Story: Fever

Slightly less wordy prompt this week. As always, links to other stories in the series under the Writing tab. Hope you enjoy!

Fever
by Liberty Gilmore, 11/12/12

Adam and Ava attend a Fairy celebration.

Clotilda sent Percy back to the hotel for Adam and Ava’s things when Ava insisted they needed them. From someone who had been dismissive, willing to sentence Ava to death, she had become reluctant to let them out of her sight.

‘We can run our own errands, you know?’ Adam said, but Clotilda appeased him quickly with promises of new accommodation and food.

Ava didn’t trust Clotilda’s sudden change of heart, but she didn’t have much choice in the matter. It was trust Clotilda or hope that Natalia didn’t find her. She knew which was the safer bet.

‘Just out of interest,’ Adam said. ‘Where are we going?’

‘Home,’ was Clotilda’s only reply.

Which meant she was taking them through to the spirit dimension, closely parallel to the human realm – so close, things were known to slip through in both directions. Ava had only been a few times, and only ever to the Winter Districts. She knew the transition was known to cast a disorienting fog over human minds, though with Adam’s apparent immunity to Glamour, she had to wonder if it would affect him at all.

In the end, he didn’t even notice the transition, though Ava smelled the difference in the air as soon as they stepped through the veil, felt the ripple of energy lap over her skin. Clotilda lost her Glamour, appearing like a squat toad, though this didn’t phase Adam, who had apparently been able to see through to this skin before.

Ava looked at her hands, her own skin tone revealed as a shimmering, pale blue. She knew her ears would be pointed, her hair flowing on a breeze that only it could feel. If Adam reacted in any way, it wasn’t noticeable, though Ava was still doing her best not to look at him, still not convinced he wouldn’t run away. Then she felt his fingers slip through hers, squeezing briefly, reassuring her that he was at least still here for now.

Clotilda showed them to a small house straight out of a Human fairy tale – thatched roof, fireplace, warm wooden furnishings and general old fashioned feel. There was no technology or electricity here, and Ava was surprised how much better she felt for it. Adam seemed to twitch a little uncertainly at the lack of modern convenience, but the sight of a comfy armchair pushed any thought of the internet out of his mind and he sank into it gratefully, putting his feet up on the footstool next to it.

‘There is a celebration taking place here later,’ Clotilda said. ‘You are under no pressure to attend, but it might be nice for you to relax. Let your hair down a bit.’

‘We’ll consider it, thank you,’ Ava said, knowing they would have to at least show their faces. For whatever reason, Clotilda had decided to help them. They were indebted to her, and taking part in village life would be a good way of showing they wouldn’t be keeping themselves to themselves and being a general inconvenience.

Silence fell in the little house when Clotilda left. Adam was still slouched in his chair, apparently content not to move. Ava stood behind him, nerves like a whole swarm of butterflies in her stomach. Faolan looked from her to Adam and back again, a confused look on his face.

‘We should go to that,’ she said eventually. ‘It would be good to show a bit of willing.’ When he didn’t respond, she moved round to face him. ‘Adam?’

He was fast asleep in his chair.

Ava smiled at the soft expression on his face. Not wanting to wake him, she slipped out of the room into the bedroom, deciding that having a quick nap probably wasn’t such a bad idea.

*

‘Er, I’m really not sure about the wardrobe choices,’ Adam called to Ava. Percy hadn’t reappeared with their own clothes, so he’d taken something from the supplies Clotilda had prepared for them in the house. The linen trousers were unnaturally soft and comfortable, but combined with the tunic, he felt like an extra on a Robin Hood movie. Or like he was wearing some really strange pyjamas.

‘I know,’ Ava said, reappearing from the bathroom. ‘Bath’s nice though – it’s a natural hot spring.’

‘Seriously?’ Adam said, turning to face her, but any curiosity about the bathroom arrangements dropped out of his mind when he saw her. ‘Whoa.’

Ava shifted uncomfortably, pulling on the hem of the simple grey shift dress that fell midway down her thighs. A belt around her waist, on closer inspection, was actually woven vines, complete with leaves that dangled delicately from it. Her hair hung in long, flat sheets, a garland of flowers around her head.

‘You look amazing,’ Adam said, stroking a hand along the length of her soft hair.

‘Adam.’ The tone of her voice was nervous, insecure. ‘Adam, why did you look for me.’

‘You know why,’ he said. ‘I told you I wasn’t going anywhere.’

‘I don’t… I shouldn’t…’

‘If this is about trying to mind control me, I am totally cross about that. But… I get it. I understand. But we’ve got these guys protecting us now. We’re safe.’

‘I’m a bit worried there might be a price for that,’ Ava said, steadfastly not looking at him. ‘She wasn’t going to help me before. Something changed her mind. Something you did.’

Adam shook his head. ‘We’ll deal with whatever that might be when we get to it. Come on.’ He kissed her forehead first, then, when not meeting with resistance, her lips. She stepped closer to him, arms slinking around his neck as they kissed reservedly, testing each other out.

‘We should go,’ Ava said. ‘Just… be careful what you eat. Ask me first.’

Adam nodded, aware from his own reading and research that you had to be careful what you accepted from Fairies.

The celebration was apparently a seasonal thing that they just happened to arrive in time for. Used to the stilted traditions of the Winter Court, Ava was surprised to see the festivities mostly consisted of lounging on the soft mossy floor, eating food, drinking nectar wine and enjoying the blazing heat of an enormous fire. Everyone was dressed in similarly floaty clothes, and though a few gave Adam a curious glance, they either knew to expect him or weren’t bothered.

Ava picked a spot equidistant between the fire and the edge of the gathering, tucking her dress carefully beneath her as she sat down. Adam slumped beside her. He looked tired, but his face was full of awe and more alert because of it.

‘We won’t stay too long,’ she said, accepting two cups of wine from a passing fairy. She sniffed them when the fairy had passed, took a small sip and decided it safe before she handed one to Adam. He accepted it, eyebrows raised.

‘You know I’m underage, right?’

‘I don’t think there’s an age restriction on nectar wine,’ Ava said dryly, but then an awkward thought hit her. ‘When do you turn sixteen?’

‘Couple of weeks, why?’

‘I might feel a little less like I’ve abducted you then.’

‘You really think two weeks is going to make a difference to my maturity levels?’

‘No, but the number does make a difference. In Human terms. You’re allowed to elect to leave your parents’ house when you turn sixteen.’

‘I can make my own mind up about stuff, you know,’ Adam protested, a hint of offence in his voice.

‘I know,’ Ava said, smoothing back his hair with her hand, placating him. ‘I know that. I just… I’ve lived by Human rules and numbers all my life. It’s kind of ingrained. Numbers don’t mean anything here, but in the Human world they’re everything.’

‘Well, I suppose numbers aren’t worth much when you’re going to live to an age where you really want to stop counting…’ Adam tried for jokey and missed by a stretch.

Ava put a hand over his. ‘Don’t think about it. Let’s just enjoy tonight, okay?’ She raised her drink, linking her arm round Adam’s when he raised his in response. Together they drained their cups dry.

*

The nectar wine was sweet and very sugary, but Adam wasn’t sure there was any alcohol content. Within about an hour – he found it hard to tell, time seemed somehow more fluid here – he’d been plied with three or four, but he didn’t feel any different. He’d had the odd illicit beer, so he knew what the buzz of alcohol felt like, and the nectar wine wasn’t inducing it.

Ava had relaxed somewhat, swaying to the music played by a group of fairies near the fire. She didn’t stand and dance like some of the others, but there was a smile on her face. Each piece of food that came round, she examined first before letting Adam eat anything. He tried a few things, but found it all a little rich, and very filling.

Despite his fascination and desire to learn as much as he could about his new home, Adam felt the tiredness start to tug at him. Leaning close to Ava, he whispered to her. ‘You know when you said we’d only stay a little while? Well, it’s been a little while.’

She turned to him, and Adam was struck by the slight blue tone of her skin. The other fairies at the gathering were varying shades of brown, green, some yellows. They looked earthy, natural. Ava looked like frost.

‘Are you sure?’ she said. ‘I’m having a nice time.’

‘I’d like to stay, but if I sit here much longer, I’m going to fall asleep. I’m a bit worried that if I do that out here I’ll wake up as a donkey or something.’

Ava laughed. It was a musical sound, not strained by worry or fear for the first time since Adam could remember. ‘Alright then,’ she said, then smiled at him in a way that made Adam’s throat go dry.

Once they were away from the thick of things, wandering the little pathways that lead to their house, Ava pressed close to him, looping her arm round his waist.

‘You seem tense,’ she said.

‘Just tired,’ Adam said, not quite ready to admit that it still made him freeze up to be so close to her. Would he ever get used to it? He wasn’t sure.

‘You should try out the hot spring bath. It’s amazing.’

‘I might do that.’

She grabbed his hand, leading him onwards, tugging at him playfully when he was sluggish or slow. On arriving home, she lead him straight through to the bathroom.

The hot spring bath was sunk into the floor, not raised like a normal human bath would be. Steps were cut into the edges and it appeared quite deep. Vines climbed up the walls behind it, so it looked almost like they’d stepped back outside, rather than into another room.

Ava kicked off the sandals she was wearing and stepped into the water.

‘Er, what are you doing?’ Adam said when she beckoned him.

‘Come on, the water is glorious.’

‘I, uh, I’m fairly sure you’re supposed to take your clothes off before you have a bath,’ Adam said, the words catching in his throat as his face burned red.

As if to prove him wrong, Ava stepped into the deeper water until it lapped at her waist, the belt around her dress floating on the surface. ‘Are you coming in or what?’

They weren’t his clothes, he figured, then kicked off his shoes and stepped in. The water was warm to the point of discomfort, hovering on that blissful edge. Adam felt the aches and tiredness seep out of him as he sank further in. Ava slipped back until she was fully submerged, her hair haloing out around her. She shook it out when she surfaced, flicking Adam with droplets of water.

‘Oi!’ he said, splashing her in return, before submerging himself almost completely, finding a perch on the back edge of the bath where he could comfortably sit with his head above water.

Ava drifted back from him, keeping herself afloat with small arm movements.

‘This was a good idea,’ Adam said, closing his eyes and enjoying the heat. ‘A bit weird,’ he added, opening his eyes to shoot Ava an amused look.

She was staring at him, a heat in her eyes that did strange things to Adam’s throat again.

She stood up, lifting her torso out of the water, walking towards him. The shift dress clung to her figure, turned almost see-through. Adam’s eyes widened as she took his face in her hands and leaned down to kiss him.

The kiss was heated, more so than any they had shared before, and when Ava raised her legs to straddle his lap, Adam let out an involuntary gasp. At the sound, Ava kissed him more urgently, a feverish need swallowing them, until Adam’s head spun so fast he felt like he’d fallen off a cliff.

But something in the back of his head called for a pause. A moment to cool things off.

‘Ava,’ he said, easing her off.

She groaned and tried to kiss him again, pushing him back with some force.

‘Ava!’ Adam said, all lingering tendrils of passion cut abruptly. ‘Slow down a minute.’

‘I don’t want to,’ she said, simpering – something Adam knew wasn’t Ava.

‘Okay,’ he said, pushing her right off. ‘There’s something not right here.’

Ava put a hand to her head. ‘I feel weird…’ she said, her voice small and childish.

‘Okay…’ Adam said, pulling her out of the bath. ‘You’ve clearly been spiked with something. So much for me being careful.’

Ava let him steer her into the bedroom, put her gently to bed. He tucked the sheets around her and kissed her forehead. She fell asleep almost instantly.

Adam sank back into his chair, still wet from the bath water.

There was no chance he would be getting to sleep now.

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