I fell asleep before the party was over, which meant I felt pretty darn safe.  When I woke up, I had a question in my head. I teased it out for a bit, trying to remember it in more exact terms.  It wasn’t something that was translating well, because it was kind of simple or somewhat sycophantic or both, and I didn’t like that. It was important, and not just to me, I thought.

I took a shower, brushed my teeth, and sighed a lot.

“Nen,” I addressed the room once I put myself together.  There were some snacks of low perishability (if that was the right term – things that didn’t have to be refrigerated) still on the table, but the place was clean, and some things had been moved “back” although I was beginning to suspect a little L-space near the bookshelves.  I felt a smile come up on my face as I mentally renamed the Spriggan sibs to “the bookelves,” for a moment.  They’d appreciate it and then complain, I figured.

Nen moved from where he had been sitting next to the television.  He looked up at me, making the expression of curiosity on his face akin to the question rather than asking it in words.

“What happened to, at times you might call me friend, but ‘it is a marriage of convenience’ and only guarding me as given?”

His expression left his face, as quickly as if it were dropped. “I am what I am,” he said.

“And that’s it? I let someone build a polyp kingdom in my home who was just an employee of the Seven King? Yes, I figured out a long time ago it was the King who made the request.”

“You would be wrong thrice.”  He shrugged, a deliberately human gesture.

“Nen,” Rayya chided.  She came out of the kitchen with a plate of sliced cheeses and crackers, which she handed to me. At least, the tone of voice was the kind of chiding that was two steps removed from a parent using your whole name, from what I could tell.  I took the plate of crackers, but waited a moment before eating it. As I said, this was important and it definitely made a difference whether or not I took breakfast as a gift, or ate something from fey hands in the first and second place.

She looked up at me. “He counts them three times. The first that it is a polyp kingdom; it is integrated and part of this world for now. As we gain in power and people make it their home, it will grow, but not in a cancerous method. We…” she glanced at him and began again.  “We respect some of your boundaries. We have entwined, which means its development is necessarily slow. It is a place of our power and still of this world, and it is something new that we hope meets your favor.  In second, that we were employees of the Seven King in our work for you.  We were paid for by another.  In third that he meant those words.”

I started to say something, but she raised a hand up to stop me.

Her hands moved in front of her, and she wrung at them, twisting them together awkwardly. “You have influenced us in our changes. We spent our year and a day learning you even as we warded off nuisances and threats.  We mean to make treaty with you.  The Seven King recognized us, and we hoped in our invitations you would see that you are meant to be treated as a power.  We made that statement without making it, we hoped.”

“I’m just dense?  That’s totally and always an option. Like, you know, failure.  Okay, I need to think more about this.” I frowned.  “So it’s safe to eat?” I asked, raising the plate.

She gave me a fleeting smile. “Maybe.”  The smile grew. “Yes.  It is safe to eat, as is all food I prepare for you, with few caveats.”

“Any here?”

“Cholesterol and carbohydrates,” Nen said.  He was still looking at me without any real expression to his face, something I always found disturbing.

“Well, I guess I’ll take those on,” I said, grinning.  “Consider me warned.”  I moved to sit on the couch.

Rayya tilted her head to the side. One thing I had noticed was that the fey and cats had a lot of signals in similar. I acknowledged it, while chomping on a piece of swiss.

“Why do you hold that sexual intimacy with a fey is somehow more disturbing that that with a witch?” she asked, as if commenting on traffic or the weather or something entirely mundane.

I coughed, and bits of cracker sprayed over my shirt. (A black tee with, “Trust Me: I Know Things” in white lettering.)

“Do I want to know where that question c– originated from?” I asked.

“There would be great advantages in coupling with the Seven King. At least one of the aspects encouraged it, and it would be consensual and only as binding as you determined.  You have not had congress of that nature since your abortive relationship prior to our full-time employ, if our information is correct. We can be discreet if you are shy.”

“You’re not making this any better.” I brushed the cracker off, sighing.  “I just have rules about getting involved with things that aren’t human?”

“Can you be friends with them?” she asked, lightly.


I cleared my throat. “I’m a bit of a jerk,” I said, explaining, if not quite apologizing.

“Is it safe to eat food you’ve prepared? After all, you’re human,” Nen said. I didn’t know if I was projecting any bitterness or if it was really there.

“Uh.” I sighed and put the plate down on the table where it was now to the side of the couch.  “As much as it pains me to say it, I think we might need to have a talk.”