Disclaimer- I don't own the Mercy Thompson series. Patricia Briggs does.
Summary- For all that we learn about fae and their history, there's one silent character, who though she made a huge impact, was never named. Who was Zee's wife? What kind of human woman could make a fae fall so in love with her that years after her death, he couldn't even spend time with another mortal woman? Here is the barest glimpse of her, captured in time. From Mercy's POV.
Author's Note- Canon is conflicted and blurry when it comes to the early time line of Mercy's story. I've set this ten years after Zee's wife's death, and six years after Mercy came to the Tri-Cities. Currently, the shop no longer belongs to Zee- the Gray Lords have recently made fae come out and Zee was one of them. She owns the shop, and Tad works for her.
Immortal fae and mortal humans should not mate- Uncle Mike, discussing Zee's behavior after his human wife's death, from Homecoming
I love my shop, but it isn't a place to keep personal belongings in. Among the tools, ignored piles of paperwork, and car parts, the photograph stood out. Wiping my hands on my overalls- not that it did much good, as I was covered in grease- the down side of being a mechanic- and picked up the photo.
It was faded slightly, and creased down the middle- like someone had folded it often in a pocket. A young woman smiled up at me, her hazel-green eyes laughing, and most of her face covered by dark brown hair with the sort of gold highlights that people spend hundreds trying to get in a salon but some get naturally and never think about. She was paler than me- though as a half-Indian, lots of people were paler than me- and she was biting her lip, like she was flustered or nervous even as she laughed. She was very pretty, but not in a classical way. Her eyes and mouth were too wide and her nose was too sharp to be considered beautiful, but I'd bet that when she walked down the street, men stopped and looked. Thinking it was Tad's new love interest- that boy has more romantic troubles than any teenager should deserve- I tucked in my pocket, were it'd be safe from the oil, grease, and other slimy substances that came with a mechanic shop and resolved to give it to him when we were both clean.
As fate would have it though, I didn't get a chance to give it to him until a full month later, at the worst time possible.
I had meant to give it to Tad at the end of the day- only to be distracted when a distraught soccer mom came in with a broken van that had to be fixed right then and there. I ended up working until the wee hours of the morning and had sent Tad home when the sun went down, as he had school the next morning. At school, Tad promptly caught the flu and was out for two weeks. Whatever gifts Tad had being half-fae, immunity from nasty human diseases weren't one of them. As being able to shape-shift into a coyote did nothing to shield me from said nasty human diseases, I stayed away; with Zee taking care of Tad, I couldn't afford to get sick and take off from the shop. By the time Tad came back to work, I had completely forgotten about the photograph and was trying to deal with all the cars in my shop from the icy roads. You'd think people would know to be careful in the Tri-Cities in the winter, but that doesn't stop them from slinging their cars all over the road. It wasn't until Tad had began his weekly speech of angst about his love life that I remembered it.
"...and I told her I didn't have anything to do with it, but she didn't' believe me Mercy!" Tad groaned as he worked on a very sad looking Rabbit.
"It'll all blow over in a month," I reassured him, hoping it was true. In the small werewolf town I grew up in, everything was remembers, and nothing- including taking the Marrok's car on a joyride- was forgotten. The memory made me grin- Bran had been so angry, but it had been so worth it. Besides, if I hadn't, I wouldn't have spent the summer working on cars with Charles and might have never become a mechanic.
Tad let out in exaggerated sigh. "I hope so Mercy. But my heart is shattered. Broken. Damaged beyond repair!"
I couldn't help but snort. "Didn't you say the same about that girl- Jessica- a month ago?"
Tad looked embarrassed. "Well, yeah. But Katie-"
"Has both given you your heart and broken it into thousands of little pieces, I know Tad. Now go grab a pair of overalls and help me out with this piece here. It doesn't want to cooperate."
Tad gave me a lazy salute with a "Yes, boss lady," and left the garage part of the shop.
I heard him clunk back a few minutes and was turning, saying, "Hey did you by any chance finish-" and that was when I saw his face.
Tad's a good-looking teenager, but not in the usual way. His darker skin tends to blend in around the Tri-Cities, as we have a large Hispanic population- but his features are the sort of sharp Anglo-Saxon that makes you think of old Germany. His eyes are a dark gray-green that look a little odd with his coloring, but that didn't seem to stop Tad from breaking hearts- and having his heart broken in return- by what deems like the majority of the girls in his school. I think it comes of having a fae father- though I have no idea what Zee really looks- and a human mother. That combination gave him some odd genes, especially since most fae don't look anything near human. He'll grow up to be a heart breaker more than he already is, but his true form- which is pretty much what he usually looks like, only without the touches of glamor that took away the exotic and inhuman edges to his features- was out for whoever wandered into my garage to see. I almost dropped by wrench on my foot in shock.
I had only seen Tad's true form once before, when Zee was still owned the shop and I was working for him, and Tad had broken his arm attempting to work on a car too heavy for him to handle. I hadn't known that Tad had glamored himself until he'd drop it, revealing a boy I'd never seen before with light teak skin, dark gold hair, and the sort of terrible beauty in his features that humans simply didn't have. He was, however, showing it me now. If I hadn't seen him, his scent- metal, earth, magic, and WD-40 oil, flooded with anger, fear, hurt, shock, and bitterness, would have clued me in.
"Tad, what's wrong?" I asked and cast my senses around for danger, but I didn't catch anything out of the ordinary.
He didn't answer. "Mercy," he demanded voice darker than I'd ever heard it, "where did you get this?"
I frowned at him, and looked down at what he was holding- the photo of the mystery girl. Tad must have grabbed the overalls I'd been wearing the day I'd tucked it in the pocket and promptly forgot about it.
I gestured to one of the more cluttered edges of my shop. "Over there, when I was searching for a bolt that fell behind the table; your photo there had fallen behind all the tools. I'd meant to give it to you early, but with all the cars coming in, I'd forgotten." I tried to tease him, and ease anguish wading off of him. "Is she your girlfriend? Jessica, maybe?"
Tad shook his head and his voice was hoarse when he answered. "No. Not at all. She's my mother."
I started. The woman in the photo had been Zee's wife?! Zee's wife and Tad's mother, who neither of them ever talked about it and who I didn't even know the name of? That smiling girl had been married to Zee? Intellectually, I knew Zee had been married to a human- but it was hard to connect the happiness of the girl with lack of tolerance and genuine grumpiness that were Zee's strongest traits.
"Oh," I said, lamely. "I- I'm sorry Tad. I didn't know..."
Tad smiled tightly and waved a hand, cutting me off. "Not your fault Mercy. How could you know? When my moth-" his voice hitched and he took a deep breath before continuing. "When she died, Dad burned all the pictures of her in the house and the shop; he even got rid of all her belongings, later. I don't think he could stand turning around and seeing a reminder of her. I- I could only grab a few things of her's from the trash- all of her other stuff was too broken or already gone." He paused again, and I could taste the tears in his eyes. "I wasn't able to save a picture- Dad burned them while I was at school. It's just...seeing her. I haven't seen her in so long, except in my dreams. I was starting to forget what she looked like." He ran his fingers over his mother's face reverently. "She's so much more beautiful than I remember."
There was only one thing I could do. I walked over to Tad and wrapped him a hug and tried to keep my anger under control. Thank God Tad wasn't a werewolf, or he'd be worried I was about to march over to the reservation and kill his father. What kind of father didn't save reminder of the mother of his child for that child? Then again, I reminded myself, Zee was fae. Not human. He must have loved his wife- but he wasn't human, and his affection for her and Tad wasn't the sort a human man would have. The reminder didn't help me on bit, but I had plenty of practice with storing my anger away for another time.
"Did you know," he whispered into my shoulder, "that today was her birthday?"
"I didn't," I answered him and held on as Tad cried silently into my shoulder. As I comforted him, I wondered where Zee was and what he was doing. Several minutes later, Tad stopped crying, stepped away from me, and wiped his face. He gave me a wan smile, and flipped the picture over. The scrawl on the back read, 'Tatem Adelbertkrieger' with today's date and a different year.
"I remember this day," he confided in me. "I was...six years old. It was her birthday, and she was out shopping with some of her friends. One of them- I can't remember which one- took her picture and gave it to me later. Mom hated having her picture taken, so I hid it here, in the shop." He sounded dazed. "After all the photos of her disappeared in the house, I looked for it, but I couldn't find it. It must have fallen..." He shook himself. "I'm sorry Mercy," he said and I could smell the embarrassment coming off him. Ah, to have the ego of a teenage boy. "We should get back to work."
I pursed my lips. "Nah, it's about to take a break anyways. How about we go grab so lunch and you tell me more about her?"
Tad's smile was shy- Tatem's, I now realized- and lit up the garage. "That sounds great," he said.
So, my first Mercy Thompson fic! Please review and tell me what you think! 1st person isn't my speciality, so I apologize for the awkwardness of it.
This is a prequel to a story I'm writing about Tatem (she didn't have a name, so I gave her one), and will probably be mentioned later on. I was always curious about Zee's wife- she was never described or named, and yet I think she had a huge effect on Zee. Considering what we learn about Zee and exactly what kind of a Someone he was, I think she must have been pretty amazing.