I couldn't believe how much I liked this series at first. I had put a temporary hold on writing fanfic until I finished a few of my older stories, but this demanded being written. Puck is probably my favorite character, inasmuch for his idiosyncrasies as his abilities. I like that he doesn't tell Meghan how much he likes her until it basically is forced out of him; it makes me think that there's some reason for it, which is part of what this fic will investigate.
Of course, this is also just an opportunity for me to spread the Puck/Meghan love by adding in hidden scenes or offering a what-if perspective at later points. And even though I may deviate from canon eventually, it's probably still a good idea to consider this spoilery for anything up to and including The Iron Queen.
Getting sent away by Oberon to look after his half-human daughter was one thing, but not being allowed one last evening of wild parties and madness before that was an entirely different matter. Robin Goodfellow wasn't the kind of faery any king could just send to the human world for inexplicably long periods of time without a huge celebration to mark the occasion. Make no mistake, his last night in the Nevernever had been filled with raucous frenzy and festivity, making it definitely one to remember. He was sure of it.
It was really too bad he couldn't remember anything about it, though.
He rubbed his temples idly as he strode through the woods, almost stepping into a murky patch of ground in his distraction. Faeries were allowed to overindulge too, he frowned at the mud, as though it were making a statement. So, she really did live in a swamp, huh? Talk about the princess as a pauper.
His head still ached a little from the revelry, but occasionally a faint recollection percolated through his consciousness. Had he really been on the arm of a tipsy nereid on the way out? He remembered dancing with her, sure, but leaving with her? Well...that was something.
He would be doing this for sixteen years. The big one-six. Not like it was a huge commitment for an immortal fey- anything to get out of Titania's hair for that long, right? - but it was still an eternity to be out of Faery, definitely longer than he'd ever been away. Puck was mostly sure that he couldn't die, but this seemed like it was pushing the limit. What a way to have to do the king's dirty work...
And it was all because the Summer Queen was alternating between being calculatingly vindictive and flying off the handle at the mere mention of her husband's illicit child. Well really. Puck's nose wrinkled as he stepped into another puddle. It wasn't like Oberon had been all that chaste before. Titania just usually got to the infants a little faster than this one.
Tilting his head up to the sky, he sighed. Meghan Chase, what made you so different? It almost would have been easier for you if you hadn't been so good at getting away, kid.
He transformed into a raven, weaving through the treetops until his ascent allowed him a full view of the woods. The way that her family had disappeared, Oberon had been right in sending his right-hand faery (jester nothing, this was what Puck was made for) into the fray. Granted, he'd had a little hint...
And that was when something piqued his interest.
He'd had to fly in circles for a little bit, but the advice he'd gotten from the dryad about the princess' location had been true. Sure enough, at the edge of the woods there was a little house, almost a cottage, but a little less cozy, with the washing hanging out front. What do you, one half-faery Summer princess found. Score one Puck, zero Titania.
Ducking below the drain spout on their house, the black bird watched the lawn. A sandy-haired woman hung up clothes on a line that wandered in the wind back and forth, obscuring and showing her slim figure in turns. Next to her was an easel that faced the woods, and a small plastic baby seat on the grass that swayed gently in the breeze. The bird eased forward to catch a glimpse of what lay inside, the child that was bound to make his life miserable for years to come, if she was so unfortunate as to survive past infancy.
But as he looked at her, he didn't see a nuisance per say; it was more that she reminded him of everything clean. She was in a neatly wrapped package of cloth and her hair was startlingly white, like the linens floating around her.
And she was looking at him.
To be fair, looking at a bird on a drain spout had never been an indicator of anything good or bad, but this was different. She was staring at him fixedly, as though if she glanced away or blinked even for a moment, he would disappear.
The raven cocked its head.
Perhaps this would be more interesting than he'd though after all.
Truthfully, it had been a sad, messy affair from the very start.
"Oh my, Puck, whatever brought you here? Has Oberon decided to extend the hand of friendship at last, or are you here on some other distasteful business?" Leanansidhe looked as disgusted as if someone had asked her to keep house in a room full of iron. Still, her foyer was nicely attired for somewhere that shouldn't exist, Puck had to admit, though the discordant bleats of music coming from down the hall and the red cap gang squabbling in the kitchen next door did take away from it a bit. But not much. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed magic.
He gave her his most winning smile. "Oh, just saying hi. Being neighborly, since I'm more or less stuck in the mortal realm, too."
Her eyes narrowed and Puck tried not to dwell on how wise bringing that up had been. Finding the trod to the Queen of the Exiles was one thing (not easy), getting her to listen to a proposal when vexed was another story (borderline impossible). He knew he had to play everything at his best or else she'd find him out for sure. Not to mention what Titania would do to him if she found out about his hand in ruining her plans yet again.
His heart was still racing from the escape from Arcadia. Titania was on the warpath, that was for sure. Puck didn't relish the thought of being a raven for a few centuries- it had been bad enough being in the human realm for six years and in comparison, even sixteen years would look like a picnic. If he was going to do anything to save the kid's father, it was going to have to happen now, no mistakes, no failure.
It was a tall order but then again, he was Puck, the Puck, and if there was any faery that could do this-
"I'm not sure I would call us neighbors, dear. But you must have come here for something other than to renew acquaintances. I know I would very much like to know how you found my humble abode, more specifically, what little friend of yours showed you the way." Her voice lilted up at the end, as though posing a question. She toyed with the foyer's lights as a displeasingly flat strain of bass guitar music drifted out of a further room. It was only for a second, but her mouth quirked slightly in annoyance.
And there, Puck saw his way in.
He shrugged, nonchalant. "I'm not here on Oberon's business or anyone's but my own, Lea. But now that you mention it, I came across something that might be of interest to you."
"Oh?" Leanansidhe's features were blank, a perfect gamin's face. She could be intrigued, have taken the bait hook, line, and sinker or just be playing him and he'd never know it. "Whatever did you have in mind?"
"Not a 'whatever,'" Puck corrected, "as much as a 'whoever.'" The bass struck a harsh note and he cringed. "But definitely someone a little more enjoyable."
Why did he care so much about this? He wasn't getting anything out of it.
The memory of the little girl's face breaking into a smile when her father came home flashed through his head. Her eyes crinkled up in a way they didn't for anyone else. Puck reminded himself to focus. It wasn't like he was doing this for the girl. This was strictly messing up Titania's plans, doing what he did best: making a laughingstock out of a faery queen and dancing safely out of her reach. Saving the princess' human father, well, that was just a coincidence.
A small, slightly lethal smile began to form on Leanansidhe's lips. "Ah. Well, do tell, pet. I am all ears when it comes to these things."
Puck let go a breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Him, nervous? Nah. This was all going exactly according to plan. He was safe: mission almost accomplished, Titania thwarted once again. Still...why did he have this sense of misgiving?
"How much do you like piano?"
His first time on the bus was like the world's worst joke.
It felt like he was stuck in a trash compactor; he was constantly checking to make sure that the walls weren't slowly moving inward to crush him. Already, he was starting to feel the air getting more and more dense with the iron, sticking to his skin, choking him out. Maybe there was some trick to lasting through it, but if there was, it was a damn good one to elude a trickster such as fifteen minutes he was starting to see double. He felt dirty, like he could feel the iron writhing its way into his skin, like a infection bubbling along his arms.
It was all he could do to keep conscious and keep his glamour up- it even seemed like the bus itself was determined to rip it off him so much that he had to constantly keep fixing it, dabbing the tears and holes that formed, lest he appear as anything different than a normal first grader on his first day of elementary.
I'm going to throw up as soon as we get there, he thought drearily, but even that will be a relief after this.
At first, he didn't notice as someone slid into the seat next to him. He was about to redouble the glamour and exude a go-away vibe- because let's face it, he really did not feel like dealing with humans right now- when it struck him how different the air around him felt all of a sudden.
It wasn't the stolid, heady scent of iron and its strange pulse digging into him, though it was definitely still there. It just didn't seem as bad now, like something familiar and wild had flown in through the window, a breath of the woods and wildflowers the bus passed.
He looked over, slightly haggard but curious.
It was a girl.
Not a very pretty one, if he was going by human standards. She would be the kind of girl that you'd forget instantly, no matter how outrageously she dressed (though her loose-fitting cotton pants and t-shirt were by no means extraordinary), how she spoke (without much accent, except for a few words), or what she said (which ended up being most important).
"Hi! My name's Meghan Chase. What's your name?"
Suddenly, bus rides started to look more doable.
Puck smiled back, the words already slipping gracefully off his tongue. "I'm Robbie. Robbie Goodfell."