A/N: The moment you have all been waiting for. This is the LAST chapter about Andrea's childhood. I had a lot of fun writing this chapter and I think it is the fastest I have ever written a chapter. 2 days, start to finish and its about 7 pages. It usually takes me months between updates. When I first began this story, it started right after the prologue with Andie being an adult. I changed it in this version to include her childhood and I'm glad I did. I think her relationship with Cameron later on is more interesting when you see first hand just what it use to be. Hope you guys enjoy.
chapter 7 – The end of Forever
Andrea raced up the stairs, tripping over her long gown and tearing the hem in her haste. She could hear the servants calling out angrily behind her, but the princess ignored them, racing through the door to her apartments and throwing open the door to her inner bedroom.
The familiar white haired boy was sitting on her window seat, one leg propped against the wall as he read an impossibly thick book by candle light. Andrea grinned at the familiar sight and rushed across the room to him, scrambling onto the window seat with all the grace of an over excited puppy. She flopped into his lap with an overly dramatic sigh. The boy gave her a bemused grin.
"I have had a horrible day," she told him matter of factually.
"Mmm. The stress of being six," he teased, moving his book out of the way and allowing it to vanish with a small curl of smoke. Andrea scrunched up her nose at him, glaring at the older boy and his lack of concern over her stressful day.
"It is hard! All I'm ever told is what not to do. Don't run in the halls. Don't get dirty. Don't stay up late. Don't sing. Don't laugh. What am I supposed to do?" she demanded.
"You are to be a proper lady of the court Princess Andrea," he replied, dropping his voice into a wavering crackle and mispronouncing her name exactly as her tutor did. The little girl giggled at his perfect imitation, covering her mouth and trying to muffle the sound out of habit.
The boy ruffled her hair and grinned as the black strands covered her face in disarray.
"The only thing you must be is yourself, Andie. Don't let them tell you otherwise," he consoled gently. The words seemed to lift a weight from her heart. It did not matter what that hag of a tutor or the servants thought. Only the opinion of the boy in front of her mattered.
Andrea looked out the window and saw that the sun had completely sunk below the horizon, leaving only a trail of cerulean blue across the mountains from where it had made its departure. She looked back at the boy and grinned excitedly.
"Ange!" she shouted, using the nickname she had dubbed the boy with when he had refused to tell her his real name. He never seemed especially fond of the comparison to her dog, but he accepted the name with measured patience.
He raised his pale eyebrows in question.
"It's Midsummer Eve and the moon is full!" she cried excitedly.
"Hmm, is it?" he replied offhandedly, sparing the moon only a half caring glance. He didn't bother to raise his head from where it was propped on his hand. Andrea scrambled up, placing her hands on his shoulders so that they were eye to eye.
"You promised!" she whined, pushing at him impatiently.
The boy yawned widely and stretched out beneath her, placing both feet against the wall so that he could sink down further against the cushions.
"I'm too sleepy. Maybe next year," he said offhandedly and pretended to go to sleep. He bit his lip to keep from laughing at her outraged cry of horror.
"Come on, Ange! You promised! Come on!" she demanded, hopping up and down like a furious rabbit.
With a martyred sigh, he sat up and stretched.
"Well, I suppose I did promise."
Andrea threw her arms around him with a cry of delight before jumping off the window seat to prance around the room in excitement.
Cameron grinned at her enthusiasm before soundlessly opening the window and leaning out into the cool, night air. Andrea got up next to him, poking her head beneath his arm and scanning the darkness as well, though she had no idea what they were looking for. The darkness seemed relatively uniform to her, but Cameron seemed to find whatever he was looking for. He came back into the room and cupped his hands against his lower back, making an easy step for Andrea as she wrapped her arms securely around his neck and her legs around his ribs.
He peered into the darkness again, then took a small leap and easily landed on a sturdy branch of the tree growing beneath the window. Cameron never held onto the branches to steady himself, a feat Andrea was always astounded with. His feet easily danced from branch to branch and when they ran out of sturdy footing, the tree actually bent forward to place them on the ground outside of the castle walls.
He patted the tree's trunk and smiled before racing off into the night.
"Ange," Andrea said, tugging slightly on a pointed ear to get his attention, "Why does the tree do as you say?"
"Because I ask politely," he replied easily. "Close your eyes, Andie. Humans aren't allowed to see the path we're following."
She did as he asked, closing her eyes and snuggling into the crook of his neck. Cameron's hair brushed against her cheeks as he ran and she inhaled deeply. He smelled like the spices and herbs she often saw him use and she made a game of trying to name each one. Nutmeg, hazelnut, cinnamon, and a dash of something dark and sweet she had no name for. It was a warm smell, purely Ange and as comforting as a fire on a winter day. It never failed to make her feel safe.
She felt him turn multiple times, zigzagging and seeming to double back over his own path.
"Are you lost?" she asked without raising her head. Her voice was muffled, but he heard her clearly and laughed.
"I never get lost."
"I think you're lost right now," she argued, grinning. It didn't matter if they were lost. There were far worse things than to be lost with her best friend.
"I am not. In fact, we're here."
Andrea raised her head as Cameron bent down and let her slide from his back. They were standing in a field full of white, night blooming flowers as large as her hand. She stared at the sight in wonder, spinning in a circle to take in every inch of it. Aside from the brook to her right, the flowers stretched as far as the eye could see, the perfect petals brushed with shades of blue and silver by the moonlight. She looked up at Ange and couldn't help but think he looked exactly like the flowers, his starlight hair glowing like a silvery halo. In a few hours the flowers would be gone and no one would know that they even existed ...until the next night, when they would bloom again for any who had eyes to see...exactly like her Ange. He belonged only to her and the knowledge made her smile excitedly, reveling in the fact that she would never have to share him with anyone else.
"We need to disguise you," he said as he walked a thoughtful circle around her. His green eyes suddenly sparked with an idea and he bent forward, touching a finger to her forehead. Andrea felt a warm breath of air and looked into the brook to examine herself. Her dress had changed from dark blue velvet to a light, gauzy material in a rosy pink that stopped above her knees. Long, pink and white ribbons streamed from her dark hair and a crown of woven flowers completed the look.
Andrea smiled at her reflection, then gasped as she caught sight of a frail, gossamer wing over her left shoulder. She craned her head backwards, trying to see the translucent wings in full. She flapped them experimentally and was amazed when they actually moved.
"They aren't real, but they'll move as if they are. Just don't try to fly," Ange said, grinning as the girl spun in a circle to see the wings. She looked like a puppy chasing her tail.
Andrea stopped spinning and realized that Ange had also changed his appearance, though she hadn't seen when it had happened. He was dressed in an emerald green tunic over a loose white shirt. Gold embroidery in the shape of leaves traced the seam of the tunic in front and along the sleeves of his shirt, which was left loose at the neck. The outfit was complete with soft, dark pants and black boots that reached to just below his knee. He made a sweeping bow to her and Andrea giggled, dropping into a messy curtsy.
He took her hand and the pair made their way through a grove of trees heavy with a strange fruit Andrea could not recognize. She could see lights through the trees and a strange sort of music amid shouts of laughter. She picked up her pace, but two long, pale hands gently grasped her face. The fingers angled her head upward until she was staring upside down at Ange.
"Do you remember the rules?" he asked quietly, his voice serious.
"Never eat or drink anything," she chimed in, eager to show her friend that she had listened to his lessons.
"Remember to stay by my side at all times as well. Never go where I can't see you, understand?"
She nodded enthusiastically and he allowed his hands to slide away from her face.
"Good. Now try not to get eaten by anything or carried away by one of the Fay. It would be difficult for me to explain to your parents."
The pair broke from the trees and what Andrea saw made her mouth drop open in wonder. The entire clearing was packed with Fay. Woman with flowing gowns and hair of moss and vines danced in a circle, so graceful their feet hardly seemed to touch the ground. Small men dressed in red, bejeweled robes weaved their way through the crowd, whispering things into the ears of pretty woman and causing them to swoon while a pixie no bigger than Andrea's thumb sipped a strange, brackish liquid from the head of a bluebell.
"Is it okay if I dance?" Andrea asked her guardian, pointing excitedly to where a group of Fay children around her height had formed an inner circle in the dance.
"As long as you stay within my sight, it's fine," Ange said. He smiled as the princess scampered off and was immediately invited to the circle.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling the tension ease from his muscles. It was a relief to be among others of the Seelie court, though none of his own race were present. Still, it was much easier to give in to the moon's call rather than to confine himself to Andrea's room and attempt to ignore the pain defying the summoning caused. Something seemed different about the gathering, though. It was as if the woman were more captivating than they should have been. Their dances were more seductive, their smiles more alluring. That was to be expected from Fay woman, but it had never had any affect on him before. Why should it matter now? Was it because he had spent too much time among humans?
A woman in the corner caught his eye. She was wearing a dress of pale purple and a human boy was kneeling in front of her, eating fruit from her hand as if he were starving. She laughed when he began to lap at her fingers and the sound was cruel and cold. Her gossamer wings fluttered as she raised a plum like fruit to her lips and took a large bite, allowing the juice to run from her lips and trickle down her neck. The boy immediately pressed his lips to hers in a hungry kiss before his tongue flicked out to follow the juice trail and lap at the hallow of her pale throat. When her skin had been licked clean, he kissed her again, desperate for another taste. The Fay woman curled her fingers into his hair, uncaring if she caused him harm as she turned the kiss savage.
Cameron looked away from the obscene sight, shuddering in disgust. The boy would be lucky if he ever left the Fay world now. Not that the fool cared.
His eyes immediately sought Andrea, a feeling of unease settling low in his stomach. That was the nature of most human and Fay relationships. Humans were a toy, a fleeting amusement because of their weakness for Fay beauty. Most Seelie respected humans and certainly the High elves had no trouble inviting humans into their society, but the sight of what others thought of humans was a disturbing reality.
Andrea stepped out of the circle and bent over to catch her breath. She felt as if she had only danced one song, yet her lungs were burning for oxygen and her mouth felt bone dry.
"Poor child. You look as if you could use a drink," a soft voice spoke behind her.
Andrea turned quickly to see a tall, handsome man addressing her. He was dressed in earth tones of brown and black with a jeweled clip securing his long cloak. He offered a handful of plump grapes to her, but Andrea took a step back. He smiled and, though he was attractive, there was something horribly unnerving about the way the light glinted off his seemingly human teeth. Still, Andrea found her hand moving slowly towards his as if from its own accord.
A hand shot out of no where and in the blink of an eye, the princess found herself pushed behind a very familiar green clad arm. Ange's other hand had a firm grasp of the man's wrist.
"Sorry," he said with a tight lipped smile, "but this human is mine and I don't like to share. Thank you for your concern over her well being, though."
The other man narrowed his black eyes and bared his teeth. There was suddenly something very wolfish about his features.
"High elf," he spat. His eyes flickered back to Andie, this time clearly sizing her up.
"Perhaps we can make a trade. You can have one of my woman. I'm sure they will be more suited to you. Besides-" he held one of the grapes between his fingers, allowing the rest to fall to the ground, "one bite of this and she certainly won't say no. I think it'll be fun watching her cute little face while I-"
There was a loud snap and the man broke off with a cry of pain. The wrist Cameron had been holding was twisted at a grotesque angle and the man clutched it close to himself, cursing Cameron in a language Andrea had never heard before.
"I do not know what Unseelie law states," Cameron said in a deadly quiet voice, "but I do know that both courts outlaw the rape of a child, even if the child is willing under Fay magic. This child belongs to me and so is under Seelie protection."
He moved to turn his back on the man, but the stranger was not done with the fight.
"Leave it to a High elf to invoke Law just to screw the brat himself," he sneered.
The move was too fast for even those closest to catch, but suddenly the man was screaming in pain, his injured hand twitching a few feet away as Cameron clutched the hilt of a bloody stiletto. He held the silver blade to the man's throat and he immediately closed his mouth, black eyes flicking nervously from the blade to Cameron.
"Do not speak so obscenely before a child. Do not try my patience again, sir. Your hand will grow back. Your head will not."
His voice was frigid and hard, devoid of all emotion. Andrea felt herself shivering. How could the same soothing voice that brought fairy tails to life and sang her lullaby sound so terrifying?
The man crawled away through the crowd and Cameron sighed, sheathing his dagger. He scooped Andie up and shifted her weight to his left arm. "Here," he said gently, offering her a rosebud cup. She looked nervously at it, unsure what to do.
"It's okay as long as you only take what I offer you. It's just water," he explained.
"It's certainly rare to see a High elf away from court during the summer festival," a female voice spoke up.
Cameron turned to look at the woman, wondering what new problem he was dealing with. She was beautiful in a frigid way. Her skin was pale blue, like that of a corpse. Her long, black hair was gathered in a coil atop her hair, the loose strands in back frozen into long icicles. She peered at the pair with crimson colored eyes.
"I abhor both courts, but I despise more those who would destroy beauty. That girl you have there is quite the prize, so, though I hate to admit it, you have my respect for protecting her from that leech." her voice was soft and, despite her harsh appearance, it held a warm tone.
She tilted her head, as if listening to something only she could hear.
"Someday, you'll be the one following that girl like a lost puppy and begging for her attention," she said quietly. There was no malice in her voice, just the simple statement of fact.
Cameron made his way through the crowd and as Andrea watched, she swore for a moment the woman had no face.
"You're like them," the princess said when they had reached the flower field. Cameron stopped walking and looked over his shoulder at her solemnly.
"Does that scare you?" he asked quietly. Andrea shook her head, tightening her hold on his neck.
"No. I was just thinking that I have the most beautiful Fay of all."
Cameron gave her a lopsided grin before instructing her to close her eyes again as he made his way back to the palace.
When the tree graciously set the pair back on the window seat, Cameron removed Andrea's glamor and ushered her into the bath.
Artemis peaked in, watching as an enchanted toy duck swam circles around the princess and quacked merrily. Cameron was kneeling beside the large tub, dripping wet and covered in suds as if he had fallen in at some point. He had removed his outer tunic and rolled up his sleeves while he washed the girl's hair during her momentary distraction.
"Master," Artemis spoke lowly so as not to disturb the girl, "may I have a word with you?"
The boy raised his eyebrows but nodded.
"Make sure to clean your teeth after your bath," he told Andrea. She gave a grunt in reply, more concerned with catching the duck.
"And don't just use water. I can tell if you do," he called, not missing the girl's eye roll.
Artemis waited while his master entered through the hidden wall panel to his own room and changed clothing.
"So, what is the problem? You have a rather dire look on your face," he commented, watching the Djinn from where he was leaning against Andrea's bed post. The cat sighed.
"Cameron...look in the mirror."
The elf frown, but turned towards the vanity mirror and examined his reflection.
"I don't understand what I'm looking for," he said after a moment, but Artemis shook his head.
"Look, Cameron. Really look."
Cameron rolled his eyes, looking remarkably like Andrea as he turned back to the mirror and leaned closer to it. Everything looked the same to him. His starlight hair, the familiar green eyes, his skin...his skin. His mouth fell open in horror as he touched the mirror then his own face. He quickly looked down at his hands, as if his reflection was somehow wrong. His skin had lost the golden hue of youth and had become the pale, almost silver sheened skin of an adult.
"When did this happen?" he demanded in a broken whisper.
"It's been happening for months now. Your paling didn't take place until about two nights ago, though," the demon said sadly.
Paling. The word echoed strangely in Cameron's mind. If he were in the Seelie court, it would be cause for great celebration. There would be an ongoing party for at least a week to celebrate the future king's entrance into adulthood. He didn't feel like celebrating though. He felt cold and horribly sick.
Cameron looked back at the mirror, trying to discern what marked him as an adult other than his skin color. He had grown a few inches and filled out a bit more and it was true that his cheeks had become slightly more angular...but the face he saw certainly didn't resemble an adult. Certainly not with the way his fear stricken gaze stared back at him, wide eyed and lost.
"I'm seventeen," he murmured with some surprise. It was strange to think that even though five years had passed for Andrea, only two had passed for himself.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked softly.
"You promised you would take her to the summer festival and you were both looking forward to it...I figured you deserved one more night."
One more night. The words were like a dagger to his heart. When Andrea had grown too lonely and he could no longer bare the sight, he had gone to Victoria and Edward and had made a deal. He could reveal himself, but only by night and only if Andrea never found out who he was. They all agreed that the visits would cause little harm to the aging schedule...as long as they stopped once his paling had occurred. If they continued after that, Cameron was in danger of exposing his secret and also ran the risk of throwing off the aging process. Once the paling occurred he was to once again be confined to his canine form at all times unless dire need arose...and Andrea would once again go back to being lonely.
Cameron closed his eyes, running a hand over his face.
"I'm sorry," the Djinn said quietly before allowing himself to vanish, leaving his master to say goodbye in private.
The bathroom door opened and Andrea padded out in a light blue dressing gown, the duck held securely in her arms. Cameron turned to look at her and set his heart for what was to come.
"Andrea, I need to talk to you," he said quietly. Her head shot up, eyes wide and worried. She knew something was wrong. It was in his voice, the kind of voice used when telling someone that a person they had dearly loved was dead.
He kneeled down in front of her so that for once the girl was slightly taller than himself and looked into her eyes.
"You won't be able to see me for a while."
Andrea's eyes searched his.
"For how long?" she whispered strickenly. Cameron's silence was all the answer she needed. The girl pulled back from him, her expression furious and hurt.
"No! You promised you would never go away!" she shouted.
He was shocked that she had remembered the promise, but that wasn't his concern.
"Andie, I-" he began but she cut him off.
"No! You promised to be with me forever! You swore you would!"
She ran at him, beating the elf's chest as hard as she could.
"You promised me! You promised!" She sobbed. The betrayal in her voice hurt him more than her fists ever could. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled the girl close. She struggled for a few minutes, then finally slumped against him and cried bitterly.
"I know I promised and I meant it. I'll never leave you, Andrea. I'll still be with you. You just won't be able to see me for a while. But I'll always be right there beside you," he vowed quietly, rubbing her back as she continued to cry into his neck.
"When are you going?" she whimpered brokenly, sniffling in a way that would send her tutor's eye twitching.
"I'll stay until you fall asleep."
Andrea immediately jumped up, clutching at the front of his shirt.
"Then I'll never go to sleep!" she swore. "I'll never sleep again and then you can never leave!"
Cameron stared into her desperate face and found his heart breaking even more.
"Alright, Andie. Lets lay down though," he murmured.
Cameron tucked the girl in, then laid down beside her in the large canopy bed. She curled against his side, trying to find any excuse to make him stay.
"What about when it rains?" she suddenly demanded. "Who will sing my lullaby to put me to sleep again?"
Cameron thought for a moment, then reached into his pocket and withdrew the spices and herbs she was so familiar with. He gathered the ingredients in his hand then whispered something over his fist. Immediately the spices caught flame and there in his hand stood a small bird woven of scarlet and gold light.
"She'll sing the lullaby for you any time you would like," he explained, but the girl didn't care. She didn't want the bird, no matter how beautiful it was. It would never take the place of her Ange.
The hours ticked by, counted off by the quiet heartbeat of the mantle clock and Andrea felt her eyes beginning to close. She fought against it, but when she opened her eyes from what she thought was only a blink, the room was filled with bright sunlight. She jerked up in bed and looked around in a panic. Angelus was curled against her, watching the girl with solemn eyes while the bird of light was preening itself on her bedpost. Ange was gone.
The reality made her cry all over again, first at the loss of her best friend, but then slowly the feeling transformed into a horrible rage at the boy and the promise he had broken. It was the last time she would ever believe in magic.