Varian and Josh
Damn it! Here I am, there's my van, and it's stuck in the mud. It's dark and cold, and my lover man never has his phone on...
"My knight in shining armor! It's your damsel in distress! Come save me from the encroaching cold and darkness. Pluck me from the teeth of disaster! And afterwards, have your wicked way with me!"
"Josh? Where the hell are you?"
"Beset by grave peril. I'm standing beside my mired chariot."
"Damn it, Josh, I warned you that parking lot was going to turn into mud today! You had to park down there?"
"How else was I to load the works of my soul into my chariot?"
"You could have waited for me to come and help you lug your paintings out the front door."
"Perhaps I wanted you to spend your energy on... other pastimes?"
"Josh, when have I not had energy for that? Listen, I've got another hour of faculty meeting to sit through. We're having a coffee break right now, or else you wouldn't have caught me. Can't you wait in the studio?"
"Alas, the keys are in the van."
"Well, get your feet muddy and get them out."
"The keys to the van are in the studio."
"Josh... Hang on. Arnold, I'm sorry, I've got to go. Josh has locked himself out of his studio and his keys are locked in the van. Yeah, I know. No, I don't think I'll be back in time -- he's stuck in the mud, too. No, no, I can pull him out. We'll be fine. I'll see you Monday."
"Knight in shining armor, winged warrior of the sky, you are a gift to my soul!"
"I love you, too, Josh."
The tired fairy landed on one of the rolls of hay that dotted the field in the moonlight. The way farmers wrapped them up in white plastic these days, they looked like over sized marshmallows. Arthur missed the days when hay was forked up loosely into huge wagons that horses pulled into the barns. It had been fun to bounce on the top. Now, big, noisy, smelly machines picked them up and carried them. No bouncing.
The fairy sighed. The others were late. The moon was already high in the sky. That made it brighter, which was a good thing, but it also meant fewer hours before sunrise, and they would all have to be gone before the first rays of the sun touched the trees circling the green meadow where he'd called the emergency meeting. And if they had to leave before their work was complete, then...
Arthur thought Virgil and Wilbur would be here by now -- they were usually first -- but Virgil had warned him that Wilbur was into a new project involving paper and paint and lots of staples. As hard as it was to tear Wilbur away from things, the fairy was afraid that they would be the last to arrive.
For Ali Wilde
Virgil and Wilbur
Pineapple, volleyball, penguin
Finally, Arthur heard voices and looked up in time to see Virgil and Wilbur dropping in like a pair of volleyballs served over an astral net. Relief flooded through him. Now, if the others would just get here in time...
"What's up, Arthur?" Virgil asked, landing neatly on the freshly mowed grass in front of him and folding his gossamer wings.
Wilbur crashed ungracefully into the roll of hay, almost knocking Arthur off. Wilbur was not known for his coordination. But Arthur could see, as Wilbur picked himself up, that he was holding something tightly in his arms.
"We have a problem," Arthur said heavily. "Did you bring the pineapple?"
"Right here," Wilbur said proudly. "See? I made a cage for it."
"Okay," Arthur said slowly as Wilbur displayed the basket made of brightly painted paper, woven into strips and held together with many staples, in which happily rested a very perfect pineapple without even a single frond broken. "That's great, Wilbur, thank you. That's a beautiful pineapple cage."
Wilbur beamed, and Virgil rolled his eyes without speaking. They'd been a pair for longer than Arthur could remember.
"What's the problem?" Virgil asked, looking up at Arthur.
"It's back there," Arthur said heavily, nodding over his shoulder at the ground behind him.
"Oh, no." Virgil hurried around, Wilbur right behind him. Then they both froze.
"Yeah," Arthur said heavily. "Sunny's turned himself a penguin again."
For Eden Winters
Henry and Rafael
Henry and Rafael
Doughnut, pinecone, handy
The penguin made a soft, pitiful peep and flapped its little wings, looking longingly up at Arthur on the hay roll. Arthur slid down and knelt beside his unlucky lover. "Don't worry, we'll fix you," he whispered. "The others are coming."
"We're here," said a new voice, and Arthur glanced up to see Henry and Rafael soaring down in the moonlight, much more gracefully than the previous two. Henry, tall and lithe even for a fairy, landed first and folded his wings quickly. Rafael, even taller and very regal, landed with a touch of disdain for the pinecones that had fallen from the nearby tree. Arthur knew he detested the outdoors and only cared for his sophisticated urban life. But even Rafael made a little moan of sympathy for the penguin, who flapped again and pressed himself against Arthur's side.
"Oh, how did he do it this time?" Rafael asked.
"I don't know," Arthur said heavily. "If I knew, I'd put him back. That's why we need everybody, and the magic book of spells. When I called Noah, he said to bring a pineapple."
"That's what Noah said." Arthur sighed. "All I know is that Sunny was downstairs this afternoon, working in the damn lab of his, and all of a sudden, he called up to me, "Do you have a doughnut handy?"
"A doughnut?" Henry asked, frowning. "That's a human pastry, is it not?"
"Yeah. He loves them. Every Sunday morning, I buy a box when I go out to get the paper. I was just bringing one down to him when there was an awful bang, and when the smoke cleared, Sunny was a penguin again."
"You've got to stop doing this," Virgil said to Sunny.
The penguin ducked his head.
"I brought the pineapple," Wilbur put in with a worried smile.
Carson and Matt
German, hippos, zip-line
"And I have the hippos," called a new voice.
Arthur looked up in time to see another pair of fairies arrow in from the sky so fast they could have been coming down a zip-line. Muscular and athletic, Carson and Matt were so identical Arthur often wondered if they had common ancestry somewhere long ago. The only difference was the black collar around Matt's neck and the fact that he stayed a pace behind Carson as they approached.
"Penguin again?" Carson asked, looking down with raised eyebrows. "Isn't this the second time this month?"
"Yeah," Arthur said with a sigh. "He doesn't mean to."
"He's cute," Wilbur said.
"Yes," Carson said, "but I bet Arthur likes him better as a fairy."
"Well, I'm more used to him that way," Arthur said. "The hippos?"
"Matt?" Carson said over his shoulder.
"Here, master," Matt said, slipping off a dark pack he wore between his wings. Crammed inside it were two large, gray pillows that poofed up as soon as they were free. Mat knelt and stacked them on the ground, and at once, the penguin hopped up onto them, bouncing a little. Arthur remembered bouncing on the hay with Sunny back in the old days, and he wiped away a little tear for the past so long ago.
"And?" Carson asked Matt.
Matt pulled something smaller out from his pack and held it out to Arthur with a little smile. "This is for you," he said. "We thought you might need a little German Chocolate. It'll fix most anything, you know."
Arthur sniffed and let Matt, always very caring, give him a hug. "You guys are the best," Arthur said, including them all. Carson broke the chocolate bar into pieces and handed them around to everybody.
For Kim 629
Noah & Billy
"Where are they?" Arthur asked worriedly. The moon was starting to fall down behind the pines, and the sky in the east was growing brighter. Arthur knew that if Noah and Billy didn't get here soon, it would be too late, and Sunny might have to stay a penguin forever. Because once the sun touched the land and a new day began, that which had been done yesterday would remain true forever.
"Sorry, sorry!" he heard Noah's deep, gruff voice bellow through the trees. Arthur turned and saw Noah and Billy come jogging up. "Thought you said England, not New England. Been looking for a place called Vermont there. A vampire set us straight, finally. Well, as straight as we'll ever be." He giggled, surprising in his deep voice. The two of them looked as disheveled as usual. Most fairies had learned how to keep their appearance neat and clean and cultivated a carefully windblown look. Noah and Billy looked as though they were permanently caught in a hurricane.
"No one would ever accuse you of being straight," Billy said, elbowing his partner and laughing.
"Why," Rafael asked, looking down his genteel nose, "did you arrive on foot? Don't you know there are unclean pinecones down there?"
"Oh, we just landed on the wrong field," Noah said. "We're here now. Penguin again, you said, Arthur? Never fear, I've brought my trusty Kindle along."
"Your Kindle?" Rafael asked in horror. "Not your ancient book of spells?"
"No need," Noah said, waving expansively. "It's all in here. Much lighter. Easier to fly long distances with." He whipped out a thin tablet-shaped thing with a glowing screen on one side from his large coat pocket. He began tapping his fingers frantically on it. "Ah, here we go. Anti-penguin spells. You have a pineapple, I see?"
"I brought the pineapple," Wilbur said proudly. "See its cage?"
"Very nice, Wilbur," Noah said. "It looks very sturdy."
"Well stapled," Virgil said with a long-suffering sigh.
"The sun..." Arthur said. "Please, guys, hurry! Did somebody bring something to cut it with?"
"I have a bottle opener," Billy said. "Never know when you might need to open a beer."
"Beer," Rafael sniffed, "is the drink of men, not fairies!"
"Oh, it's not so bad," Billy said. "Once I--"
The penguin gave an urgent peep. Arthur sank down onto the hippos and gathered his lover into his arms. "Hurry," he whispered, bouncing lightly.
His friends gathered around. Wilbur took the pineapple out of its cage and held it in the air above Sunny. Billy poised his bottle opener. Noah read aloud from his Kindle, "On the count of three, pierce the pineapple and allow the juice to touch the head of the afflicted. At the same time, those present must chant, 'Penguin, begone,' three times. One, two, three!"
Billy jabbed the sharp end of the bottle opener into the pineapple and the fragrant juice ran down onto the penguin's head. "Penguin, begone!" Everyone shouted three times.
And then, just before the sun touched the treetops, the penguin turned into a beautiful, dark-haired man who flung his arms around Arthur and began to cry in joy. Everyone laughed and cried, and then, as the light grew brighter, they all vanished, returned to their homes.
"What were you trying to do down here, anyway?" Arthur asked, once they were standing in their basement, which was filled with beakers of colored liquid and things that bubbled and smoked.
"Trying to make something for you," Sunny said. "I think it -- yes! Here it is." He held out a perfect snow globe.
Arthur took it and gazed into the gently swirling flakes inside. They slowly settled on an old-fashioned farm scene, complete with a barn and a wagon full of hay waiting to go inside.
"Oh," Arthur said, his eyes filling again. "Oh, Sunny, I love you so much."
Sunny pulled him down to the soft carpeting on the floor and made gentle love to him.
Arthur was happy.
High up in the air, Varian smelled pineapple juice and circled. Down below, in the growing light, he could see a pair of grey pillows and what looked like a bottle opener and the wrapper from a candy bar.
"Wonder what went on down there," Josh said. "Kids?"
Varian thought he could sense magic, but a very different kind than his. It was too late to investigate, he decided. He needed to get out of the air before it got any lighter. But he marked the spot for later. Interesting.