I am actually learning a LOT about my characters right now! Turns out Adrian has been lying to me about a few things for a couple years….
Riley’s Andrew has brought to light some interesting things and changed the novel canon a couple of times.
Warning, there may be some errors since this was not a formal writing exercise.
The bell jingled and Samantha looked up and laughed. Her big eyes took in everything.
“What is this place, Daddy?” She asked as he set her down on the floor. He had been carrying her as she chattered away about her day at school. Normally they went right home, so she was surprised that they were stopping.
“I promised to drop something off earlier,” Adrian said. “We won’t be here long. Don’t touch anything.” Not that he really had to warn her not to mess with stuff. She was pretty easy for a 6 year old.
“Can I look?” She asked.
“Of course,” he said, dropping the small bag he carried from his shoulder to his hand and pulling out an old leather bound book. He glanced at the stand near the window and saw that Andrew had taken his advice and put out the Circle approved version of the book in his hands for display.
Samantha clasped her little hands in front of her and went over to a display of stones and gems. “Pretty, but useless,” she said, clearly torn between the shiney look and the obviously lack of value.
“Pretty much, sweetie,” he agreed and went up to the counter. He knew Andrew had heard them come in.
Andrew tensed for a moment, hearing the child’s voice – though there was no reason why children shouldn’t come into his shop, so long as their parents kept an eye on them, Andrew really doubted that they would. He relaxed somewhat when he heard the second voice, though he was a bit surprised. He hadn’t been entirely sure if Adrian actually was going to return. Their conversation from the week before had verged on the recklessly dangerous and he wouldn’t have been surprised if Adrian had decided he’d be better off avoiding him.
Since then, Andrew had attempted to look into breaking the circle bindings, but whatever Adrian had done was beyond his skills with magic. It seemed too soon to ask the other man do break them for him, despite his nearly offering moments after their first meeting. If nothing else, Andrew had no desire for the circle to investigate him any more closely than they already had.
“Adrian!” Andrew said, giving him a slight smile as he moved to the counter, trying to control himself. This was somebody’s father for fuck’s sake. “It’s good to see you again.” He glanced around for the little girl, just to make sure she wasn’t getting into anything. His eyes moved to the book Adrian was holding, and Andrew’s smile widened.
“I said I’d bring this by,” adrian felt a little uncomfortable seeing Andrew again. He was still not certain what had happened the first time, but it bothered him that he obviously had not been 100% in control of the situation.
He wanted to find out more about the man.
“I can leave it for a few days, but will be needing it back.” He tried not to fidget. Samantha came up to the counter and grabbed his hand. She watched Andrew closely, clearly not sure if she should trust him.
“Daddy,” she said quietly. “Is that a really fairy in the case over there?” Adrian arched one eyebrow and looked over at Andrew.
“I don’t know sweetie, I haven’t seen it, why don’t you show me.”
“It’s not very pretty,” Samantha admitted.
“That makes it more likely that it is real,” Adrian said dryly. “Not everything from the Fey is pretty or nice.”
“Why don’t you have Andrew here, tell you what it is.” He looked at Andrew as Samantha went to a small display case near the wall.
“Thank you,” Andrew murmured, wondering if he could loan Adrian the conjuring book in return. The major concern was that the other man would guess what he was somehow, though he wasn’t sure how much of a threat Adrian was in that regard, and it wasn’t as if he was actively trying to seduce the man. As much as he might want to.
The little girl’s return was a welcome distraction, though Andrew couldn’t help feeling a pang of jealousy as she grabbed her father’s hand, and he wasn’t even sure what it was directed at. Her question made him smile, though, as he listened to their exchange. He knew what she was referring to. It was a well-made 19th century replica, and just as horrifying as the real thing from everything Andrew could learn.
Somewhat hesitant, Andrew walked over to the display case. “I’m afraid it’s fake,” he had forgotten her name, if he’d ever known it. “It’s meant to look like the real thing, though. I have a couple of photographs that are supposed to be what this is modeled after, if you’d like to see them.”
Realized too late that he should probably have asked Adrian’s permission, before offering to show a small child slightly gruesome photographs, and he winced slightly, glancing back at Adrian.
“Do you want to see them,?” Adrian asked his daughter.
“Yes, please!” Samantha’s eyes lit up. “It’s so creepy. What is it?”
Adrian looked at the figure and frowned. He tried not to get to involved with Fey creatures whenever possible. Anything from that realm was bound to be trouble.
“Not really my forte, kiddo,” he admitted. “Looks like it might be some kind of brownie. You’d want to steer clear of those for sure. All the stories of helpful little brownies always end in someone being maimed or murdered. At least real stories.”
“Have you ever seen a real one?” Samantha asked, looking at both men.
Trying to remember where he’d put the photos when moving – they weren’t at his apartment, were they? – Andrew couldn’t help but be amazed with how comfortable and aware of all these things that she was.
“Close,” he told Adrian, moving back behind the counter to the locked case where he kept his collection of real books. At least those he even felt remotely comfortable with other people seeing. Still appalled with himself for letting that one book sit out. “I’m fairly sure it’s a hob, possibly even a goblin.”
He unlocked the case, retrieving a box and setting it on the counter and looking over at the child, as he unpacks the photographs and tries to determine which ones she should definitely not see. “Not living. I saw something rather like that, a pixie or redcap, that could have been real.”
“The circle has a cryptozoologist they keep around. She has some really weird things in her office. I used to like to go in there when I was a kid and look at the things in jars and the dried specimens,” Adrian admitted.
“Samantha has been showing an interest in that field lately,” Adrian placed a hand on the girl’s head as she pressed up against his leg. “But for obvious reasons, I have no desire to take her up there to see Becky’s collection.”
Selecting a few photographs which shouldn’t be too gruesome or anatomically revealing for a small child, Andrew nods. “I remember her, I did the same thing.” He tilts his head and considers Adrian again. “It’s odd how we’ve never met before.”
Now Andrew recalls what Adrian had said before, about Samantha’s mother, and he looks at the little girl more intently. Not sure what he’s looking for. Some sign she’s like him, some sort of kinship, perhaps. “Samantha, here are my photos if you want to look at them. They’re old and fragile, so you’ll need to be careful handling them.”
He moves the photos toward Adrian, to allow him to hand them to his daughter.
Adrian scooped Samantha up and set her on the counter near the photos.
“You’ve been at school,” he wrinkled his nose, “let me see your hands.” Samantha promptly complied and he checked to make sure they were not dirty.
“Not bad,” he said. Samantha was fastidious for a young child, but still managed to attract dirt like any other. He picked up the photos and handed them to her, leaning in next to her to look at them too.
The girl was fascinated, she studied each photo with a very serious expression on her face.
“I’m not sure about this one,” she said of the third photo. Adrian took it from her hand to look at it more closely. He looked on the back for any writing or any other clues, but found none.
“Why do you think this one is not real?” he asked, handing the photo to Andrew for his assessment or explanation. His fingers accidentally brushed the shop owners as he handed it off and he felt his face warm with a sudden blush. He looked away, afraid to meet Andrew’s eyes now.
They are too still and too pretty,” Samantha said simply, moving on to the next photo. “Like the ones those little girls took in England.”
“The Cottingley fairies?” Adrian asked. “I didn’t know you had seen those.”
“They are in a book on the top shelf near the one with the cover that makes my fingers cold.”
Adrian’s eyes widened. “You will have to show me when we get home.” He was almost sure he did know what book she meant, but if she had been up there and touched it, he needed to put it somewhere more secure. Why there was a book with those fairy photos near it he had no idea.
At first, Andrew keeps a close watch over this, but as the little girl looked over the picture, he began to trust her not to damage them purposefully, and he allowed himself to wonder what Adrian would do if he knew what he was. Wondered what Adrian was, exactly, becoming slightly distracted contemplating the other man.
Samantha’s questioning brought his attention back to the photographs. It was unfortunate that Adrian’s fingers caressed his, and Andrew flushed and had to look at the picture very intently, listening to the others and thankful that Samantha is present because if she wasn’t, he wasn’t sure he could resist.
“I think you’re right, Samantha,” he said, feeling it safer to talk to the little girl and ignore her father for a moment. “I bought a few of these at an estate sale and apparently wasn’t careful enough sorting through them.” He put it aside, glancing at Adrian and then at Samantha.
“You can sense things, like your father’s book?” he asked her, wondering whether he should ask more about the book.
“Yes,” Samantha looked at her father, afraid she may have said the wrong thing.
“It’s ok,” Adrian assured her. “Andrew is like us, so he won’t tell anyone. Though I will have to be more careful with that book now. You don’t need to touch it again.” He was not sure Andrew would appreciate him telling his daughter that, but she was bound to figure out what he was sooner or later if he stayed in the area long. She was too smart not too.
“I don’t want to,” she assured him. She turned her eyes to Andrew and studied him. Adrian looked at Andrew too, he was determined not to let the man get him so flustered. It was very unlike him.
“You’re like us?” She asked, trying to confirm what her father had told her. “I didn’t know there were any others like us.”
Not entirely comfortable with being studied by the two sets of green eyes, Andrew chose to focus on Samantha, and deal with Adrian later. “I am like you,” he replied, hesitating as he nearly told them everything – or at least everything he knew. “When I was your age, I didn’t even know what I was, until the circle found me, and made a few guesses based on . . . what I could do.”
That was probably more than enough, for now. Andrew took a deep breath, glancing at Adrian. “At that point, I didn’t even know who my parents were.”
“Even if you do, they probably wouldn’t tell you anything,” Adrian said, hoping it didn’t sound too bitter. “She will not be going to the circle. Ever.” As he studied Andrew and tried to impress the urgency to not put his daughter through that by sheer force of will alone, he felt the still fresh binding on his wrist start to itch and burn again. He was starting to guess what it was that the rune bound, but he would still need to wait until he could break it again to test his theory. There were plenty of more than willing subjects around.
He could not stop himself from rubbing at the spot, but he quickly stopped when he saw Andrew notice the movement. He did not need for Andrew to know any more than he had to. But if he was right about what it might be, Samantha was in even more trouble than he already thought.
“That’s sad,” Samantha said, her voice was calm. “My mother never comes around either, but I don’t think anyone misses her.” Adrian laughed.
“You don’t even remember her,” he said wrapping his arms around his precocious child and putting his chin on top of her head. “You were only a few days old!”
As Adrian urged him to . . . what? Help him protect his daughter from the circle, or at least not alert them. . . Andrew met his eyes, and nodded. He had enough reason himself to avoid the circle as much as possible.
With his eyes on the other man, Andrew noted his fidgeting with the bindings, again considering asking Adrian to break his. Preferably another time, perhaps while Samantha was at school . . .
The little girl seemed unperturbed by her absent mother. If Andrew’s guess was correct, it was unsurprising, though he doubted a Fey being would be much more maternal. He had never really missed his parents when he was younger, since there was nothing to miss. He’d felt far worse after meeting his mother, and she was human.
“I don’t miss my mother either,” Andrew said. “And you and your father are lucky enough to have each other.” He busied himself packing away the photographs, sorting through them and hoping he hadn’t sounded bitter or envious in any way.
“Knowing your parents is not always a good thing,” Adrian admitted. He had no desire to get into his own family situation, but he felt a little bad that the subject had upset Andrew. He suspected that issues with parents and families was a common problem for those like them.
Samantha watched carefully as Andrew put the photos away.
“Daddy?” She asked and Adrian realized he had been staring at Andrew while the other man worked. He cleared his throat and quickly looked at his daughter.
“I’m hungry,” she announced. “Can we have dinner soon?” Adrian laughed in relief, he was starting to worry what the girl might say.
“You are in luck!” He said cheerfully. “Sofia came by today with some food, so you will be able to eat something she cooked tonight.” The little girl smiled and giggled. The first really childish thing she had done since entering the shop.
“I like her cooking,” she said happily before turning back to Andrew.
“Sofia is a good cook, but she is having a baby soon and is going to be busy for a while.” They had talked about it a lot recently. Samantha had always see Sofia as, if not a mother figure, than a favorite aunt. Sofia and her husband, David were expecting their first child soon and he had tried to explain that the woman would not be able to spend as much time with her while the baby was little. He hoped she was not too jealous.
“Andrew doesn’t know Sofia, sweetie,” Adrian said.
“Well, he should, She is very nice.” Child logic. He smiled apologetically at Andrew. He had no idea how much experience the man had with children, but until Samantha came along, he had not understood anything about them.
“I like it here,” she said. “Can we come back?”
“Sure, sweetie, we can come back,” Adrian said, lifting her down to the floor. “As long as that’s ok with Andrew.” Samantha looked at Andrew expectantly.
“No, it isn’t,” Andrew breathed, closing the box. He had been happy to share the photographs, and if not exactly happy to meet someone else like him, to put his childhood peculiarities into perspective, but now he was beginning to wish he was alone again. At least they hadn’t been interrupted by any other customers, giving them the opportunity to be at least somewhat more open than they might otherwise have.
The discussion of food, and their other friends brought a smile to his lips. Did these people know what they were? How could they? It wasn’t exactly the sort of information one could go about telling people, even if no one would believe it. “Maybe I’ll meet her one day,” he said, turning back to Samantha, though he doubted it. “And of course you can come back, anytime.”
He looked back up to Adrian, meeting his eyes. “That goes for both of you. Anytime.”
Adrian felt himself blushing. What was wrong with him? He knew we others reacted that way to him sometimes, and it made it easy to get what he wanted from them, but it had never happened to him before. A nagging suspicion started to form at the back of his head. He rubbed the mark on his arm and held Andrew’s gaze.
“So you don’t know what you are?” he asked. It was a risk. He didn’t want to have to answer the same question about himself. Everything about his family tree going back more generations than he wanted to count was in a file somewhere with the circle. That being said, he knew we almost nothing about the non-human parts of it. He assumed there was something less than savory a few generations back. No one said what exactly, but they started the bindings almost as soon as he started to show signs of having abilities. They only left the ones that made him useful to them
If the circumstances were any different (not under the scrutiny of a small child, for example), Andrew would have been quite pleased by Adrian’s blush. As it was, he hadn’t intended to have this effect on him . . . at least not so much of one. Not now.
The other man was rubbing his arm again, and Andrew wondered what abilities were blocked by it, and why it was troubling him so much. And then shaken out of these thoughts by the question. “I do,” he admitted, sighing. “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you; I’ve never actually told anyone and I . . .” he stopped. “Perhaps it might help if I told you that the book, the one that brought you in here the first time, belonged to my mother.
“I see,” Adrian said. And he was starting to get a picture of what he was dealing with now. He realized he might be in bigger trouble than he thought. The worst part was, he should have realized what was happening after having gone through this with Lilith. He simply had not expected it from this pleasantly harmless little shop keeper, despite his risky choice of reading material.
“Mostly harmless, my ass,” he added, but couldn’t keep the grin off his face and he chuckled.
“Daddy,” Samantha said with an exasperated tone, still perched on his hip. Soon she would be too big for him to carry around any more, but for now she still allowed him to do it. “Sofia said-”
He cut her off with a quick kiss on the cheek and and poke on the ribs. “Yes, yes, I should be more careful with what I say because there may be kids around.” Samantha squirmed and giggled happily.
Adrian looked back at Andrew. “I have some things to work on, but I’ll be back in a few weeks, I think we may have something to discuss.” If he was right about what the binding on his wrist concealed, he was going to need learn to be more careful. No wonder the circle had always been so eager to make sure it was the rune was still active so often. They redid that one far more often than the others. He had a few experiments to do, once he could get rid of the most recent binding. Then he would be back to talk to Andrew.
As the other man put the pieces together, Andrew watched him carefully. Cautiously. It had been a dangerous admission, even with the limited information he had actually said aloud. Yet he couldn’t tell anyone else, and as little as he knew Adrian, he was the first person it felt possible to discuss this with.
Andrew chuckled along with him, satisfied that Adrian had come to the correct conclusion. He was reluctant to come between the father and child, watching their interactions with a bittersweet feeling, nodding to Adrian when he addressed him again. “Of course. I should be finished with the book you’ve loaned me by then.” He chuckled mildly, again. “And if I remember correctly, you only asked if I was mostly harmless in the circle’s eyes.” Of course, it should go without saying that the circle could not know his father was an incubus; he just hoped Adrian wouldn’t go around telling anyone else about it.