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Generated: Oct 12, 2019 3:16 PM
Post last updated: Oct 12, 2019 3:18 PM
most foolish of all
catherine goes from fairyland to milliways and everybody is very concerned at her
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When she thinks she can see him without crying again, she holds her baby close and walks silently back to Rana's.

The room has been replaced with - something else. She has no idea what this means. She has nobody to ask but Rana. Everything she asks places her further in his debt, of course, but it hardly matters now.

She steps inside.

Permalink Eye

The new room has stars out the windows, and everything in it looks artificial and polished and not at all like the rest of the court. There are people there; Rána's one of them. So's his red-haired brother, and a human girl of maybe twenty. They are talking; they swing around curiously to look at her.

Permalink Eye

- she has no idea what's going on but whatever it is is kind of terrifying and she's not sure she can stick to her resolution not to cry given whatever it is.

" - sorry," she says, not really thinking. "I didn't mean to interrupt - "

Permalink Eye

"No, by all means come on in! This is a magic place called Milliways; when you close the door time stops passing in the world you left from, so you can stay a while without missing anything back home."

Permalink Eye

She is not sure how this is different from how time normally is, but it seems inappropriate to ask. And interacting with Rána's brother, directly, in what is supposed to be her ( - their - no, his - ) room, especially when she feels like talking to anyone might cause her to say something very unwise, is -

She looks at Rána. Surely he'll at least tell her what she's expected to be doing right now.

Permalink Eye

He does not seem aware he's supposed to be doing this.

Also, several other things are weird: his hair is elaborately braided in some fashion that looks like it'd have taken hours, and he's wearing clothes, tangible clothes with actual properties, rich elaborate pretty ones. So is his brother, actually. The girl is wearing something weirdly tightly fitted to her body.  

He also looks a little different but that might be mostly the clothes and hairstyle. 

"Also the bar gives out free drinks," he says.

Permalink Eye

She's really confused about what these people are doing right now. Really, horribly confused, and kind of upset that nobody has told her, even though she has no particular reason to know.

"Okay," she says, very quietly, and shuts the door, and stands by it holding her baby. She doesn't say anything else, because she thinks if she does she will cry.

Permalink Eye

I think you should - ask Bar about food for her and get her something and get her to sit down.

Permalink Eye

Me? Why?

Permalink Eye

Because she's in pretty bad shape, and less scared of you? She's not really thinking about why? 

Permalink Eye

"Sure," he says out loud, "whatever. Bar can I have something for her to eat?"

Permalink Eye

Bar seems to think Catherine is in urgent need of fat and protein because here is a steak sizzling in butter and a milkshake and mashed potatoes with bacon and cheese in them.

Permalink Eye

Well, Bar's the expert there. He casts around for a place for her to sit that's a little ways off from the people she's apparently scared of, carries the plates over there. "uh, hi. I'm Alex. Why don't you sit down and eat something?"

Permalink Eye

- and now she is really scared, because Rána has just introduced himself, and she has no idea what that means but she suspects it isn't good.

"I don't - really understand what's happening here."

Permalink Eye

He shoots his brother an annoyed glance.

"Uh, it's okay, Milliways is pretty bizarre until you get used to it. It's magic. There are lots of different worlds, and Milliways lets people from different ones into it, sometimes. We're not from the same world as you, but we can probably still help you out - depending what you need help with - there's an infirmary if the baby's sick -"

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She hugs her baby a little closer. She's aware that they're not from the same world, but she doesn't know why they're saying it now - and talking to her like they don't even know who she -

 

" - should I just go back to your father's house?"

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Another, bewildered, frustrated glance at his brother. "...do you know people who...look like us?"

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnodnod.

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"Okay. Well, there are lots of different universes, and some of them have copies of the same people in them - the same but in different circumstances, stuff like that. 

Uh - I think probably in some universes most people who know me would be pretty scared of me. Is that... what the problem is?"

Permalink Eye

 

"I just - I don't understand what I'm supposed to be doing - "

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There is no way I am the best person to be doing this!

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I do indeed observe that you are not doing very well at it but she's terrified of me.

Permalink Eye

Then go and get the Karen or something.

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He stands up and leaves.

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She hugs her baby and trembles.

 

" - you're not - you're not the person I know who looks like you," she tries.

Permalink Eye

"No. I'm not. And I don't know - how you knew him or what you knew about him but I'm not going to hurt you, no one here is going to hurt you."

Permalink Eye

She breathes deeply. Carefully. Rána does not care about her, but he hasn't knowingly left her here without a lifeline, he has not suddenly stopped caring about whether she's terrified, he did not invite his brother to his room and then fail to warn her or explain this, he is not more terrible than he was this morning. He's just not here. A fairy who looks like him and doesn't know her at all is here.

...this is also, actually, pretty terrifying. Possibly more terrifying.

She is so thankful that she hasn't touched the food yet. She goes on not touching the food.

"Sorry. I was - confused."

Permalink Eye

He takes several steps away while she is thinking all this through and raises his hands in the air as if to make a point about how they're not holding anything.

"Uh, okay. It's fine. Would you....like me to leave."

Permalink Eye

 No, then she would be alone except for that other person over there, but if she shakes her head - 

 

"I don't - I don't want to make requests, or anything - "

Permalink Eye

Well what the fuck do you do with that. 

 

He can think of lots of people who'd think he was dangerous to be around and some who'd think he was dangerous to accept food from but he actually can't think of anyone who'd think he's - whatever she seems to think he is. But then, alternate universes. In one of them Karen was a Slayer and in the other she worked for Wolfram and Hart.

"Okay," he says. "I'm going to go sit down ...over there, I guess. The food's not - poisoned or anything, it won't hurt you in any way, I just got it because it seemed like you might need to eat -"

Permalink Eye

"'m not supposed to accept favors," she says, quietly. "I don't think. If you're not him."

Permalink Eye

"Him being - the alternate universe me? Rána?"

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Nod. She can answer questions, that's good, that'll pay off whatever debt she accidentally incurred before she started thinking about it.

Permalink Eye

He looks anxiously at the stairwell. Maitimo's not back. He might be a year, or something. 

"I feel like I have not succeeded at communicating that nothing bad is going to happen here. I don't - know where my assumptions are wrong."

Permalink Eye

"I just - I don't want to get stuck here without him. Or my son, he's still - he's with - the person who is I guess not your father."

Permalink Eye

"You're not stuck. You can go back through the door anytime. It'd mean a lot to us if you didn't, yet, because Milliways is really useful and if your world stays in contact with it it might be able to help you too, but you can leave any time you want."

Permalink Eye

 

Nod.

Permalink Eye

Maybe if he just sits here for a while she will eventually calm down or think about a clear explanation of the situation.

Permalink Eye

She is calming down a tiny bit but is not going to offer useful information without being asked for it because that's rude and she is hardly in a position to be rude.

Permalink Eye

He's not expecting her to talk he's hoping she'll think about things more clearly than she's currently doing.

 

Permalink Eye

Well, she's pretty scared, and she didn't fully process the thing about time being stopped, so she's still hoping that Rána will find her soon, hopefully before she messes up and asks for something, because then she will belong to other people, and she is really supposed to avoid belonging to other people, because even though she's mostly just a slave right now she's at least not a mistreated slave, and she's pretty sure things can still get significantly worse from there.

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

 

She snuggles her baby and waits.

Permalink Eye

He walks over to Faith and whispers. 

"I don't think I should be talking to her right now but I think someone needs to?"

Permalink Eye

"Wow. If you think I'll be better at it you must be desperate."

Permalink Eye

"Well, here's the problem, right, she's convinced that she shouldn't talk to anyone until her Rána comes through the door, and I'm not sure she caught the thing about how he won't."

Permalink Eye

"Gotcha."

She grabs her popcorn and hops down from her barstool and heads over to the trembly lady with a baby.

"S' a cute kid. How old?"

Permalink Eye

" - I don't remember. Nine, ten months, I think."

Permalink Eye

"Don't remember, huh?"

Permalink Eye

"Fairies don't keep time the way I'm used to."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. Never met any fairies, myself."

What the hell does that mean, man?

Permalink Eye

I have no idea! I mean, I guess it means that there are fairies! - the one, Rána, he looks like me and - I think he enslaved her because she was thinking about it earlier - 

Permalink Eye

 

Huh. That's kinda fucked up.

Permalink Eye

You don't say. That's why I thought - anyone but me should be -

Permalink Eye

No, I get you, yeah.

"Uh, so, I dunno fairyland, but whoever you left on the other side is gonna be a while, right, because time freezes when you're in here. So you could hang out here as long as you wanted with no consequences, they wouldn't even know."

Permalink Eye

"I am aware that fairies are fast and that when you're with them humans are so slow that they look like they're stopped. I've been fast for almost half a day. I don't know why everyone thinks this is the confusing part."

Permalink Eye

"...I think that's different, whatever that is, none of us are fairies. Like, Alex is whatever Alex is, but - hey, you're not a fairy, are you, Alex?"

Permalink Eye

"Nope! We call ourselves Quendi. I've never heard anyone call us fairies."

Permalink Eye

"See? No fairies."

Permalink Eye

"Obviously not," she says. And they can't be, if they were they couldn't lie about it. 

Permalink Eye

 

...so what exactly are we trying to do here, I'm not actually an expert on freeing people from fairies, if I were gonna I'd ask, like, the dog or someone.

Permalink Eye

I sent Maedhros to get Karen and maybe he'll also think to get Wishbone but who knows how long it'll take them to get back? I just want her to not run off back to fairy slavery before we get a chance to pitch her on, instead, not fairy slavery. 

Permalink Eye

Makes sense.

"You gonna, like, eat any of that, Bar made it special for you. I bet it's good."

Permalink Eye

"Shouldn't accept favors."

Permalink Eye

"...okay, but like, the fairies can't stop you here, you're not gonna get in trouble for it."

Permalink Eye

" - I realize you're not fairies, but I don't know how any of this works, and I do not want to be given things because I don't want to belong to anyone else."

Permalink Eye

 

I got nothing, man.

Permalink Eye

"Uh," he says from across the room, "in my universe, slavery is bad, and illegal, and no one practices it, and if they do, we make them stop that. And accepting favors from strangers doesn't mean you owe them a damn thing."

Permalink Eye

"Well that's not how it works in mine."

Permalink Eye

"Uh huh. But you're out of it. And you don't have to go back."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I do, I left my son there. And it doesn't matter - what you think of things, it matters what fairy thinks of things, and I can't see the fairy rules, so as long as Rána isn't here I should just - probably shouldn't even be talking to you."

Permalink Eye

"We can figure out some way to get your son."

Permalink Eye

"I have five children. One of them is here, one of them is with the person who is not your father, and three of them are hundreds of miles away, and Rána is going to help me get them back when the night is over, and I don't want help because I don't know anything about you, except that you look like him, and it could be a terrible situation to end up in your debt."

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry. I'm not - I don't think you could possibly trust me, in that situation. And I don't know anything about how fairies work."

Permalink Eye

She doesn't really know what that means, or whether it's a bad idea for him to end up in her debt if she answers more questions, and so she sighs and snuggles her baby.

She should probably go back through the door and find Rána before she gets kidnapped again, she won't get as lucky as last time twice. She just doesn't really want to - deal with the thing where he doesn't care about her, really, especially now that she's upset again, so maybe she can just wait a little bit for her heartbeat to even out again and then go find him.

Permalink Eye

It super does not sound like she should go back to this guy ever, actually. 

"Is there - some kind of interaction it's safe for us to have under the rules of fairyland?"

Permalink Eye

 

"If I answer questions then that's - we'll have to even it out, after, but - if fairy is counting it up then you can't hurt me."

Permalink Eye

"Well, that's good, I don't want to hurt you. That means that you're okay with me asking questions?"

Permalink Eye

 

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. What are fairies?"

Permalink Eye

"Fairies are - they're like humans, but they move very fast, faster than people can see, and they have a debt system that - tracks how much they've done for people, and how much people have done for them, and if they do something that fairy thinks is horrible, like lie, then they and everyone who they owe or who owes them will suffer for it. And if someone is in your debt you can hurt them, and if you're in someone else's debt and you try to hurt them then fairy will punish you, maybe kill you for it. And they don't die except by violence, and they don't need to eat anything besides dew, and they can follow paths that make them very small sometimes, and they don't understand what evil is. And you should not interact with them unless you are desperate."

Permalink Eye

"Wow. Okay. 

 

And you were desperate and - made a deal with fairies?"

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"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"With a fairy who looks like me?"

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"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"With a brother who looks like my brother?"

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Nodnod.

Permalink Eye

"God. I'm sorry.

If you could have your kids and have your deal with fairy undone, do you know what you would want?"

Permalink Eye

" - I don't want to go back, either. I don't regret it." She regrets not realizing sooner that he didn't care very much about her, but she really doesn't want to talk about that.

Permalink Eye

"...okay. I guess I would feel better about you deciding that if you'd seen more...options... but I don't know how to show them to you and a lot of them might require learning a new language. But you can decide that, if you want to.

Are your children also slaves?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't think so. He's been careful about that. The baby can't be, they don't think she's a person yet."

Permalink Eye

"That's kind of concerning."

Permalink Eye

"Not a person until you start gaining debt. Can't gain debt until you can talk."

Permalink Eye

"Are they gonna hurt her?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't think so."

Permalink Eye

"So," he waves his hands helplessly. "When I meet someone who is incredibly traumatized and a slave and pretty sure this is the best she can hope to do, the thing I assume is that she's being competently abused, not that she's being treated okay.

 

That wasn't a question, sorry, I meant to turn it into one but - is saying things bad if they're not questions?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't - I don't think so, as long as it's not - if you give me information that I asked for then it counts against me, see, and I can't always tell what counts as asking."

Permalink Eye

"Well that sounds awful. 

And the food counts as something bad?"

Permalink Eye

"Food is - how I got stuck in fairy in the first place, if you eat food they give you then you can't leave until you've paid it off. And it's very expensive."

Permalink Eye

"Well, Milliways has lots of really valuable stuff. You could use that to pay off the fairies and get out of slavery, maybe, depending how it all interacts."

Permalink Eye

"I don't - I'd have to talk to Rána."

Permalink Eye

"The man who enslaved you."

Permalink Eye

"He's more trustworthy than you are. He's been able to hurt me for months, and he hasn't, except for - he mostly hasn't, and you're - a very confused person who claims to be from a different realm entirely, who doesn't know what a fairy is, and who I've only been talking to for the past ten minutes."

Permalink Eye

 

"Most people don't enslave people."

Permalink Eye

"Most people can't."

Permalink Eye

"I think even most people who can, don't. Where I'm from."

Permalink Eye

"Not where I'm from."

Permalink Eye

"Where are you from?"

Permalink Eye

"...England, originally, and we didn't keep slaves there when I was a girl, but I'm sure they do now."

Permalink Eye

"You do? England in my world super doesn't."

Permalink Eye

"Well I haven't been back to check. Everywhere else conquered by Scandinavia does, as far as I can tell."

Permalink Eye

"England in my world has also not been conquered by Scandinavia."

Permalink Eye

 

"Well mine has."

Permalink Eye

"I'm - sorry to hear that."

Permalink Eye

 

"'s why I wanted to get away. The Emperor kidnapped me and - he's a lot worse than the fairies."

Permalink Eye

"Things can get - really, really, really bad. But - even if the fairies are doing well in comparison it doesn't look like they're doing that well in absolute terms."

Permalink Eye

 

She does not have a lot to say to that.

Permalink Eye

He is the worst person for this in every possible respect, really. 

 

 

"If you wanted to get your fairy, you could hold the door open. Then time would pass in his world and he could find you."

Permalink Eye

 

She walks over to the door and holds it open.

Permalink Eye

Well maybe that was a bad call. But it's what she wants? That has to count for something?

Permalink Eye

She's gonna hold this door open until someone outside notices or someone in here prevents her from doing so. Can't take forever, whatever it is has opened itself into his bedroom, which he presumably has to come back to at some point.

Permalink Eye

It doesn't take too long at all. He's wearing visible clothes, fancier than usual; he walks up, looks at her, does a double-take at the door and the contents. "Hey. What's -


What the fuck are you doing, stop it right now."

Permalink Eye

" - I'm not doing anything -"

Permalink Eye

"You are doing something. It is putting you in my debt. I don't know what it is. If you don't stop it immediately I will make you."

Permalink Eye


"Oh. - huh.

 

Am I still doing it."

Permalink Eye

"No." He steps in front of Catherine and into the room. "Don't do it again. Who are you, and what is this place?"

Permalink Eye

" - place's called Milliways. It's an interdimensional bar. I don't control it. It opens in different places randomly. On this occasion it seems to have opened into the land of the fairies."

Permalink Eye

"What were you doing earlier?"

Permalink Eye

"I was reading your mind."

Permalink Eye

"Don't do it again. Are you doing it to her, too?"

Permalink Eye

"She doesn't belong to you, buddy."

Permalink Eye

"She absolutely belongs to me. Don't read her mind either. Are you doing any other weird things I can't see."

Permalink Eye

"No."

Permalink Eye

"Are you okay?"

Permalink Eye

"I think so. Came back to the room and this was here. They gave me food but I didn't eat it."

Permalink Eye

Hug. "Just stay here and stay quiet, okay? We'll - figure this out."

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnod.

Permalink Eye

"Why do you look like me?"

Permalink Eye

"I assure you I'm not delighted about it."

Permalink Eye

"Why do you look like me."

Permalink Eye

"The interdimensional bars connect universes. Different universes have - different versions of people. I take it you are the asshole slaveowning version of me. I think the families usually match, too."

Permalink Eye

"Why'd you offer my slave food?"

Permalink Eye

"Because she looks dead on her feet! Look at her! I've seen ghosts with more color!"

Permalink Eye

"No, you haven't. Don't you ever do that again."

Permalink Eye

 

"Look, I don't know what the hell -"

Permalink Eye

"Don't say things that aren't true."

Permalink Eye

"Don't enslave people. Does it work when I do it?"

Permalink Eye

"If you lie to me again you very well might die."

Permalink Eye

"Where I'm from that's not even considered a lie. Also I really doubt your system stretches into Milliways. Most things don't."

Permalink Eye


"I think I should get someone else."

Permalink Eye

"Kinda feeling the same way, yeah, except they're already on the way and thanks to the way Milliways is they might take ages."

Permalink Eye

He leans out the door. He calls out to someone. He instructs them to go get his brother.

 

Is Catherine doing okay, she does in fact look kind of dead on her feet though it might just be the terror from this unexpected situation.

Permalink Eye

"I don't - I - was sad, and I didn't want to talk about it, and then this happened, whatever this is. He has someone who looks like your brother, too, the red-haired one, he went to go get someone else."

Permalink Eye

"Great. We can set the two of my brother loose on each other.

You don't have any debts to him, I think the system's thinking of him like a sped-up mortal - which is probably what he is -"

Permalink Eye

"I am not mortal."

Permalink Eye

"Well, that's lovely for you, have you got any of it to go around?"

Permalink Eye

"Not yet. Probably quite soon."

Permalink Eye

"Huh."

Permalink Eye

"I can't say I'm wild on giving it to slavers, though."

Permalink Eye

"I'm immortal anyway. The person you could withhold it from is her."

Permalink Eye

"- if you stay here, we can pass it along once we have it."

Permalink Eye

" - okay."

 

They glare at each other a bit more. 

Permalink Eye

...she will just stick very close to her fairy. Who is not really hers, but at least she kind of has some idea how he's going to treat her. Probably.

Permalink Eye

(She's gonna grab more popcorn. And also hang out in case anything really goes to shit in a way that she feels at all qualified to handle.)

Permalink Eye

He heads upstairs, gets Wishbone, and knocks on Karen's door.

Permalink Eye

"....hello?"

Permalink Eye

"Hey. I'm sorry to bother you. We're trying to help someone in the main bar, and it turns out all of us are spectacularly disqualified from helping in this particular case, so Faith's doing it alone, and the person we're trying to help might need some advice that doesn't come from a sixteen year old with superpowers and problems with authority -

- uh, she wandered into Milliways from slavery in fairyland, and the people she knew in fairyland appear to be alternate universe versions of us."

Permalink Eye

"Well.

"I'll take a stab at it."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you. I am sorry to bother you but - she's got a baby, she looks not great, and - it really really can't be us -"

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnod. "I - have no idea whether I can actually help, but I can totally give it a shot." 

And she heads downstairs to meet the person who's been enslaved by fairies.

Permalink Eye

The person who has been enslaved by fairies is next to her fairy, who has gotten himself and his terrible alternate universe fancy-dressed version to even and is now pacing and waiting for someone else to show up.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, thank God. Or maybe thank Milliways. Karen."

Permalink Eye

"Hi! I hear you've found an interdimensional slave who finds you guys even less reassuring than I did."

Permalink Eye

"Yep! Also now she has called in her owner. I'm sorry about that. It's kind of my fault. Uh, Karen, this is -"

Permalink Eye

"What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Permalink Eye

" - what?"

Permalink Eye

"You can't just - go around calling people by their birth names!!"

Permalink Eye

"You did not mention that!"

Permalink Eye

"I thought everyone knew that!"

Permalink Eye

"Assume that everyone does not know any things."

Permalink Eye

"...what happens if people do? Uh, if it's not rude to ask questions, I'm not super up on my fairy lore."

Permalink Eye

"Cecelia, can you explain to the mortals how they can avoid problems, it won't entangle them if you do it -"

Permalink Eye

Nodnod. "If people learn each other's birth names they'll be entangled, like with debt, and hurt each other when they do things the universe disapproves of, except for names you can't get rid of the entanglement by evening out the debt. I should have said, I'm sorry - "

Permalink Eye

"She previously explained that debt accumulates when people interact, and if you're in someone's debt, or the other way around, then you both get punished when either of you does something the universe disapproves of, like lying. It counted "I've seen ghosts with more color" as lying. So -- we should avoid interacting with the fairy, mostly."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. This information would have been good to know thirty seconds ago, but we work with what we have. What all causes debt?"

Permalink Eye

"Asking questions. Accepting food from people. Hearing stories. Hearing music. Seeing art. Hugs. Sex. Accepting gifts or favors. Having been born, children have debt towards their parents. Violence causes debt, but if you hurt someone who you're in debt to then fairyland doesn't like it and it'll punish you. Humans mostly don't incur debt towards each other, I think, that's why I have to explain."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. That sounds... complicated and scary. But if humans don't incur debt towards each other then that means I can give you food, right, do you want food?"

Permalink Eye

 

She looks at Rána.

Permalink Eye

"- I'd rather not take the chance. Are you hungry, we can get food from home -"

Permalink Eye

"...not very. I don't think."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

Glare.

Permalink Eye

 

"Okay. Uh - before I came to Milliways I was also kind of a magical slave, and now I am basically not, I think, and I would kind of like to talk to you about whether you're happy, and stuff, about how your life is, and whether you would rather not be enslaved to fairies, but I'm not sure how much we can have that conversation with your owner person standing there, you know?"

Permalink Eye

 

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"Do you wanna come upstairs, maybe?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't think so."

Permalink Eye

 

"...maybe just, like, across the room? And you can have your fairy person between you and everyone else so if I try anything he'll get there first."

Permalink Eye

...uncertain look at Rána again.

Permalink Eye

"I haven't done anything wrong, I don't know why they're so - we stayed in court overnight because you wanted to -"

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnod. Hug. Because he seems like he needs one and maybe so does she.

Permalink Eye

Hug.

Permalink Eye

 

I don't really know what to do with that. Wolfram & Hart doesn't really give people hugs.

Permalink Eye

I think maybe it would've been good for her if everyone was chiller about the slavery but - well if so I fucked up at that.

Uh. 

I thought you were doing great.

Permalink Eye

Hm.

"Um, we're not gonna separate you from your person if you really don't want that. I'm not even sure we can, Milliways might object. We just wanna make sure you get to pick for yourself where you live and what you do, you know?"

Permalink Eye

Nodnod.

" - don't wanna belong to anyone else."

Permalink Eye

"You don't have to belong to anyone."

Permalink Eye

"She picked me. And I'm doing my best and I don't even - you haven't even said 'that thing you did, that wasn't good enough', you're just saying -"

Permalink Eye

Everything is hard and confusing and she still feels really terrible about the fact that Rána doesn't love her or anything, actually, obviously, but at least he's not mean, ever. And these people aren't mean, not right now, not obviously, but they're asking her to make decisions that she doesn't have any of the information or security that she would need to make properly, and at least while she's where she is nobody's hurting her.

 

"I don't - I don't really know what everybody thinks is happening. Or what they want to be happening."

Permalink Eye

"I want you to talk to Karen. You don't have to decide anything, just - to have talked with a person who has good things to think about. I think we're trying to get your - owner's - permission for that."

Permalink Eye

"I don't mind if she talks to humans if she wants to. But you're scaring her. And even if she talks to them she should - if there's a problem she should tell me about it so we can fix it, I wouldn't just leave her -"

Permalink Eye

Hug.

Permalink Eye

She comes a little closer, slowly. "Not gonna make you leave. Promise. Just wanna sit over at that table and talk about some stuff."

Permalink Eye

 

"You won't leave without me?" she asks Rána.

Permalink Eye

"Course not. - even if you want me to."

Permalink Eye

Hug.

She heads over to the table with Karen.

Permalink Eye

He will watch them anxiously, then.

Permalink Eye

"Okay. So. Can you, like, tell me how you ended up enslaved to Rána?"

Permalink Eye

"Found him in a fairy ring in the forest. Uh, I'm not -  I wasn't allowed to go to forests, before I met Rána, I was a concubine of the Emperor of Scandinavia and I wasn't allowed to leave the palace by myself. Um, my son walked towards the ring, and when I caught him there was a fairy in it, and I could see how the people around us were slow, because fairies and people in fairy rings are so fast. And - I told him about the Emperor, and about me, and he said he might be able to help me get my children back, and he seemed nice, and I didn't know whether he'd keep being nice but I figured everything was already bad enough that it was worth trying? And I took the food he gave me and I asked him questions and now I owe him and that means I belong to him. And he has been nice, he's helped me feed the children, and he asks me what I want, and he doesn't want to hurt me, and - it's just so much better than it was before."

Permalink Eye

"So you were already a slave, basically."

Permalink Eye

Nodnod.

Permalink Eye

"And now you're still a slave, but one who doesn't get, like, hit, or anything, and that seems like a good deal?"

Permalink Eye

"It's not just that he doesn't hit me. He's - he's really kind, and considerate, all the time, he's - until earlier today I thought - I don't know how much he actually cares about me but he acts like he does, most of the time, enough that - I think I got confused about it, earlier. And that's really the only reason I'm upset right now, which I think it making everybody much more concerned than they should be, if you'd met me yesterday I wouldn't've been - like this."

Permalink Eye

 

"What happened earlier today?"

Permalink Eye

" - please, it's stupid, it's really really stupid."

Permalink Eye

"...it's important to you, though, right? So maybe it'll, I dunno, help me figure out what's going on."

Permalink Eye

 

 

This is stupid and she shouldn't share any of this information but she doesn't have anyone else to talk to and is not going to have anyone else to talk to until - maybe ever.

"He doesn't love me. That's all."

Permalink Eye

 

"Ah."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Well. That explains some stuff, anyway. Um... but you still think he's, like, good, and stuff, because he rescued you from this Emperor guy and he's nice and he listens to you and he doesn't want you to be scared or hurting, right, even if he doesn't like you?"

Permalink Eye

Nodnod.

Permalink Eye

"But he is still keeping you enslaved, and he wouldn't let you go if you wanted. So he's only taking the choices thing so far."

Permalink Eye

"That's how humans are, when fairies get humans. Like - exotic pets, or something, I think. But some people are much nicer to their pets than others. And some animals don't know how to take care of themselves."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

 

Okay. Well. So one thing is that she was a slave before this guy picked her up, and she likes him better than the last guy.

Permalink Eye

I guess that makes sense.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. The other thing is she, uh, seems to be, like, in love with him, or something. I am not sure whether I should really tell you that but heck if I know what to do with this information by myself.

Permalink Eye

 

I guess that does make things really complicated. 

 

There's that thing - where hostages get really attached to their captors just because they have to give their captor's mood so much - prominence in their life -

Permalink Eye

Yeah, that sounds likely, probably? She says she doesn't think he feels the same way about her. So that's, like, any points for self-awareness, maybe?

Permalink Eye

Yeah. Maybe, uh, she can eventually think about whether she ever wants to have a relationship with someone who does love her.

Permalink Eye

Yeah.

What do we do with her for now? 

Permalink Eye

I don't know.

 

Ugh. I don't want to get them a room knowing -

Permalink Eye

Yeaaaaah.

I guess it's not worse than wherever they were at before, but...

Permalink Eye

But there we're not cooperating. 

 

Is there any way for you to ask her if she'd like a separate room maybe?

Permalink Eye

Yeah.

"So one thing is like, we want you to be able to think about this and be safe while you think about it? And we maybe need to sort some other things out down here, between your world and our world." Not that she and the others are actually from the same world, but their worlds are, like, closer, maybe. "Do you think maybe you want a room to rest in before we talk about more stuff?"

Permalink Eye

"I'd want him to be there. I don't know anyone else."

Permalink Eye

"I mean, we're not gonna stop you from coming down to see him, but this way you could have your own place, too?"

Permalink Eye

" - don't wanna be alone."

Permalink Eye

She wants them to share a room.

Permalink Eye

 

 

Well I am super not an expert here but - mostly you can't help people by imposing whatever you think is good for them. I think. I guess. 

 

 

Does she know about the existence of birth control? Would she want it?

Permalink Eye

Well that's an awkward conversation but it's probably an important one, so -

"Do you, um, - we have stuff that can keep you from having more babies, if you're - if you'd want that."

Permalink Eye

" - oh. We're not actually having sex."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. Okay. I guess it's a moot point, then."

Says they're not having sex.

Permalink Eye

Thank you for checking.

Permalink Eye

Yep. I think we should just give them the room, then, probably, she seems - really stressed.

Permalink Eye

Uh huh. 

He goes to sort this out with the bar.

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I guess we can probably get you a room together, if you guys want that."

Permalink Eye

"Have to talk to Rána. And - don't tell him, about the - I was being stupid, before."

Permalink Eye

"...I won't tell him."

Says not to tell anybody about the bit where she's in love with him and he's not with her. Or, well, not to tell him.

Permalink Eye

Well I'm not planning to tell him anything at all.

Permalink Eye

Well, that should do it.

Permalink Eye

 

She leaves the table to head back over to Rána. "She wants to get us a room here."

Permalink Eye

"I want to leave. But - he meant it, about the immortality, and -"

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"It'll probably have a bed."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

Cling.

Permalink Eye

Hug. She really really wishes that the hugs meant more than they actually do, but at least she gets them at all.

"Immortality sounds important, probably."

Permalink Eye

"Is that all she wanted? For us to stay in their court?"

Permalink Eye

"I think so. And - wanted to know how I ended up here with you."

Permalink Eye

"I wish I understood why they wanted to take you away. I understand wanting you - of course people'd want you - but -"

Permalink Eye

"They seem really worried about everything. I guess - lots of people don't take care of their slaves - "

Permalink Eye

He doesn't say anything.

Permalink Eye

He comes back down the stairs, accompanied by a dog.

Permalink Eye

"Hey. We're gonna get them a room."

Permalink Eye

"-okay. Are they -"

Instead of finishing the question he turns and watches them.

Permalink Eye

"Don't talk to the fairy, especially don't tell it your name." He hands Karen a key. "Room 204. I'm assuming if you give it to her then -"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Uh, do you wanna come upstairs?"

Permalink Eye

She looks at Rána again.

Permalink Eye

He looks at Alex. "How long would we have to stay here, for the immortality?"

Permalink Eye

"Honestly I have no idea, their room doesn't have to move at the same pace as yours. 

You get, like, half a point for giving a shit about it, though."

Permalink Eye

"I was thinking the same thing."

"I guess we'll take a room," he says to Catherine.

Permalink Eye

Nodnod. She can follow Karen up, then.

Permalink Eye

So Karen takes them to their room and opens it for them and then hands Catherine the key. There are two beds.

"You guys gonna need anything else...?"

Permalink Eye

"If you lie or attack people - probably just fairies - you're indebted to or break agreements or swear oaths falsely or anything like that you will hurt her very badly."

Permalink Eye

"...okay. I'll - try not to do any of that stuff. Thank you for telling me."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"'M gonna go back downstairs," she tells Catherine. "Time is funny in Milliways and some rooms move at different speeds than other rooms, and the speeds change, so if nobody comes for you in a while you're gonna want to come downstairs and get us so you can have, like, food, and stuff. If you need anything - either of you - you can come downstairs and someone'll help you."

Permalink Eye

Nodnod.

Permalink Eye

He's tense until she leaves.

Permalink Eye

Well, she's gonna leave.

Permalink Eye

Good.

 

 

 

Permalink Eye

She steps into the room. There's a crib for the baby, but she doesn't put her down in it.

Permalink Eye

Right, their room. Aside from the space with the beds there's another room of stone and shiny metal, with an enormous mirror on the wall. He spends a while trying to figure out whether it's safe to approach because that seems easier than thinking about anything else. 

"Do you know what any of this is?"

Permalink Eye

"Um, a mirror? A really big one? I don't know what any of the other stuff is."

Permalink Eye

"Huh." He glares at it suspiciously for a while.

Permalink Eye

 

She sits down sadly on one of the beds and sets Ragna down so she can crawl and explore the space.

Permalink Eye

He comes over and hesitates for a second and then sits down on the same bed. Reaches for her.

Permalink Eye

 

She leans in and lets him hold her. It is not a very enthusiastic hug, but it's something.

Permalink Eye

 

 

 

"I can't actually make you stay, you know."

Permalink Eye

 

"Hm?"

Permalink Eye

"If you - decide to run off with them - nothing I can actually do about that."

Permalink Eye

 

Hug.

"Still don't have the kids. And I don't - 

" - I like you."

Permalink Eye

He squeezes her. Breathes a little unsteadily. 

"I thought you liked me. Now I just feel - confused."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Thought you liked me," she says, very quietly. "Or - not liked, I know you like me, I thought you - "

Permalink Eye

"Hmmm?"

Permalink Eye

It hurts so much, to make herself say it, but she doesn't know what else to do about any of this.

 

"Man came by your father's house and said you were sleeping with someone else. Just before I found this place. And I - if they'd asked me yesterday I wouldn't even have thought about it, but yesterday I thought - was stupid to think, but - "

Permalink Eye

"I wasn't actually there today, I climbed a tree -

- I don't think I - get what you mean -"

Permalink Eye

 

"I forgot, okay? I forgot I was a slave. You're so good all the time and you act like I matter to you and you let me decide things and - I forgot."

Permalink Eye

 

"And that was good for you?"

Permalink Eye

 

"I - felt like I mattered."

Permalink Eye

"You - do?"

Permalink Eye

 

She's really confused and tired and is maybe just going to cry here, as quietly as she can, because she does not know how much more humiliating herself she can take.

Permalink Eye

He's so concerned and confused. And doesn't want to let go of her because -

Maybe he will start crying too.

Permalink Eye

Oh no. She made him sad. Very unfair that being sad about how little she matters makes him sad, too. Also confusing? Maybe he feels like he's not taking good enough care of her? Which is very unfair because he's been taking really good care of her, it's just that she got confused about what they were, is all -

She can at least keep hugging him? Maybe that will help?

" - m'sorry."

Permalink Eye

 

"I just don't understand what I did wrong."

Permalink Eye

"You didn't do anything wrong. 's why I didn't want to talk about it. Just - then I found some kind of - whatever this is, in your room, before I was done - adjusting, and they were all concerned about me being your slave, and - I don't want to leave, I just - want things that I can't - that aren't reasonable to want, and I wasn't done accepting things and then - m'sorry - "

Permalink Eye

"If I didn't do anything wrong and you're this upset that's kind of worse since it means I can't even fix it."

Permalink Eye

"M'sorry. I was gonna get over it, I just - then everything else - "

Permalink Eye

Nod. Snuggle.

"So I should just - get us food sometimes and let you process? - do the hugs get in the way of letting you process? It's just that it's really hard to let go of you, right now -"

Permalink Eye

 

"Make it pretty hard to remind myself you don't - love me - but every time I remind myself it hurts - "

Permalink Eye

 

"I, uh, don't know what love means to mortals exactly and I don't know how anyone other than my brother successfully uses words for feelings and is sure they used them the same way as other people interpreted them but I - 

- I liked the way you thought about me yesterday? And I don't understand what - made you decide it was wrong -"

Permalink Eye

 

"Yesterday I thought you didn't want to be with anybody else. Was stupid to think it, just - "

Permalink Eye

"I don't want to be with anyone else."

Permalink Eye

- she wants to believe it so badly. But it isn't true, it can't be, it - but fairies can't lie -

She doesn't mean to cry harder but she thinks she is anyway. 

 

"- wanna matter to you - "

Permalink Eye

...pat pat pat?

"I feel like if you did not matter to me then I would've left when you wanted to stay the night in court. Because I hate staying the night in court."

Permalink Eye

"That's why I thought you did! And all the other things! But - "

Permalink Eye

 

"But what?"

Permalink Eye

"But obviously it's not the sort of mattering that means that you don't want to - I know I can't, I know it's not reasonable to expect you not to sleep with anyone else when I might never be able to, I know it was stupid to think you wouldn't go to other people, but I was stupid, okay, I thought I was enough, I thought you were happy with me anyway, I thought - "

Permalink Eye

" - this is about me having sex with people?"

Permalink Eye

 

Nodnodnodnod.

Permalink Eye

"...among humans, is it normal to - like the people you're having sex with more than other people in your life, or something?"

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnod! 

"I mean - not always, but - if you're already in love with someone, then - people don't just - "

Permalink Eye

"- there's some amount of liking someone where you don't want to have sex with other people?"

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnod.

Permalink Eye

"Okay. That is not really how fairies do things. I know fairies who were - by all appearances deeply, deeply in love, had many children together, risked their lives for each other a hundred times over, so deeply entangled you might as well think of them as one person - 

- and they'd still have sex with other people, same as they'd still talk to other people, same as they'd still listen to stories told by other people..."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Okay. Well - for humans sex is different than those things."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. Okay. - I didn't know that."

Permalink Eye

 

"Okay. 

"Well now I don't know how you feel about me again."

Permalink Eye

"We are staying in this stupid horrible place where everyone hates me because there is a small chance they can make you immortal and I can have you forever."

Permalink Eye

Hug. Very clingy hug.

"'m so sorry. I just - it seemed really clear, when I heard, I didn't know fairies were different that way, and I've never met anyone who really loved somebody who was enslaved to them, and - I got scared, and I love you, and I want you to stay, and it hurt, thinking you didn't - "

Permalink Eye

"I was upset earlier because - because it didn't seem fair that you'd just leave - wouldn't - if we wandered into some place with lots of other nice friendly humans I wouldn't just go 'well this is an even better deal than what I had going'"

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnod. "Don't wanna leave. Just - was thinking I didn't matter to you and was just a slave who'd gotten confused, and then everyone kept saying it at me, like it was obvious, and - I opened the door and waited for you as soon as I knew how, still, I was just - confused for a bit, and I'm sorry - "

Permalink Eye

Hug. "You didn't do anything wrong."

Permalink Eye

Hug. "You either."

Permalink Eye

"Haven't had a slave before. I didn't really think about how you're supposed to - feel, or what you're supposed to do..."

Permalink Eye

"Where I'm from people are not - nice, to their slaves, slaves don't really matter, at least not - whether they're happy, or get to have things they want, or lives that have good things in them, and I just - I thought maybe fairies were different and maybe I wasn't really the same thing anymore, that maybe I did matter after all, and - I don't know what we are, but whatever we are I want to be - important to you - "

Permalink Eye

"You are really important to me. I - dunno if that's because fairies are different or because you are."

Permalink Eye

Nodnod. Hug.

"Don't wanna leave. Don't - know exactly all of what I want, here, but I don't wanna leave."

Permalink Eye

"Good."

Permalink Eye

Snuggle. She can't kiss him because this stupid horrible bed is here, but at least she can snuggle him.

Permalink Eye

Maybe if they just hold each other and eventually fall asleep everything will be less confusing in the morning.

Permalink Eye

This seems like a good plan.

Permalink Eye

"Okay," says Karen, arriving back downstairs. "Apparently if I lie or break agreements then it'll hurt her really badly, and they both looked super concerned about everything, but they're up there."

Permalink Eye

"What a mess."

Permalink Eye

"Why's he here?"

Permalink Eye

"She wanted him here. I didn't - I don't know, maybe I shouldn't have told her how to do it, but she really wanted him here."

Permalink Eye

"She really likes him. Apparently."

Permalink Eye

"It's impressive, considering he has absolutely nothing going for him."

Permalink Eye

"He's good-looking."

Permalink Eye

He sputters at him for a second and doesn't say anything.

Permalink Eye

"Um, when I talked to her she said she was a slave before she ran into him, and then jumped ship because she thought he might be better than wherever she was before. And still thinks he is." Shrug. "She thinks he's nice. At least comparatively."

Permalink Eye

"Are the kids his? Or - prior?"

Permalink Eye

"Um, I think at least one of them's not, she said she was following one of them when she found him in a fairy ring. I dunno about the others."

Permalink Eye

"How many kids?"

Permalink Eye

"She said five, earlier. Most of them in his world."

Permalink Eye

"Probably doesn't wanna leave them, then."

Permalink Eye

"No.

It just seems sort of upsetting if the best we can do for slaves who walk in here crying with their babies is 'well, that sounds rough'."

Permalink Eye

"We can't even talk to him because of the fairies thing."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

 

"Could you guys get her kids? She said he was gonna help her get some of them back, I think, so she must think there's some way to recover them, and then he wouldn't have, like - leverage, or whatever?"

Permalink Eye

" - probably. In the same way we plan to get yours, some targeted teleporting once we have materials to use for targeting. This does require one of them to open their door, and arguably involves stealing from fairies, and I bet that's somehow bad. Might still be worth it."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds like the sort of thing that would activate their debt stuff, yeah."

Permalink Eye

"We could ask for their cooperation. If he refuses to let anyone else try to get her kids that's - more information for her, at least."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"The other thing we should probably do is set the team that does diplomatic treaties with demons to drawing one up with the fairies. They've seen weirder, and - maybe we can negotiate an end to slavery for a lot of shipments of Pop Tarts, like happened in Osekieko."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds like your wheelhouse not ours but by all means go for it."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

 

"She's in love with him. Did you get the sense that he felt that way? Or for that matter had noticed that she did?"

Permalink Eye

 

"She doesn't think he does. Said not to tell him."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

 

"I wish he didn't look like me. I know that's stupid, but."

Permalink Eye

"The Karens from different universes have a lot in common but I am admittedly straining to imagine you owning a terrified human slave - at least, in more than a 'it's a legal technicality we dislike' sense -"

Permalink Eye

"No, he was very sincere about it."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe you and Angel can start a club for people with inexplicable evil slaveholding twins."

Permalink Eye

 

"Sounds like lots of fun."

Permalink Eye

"Sorry. Least you know you're the good version of you. No offense, Karen."

Permalink Eye

" - trying not to take any."

Permalink Eye

" - sorry.

"Is a weirdly similar problem to run into again, though. Of course Angel's twin just hadn't noticed anything he was doing, and this guy just seems - well, confused, but differently."

Permalink Eye

"Didn't seem to know what we were concerned about."

Permalink Eye

"I guess maybe there are literally no fairies with moral objections to slavery? Or at least not who've mentioned them where he heard them? 

If he's - similar to me in other respects - he probably doesn't read much so I guess he might just not have encountered them."

Permalink Eye

"So what do we do then, are there, like, things we can say to you that come off better than 'hey, asshole, have you considered not sucking'?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, that's a good question. Uh. 

 

I think you'd want to talk to his brothers. Or if they're not accessible then you know half his problem right there."

Permalink Eye

"Went to get one, right? Only now the door's shut."

Permalink Eye

"It is possible that no one explained to him the thing about the door. I didn't and I don't recall anyone else doing it, though there was a lot going on at the time."

Permalink Eye

"Then I guess we gotta wait for them to come down again. Or go get them now, if that seems - time stuff is weird."

Permalink Eye

"I think probably leave them be, at least until it's been more than half an hour for us."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

He solicits some books written in the fairy world from the bar.

Permalink Eye

He goes outside to glare at the sky and think of cutting things to say to his evil twin.

Permalink Eye

She decides to drink Catherine's milkshake before it melts.

Permalink Eye

She gets something from the bar to eat, getting up and pacing every half-dozen bites or so, trying to think how much fairy might or might not have in common with evil lawyers. She throws Wishbone table scraps when he begs. She wonders whether it is kind of weird of them to be treating Wishbone like he belonged to the other Karen, given that he's, like, a person, but the other Karen isn't really here to offer commentary.

Permalink Eye

She wakes up snuggling Rána.

 

"Beds are still terrible."

Permalink Eye

"Good to know. 

I'm glad the things the human king left you with are like - beds are bad, and not like - men are bad, or something."

Permalink Eye

"...yeah. That would be a lot worse."

Permalink Eye

Hug.

Permalink Eye

Hug.

"Probably gotta get food at some point."

Permalink Eye

 

"I don't like them. They - I don't mind that they worried given that you looked upset but they shouldn't have tried to tell you I didn't care about you."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe I confused them somehow. 'm sorry."

Permalink Eye

"You've said that a lot lately."

Permalink Eye

"Feel like I spent a lot of time yesterday messing things up."

Permalink Eye

"You did what you were told and you got me right away and you did all that even though you thought I didn't care about you at all and was in the middle of replacing you with someone shinier."

Permalink Eye

 

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"That's not messing up. It's - 

I don't think I can explain this really.

There's a kind of person who thinks they're being mistreated readily and decides not to cooperate with people who might be getting away with mistreating them, and if you try to work with them everything always blows up. And then there's lots of people who cooperate for as long as it's clearly true that everyone else is too. But that falls apart, too, at a big enough misunderstanding. But if you're willing to - keep trying - when it doesn't seem like other people are trying - then sometimes you'll have things none of the rest of them could."

Permalink Eye

Snuggle.

"You're not upset?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm proud of you. I'm glad of you. I'm not mad about anything you did.

I'm a little scared that things could go that badly without me even knowing there was anything there to step on. If there are other things like that -"

Permalink Eye

Eee.

"I can tell you the next time something - makes me scared, or sad. Even if I think it shouldn't. It's - as long as I know you do care, a lot, that feels - a lot safer. Okay?"

Permalink Eye

"I care about you. A lot."

Permalink Eye

"Oh good. Because I care about you a lot too."

Permalink Eye

 

"Let's go get food."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

She scoops the baby up, and then they can head downstairs.

Permalink Eye

The weird not-fairy people are still there.

Permalink Eye

She is suuuper not going to talk to the weird not-fairy people until someone says something to her first. Presumably Rána has some idea whether they should be getting food from here or from his court.

Permalink Eye

He's thinking his court. It's expensive but at least they know how to pay for it. He goes to the door, hesitates. "Do you know if this place will still be here if we leave?" he asks her quietly in Norwegian.

Permalink Eye

Headshake. "They said something about time stopping when we're in here with the door closed - I forgot to tell you, I'd thought they were just talking about how fairyland is, but they think it's something different. - oh, they did say something about how I shouldn't leave if I wanted our world to stay in contact with this one, I think, that doesn't sound promising."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. 

- well, do you want to stay here with these idiots while I go explain things to my brother and ask for food, or do you want to go explain things while I stay here, neither of those sound like things I'm delighted to put on you."

Permalink Eye

 

"...I'll stay, I think."

Permalink Eye

Nod. 

- kiss?

Permalink Eye

.....that's honestly a little bit terrifying with all of these very judgmental people watching, she is maybe not quite there right now. 

Permalink Eye

He kisses her forehead instead. He walks through the door.

Permalink Eye

Eee.

She holds the door open so time doesn't stop again and glances over to gauge how concerned all the weird not-fairy people are right now.

Permalink Eye

He's watching kind of neutrally and not wearing one of his more intense faces.

Permalink Eye

He stops glaring once Rána's out of sight.

Permalink Eye

She's sitting backwards in a chair, not even paying that much attention to them.

Permalink Eye

Pretty concerned, but trying not to be, like, super obvious about it.

 

So I guess he's probably going to get his brother now.

Permalink Eye

Seems likely. 

We'll get an explanation but I wouldn't count on it being - 

- once under some complicated circumstances my brother was kind of evil and most of the people on that continent died.

Permalink Eye

...well, that's not the most reassuring thing I've ever heard.

Permalink Eye

Sorry.

Permalink Eye

 

Anything we wanna try saying to her while the fairies aren't right there?

Permalink Eye

The thing about what we'd need to get her kids?

Permalink Eye

...yeah.

She heads over.

"Hey. So, um, I think you said you didn't have all of your kids with you? And we have a way of maybe getting them back, but we'd need to know more about, like, where they are and what the situation is."

Permalink Eye

"They're in Scandinavia, with the Emperor. Slowed down, like most humans. I don't - I would appreciate the help, but I think I'd want to talk about it after Rána gets back?"

Permalink Eye

"You don't think he'll, like, object, or anything?"

Permalink Eye

"I expect he'll have questions. And I don't know what sort of help you're offering."

Permalink Eye

"Um, I think it's a teleportation thing. For moving things from one place to another instantaneously. We're gonna use it to get my kids back, too, from my world."

Permalink Eye

"...sounds like it could be useful. I really think we should talk about it later."

Permalink Eye

"Okay."

Wants to talk about it again when Rána's here.

Permalink Eye

"He keeps you on a pretty short leash."

Permalink Eye

 

"I feel safer when he's here."

Permalink Eye

"I don't want to get you in trouble with him."

Permalink Eye

"He won't be angry with me."

Permalink Eye

"Will he take it out on you, though?"

Permalink Eye

" - what are you even talking about?"

Permalink Eye

"So where I'm from there isn't any slavery but there are lots of men who don't like their girlfriends to talk to other people and absolutely all of them are bad news."

Permalink Eye

"Talking to fairies is dangerous. We were going to stay away from court until I learned to do it right, but then we needed food so I could breastfeed the baby, or else she would starve, so we're here, and neither of us likes it, and we're going to leave as soon as the night is over, and until then I am - trying to avoid doing anything that would make me belong to anyone else. Because I don't think other people will be as good to me."

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense in a fairy court. But it seems like it'd only make it more important that you can talk to people who are not fairies and can't enslave you."

Permalink Eye

"I'm talking to you now. I'll negotiate for my children's safety when I can talk to him about it."

Permalink Eye

"I'm worried that he'll object because with them safe you have a lot more options."

Permalink Eye

"We were going to rescue them anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Would that make them belong to him too, under fairy law?"

Permalink Eye

 

"We have to entangle them some to speed them up. Probably he'll count anything major as a favor to me, and I'll just be really, really in his debt for it."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds like a scary situation to be in, if he ever stops being as nice or if you ever decide you want something aside from being a slave."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think he's going to stop being nice."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe fairies aren't very like humans but humans often stop being nice when circumstances change enough."

Permalink Eye

" - even if I agreed with you that he was going to hurt me, and I don't, what would you have me do about it, trade a system I mostly understand and a protector who's good to me for no one, in a strange land full of people I don't know who have a language you've said I won't speak?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know what you should do. I wish I did."

Permalink Eye

 

"I like where I am. If you can help us improve on it then I want to talk it over when he's here."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

She holds the door and waits for him.

Permalink Eye

It's not that long. 

Permalink Eye

He doesn't pay Catherine much attention. Walks in, looks around at everyone else, looks back at his brother, smiles slightly.

"You can close the door."

Permalink Eye

She does that.

Permalink Eye

This looks likely to be interesting and he does not want Catherine to be in the crossfire so he will pull her away towards a corner.

Permalink Eye

Yeah that sounds good.

Permalink Eye

Well he's not stupid enough to talk to Evil Fae Maitimo.

Permalink Eye

He doesn't say anything either.

Permalink Eye

 

 

"What happened?"

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Given what I know about how fairies reportedly work, that's an interesting opening."

Permalink Eye

"You get to claim payment for answering me."

Permalink Eye

 

"I think I'll pass, all the same. We were - going through your brother's slave - to avoid the payments thing."

Permalink Eye

"That seems unkind."

Permalink Eye

"Where I'm from, slavery is considered unkind."

Permalink Eye

"They're staying here overnight at her request, and he's paying for it."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know what that means."

Permalink Eye

"Humans need a lot of food to survive a night. She and her son wanted to spend the night in our court, with that food provided by emergency expeditions organized by us. This is very expensive. She can't afford it. She wanted to do it anyway, because she was having trouble feeding her baby. He hates spending the night in our court, but he agreed, and he's spent more than half his time paying for it rather than have us take it out of her."

Permalink Eye


"I recognize there's a baseline relative to which that's reassuring but where I'm from you just take in starving mothers and give them whatever they need and no one takes it out of anyone."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds impossible. Resources come from places, and require effort to extract and store and make available. If you feed all the starving mothers that wander by, someone's taking it out of someone."

Permalink Eye

"In some places food is, like sunlight, too plentiful to bother accounting for; in others, everyone pays their society to provide a set of things that includes policing and firefighting and food for starving mothers; in this place, the bar will gladly make food for anyone who asks for it, and seems to think that that girl is still starving."

Permalink Eye

"What interesting systems. I suppose if she'd landed in one of them she'd have been provided for some other way. Here, it costs something, and he's paying it."

Permalink Eye

"So that she'll owe him?"

Permalink Eye

"So that she'll like him. She won't live to pay it back."

Permalink Eye

"We might be able to do something about that."

Permalink Eye

"That was the first thing my brother told me."

Permalink Eye

...he nods.

Permalink Eye

Okay I think I followed maybe half that.

Permalink Eye

He says his brother loves her.

Permalink Eye

See, that there, that was in the half I did not follow.

Permalink Eye

"I'd like us to sit down and see what we can productively do for one another but I'm concerned about incurring debts that I don't understand."

Permalink Eye

"It's not generally desirable to have strangers outside your control indebted to you in the long term. If we end uneven, you can produce some of this food that's free as sunlight and we'll be all set."

Permalink Eye

"All right. Then there are some people I'd like to introduce you to -"

Permalink Eye

"Not by name."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I've been told."

 

They go upstairs.

Permalink Eye

 

"Did that go well?" she asks Rána.

Permalink Eye

" - well, we came out of it ahead, but I'm not sure that's very impressive, when he didn't know what he was doing. I don't - I don't super know what everything meant."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

 

"...what're they having you pay?"

Permalink Eye

"It's really not a big deal. I dislike being stuck at court more than any particular thing about paying our keep while we're here. And you're paying some of it, with the stories and with teaching my father."

Permalink Eye

Nodnodnod. "Okay. ...thank you."

Permalink Eye

 

"I thought about - when you wanted to stay - saying we could only stay if you paid for it. But I didn't - actually want that. At all."

Permalink Eye

Hug.

"Thank you."

Permalink Eye

Hug.

Permalink Eye

 

Are there, like, things I should be picking up that I might not be.

Permalink Eye

Probably! I don't think I caught all of it either. Uh, the other one is the same sort of person as my brother, in I guess the same way as you have a lot in common with the other Karen? He noticed right away that - uh, that something happened a long time ago to my brother - and most people can't notice that. Then my brother asserts that the things he said about slavery were actually a claim that his brother loves the woman. I don't know how he got that, I didn't. 

Permalink Eye

I.... assume that was in the part about him paying for things so she'll like him. I'm not sure that qualifies as love, quite, but - I guess I see some of where she's coming from now.

Permalink Eye

I think also the part about - that the first thing he said about us was that we might be able to make her immortal. 

Permalink Eye

 

Yeah. That makes sense.

So I guess they're.... not on the same page about that, then. Or - somebody's not on the same page as somebody else.

Permalink Eye

It seems possible that he cares about her more than he realizes, that he knows he cares about her a lot but hasn't told her for some reason, or that his brother's very carefully selected information to share to wrongly give my brother the impression that he's trying to subtly say that his brother loves her when he's actually just being subtle to cover for the fact he can't outright lie. 

-- aaargh. I hate people stuff.

Permalink Eye

I don't think I mind people, but I kind of mind dealing with arcane systems designed to trap unsuspecting outsiders into a lifetime of magically enforced service.

Seems at least a little more ambiguous than my situation, though. I guess. Arguably.

Permalink Eye

Less - institutional, more personal. I don't know that that makes it any better but it definitely makes it more complicated. At least there wasn't anyone at Wolfram and Hart who kept telling you they'd protected you from something terrible and all they wanted in return was you to like them.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. That does seem like it'd mess with stuff.

Permalink Eye

 

I think I can also maybe see now how he'd be me but I don't know what that gets us.

Permalink Eye

Yeah.

Permalink Eye

 

Faith does not have anybody to have whispered or silent conversations with.

"So. Were we gonna talk saving Cecelia's kids, or what."

Permalink Eye

"Right! We were."

Permalink Eye

"They think they can help. I didn't want to talk about it until you came back."

Permalink Eye

He was already hugging her but he moves his arm to be kind of distinctly possessive. "Can they? They should tell us about it."

Permalink Eye

"...something in the teleportation department, I'm not really up on everything your family's doing - "

Permalink Eye

"- is there additional harm from using her name when you already know it, I'm getting kind of sick of pointing and going 'this person here' -"

Permalink Eye

"Technically no but just come up with a nickname, it's a better habit."

Permalink Eye

"This person here, who I'm going to call...Cassie, has some kids who are in her world. We're going to pull them out of her world and send them with her to another one that's a little safer. We can do this by teleporting to their location, with some targeting information, which includes some material from the universe they started in."

Permalink Eye

"I think they'll still be slow, if you do that."

Permalink Eye

"I think Milliways ignores the speed people were at in their home universe."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, nobody here is, like, sped up, or whatever you guys did to her."

Permalink Eye

"Well, you could try to bring her kids here and if it doesn't speed them up I guess you can teleport them to a fairy ring somewhere and that'd do it."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

"I think we need some material from the right universe. And probably a location."

Permalink Eye

"I can point out the settlements on a map, if you had a map of our world. I'm not sure how to tell you exactly where in them they are right now, I don't even know that with certainty myself."

Permalink Eye

"Is there a time when you'd know their precise location? Say, when they're sleeping?"

Permalink Eye

"I'd have guesses. Better guesses for the oldest two than the middle one, who - I was supposed to be watching him and I disappeared this afternoon and I don't know who he'd be with now."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"If you were fast your people could check a bunch of different locations with no trouble. Though you'd need different, slow teleporters to actually move the kids, probably."

Permalink Eye

"And to be fast we have to be magical fairy slaves."

Permalink Eye

"You have to be entangled with us temporarily. We don't have to keep you."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"I'm already entangled no matter what we do, right?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"That does not mean you have to do anything."

Permalink Eye

 

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know how you all are imagining this works but if she wants to zip around our world and check where the kids are, sounds good to me."

Permalink Eye

"If you hurt her I'll kill you." He's not lying.

Permalink Eye

"Does your society actually think it's wrong to steal peoples' girls the first chance you get, because you haven't been acting like it -"

Permalink Eye

"This isn't my Karen. - also it's not - that's not the problem here. But I'll -"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, you've said."

Permalink Eye

...she's so curious about what her other self's relationship with this person was but now doesn't really seem like the time to ask.

"I do not actually want to interact with magical slavery people again. But it sounds like someone's gotta go."

Permalink Eye

"Not it."

Permalink Eye

"Unless you can teleport you'll have a hard time finding the kids in the night. Fairies don't like people passing through their territory at night without prior arrangements and you'd have a hard time carrying enough food to make it to where they are."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe we should talk to the people with the teleporters and see what our expected limitations are. Or something."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good."

Permalink Eye

 

"...do you want me to get them, or - "

She glances at Cecelia and her - owner person.

" - I'll just go get them."

Permalink Eye

Glaaaare.

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

She knocks on the door for the room where all of the Quendi hang out. She kind of hates interrupting people who are doing important things but nobody stopped her and she's already here knocking on the door so now she has to finish this, doesn't she.

Permalink Eye

"Karen!"

Permalink Eye

"Hi! I'm sorry to interrupt you guys but we have this person downstairs who's been magically enslaved by an alternate universe version of Alex, and she doesn't want to do anything about this until she's been reunited with her kids, so we're thinking maybe teleporting her kids somewhere will help, but we don't know enough about our  teleportation limitations and we were wondering if someone could come downstairs and help explain it better because that seems more productive than the Alexes threatening to kill each other. Maybe."

Permalink Eye

"Sure. Why're they threatening to kill each other, that doesn't sound like it'd solve that problem at all."

Permalink Eye

"They just, uh, need to make it very clear to each other that if anybody hurts anybody they like there will be consequences."

Permalink Eye

"Man, I was kind of hoping we were the evil twins." He heads down the stairs.

Permalink Eye

She heads back downstairs with him. "Found someone. Um, don't call anybody else by their birth name because that entangles you to fairies forever, I am already entangled with that guy because we messed up, that guy is that person's owner and he's a fairy, that's the slave person and we're calling her Cecilia, if you ask questions of the fairy you end up in his debt and that, like, does magical entanglement things that mean if you do anything that fairyland disapproves of, mostly lying or breaking agreements or attacking people you're indebted to, you hurt everyone else who's entangled with the people you're entangled with, and which sometimes makes you end up enslaved I guess, and for that reason we are mostly asking questions of Cecelia. I - think that's all the common knowledge down here?"

Permalink Eye

"Also don't read my mind. It causes entanglement and it's just real rude."

Permalink Eye

"I wasn't."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I could tell."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Cecelia, do you want us to try magically teleporting your kids out of their dimension?"

Permalink Eye

"I - would like them to be with me and not where they are now."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Is he their father?"

Permalink Eye

"No."

Permalink Eye

"Who is?"

Permalink Eye

 

"Their father is the Emperor of Scandinavia, who kidnapped me at fourteen and made me his concubine at sixteen. He is an undying abomination that possesses his heirs upon his own death, killing them, so that he can spend more centuries leading wars of conquest, exterminating Christianity, and kidnapping more women to sustain and expand his line."

Permalink Eye

" - okay."

Permalink Eye

Hug.

Permalink Eye

Hug.

 

"I don't think it's - a good place. For them to be."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. With material from the plane we're targeting, we can send people a place. They can return with passengers. I'm willing to make this happen, assuming the kids wlll not end up in magical slavery."

Permalink Eye

"If they can't come to fairyland we have to stay here and this place is kind of horrible."

Permalink Eye

"I hope I'm not being rude to the person who magically enslaved you here but I was told not to talk to him," he says to Cecelia. "Can we be sure they won't get magically enslaved if we get them?"

Permalink Eye

 

...she looks at Rána.

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Are you asking, does she promise to never take them to fairyland, because that's not really fair, it's where she lives, it's nice, it's better than this horrible place -

- or are you asking, will I let them get even so they can go off when they're grown, which, sure, I've been doing all the caretaking for the little one as a favor to Cecelia."

Permalink Eye

"He can't lie without hurting himself. He means to let them go."

Permalink Eye

Sigh. "Okay. If we run into people when we're picking them up, will there be problems?"

Permalink Eye

 

"Very possibly. If you're slow."

Permalink Eye

"And the way to be fast is magic fairy slavery?"

Permalink Eye

"I could untangle them later."

Permalink Eye

"Once again Cecelia I hope I'm not being rude by not talking to the fairy."

Permalink Eye

Glare.

Permalink Eye

He can see this through all the eyes in the room except his own which makes it much less impressive that he doesn't even glance at him.

Permalink Eye

"You would have to be entangled to be fast. I - suppose in theory someone could be in your debt, too, but I don't know how good an idea that is, either."

Permalink Eye

"And Karen's idea was that, as she is already entangled, she could go do this?"

Permalink Eye

" - well not an idea in the sense of thinking it was a good one. Just in the sense of observing that the option probably existed."

Permalink Eye

"Probably for my safety it should instead be someone your brother dislikes."

Permalink Eye

"How many places might someone need to check?"

Permalink Eye

"I can narrow the middle one down to one building. The older ones - five or six places all in one settlement, probably."

Permalink Eye

"How big is a settlement?"

Permalink Eye

"Ten thousand people, maybe?"

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Karen do you actually feel equipped to do this, if not we could get a volunteer..."

Permalink Eye

 

"I wouldn't have to talk to fairies or anything?"

Permalink Eye

"It sounds like you should super not talk to fairies and should just go identify three kids and tag them with something so we can teleport them out. Cecelia, can you send me what you look like - uh, you just kind of picture it in your head in my direction -"

Permalink Eye

...she is kind of concerned about this instruction but she does that.

Permalink Eye

He passes this along to Karen.

Permalink Eye

"I can go find and tag three kids."

Permalink Eye

"Great! Okay, I'll let you know when we have things set up."

Permalink Eye

"Fast things usually can't interact with slow people, I don't know if that - messes anything up - "

Permalink Eye

"In what sense can't they interact?"

Permalink Eye

"We can't move them."

Permalink Eye

"I'd have to know more about how to guess how that'd interact with trying to magically teleport them out of the dimension. Does something bad happen if you try to move them?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't think so?"

Glance at Rána.

Permalink Eye

"No. They just don't move."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "So I guess worst case it just doesn't work."

Permalink Eye

"All right. In that case we can go ahead and try."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"You're quite welcome."

Permalink Eye

She'll just... wait here, then. Continuing to stick really close to Rána.

Permalink Eye

He would be practically wrapped around her if it didn't visibly make everyone else uncomfortable whenever he touched her.

Permalink Eye

But it super does.

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

 

"So, uh, you sure you don't need any food? 'Cause I think Bar's still kind of concerned about you."

Permalink Eye

"...do you think it'll hurt anything?"

Permalink Eye

"If Cassie wants to get you food that situation's messy enough already."

Permalink Eye

Nodnod.

Permalink Eye

She heads over to Bar. "Something for Cecelia, please?"

Permalink Eye

Hot sausages! Split pea soup with a lot of ham in it! Black bread slathered with half-melting cheese! Milkshake!

Permalink Eye

"Thanks." She'll just carry all of that over to Cecelia.

Permalink Eye

So Cecelia will try the food here.

 

"...this is really, really good."

Permalink Eye

"Oh good. And you haven't even tried the milkshake yet."

Permalink Eye

He looks smug.

Permalink Eye

He looks aware of this and unhappy about it but not quite to the point of being stressed that Cecelia can eat some human food, which is good for her probably.

Permalink Eye

She's never had anything this delicious, not ever. She eats until she's stuffed and then feeds some cooled-down soup to Ragna.

Permalink Eye

Now he's actually a little curious though no way would he try it. 

"Are they going to try to get the kids right now? How long does their setup take?"

Permalink Eye

"I dunno. Time's weird in Milliways anyway, so it could be any amount of time before they're back, unless we go and get them."

Permalink Eye

He nods. And sits there unhappily.

Permalink Eye

She finishes her food. And then hugs him, because he seems like he needs hugs.

Permalink Eye

Hug.

Permalink Eye

She'll just hang out reading or something until someone tells her to go get the kids, then. 

Permalink Eye

He comes back down a while later with some humans.

Permalink Eye

"Hi. You ready?"

Permalink Eye

"Whenever you are."

Permalink Eye

"I have nothing better to do. How does this work?"

Permalink Eye

One of the humans steps forward and touches her; this feels like an electric shock, sort of, and leaves a little red mark in an unfamiliar script on her hand. He does it three more times. "You should be able to move them around - go ahead -"

Permalink Eye

She frowns at her hand and prods it.

Permalink Eye

They do move!

Permalink Eye

"Okay! Do I - move them onto the kids somehow when I find them?"

Permalink Eye

"Yep, that's what we need. We'll pull you back and confirm nothing went wrong before we get them."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"The other thing we need is material from the target plane."

Permalink Eye

"My brother's negotiating for us."

Permalink Eye

"So - should we wait for him, or - I don't think we need anything in particular, for me they just wanted a bunch of junk from a supply closet."

Permalink Eye

"We could use him, he's from his world."

      "The spell's destructive."

"I'm aware."

Permalink Eye

 

"Can you go out and get me, like, some rocks, or something, Cecelia?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh... the door we entered through is very small. I guess maybe I could find some dirt or something, are people going to mind if we take your court's dirt?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean, we'd have to pay for it? I guess it's probably fine."

Permalink Eye

"I have absolutely no idea how expensive dirt is. 

" - should I go get it, or - "

Permalink Eye

"Probably? - you don't need to worry, though, they're not actually going to murder me, he's - not exactly being serious."

Permalink Eye

"Just - sort of worried about a lot of things. I can go get it."

Hug first, though.

Permalink Eye

Hug.

Permalink Eye

Okay.

She heads out and comes back some time later with some weirdly huge particles of dirt.

Permalink Eye

Then they can use it to send Karen to a location of their choosing in the dimension.

Permalink Eye

She asks Bar for a map of Europe and asks Catherine to point out the locations.

Permalink Eye

It's a weird-looking map, honestly, but she finds the locations without a problem. Oldest two here, middle one here. She has a list of locations where the oldest two are likely to be. The middle one will just be somewhere inside the nearby castle.

Permalink Eye

"Looks like the oldest two are right around Oslo, then. I guess you can send me there first?"

Permalink Eye

They do this!

Permalink Eye

Okay! 

She is now in an obviously early medieval version of Oslo. Hopefully being fast interferes with that thing where future time travelers can wipe everybody out with super-germs, or whatever. She'll just... try not to touch anything she doesn't have to.

Also, it's the middle of the night, and she can barely see.

Luckily, the kids are sleeping in the first places she checks, exactly where Cecelia guessed they would be. She plants the magical tracking units. She... has no idea how to signal that she's done, she really should have asked about that before they beamed her down here.

Permalink Eye

They bring her back a couple minutes after the beacons move. "Are they in the right place?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"This might not be the best place to bring the kids too -"

Permalink Eye

"Can you get us a bigger room?"

Permalink Eye

"The kids don't know you. We could get a room for the kids and Cecelia could meet them there?"

Permalink Eye

 

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

He goes to the bar to ask for this.

Permalink Eye

"They might be - upset," she says to Rána, quietly.

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense, since we're stealing them. Do you want me to be there?"

Permalink Eye

"Kind of, yeah."

Permalink Eye

"Well, then I'll go with you and they'll decide if they're willing to do anything about that."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"And we can have some of that food you liked so much on hand."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. That might help. Maybe."

Permalink Eye

"If there's something else we should do - 

- we could bring them to court, it'd be scary but it'd be - differently scary than this place."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know. They - expect that they can get more from their father. I can't really give them anything."

Permalink Eye

"I can, but not here."

Permalink Eye

Nodnod.

"We can - talk to them, I guess. When they get here."

Permalink Eye

Nodnod.

Permalink Eye

"Got a room for the kids. It's 205."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Can I have - Cassie and Rána and some food there for them?"

Permalink Eye

" - yeah, okay." He turns back to the bar to ask about the food.

Permalink Eye

She relaxes a little bit. She's still pretty nervous.

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Bar has gathered that the kids are not going to have been surviving on wild berries for the last far too long and provides slightly less ridiculously proteiny meals, things that will be nice at room temperature - generous assorted sandwiches and chips and fruit.

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He hands these to Cecelia and to Cassie. "If there's a problem, you can get us," he says to Cassie.

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Nod. 

And she can lead everybody up to room 205, where they can wait for the kids.

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And suddenly: kids.

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The kids are asleep, because it was the middle of the night. The girl is only asleep for a little bit, though. She wakes up confused, and, shortly thereafter, angry, and kicks her brother awake so that he can be angry, too.

"What have you done with us? Why are you even here?"

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"Hi, yeah, my fault," she says, when Cecelia doesn't immediately answer. "Um, don't tell us your names because he's a fairy and you'll be entangled with him forever if you do. Your mom asked me to help her get you and now you're in Milliways. You're safe here. We have snacks."

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"You're kidnapping us," says the girl, to Cecelia. "You can't just kidnap people, mom."

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"It's safer here. You don't have to - your father doesn't control it, there's plenty of food - "

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"Take us back immediately, or my father will have you killed," says the boy.

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"I'd like to see him try. Look, you don't know where you are, you don't know what this is, making threats here is stupid, kid."

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"My father is the most powerful man in the world. If you kidnap his children he will set his armies on you, and he will find you, and he will see you dead. - maybe not the Chinese woman, I suppose he might want to keep you."

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Well, she's not super eager to send this very unpleasant eight-year-old back to whoever made him so unpleasant.

" - okay. If you want to go back I can talk to some people about it, but I think that you think this situation is a lot more alarming than it actually is, so I think you should calm down and eat something and stay a while. Time is frozen where you came from, you won't be missing anything if you take a day off classes or whatever and hang out with your mom."

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"I hope my father has you all tortured to death," says the boy, before turning sullenly away.

The girl frowns at him and sighs. "I want to know what government you represent."

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"My court's called Istime. Your human king could not find us if he marched his armies across the whole planet."

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The girl is fairly distressed by the fact that she doesn't recognize that name.

"I want to go home," she says.

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Um, Alex, can you hear me from here - 

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Yes. Everything okay?

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I feel like I am not doing the greatest job of calming these kids down. So far they have threatened me with torturous death and I think implicitly whatever happened to Catherine. I'm not, like, worried about this, but they seem super unenthusiastic about being here.

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How old are they?

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Maybe eight? Can't tell which one's older.

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Wow. Okay. 

 

Do you think they'll calm down once they know more?

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Kind of hard to get a read on them so far? I feel like threatening their mother with death says, like, bad things about the overall situation, though.

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Yeah. 

Uh, I don't super know what to do about that. But if they want to be away from her they're entitled to their own space? 

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Yeah.

"Uh - do you want us to leave you here with the food for a bit and then you can come hang out downstairs and talk to people about what you want later, when you're done sleeping?"

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The girl nods. The boy is ignoring them.

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"Okay. I think we should give them some space."

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Nod.

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"I'm fine with giving them some space," he says once they've stepped outside, "but they're Cecelia's, and if your people want to interfere with that we're going to have a very difficult time."

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"I - feel like wherever they were was obviously not great for them. I also feel like making them feel like they're prisoners here is just gonna make everything worse. Do you know why they're - like that, about you?"

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"Their father took them away to be raised by other guardians when they were six. Everyone in their lives is trying to - teach them that I'm an embarrassment, that they should want nothing to do with me. They weren't like this before."

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"They are prisoners. I agree that people mostly dislike being prisoners but I'm not sure you can fix that by lying to them."

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"They're - children? Ideally we get them to a guardian who'll be good for them and then get them to accept that they're in the care of a legitimate guardian who'll take care of them."

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"They're Cecilia's children."

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"Yes. I just - think it'll be really bad for everyone if we can't do better than making them feel like they've been kidnapped."

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He nods reluctantly.

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She leads everybody back downstairs. 

"Kids are in room 205. They're pretty upset."

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"Do you know why?" he asks Cecelia.

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"...they want to go back to Akershus."

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"Ah."

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"It's not a good place. They're just - royalty, there. And everyone there keeps telling them that they should have as little to do with me as possible."

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Nod.

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"Are we going to get the other?"

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"Are they going to be miserable about it?"

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"I don't think so. He hasn't been - the others weren't like this until they were taken away from me."

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"Let's maybe talk through whether there's something that can be done to make it go better."

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Nod.

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"Honestly what I'm kind of thinking is that we should pack you lot off to Kansas with Karen and her family."

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"Cecelia stays with me."

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"Yeah, and you can go to Kansas."

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"Why....Kansas."

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"It's where we were planning to send Karen and her family. Boring, vampire-free, no Wolfram and Hart, you can raise chickens. And horses. Do fairies have horses?"

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"You can't speed up an animal."

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"Well, you'll love horses. They're wonderful. I'll teach you to ride one."

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He looks very suspicious.

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"I don't care very much where we are if you and the children are there. Less, if we can return later."

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"I want to wander. See the world. Run across the oceans. I don't want - a mortal house with - beds, and -"

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"Horses are good for wandering."

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Hug. "Up to you."

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"Is that a complete list of the reasons you want us in Kansas?"

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"Not in the slightest."

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"Well, I'm not going to agree to it without one."

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"I think Karen's good for Cecelia and she'll be there. I think her kids might be good for Cecelia's kids, and they know about magic so they won't need to be completely in the dark. I think going to school will probably be good for them, even though schools suck, because there'll be - models of how one is cool and interesting and regarded well by their peers in this world, and it's not with threats of execution except in video games. I think video games probably beat being royalty, for most kids. I think all of you people have really concerning gender opinions and should be somewhere that has a little less of that, maybe, but probably California would be pushing my luck. I think Cecelia should go to church. I think if she tells the people at church that her husband decides everything there's half a chance they'll say something useful, though if I knew what I'd say it myself. 

Slavery is illegal in Kansas.

I really do think you'll like the horses."

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"Is that everything?"

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"Everything that's come to mind so far."

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"I don't want to get stuck anywhere," she says, quietly. "I - also haven't been to a church in twelve years."

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"What does 'slavery is illegal' mean -"

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"She wants to do what you tell her to do, fine. If she doesn't, and you hit her, then you get in trouble."

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"I've never hit her."

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"Well, congratulations, do you want a cookie?"

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" - what's a cookie? I doubt it."

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"It's a baked food."

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"I don't eat. Cecelia might want it."

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"I am worried that we'd be dependent on all of you and wouldn't be able to take care of ourselves. And I don't know under what circumstances we would or wouldn't be able to come back."

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"You'd probably need money, assuming he won't work, but - not very much money, not enough we'd even notice it. And you could come back, if you wanted to. If it doesn't work I don't want you to be stuck."

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"Do you wanna go upstairs?" she asks Rána.

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"Yeah. Let's do that."

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Nodnod. 

So they head upstairs.

 

" - I don't actually have anything specific to say, I just - didn't want to keep talking in front of everyone - "

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Nodnod. "We can just back out of all this and go back to court if we want. We had a plan. It was a good plan."

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Nod.

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He looks around the room. Then he pulls the sheets off the bed, picks up the mattress, and hauls it off until it tips over and half-rests on the other bed.

 

He makes a nest out of the blankets. 

"C'mere."

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She does.

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Hug. 

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Hug.

 

"I'm - scared that they're trying to change a bunch of things about how we are, and making you argue about it, and - I felt like how we were was - I don't know how I want to think of it, or what to call it, or how it's going to be once we leave court again, but - I'd almost stopped feeling scared about it, and then people started - making all of these claims about how bad it is - and I'm scared that if anybody else touches it everything will get worse, somehow - "

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"I keep feeling like - every time I touch you, every time I need something from you, we're accumulating some kind of invisible debt we don't know about but which all of them can see, and they hate us for it -"

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Nod.

Hug.

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"I don't want you to be scared. I want you to be mine and not scared."

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Nodnod.

"Me too."

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"You - you love your kids and you want them to be happy but you also - want them to be yours and want the chance to be in their lives and want people to know they're yours - and it doesn't mean you don't love them -"

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"Yeah."

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"I don't want to leave you. I don't want you to stop looking after me. I want - all of my children, and I want them to be safe, and in a place that isn't hurting them or turning them into horrible people, and - I want whatever we are to be what's good for us, and not - what looks right to people from other places we don't understand, or however they expect slavery to look? I just - I liked it, before, when I felt like I belonged to you but you weren't going to - treat me the way people treat slaves where I come from, weren't going to hurt me, weren't going to make me do things I had good reasons not to do, weren't going to - expect me to go around acting like I was - less than everyone else - "

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"That's what matters. That's the only thing that matters. If you liked it, and I liked it, then nothing they think is important."

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Nodnod.

 

"I don't know if your court can feed all of the kids for the rest of the night."

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"I don't know either."

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"We don't have to go to - Kansas, for that, we could also just keep getting food here, but that means staying here - "

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"The part about the kids probably being better off around other kids made sense to me."