For Julie Kagawa's "The Queen is Coming: Contest and Giveaway" :)
This is an entry from me, Kaylee, and my BFF, Melinda, because we both love the Iron Fey series with all our hearts! ;D
We're not Team Puck, so you know (because Ash is the best!), but we love him nonetheless and think he's awesome and deserves this fic as much as anyone!
Set after Puck was assigned by Oberon to watch Meghan and before the events of The Iron King.
We hope you like it! :)
The Princess and The Servant
"Robbie, how about this one?"
Throwing my hands over my eyes, I fell back onto the couch and groaned, "No more, princess! Seriously, how many hours do you have to spend torturing me here?"
Early this morning, I had dropped by Meghan's house unexpectedly and made the mistake of asking her what she had planned for the day. I thought it might have been something like a horror movie marathon or some theater jumping, like usual. Maybe just chilling at the coffee shop or hanging around at her house. But I couldn't have been more wrong.
She said shopping; I said an equivalent to the Winter Court.
That's a big comparison, coming from a Summer faery with the misfortune of meeting the Unseelie queen.
Meghan glanced down at her outfit and frowned. "That bad?"
I peered through the cracks between my fingers at her upside down figure. "You look like a walking piñata."
"Gee, thanks." She rolled her eyes, skirt swishing as she spun to slam the dressing room door and muttered an oath under her breath.
"What was that?" I called cheekily.
"Oh, shut up, Robbie. This is the last time I ever ask you to come to the mall with me."
"You say that like it's supposed to be a bad thing."
On the other side of the door, a zipper unlatched and I could practically see her rolling her eyes. "Sometimes you act like such a boy."
"Sometimes? That's a low blow for my manhood, princess. Say that to your precious Scott Waldron and I'm sure he'd take special precautions to ruin your life." I rolled over onto my stomach and was suddenly glad that she couldn't see the annoyance on my face. "Lucky for you I'm pretty forgiving."
The mirrored door burst open and she stepped out, decked in her regular old clothes and not some of those ridiculous frilly tops that barely covered any skin. She looked better this way; the blue of her shirt really brought out the brightness of her eyes.
"Funny, Rob. I can't say a coherent word when I'm around him, much less a full sentence. It's safe to say that will never happen." She quickly hid her disappointment. "I think I'm ready to take a lunch break. Are you hungry?"
I was off the chair immediately. "You kidding? I was hungry for escape the moment we stepped into the mall, but I guess I'll have to settle for a burger." I gave her an expectant look.
"Yeah, yeah. My treat, for dragging you here."
"If you insist."
"Always the gentleman," she muttered as we exited the store, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Her innocence was cute. It suited her.
The food court was busy, but nothing like the Winter Court and Summer Court. That said, I would still rather be back home than here in the mortal realm; the mall absolutely reeked of iron.
"You okay, Rob?" Meghan asked worriedly when I paused.
I raked a hand through my red hair and forced a smile. "I'm fine, princess. Let's eat."
She hesitated. Even though she had no clue that I was fey and had deadly allergies to iron, she still somehow managed to pick up when I felt most sick. Whether it was her natural fey instincts or something else, I wasn't sure. But I was always grateful.
"C'mon, how 'bout we head out to Subway or something instead?" she suggested. "After an entire day of dragging you out here, I think it's only fair that you get to pick where we eat and I know how much you hate big crowds."
"You sure? You didn't even buy anything." I was trying to act like a martyr, sacrificing my own comfort so she could shop and all, but the truth was that if she hadn't suggested leaving this ridiculous place then I probably would've dragged her out in a few seconds anyways.
Meghan shrugged. "It's not like I would have been able to. Mom and Luke aren't exactly the wealthiest people in town," she said pointedly.
"Then what was the point of coming here in the first place?"
"To torture myself with all of the things that I can't have. Oh, and to see if you'd actually come with me," she added with a grin. "I really didn't think you would."
"Greeeeatt," I groaned, throwing my head back in exasperation. "I came to the mall of my own free will. Kill me now."
She laughed, sweet and melodic. My sensitive ears perked up at the sound. "You're such a drama queen, Robbie."
"And there you go with the gender bashing again. Seriously, are you trying to make me feel bad?"
"Yes. But I'm also paying for your lunch, so you either have to put up with it or jump off the train and find someone else to live off of."
"Is it too late to jump? I think it'd be much less painful."
"Oh, shut up and choose your place, Robbie. Or we'll just stay here and chow on some cheap fries."
"I didn't realize there was an ultimatum."
"Robbie…" she said warningly.
I immediately thrust my finger in the air. "To Pizza Hut!"
We didn't end up going to Pizza Hut.
Actually, we were kind of planning to. I had every intention of stealing a piece of the greasiest pizza in the world. But then we took the wrong city bus to the other side of town, couldn't find a cab from the terminal and got stranded in a place at least a hundred miles from the border of Meghan's secluded farmland town.
So here we were, an hour later, walking down the side of Highway 10 with two boxes of Chinese takeout and multiple drivers shooting us dirty looks.
"Kirsten O'Brian?" I asked, listing another of one of the few humans in our grade I knew.
"She hates me," Meghan replied, twirling her chopsticks around in the fried noodles as we walked. "Ever since we were in fifth grade and I accidentally spilled grape juice on her Juicy Couture skirt, actually. So I guess that one's my fault."
"Accidentally?" I repeated incredulously.
She looked defensive. "I didn't mean to! Angie was the one who tripped me."
"Sure, princess. Whatever you say."
Frowning, she turned to face forward and chewed aggressively on her food.
I sighed inwardly. Meghan was telling me about her dream party for her sweet sixteen more than two years away, and when I asked who she was going to invite, she automatically went into depression mode. I made it my personal job to cheer her up. That was proven a harder job than I'd originally thought.
"Okay, okay. No Kirsten. But what about inviting Angie to your party instead?" The look she shot me was foul, so I put my hands up and said, "Hey, don't kill the messenger."
"Messenger? Is that what you call yourself? You—"
"—are an awesome and amazing friend, I know," I cut in cheerfully. "But instead of basking in all that glory, I'm telling you right now that if you plan to have a party at all you at least have to agree to invite someone to it. Isn't that how parties work?" According to all the books the Nurse insisted I read…
"That'd be much easier to say if you weren't my only friend."
"Wow, princess, what's up with you today? Pessimism doesn't suit you."
Abruptly, Meghan stopped walking and turned to glare at me. "What's up with me, Robbie? Well, lemme tell you: It's a Saturday afternoon and we've been walking down the highway like a pair of hobos for two hours and we barely cleared a mile when there are another hundred and less than five hours 'til nightfall and we can't call my mom to pick us up because she's working and Luke doesn't have a phone handy when he's out and even if they were home neither of us have a cell phone and the bus terminal is the only place in a twenty mile radius and if we don't make it home before Mom gets off work at nine she's going to ground me for the rest of my life!" she exhaled in one breath.
I paused. "Did that make you feel better, princess?"
"No, actually it made me feel worse."
Her face was flushed and her jaw clenched—I could tell this was really bothering her. Not only the fact that we were stranded out here with no possible way home except exposing myself as a faery, but also that she had no friends other than me to invite to her birthday party.
Something in my chest warmed. Sympathy? For this mortal girl? I wasn't sure, but right then and there it didn't matter. She was upset and I was her friend and Oberon had ordered me to keep her life as normal as possible—but what was the point if I was the reason she had no friends?
"Wait," I said suddenly, grabbing her hand. She was so startled that she dropped her takeout box and I set my own down. "I have an idea."
"Robbie, I'm not in the mood—"
"Just come on," I insisted, already tugging her along. Meghan looked ready to protest but I didn't loosen my grip. Soon we were running, the zooming of the cars behind us disappearing as I caught Meghan by the arm and hauled her over the fence in one swift jump. She yelped, clearly surprised, but I only grinned and kept running into the thick forest ahead.
Twice, Meghan told me crazy. Thrice, she nearly tripped over broken branches and I had to hold her up. Four times, she screamed when something rustled in the bushes. And more times than I could count, she asked me where we were going to which I only answered with a cheeky "You'll see."
"Robbie, please tell me where we're going!"
"Nope," I quipped, glancing around. When I started to recognize the path (or non-path, as Meghan would describe it), a grin spread across my face and I stopped.
She rammed into my back and spoke in pure annoyance. "Robbie!"
I ignored her complaints. "We're here!" I announced, sparing her a backwards glance. Her blond hair had leaves tangled in them, her cheeks were red, and she looked madder than I'd ever seen her. Somehow her anger only made me want to laugh. "Ready for the surprise?"
"I hate surprises."
"You love surprises!" I exclaimed and the corner of her lips quirked up.
"Okay. Maybe I do like them a little bit."
"Then you'll love this for sure," I told her and pulled her into the clearing.
It was as beautiful as I remembered it. Perfectly circular and framed with ever budding blossoms, trees glowing bright green under the setting sun. It was later than I thought—finding this place shouldn't have wasted more than an hour, but with Meghan it was long past five. Humans moved slower. I should have known.
But the look on Meghan's face made up for lost time. She looked absolutely blown away by the clearing, her face a mixture of awe and admiration. Blue eyes bright, she ran through the tall grasses and flowers, spinning amidst the blossoms in stride.
"It's so pretty," she whispered, turning to face me with lost fury. "How did you find this place?"
"A friend showed it to me."
It was sort of true.
I'd been there only once before, with two best friends that I no longer had. One held me responsible for the other's death, the latter reminding me so much of Meghan it almost hurt. We were the best of friends once; inseparable. But after my one mistake Ariella had died. Her winter prince had never forgiven me. And then Oberon had ordered me to watch over his small daughter who was a mere shadow of what I'd lost.
Ariella brought us here in once in the middle of summer, my strongest season. She was the only one of the three of us who enjoyed the human world for more than just a place to wreak havoc. She loved the nature of things here; she was fascinated with it. Its beauty couldn't hold a candle to the Nevernever, but somehow Ariella had found the brilliance in something so simple.
Somehow, I'd known that Meghan would be just the same.
"Wow," she breathed admiringly. "Wow."
"Not your average playground, is it?"
Meghan barely acknowledged my joke, just giggled in delight and fell backwards into the soft grass. She landed flat on her back, staring up at the quickly darkening sky. Her light hair spread around her like an angelic halo, inhaling deeply the scents of freesia and honeysuckle. I watched her from the edge of the clearing, mesmerized by her subtle movements.
A few moments passed before she rolled her head over to look at me. "Are you going to sit with me?"
Slowly, reluctantly, I lowered myself onto the ground beside her. She didn't squint or move, lying still as a statue as I rested my head beside hers and stared deeply at the sky above. Then she reached out to take my hand in her own.
This time it was me who was startled. Meghan only smiled at me, childish and bright, and pointed up to the sky. "Do you know that star right there, Robbie?"
It was the first speck of light, brightening slowly in contrast to the darkening background. "It's the first star," I said. "Polaris."
"Right." Her finger moved slightly to the left and my eyes followed her direction. "There, we'll see the Big Dipper when the night gets dark enough. The Little Dipper will be there. Since it's almost May, Centaurus should also be visible, and maybe a bit of the Crux. The Ursa Major would be to the right."
"When did you come to be so smart, princess?" I joked, but she merely shook her head.
"I just love the stars. I remember my dad used to take me out to the park all the time and we'd sit there for hours, him explaining the history of each visible constellation and me memorizing each and every one."
Her father. Or the man she thought was her father when I knew for a fact that he wasn't her blood relative because the Summer King was.
"What do you know about stars, Robbie?" she asked softly.
"Not much." That was true. I never really cared much for things I could never see back in Faerie. Our skies were too different.
She smiled and squeezed my hand harder. "I'll explain it to you then."
And that was how we spent the rest of the night: Meghan told me everything she knew about the history of stars and how they came to be, and I just lay back and listened, throwing in sarcastic comments every once in a while to which she only replied with a patient correction. Hands entwined, Meghan no longer hoarded me for constant repetitions of the time—in fact, she seemed to forget all about her strict curfew. Hours passed, the night went on, and the two of us lay there in perfect comfort, neither wanting to get up.
Meghan and I spent the rest of the night admiring something that I've never paid attention to before.
At the time, I wasn't completely, one-hundred percent sure. There were so many obscuring thoughts that pointed out everything wrong—everything that could go wrong—about what I was feeling yet I could no longer deny it. Right then and there, I decided to be one-hundred percent fey and stop lying to myself.
I was in love with Meghan Chase.
Her mother was frantic.
The moment we stepped through the door the next morning, Melissa Chase enveloped her daughter in a case-tight hug, and then yelled with a deep concern at how worried she had been and how grounded Meghan was. Meghan apologized repeatedly but the woman was inconsolable.
We had fallen asleep in the clearing after who knows how long of a night, and Meghan nearly freaked at the time when we woke. After much arguing, we made it through the forest in record time, emerging at the edge of the highway in perfect correspondence to the morning rush-hour. I had waved enough to have a car pull over, and with a little bit of persuasion, the man behind the wheel offered us a ride home.
I hung my head out the window the entire time.
Now, we were standing in the doorway of Meghan's house where her mother continued to banter between squeezing the living heck out of her daughter and yelling at her until she lost her voice.
Finally, the woman seemed to notice me and her fists clenched. "Go home, Robbie. I'm sure your parents are just as worried about you as I was about Meghan."
Taking a single glance at Meghan's pale face, I waved a hand in mock-salute. "I'll see you later, princess." And I was out the door.
Melissa Chase didn't like me, of that I was certain. Oberon had claimed that the woman shouldn't have remembered much about the faerie world, but from the way she always paled when she saw me, how she was tight-lipped and squinted as if trying to see through my glamour, I constantly wondered if she knew more than she let on.
As I strolled distractedly down the street, a car swerved and almost hit me. I flicked a glance at the honking driver before disappearing from sight, letting the glamour fade like water down a drain. The man blinked as if he lost his mind. I didn't care. I was barely paying attention.
Only one question bothered me:
How could I be in love with Meghan?
She had only lived a little more than a decade; I was centuries old. She was the royal Summer King's only living human descendent; I was Oberon's most favored servant. She was half-human, loved technology, and had a house with half its contents deadly poisonous to the fey; I was fey.
I was a faery, a Summer faery, a low servant in love with his princess.
God help me now.