time you took a day off?" he asked.
Rain frowned and pushed the finger away. "Last week, after you called me out to deal with those kobolds. The day you... kissed me." His cheeks felt hot.
Hyacinth arched a brow. "That hardly counts as a day off. You were cleaning."
"Of course I was cleaning. I was trying to catch up; I'd gotten so far behind." Rain scowled.
"When is the last time the Queen and Rain got a day off?" Hyacinth pressed.
Rain stared at him rather blankly. "Do nothing all day? Why would I want to do nothing all day? There's too much to be done."
Hyacinth sighed and kissed his forehead, then his cheeks, and finally his lips. "You work too much." Then, before Rain could protest further, he added, "And you're taking the day off. Both of you."
"But-" That was as far as he got before another of those wild, whirlwind kisses scrambled his thoughts and left him hard and aching for another touch. "Hyacinth..."
The blue-haired fairy smiled. "You don't want to stay in bed all day?" he asked cheerfully, then shrugged with a calculated ease and rolled off Rain to land gracefully on his feet on the floor. "As you wish."
Rain stared at him for a moment in disbelief, then scowled and flung a pillow at Hyacinth's head before sliding out of bed himself and storming off to the bathroom. Soft footsteps let him know that Hyacinth was following and he smiled as he activated the magic that worked the shower, stepping beneath the warm spray and letting it drench him before he turned to smile invitingly to Hyacinth.
The man needed no second invitation, sliding beneath the water and wrapping his arms around Rain, the slide of skin upon skin slickened by the liquid. Rain snuggled into his arms, breathing a soft sigh of contentment that turned swiftly into a squeak as Hyacinth's hands began to roam a little lower than Rain had been expecting.
"Behave!" Rain chided, swatting him and getting kissed again for his trouble.
"No," Hyacinth returned cheerfully, trailing a series of kisses down the side of Rain's face and neck, lapping at the water that clung to the hollows of his throat and collarbone. Only the strong arms around him kept Rain on his feet, and nothing could prevent the helpless moan that escaped his lips.
"Hmm?" Hyacinth murmured, one hand seeking out and kneading one side of Rain's butt.
"Ah... clean..." Rain managed faintly. "Supposed to... get clean..."
Hyacinth smiled, pulling Rain flat against him so that their groins met, water-slick, and Rain shuddered. "Of course. Eventually."
Some time later, once his legs were working properly again, Rain wandered out into the bedroom drying himself off with one of Amaryllis's obnoxiously pink towels. He added that shower to his 'best ever' list, as well as 'longest ever' though he supposed that was only to be expected given they hadn't exactly been doing the usual 'jump in, get clean' sorts of things he normally associated with showers. Not that he'd mind repeating the experience. Preferably soon.
He fetched out a pair of pants from the bottom drawer he'd used to store his own paltry collection of clothing and slipped them on, prodding halfheartedly at the assortment of plain, functional, completely utilitarian tunics folded neatly in the drawer. It had never bothered him before that his personal clothing was so boring - it was easier to wash. But it was a little frustrating that when he actually wanted to dress up to look nice for someone, he couldn't.
Unless he wanted to wear a dress again, and there was no way he was squeezing into a corset on his 'day off' that Hyacinth had insisted upon rather persuasively.
"Problem?" Hyacinth asked, and Rain jumped as he hadn't heard the man slip up behind him. Warm hands snaked around his waist and toyed with the ties of his pants; Rain batted them away tolerantly.
"I have very boring clothing," Rain explained, snagging one of Hyacinth's wrists before that hand could slide down the front of his waistband. "You behave."
"Yes, my Queen," Hyacinth quipped, jumping quickly backwards as Rain rounded on him threateningly. "Princess?"
Rain grabbed a silver hairbrush off the top of a dresser and chucked it at his head, then followed it up with several hair ornaments. He grabbed a bejeweled hand mirror with the thought of throwing that as well, then decided better of it and simply chased him, brandishing the mirror. Hyacinth dodged rather well, flying over the bed and evading Rain with considerable skill before getting cornered in the big closet where Rain took the opportunity to pelt him with shoes.
"All right, all right, I surrender!" Hyacinth protested, shielding his face with his arms. "You're just my beautiful, incredibly stubborn Rain."
"Hmph," Rain muttered, crossing his arms and glaring in what he'd hoped was a threatening manner, but given that Hyacinth pulled him close and kissed him soundly it obviously hadn't come anywhere close to what he'd intended. Though, given how delicious Hyacinth's kisses were, he found himself preferring the accidental result.
"So," Hyacinth murmured, sneaking his hands down the back of Rain's pants again, "You went to bring Amaryllis her breakfast and she wasn't here. There was nothing at all unusual around?"
After taking a moment to process the leap from 'teasing Rain' to 'kissing Rain' to 'talking about the Queen', Rain found himself frowning. "Not that I could tell, but Amaryllis... wasn't very tidy. Her bedclothes and covers were on the floor... half her wardrobe was on the floor, actually... there was jewelry everywhere... hair things... shoes..."
Hyacinth winced. "Plenty of things that could have had a hand in her disappearance," he concluded. "You tested them?"
Rain shrugged. "As well as I could. I'm just a... was just a weak water fairy. I used the crown later and tested everything I could think of... jewelry and dresses and things..."
Thoughtfully, Hyacinth looked around and the plethora of color in the wide closet. "And now?"
Shooting Hyacinth a brief, surprised look, Rain shifted his attention to Amaryllis's sparkling clothing. It felt... like him, actually, with a faint echo of Amaryllis underneath. But it was only a memory, magic seeped into the fabric simply by proximity to the wearer and nothing more.
"Nothing here..." he murmured, kneeling to inspect the shoes the same way, with the same results. He freed himself from Hyacinth's grasp (with not-inconsiderable difficulty and several exchanged kisses) and wandered his way back into the room, drifting from chest to dresser to bed, contemplating the contents of the room with newly awakened senses. Everything felt much the same as the clothing had - overtones of himself, particularly on those that he'd spent the most time wearing or touching, and lesser traces of Amaryllis. But nothing that suggested any sort of powerful magic.
Frustrated, he stormed into the bathroom and examined the things there, coming up with the same result. In a fit, he flung the silver hand mirror he was still holding across the room, forgetting for the moment that it contained glass that was sure to shatter upon striking the wall.
Only it didn't. It bounced off the wall and tumbled to the floor, the impact leaving a strange, painful ringing in Rain's head. He wasn't aware that he'd dropped to his knees until Hyacinth's arms wrapped around him, his voice framing the syllables of Rain's name with worry laced through it. With effort, he struggled out of the daze he'd found himself in and stared at the mirror.
"There's... something strange about that mirror," he managed to gasp out, grateful as Hyacinth helped him to his feet. "It... didn't break."
"Isn't that a good thing?" Hyacinth asked. "Cleaning up glass can be dangerous."
"No, I mean... It did something. Protected itself. The magic made my head hurt."
"Oh." Hyacinth released him and walked over to retrieve the object from the floor, studying it carefully before turning it over to view the opposite side. "It doesn't feel particularly unusual... Just a faint hum of magic that could be a spell, but it certainly doesn't feel powerful enough to have affected the Queen..."
"No," Rain agreed, coming up beside him and peering at the mirror. "And I don't really feel it now, but I know I did when I threw it at the wall. There's a lot more magic in there than it feels like is there."
Hyacinth flipped the mirror over a few more times, then shrugged helplessly. "I don't know how to undo a spell I can't even sense..."
Rain stared at it for another minute, then said softly, "I think I may know who can..." He returned to the dresser and pulled out the first shirt he saw, tugging it on before turning back to Hyacinth. "Get dressed. We need to go talk to Lucerne."
"Lucerne!?" Hyacinth stared at him. "She tried to kill you."
"No," Rain corrected with a faint smile, "She tried to kill Amaryllis. If my guess is right, it's not the first time she's done it either."
Hyacinth stared, gesturing with the mirror. "You think she cast this spell?"
"It makes sense," Rain replied with a shrug. "Now go put your clothes on. I'm the only one that gets to see you naked."
Hyacinth stared for a few more moments, then his lips quirked up and he laughed before going to do as ordered.
Rain decided he really couldn't blame Lucerne for staring at him like that. He was wearing his servant clothes (the third pair he'd put on that morning, after Hyacinth had all too cheerfully removed the first two attempts) and no makeup, but his eyes and wings were still rainbow-hued and not their more familiar silver color. Hyacinth said it was because he was using his magic more, and the magic drew out the true color.
That didn't explain why he and Amaryllis were the only fairies in all of Tia-na-Niara to have hair and eyes colored thus, much less the odd rainbow sheen to their hair, but he was fairly certain if asked Hyacinth would simply pass it off as something else unique to wish faeries. He really couldn't wait to get Amaryllis back so that he could, hopefully, get a concrete answer about everything. All of what Hyacinth knew was based on half-remembered rumors at best. Not very reassuring.
"Lucerne," Rain called gently, and the woman started. "Lucerne, my name is Rain."
Lucerne frowned, fear showing in her large red-brown eyes. "Who are you?"
Rain smiled, taking a step forward and kneeling next to the bound woman. "I was a servant to the Faerie Queen Amaryllis, but for the past ten years I have also been Amaryllis herself after she mysteriously vanished one night. I think, perhaps, you know what happened to her." He held out the mirror, watching as Lucerne's face drained of color.
"You... that... Where did you..." she stammered.
"From Amaryllis's room," Rain answered easily, taking comfort in the fact that he could feel Hyacinth's presence just behind him. "I'm guessing that this is what you used to make her disappear, though the magic in it is unfamiliar to me..."
"Of course not," Lucerne returned, a frown creasing her forehead. "You're not a chaos fairy."
Rain blinked. "Chaos fairy?" Behind him, he could hear Hyacinth draw in a sharp breath and he scowled. "Why is it that everyone else knows about these weird obscure faeries and I don't?" he demanded crossly.
"Chaos faeries," Hyacinth explained softly, "Are the opposite of wish faeries in a way. Whereas wish faeries can generate magic from the strength of their will, chaos faeries have no magic of their own. Instead, they... manipulate the magic of others. Warp it in strange ways. Most faeries won't tolerate a chaos fairy living near them..."
Lucerne snorted. Rain watched her curiously. "I take it you don't live in Tia-na-Niara."
"None of your little goody-goody faeries would tolerate me anywhere near them," Lucerne sneered. "I live in the Twilight Forest."
Rain considered. "With Coriander?"
Lucerne stiffened. "That's none of your business."
"Actually, I think it very much is. See, I'm not really clear on all the details, but I think Coriander, whoever she is, loved Amaryllis. And you love Coriander. So, if you made Amaryllis go away..."
"It was her fault!" Lucerne hissed, straining against her bonds. "She led Coriander on! Always making empty promises, telling her she loved her and then abandoning her for months at a time! Her stupid crown was more important to her than Coriander's love. I hate her."
Rain blinked. "What? That's not..."
"Being Queen," Hyacinth interrupted, "Means always putting the needs and well-being of your people above your own wants and desires. It is not always a pleasant duty. Indeed, it is often lonely, painful, and unrewarding. And still she smiles and cares for her people, because they are more important to her than she herself is. Amaryllis loved all her people, Lucerne. I do not doubt she loved this Coriander any less."
Lucerne stared at Hyacinth over Rain's shoulder for a long moment, looking very much like he'd struck her. After some time, however, her head bowed and she closed her eyes. "It doesn't matter," Lucerne said quietly. "It took me five years to craft that spell. It's perfect. There's no way to break it."
"None at all?" Hyacinth asked. Rain merely frowned, turning the silver mirror over and over in his hands.
"None," Lucerne confirmed. "It uses her own power to maintain the spell. She generates infinite power, so the spell is infinitely strong. It can't be broken."
Rain's frown deepened and he slowly shook his head. "But when I threw it at the wall, it reacted to protect itself... meaning for that brief moment not all of its power was going toward keeping Amaryllis trapped..."
"But she didn't free herself," Hyacinth pointed out.
"No," Rain agreed, "But she may need some help. I wonder..." He looked around, spotting a small table that looked promising. "Come here," he instructed, maneuvering Hyacinth around until he was standing next to the table. "I need your help."
Hyacinth gave him a rather bewildered look but allowed himself to prodded into position, eyeing both Rain and the table uncertainly. "What are you up to...?"
"I'm going to free Amaryllis," Rain told him, feeling curiously calm. In all logic he should be fretting horribly about whether his idea would at all, but he wasn't. He'd made his decision, and he was going to make it work whether the spell was supposed to behave like that or not. Was this what Hyacinth meant when he said that a wish fairy's power relied on the strength of their will?
Gripping the mirror firmly in his left hand, Rain wrapped his right around Hyacinth's neck and pulled him down to mesh their mouths together in a slow, sweet kiss. When he felt the magic building within him, swirling all around, he raised his arm and brought the mirror down hard against the table's surface. As before, there was a sharp flash of something that made his head throb, but he flung his own power back at it, feeling a highly familiar presence do the same from the other side, then everything went white.
When his vision finally cleared, he was lying on something warm and comfortable and strangely near to the floor. He stared at the strong arm supporting him for several moments before he finally made the logical connection. Twisting around, he blinked up at Hyacinth. "Did it work?"
Without waiting for a reply he swung his gaze around to take in the rest of the room, fixing immediately on a painfully familiar figure standing in her nightdress and looking highly confused.
"Rain?" Amaryllis asked.
With Hyacinth's help, Rain managed to get back to his feet. "Welcome back," he greeted gently, attempting a bow and only spared a painful encounter with the floor by Hyacinth grabbing him again.
"Hyacinth?" Amaryllis continued, blinking slowly and looking around the room. "And Lucerne? What are you doing... oh. Oh." Her head swung back around to catch Rain's gaze again. "How long?"
Rain winced. "Ten years, more or less."
Amaryllis's rainbow-hued eyes widened, then she sat down heavily on the floor. "Ten years... how..." She stopped, gaze snapping back to Rain again, looking over him slowly. "Oh! You finally came into your power. That's how..."
Between the headache he had from the spell-breaking and the confusing way Amaryllis was talking, Rain wondered if anything was going to make sense. "You knew I was a... wish fairy?" he asked slowly.
Amaryllis laughed softly. "Oh yes. I'd been looking for you for a long time, after all..."
Behind him Rain could feel Hyacinth's surprise and knew his own had to be plainly visible on his face. "... what?" he asked dumbly.
More lilting laughter met his question. "Ah, I suppose I should tell you the whole story, shouldn't I?" Amaryllis said whimsically, getting carefully to her feet and waving a hand at Lucerne. The bound fairy's restraints melted away and Amaryllis stepped up close to her, smiling sadly. "Lucerne. Since you're here, and... caught, as it were, I think it's a fairly good guess that you were the one who trapped me. I'm sorry, Lucerne. I should have told you and Coriander what I was planning, but I didn't know if it was going to work..."
Lucerne gaped, her mouth opening and closing as she blinked in abject bewilderment. "What... what are you talking about?"
Amaryllis smiled and caught one of Lucerne's hands between her own. "Only a wish fairy has the strength of magic to rule the Fairy Lands. For so very long I was the only one, and even when I met Coriander I was still bound by my duty, no matter how much I loved her... I tried for so very long to try to do both, but then you yelled at me and I realized... Well. That's when I started looking for my successor."
Rain felt his jaw hang open. "Your what?"
"And I found him," Amaryllis continued happily, shooting Rain a fond smile. "But he was so fragile, so broken... I thought if I brought him back with me to the palace, gave him a purpose, he might find the strength within him to lead him to his power." She beamed. "And you have, haven't you Rain? Your eyes and wings have their color now, and they didn't before... You look wonderful."
Sometime much later Rain might find it amusing that they were all staring at her in a rather dumbfounded manner, even Lucerne who'd made no move to free her hand after Amaryllis had claimed it. The stunned silence stretched on until finally Hyacinth managed to break it with a cautiously ventured, "So... Rain was supposed to become the Faerie Queen?"
Amaryllis blinked. "Oh no," she said, shaking her head. "He's a boy. He'll be the Faerie King." She stopped, then switched her attention back to Lucerne, expression softening. "That is... if you and Coriander will still have me, Lucerne..."
"You..." Lucerne found her voice at last. "You were going to step down?" She swallowed audibly. "And I... I..."
Amaryllis enfolded her into a gentle embrace. "It's all right," she murmured. "If you hadn't, it's possible that I'd still be waiting for Rain to come into his power. I think, in the end, everything worked out exactly the way it was supposed to." Tilting her head, she place a soft, easy kiss to Lucerne's lips.
Rain felt himself blushing. He groped blindly for Hyacinth's hand, dragging them both somewhat stumbling out of the room and down two hallways before he allowed them to slow, though he didn't release his grasp on Hyacinth. They walked along in silence for a long moment, then once more it was Hyacinth who broke it.
"Well, the first thing you're going to have to do as King is find someone else to do the cleaning for you."
Rain stopped, looking up at him uncertainly. "I... It doesn't bother you, that I'm always going to put Tia-na-Niara first? I mean, Amaryllis had to step down to be with the ones she loved..."
Hyacinth smiled and pulled Rain into his arms, holding him close. "I don't know about Coriander, but Lucerne is a chaos fairy. She has no love for the Fairy Lands. But I'm a Guardian, and I know all about how duty to your people has to come first. We'll manage."
"Promise?" Rain asked, feeling rather small and foolish, but it had taken him so very long to claim the one he loved, and he wasn't about to give that up now, even for Tia-na-Niara.
"Promise," Hyacinth whispered, and bent his head to take a kiss.