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Wasting Wishes

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The thing about fairies is that they were sneaky little bastards. Dan had never met one that didn’t speak in half truths and riddles - but then again, it wasn’t like he had any real connection to the faerie kingdom. He just…knew some. Or, rather, had grown up with a small hoard of them in the garden.

He’d stumbled upon them in the daffodils when he was twelve, and dressing in all black in the summer heat had started to become “cool”, and straightening his hair was “edgy”, despite his grandmum saying it made him look like a girl. It was better than having hobbit hair. And besides, Erin had told him he looked halfway normal, and he’d even managed a nod back, despite feeling Ian’s elbow digging into his side the minute she approached them.

The day that he’d found them, his mum had thrown him out with his notebook and told him to stay out the entire day. He didn’t quite know what was happening, but he was fairly sure it had something to do with the fact that his father hadn’t come back the night before. She’d sent his brother to a neighbor’s house, but Dan had never liked going over the Lester’s house. They had two boys, both too old to play with Dan, and Kathryn always seemed to pry into his mum’s business, and would try to feed Adrian like he was another one of her boys. He wasn’t. They weren’t.

So he took a walk, wishing that he could go back to his house and grab his gameboy, or the MP3, or something to take his mind off of the way the heat was being absorbed into his heavy t-shirt, and the sweat that was surely dripping down his forehead and slowly creating the curls he’d spent hours getting rid of.

A few years prior, the garden club had decided that it would be lovely if they planted a few communal flowers and shrubs and such, to “inspire community” and “create a beautiful space for our children to flourish”. It was bullshit, and it hadn’t taken long for the ivy and dandelions to claim the garden for their own. It grew wild, and abandoned, and it was the perfect spot for Dan to go sit and sulk. He made his way over to a small clearing in the ivy and settled himself with his back against a small bush, his nails digging into the soft earth.

“Who’re you, then?”

Dan jumped - there hadn’t been anyone in the garden when he’d arrived, and he’d made damn sure to sit in such a way that he was out of view of the road. He swiveled his head, but there was no one there. He shook his head, and heard nothing but the wind run its fingers through the dandelions, blowing their seeds away in an indecipherable code of wishes. He settles back.

“Oi!” He hears a small, fierce voice, “I’m speaking to you, aren’t I?”

“Who’s there,” Dan asked, trying to make his voice deeper, angrier.

“What’re you, blind? Down here!”

He looks down to see a small person standing on the daffodil by his knee. His eyes widened in disbelief - there hadn’t been fairies in Reading for decades, centuries even.

“You’re not meant to be here,” is all he could think to say.

“Says who,” the small woman screeched indignantly.

“My mum says there haven’t been fairies here since before her mum was born! She says they disappeared, and no one knew why.”

“Well, I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Seems so,” he said cooly. “What’re you doing here?”

“Same as you,” the woman said. “I live here. We’re back, aren’t we? Honestly! Didn’t any of you notice the ivy?”

“Yeah? So? The old hens just didn’t want to care for their stupid gardens, did they?”

“First of all, those old hens are someone’s mum, so show some respect. And doesn’t anyone know that before the ivy’s a sign? It means we’ve claimed the garden, and it’s wishes.”

“What’re you on about,” Dan scoffed. “Claimed the garden? And the wishes? That doesn’t mean anything. And also, no one around here’s known anything about fairies for a long time.”

The woman’s eyes fell, and she seemed to deflate a bit. Dan slumped a bit, feeling less tough, all of the sudden.

“What did that mean,” he said in a softer voice, “How’ve you claimed our wishes?”

“We’re wish granters,” she said, and let a bit of joy in her voice. “We go where we’re needed and take root in the flowers. We lot like daffodils, but it can be any garden, really. We bring dandelions and ivy, and weave stories from the wishes told in secret, from the deepest, most pure parts of you. Tell me, boy, what’s your name?”

“I’m Dan,” he said automatically. “Who’re you?”

“Marianne,” she smiled. “Alright, Dan. Do you have a wish?”

He looked at her and bit his lip to hide a smirk. He was too old to believe in fairy tales. The faerie kingdom rarely interacted with humans anymore, and he’d never heard of anyone’s wish actually being granted. His dad used to swear that he’d met a fairy once, and that it was the worst mistake of his life, trusting her. But that was when his dad still came home each night. He perked up quickly.

“Yeah, actually,” he said. “It’s my dad. I think he’s leaving. Or, I dunno, mum’s making him leave. I wish for him to stay.”

Marianne fluttered lightly to a dandelion and plucked a seed, whispering to it, before releasing it, and , for a second, Dan felt something akin to hope in his chest. But hope is the thing with feathers, and birds always search for warmer weather. The seed fell to the ground, listless. Marianne let out a small “oh”.

“What’s happened, then?” he tried to put his deep voice back on, but it seemed small and scared, even to his ears.

“It’s - I cannot grant your wish,” she sounded confused.

“Why not,” he began raising his voice.

“It isn’t - for a wish to be granted, it must come from the purest part of your soul. I cannot grant it otherwise. I - I’m sorry.”

Dan laughed derisively, “Fat lot of good that does me. Right. Guess that’s what I get for talking to plants like the absolute loser that I am.”

In that moment, he thought that he should tell his father that he was right: no one should ever trust a fairy. But when he came home, there were only three plates on the table, and his dad’s car was gone.

***

It had been five years before he’d gone back to the garden. He’d gotten into theatre, and did reasonably well in his classes, and spent one weekend a month with his grandmum, listening to her tell him that the way he presented himself was important, and how did he think that he would be getting any girls dressed as though he was on his way to a funeral.

“I’m in mourning for our society,” he would deadpan, and then point out that he was working on getting a girl, but it wasn’t as though there were all that many to choose from. He didn’t mention that he’d had his eye on the same one since he was ten. His grandmum didn’t need to know all that.

It was raining the day he saw another fairy. It was a man this time, named Nick. Dan had decided to walk home from school. It was his last year, and he had no clue what he was going to do next. He was a fairly good actor, a fairly good student, and a fairly good man. His mum wanted him to go to law school. He’d been accepted into a few of them, and would probably go, in the end. He’d only just managed to convince her to allow him a gap year before he began hi trek into adulthood.

In the years since he’d been to the garden, the ivy had grown, curled in on itself, closed its cracks. The dandelions never seemed to die, and daffodils were only ever visible in the corner of your eyes. He wasn’t alone. That’s what he kept hearing - that his family would support him, that he would have his friends (although he didn’t really have any of those), that life would be fine. He was just lonely. That must’ve been why he found himself walking over to the garden again, all these years later.

The ivy seemed to open to him now just as it had in the past, creating a space for him to settle himself into. He looked at the daffodils, which remained silent except for the sound of their leaves grazing each other in the May afternoon.

“Hello,” he called, feeling pretty stupid. “Um. I don’t know if anyone still lives here, but I saw the ivy, and I figured…”

“You figured you would just? Drop by?” A small man came of one of the daffodils, which was unfurling itself petal by petal.

“Well? I dunno. Probably stupid,” he muttered.

“Probably,” the man agreed amiably. “I’m Nick.”

“Dan.”

“Do you have a wish for me, Dan?”

“No,” he said quickly. The he hesitated. “Well. There’s this girl.”

“There always is,” Nick winked. “What’s her name?”

“Erin,” he answered quickly. “And she’s brilliant; funny, nice, smart, popular, miles too good for me, but. I dunno. I’ve just - really liked her. For a long time. I wish she would like me too?”

“I’m sure you’ve heard the caveat to my magical powers,” Nick said sardonically. “Only the wishes from the purest part of yourself. Are you sure, boy, that this wish is pure?”
“Um. Yes? No. I don’t know,” he screeched. “I just - I wish she would notice me.”

So Nick walked slowly to one of the dandelions that still had all its seeds, plucked a loose one off the top, and began to whisper into it. He shot a sideways glance at Dan before letting the seed go. It immediately fell to the ground.

“Sorry, mate,” Nick shrugged, unperturbed. “Better luck next time.”

“Wait,” Dan called before Nick disappeared back into his flower. “What’s it mean for a wish to be pure?”

“Well,” Nick winked, “if you have to ask…”

And with that, he vanished.

Looking back, Dan understood perfectly why what happened next had to play out like it did, but at the time, he thought there must’ve been a mistake. Not a week after his interaction with Nick, Erin came right up to his locker and informed him that she had been waiting for a year for him to ask her out, and if he wasn’t going to then she bloody well was. He doesn’t think he would forget the mixture of absolute confusion and delight that had set in immediately, and lasted for two months.

He went back to the garden that same day, calling for Nick and laughing. Eventually, Nick came out looking rather cranky and disheveled.

“Is there a problem, mate,” he glared. “I can’t do anything for your wish. I’m sorry.”

“No,” Dan laughed, “that’s just it - it came true!”

“It what?” Nick went very still.

“Yeah, she’s asked me out. We’re going on a date this Saturday. I can’t believe it - it’s like magic.”

“Quite,” Nick agreed solemnly.

“Why aren’t you happy,” Dan asked, “it worked!”

Nick just turned his back briskly, and looked over his shoulder once, “I expect I’ll be seeing you soon.”

***

“Soon” to fairies has a different meaning than it does to humans. Two years after their last interaction, Dan went back to find Nick. He looked different - more ragged, more desperate. Leaner. Hungrier. Lonelier.

“I thought I’d be seeing you again,” Nick spoke before Dan even had the chance to open his mouth.

“You knew this would happen,” Dan said, and it was no longer with venom or anger, just apathy.

“I suspected,” Nick gave him a sad smile. “I didn’t know the particulars. Still don’t, in fact.”

“I don’t love her,” Dan whispered, as if afraid to say the words out loud. “She’s beautiful, and kind, and perfect, and she loves me, and I just - don’t. I’m so lonely, all the time. And I’m about to go off to school - law school, like mum always wanted me to, and I know that Erin wants a promise before I leave, but I’m eighteen years old, for fuck’s sake! I don’t even know what I want for dinner! How am I supposed to know what I want for forever?”

“And you’ve just - fallen out of love, have you? No other reason? Just - unhappy?”

“I’m not - look. You know how you’re always told stories about the one? Right, well, I never really believed in that, but I thought that if I had a one person, she would be it. And it’s like - she’s not. It feels like I’m always looking for something, and I haven’t found it, and she’s not it. I guess it was a shit wish to begin with.”

“It was a lonely one,” Nick agreed. “But you’ll get there.”

“Right,” he scoffed. “Well. Manchester first, though, I suppose. Will there be any more of you there?”

“I thought you didn’t trust fairies,” Nick smirked.

“I don’t. Just thought I’d better be prepared.”

***

He wasn’t at all surprised that he hated law school. It was a lot of late nights, long days, strange people, and empty spaces. After that first year, he went home for the summer, fully prepared to start looking for local positions. It didn’t matter what he did - he couldn’t be a lawyer.

He just had to figure out how to explain that to his mum. Adrian was entering his teen years now, and preferred to interact with the internet than with his family. Dan couldn’t really say he blamed his brother.

“Did you know,” his mum broke his train of thought, “that the Lesters moved back?”

“They left?” Dan racked his brains to remember the last time he’d heard of them. Must’ve been about a year or two after his dad left, when the youngest went to uni. “Where’d they go?”

“Oh, up north,” his mum shrugged. “To take care of her mother, I think. Mind you, she lived longer than they thought she would. Anyways, I ran into Kathryn at the Tesco today, and she was telling me that Phil - you remember him, he was the youngest - is also living in Manchester and is making a career with some home video projects he puts up on “YouTube” -” he could hear the air quotes here “- and she was wondering if maybe you needed a friend in the city, and did you want his number. I thought it was a lovely gesture.”

“Mum,” he groaned. “I don’t need you making friends for me.”

“I know, love,” she said gently, and she never called him love, “but you’ve been so alone since Erin. I just thought - well. It would be nice to see you with friends.”

She was right, he knew. It would be nice to have friends in the city.

“I dunno,” he pushed the food around on his plate. “Maybe. Wasn’t he some business and management guy?”

“That was Martyn,” she smiled. “Kathryn was telling me how he’d just moved in with his girl. He’s doing well for himself, from what I understand. Phil too, I suppose, though she was telling me he’d just turned down an important internship to keep making these videos of his. Well. You’re lucky that you have a solid head on your shoulders, is all. You’ll need one these days.”

“Yeah, I s’pose,” Dan mumbled. Then, “I dunno, Mum. What if he just - he really likes making those videos? What if he’s really good at them? It’s not a bad thing to love what you do, is it?”

“Well, no, of course it isn’t,” his mum said, “But you can’t pretend that it makes any sense to turn down opportunities for a hobby. Look at you and acting! You loved it, but, love, you were never going to make money as a performer. You know that.”
“Why wasn’t I?” Dan could hear that his voice had gone low and sharp and dangerous. “What was the matter with acting?”

“You know,” his mother shrugged, “You were talented - you know you were - but you’ve never really been…good with people? I don’t know how to explain it, I suppose. But a lawyer - that’s something you could be really good at.”

“Thanks, Mum,” Dan said sardonically, “Thank you for telling me that I’m not good at the one thing I’ve ever loved to do. You haven’t asked about a single course all year! I hate them all, not that you would know or care! I can’t stand thinking about cases and case studies and the people! Maybe I should have been an actor - maybe I would be happier. Not like you care.”

“Don’t speak to me like that. I’ve done everything - everything - for you. When you’re father left, I was the one that had to keep it together, I was the one that had to raise you and your brother, and I’ve done a damn good job of it! You might not think you’re happy right now, you will be successful - and I did that. Happiness isn’t everything, and success isn’t nothing. You would do well to remember that.”

“Right,” Dan stood up with a sharp intake. “Well, I haven’t seen grandma in a while. I was thinking I could drop by for a bit.”

He cleared his table, jammed his shoes on, and clambered to the door, nearly tripping over himself in his hurry to escape.

“By the way,” he turned to her before leaving, “In case you haven’t noticed, Adrian barely comes out of his room anymore. I didn’t know if you’d noticed, or if you were too busy congratulating yourself on the “damn good job” you’d done.”

And then there was nothing but the slam of the door and the blood in his ears.

It wasn’t Nick that was waiting for him this time, but the first woman, small and fierce-looking.

“I’ve heard quite a bit about you these past few years, Dan,” she said before he could get a word in.

“That’s funny,” he shot back, “I haven’t heard anything about you.”

“Well,” she smirked, “it’s been a minute, hasn’t it? You were just a boy when I met you, and then Nick told me that men need men, and I told him he was being ridiculous, but he said you were probably angry and I can now see that he was right, but it’s been long enough, Daniel Howell. You’ve got to face up to it.”

“Face up to what?” He knew he was screeching. He couldn’t help himself. “The fact that I’ve got no plans, no friends, no sense of direction, and no one that can help me out? Yeah, I got that one, thanks!”

“Face up to the lies,” Marianne seemed to get somber, then, “and to yourself. You’ve got to see yourself.”

“Yeah,” he laughed derisively, “you want to know who I am? I’m a sad boy who never learned how to be a man. I’m a son that can’t dream of being a halfway decent one, because maybe I wasn’t good enough to act, but I sure as hell can’t do this for the rest of my life. I’m someone who doesn’t know how to love or to be in love. I’m alone, and I always have been, and I always will be, and that’s fine. Whatever, right? But don’t tell me that I don’t face myself.”

“One day,” Marianne said fiercely, “you will find a mirror. And you will see what we see. It is why we spoke to you. But for now, have you got a wish?”

“What’s the point,” Dan said, “they’re never ‘pure’ enough for you, anyways.”

“Try,” she said, “there’s magic in the act of wishing, even if it doesn’t come to pass.”

So he knelt down next to the daffodil and sighed loudly.

“I dunno. I just wish I weren’t so lonely.”

She looked at him oddly before saying, “I don’t think you need magic for that one.”
“Couldn’t hurt,” he smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Right. Well. I better go home. Apologize to mum and all.”

“Couldn’t hurt,” she said. “I’ll be seeing you, Dan.”

As he walked away, he could have sworn he heard Marianne whispering behind him, but when he turned around, she was gone. There were only daffodils and dandelions in her wake. He was too far away to see the single seed that floated millimeters above the rest and followed the wind with a fairy’s voice behind it.

***

The thing is, Dan had no real reason for picking Manchester. It didn’t offer him anything that any of the other universities hadn’t. He’d considered York, briefly, and then not at all, and then settled on Manchester on a whim. It’s law program was good, and it was far enough away from home the he could reinvent himself. Not that he had, but he’d at least thought it an opportunity. It had been an odd conglomeration of loneliness and spite that led to the moment in his mother’s kitchen, with a stranger’s number in his hand.

Phil Lester, he thought, and tried to imagine the boy he’d once known. Dusty red hair, but no freckles to match. He couldn’t remember his eye color, or the sound of his voice, or ever having had a single conversation with the kid. But then, he’d been older. Not so much now, but four years is a lifetime when you’re twelve. There are first kisses and school teachers and bullies and friends in between.

Thing is, the Lesters had always been nice to them. Dan can remember Kathryn coming round and fixing food on the nights that both his mum and his grandmum had to work. He could remember Adrian saying that he’d learned a new word, or skill, or story from them. And yet, he hadn’t thought of them in years. Hadn’t even remembered them, until his mum had said the name. He stared at the number in his hand, then at his phone, and then back at his hand.

In a burst of inspiration, he ran to his laptop and googled the name “Phil Lester”. It didn’t take long to stumble upon a YouTube channel called “amazingphil”. The man on the screen seemed different than he remembered - long, dark hair that fell in jags around his face, not unlike Dan’s own haircut. Tentatively, he clicked on a video called ‘Robot Death Machine’, imagining that he would be hearing a four minute rant on the latest sci-fi show.

“Why’re you wearing a coat inside, Phil,” his computer asked him, “Well, Phil, it’s freezing in here, because the heater broke - again!”

Phil seemed to be living in a small flat not too different from his own, and God knows Dan’s own heater had broken so many times throughout the winter. He laughed, softly, briefly. The video continued.

“So some guy is going to have a big impact,” Phil shrugged, “an energetic warrior - he has a hasty personality and he’s very quick to love or hate. “

Dan smiled, looked at his phone, put the number in, and, before he could lose his nerve, shot a quick text, 'hi :) its dan - from Reading. hope you didnt end up getting minor surgery after all.'

And, without thinking twice, he sent it. If this were a novel, this would be the moment the hero absolutely loses his mind, he thought, not two seconds after the message was gone. It was brash, out of character, and it totally made him sound like a creeper.

As he went to erase the number from his phone, sure that he’d fucked up yet another friendship, it buzzed.

'Hi Dan! I remember you and hahaha no no surgery - yet… ;). '

This was, hands down, the weirdest thing that had ever happened to him. He wasn’t sure whether he should be laughing hysterically or taking himself to the mental hospital.

'Oh thats good - sry thats the only video of urs ive watched so far - meet any warriors tho? Or models those are good too XD.'

'Not yet - i think those cards are rubbish, to tell you the truth, but my grandma swears by them and you know grandmas.'

'Yea i do - mine used to tell fairy stories'

And then he could have hit himself - in all of the six years since he’d met them, he’d never breathed a word about fairies to anyone. Oh, everyone knew they existed, but to know them was rare these days, and most people will assume you’re making it up. Either that or they’ll ask what your wish was and where they could find them.

'oh yea mum used to tell loads of those stories but there are none left in reading are there? there were a few up north but i never made a wish. wish i had tho hahaha'

'dunno mate. maybe wishes arent all theyre meant to be like those cards, ya know?' And then he paused, before typing, 'or not dont mind me im just having an existential crises XD.'

Dan wished desperately that he could stop typing the ‘XD’ face, but it was like he couldn’t help himself - he’d never had enough social skills to behave normally.

'u have those often? and also wishes are old magic - ive never met anyone who doesnt believe in them.'

'guess im special _/-(^_^)-\_' . Sent. And then immediately regretted. It sounded like he was flirting with the guy - was he flirting with the guy? No, he shook his head quickly enough that he could feel his neck pop. He was not flirting with a man he’d never met.

'guess u are.' Fuck.

***

The thing was, they’d never met. It’d been an entire summer, and they still hadn’t met. His mum would ask him sometimes why he spent all day on his phone, and who was he messaging, and had he met some girl? And it was increasingly difficult to say that it was nothing, no one, no of course there wasn’t any girl. Well. The last one was true at least.

As September drew nearer and nearer, he grew ansty - itchy in his body; it wasn’t quite like anything he’d felt before, like a snake trying to shed a skin that’s become too tight for it.

hogwarts house?

'dunno - havent read all of them.'

'wtf phil we need to fix tht. link'

'And then nothing for five minutes before, im a hufflepuff!!!'

'ofc u r. should have guessed'

'how?'

'u r too cute and innocent to be anything else'

'um no im not i can be scary'

Before he left, he made sure to visit the garden once more; it was Marianne who was waiting for him this time.

“What are you two, my own personal fairies?”

“This isn’t Cinderella, Daniel,” she said, clearly exasperated, “you don’t have a monopoly on us.”

“Right,” he said, and scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. Nervous habit. “I’m - um. Well. I’m going back to school. Not that I really want to or anything, but. I couldn’t figure out how to tell Mum that I’m never going to be a lawyer. So I just - didn’t. I dunno, maybe it won’t be so bad this time.”

“Perhaps it won’t. Sometimes a butterfly flaps its wings and everything changes.”

“I dunno about being a butterfly,” Dan laughed, “more of a llama, maybe. Large and awkward.”

“Have you got a wish for me today,” she asked, lifting one perfect eyebrow, and Dan suddenly wondered if there were fairy cosmetologists and fairy lawyers and fairy YouTubers. Not all fairies could want to be wish granters, could they?

“Nah,” he shrugged. “But you two are the only friends I’ve got here. Sad, isn’t it?”

He was quiet for a moment, then: “How’d you get here, anyways? Before you, there hadn’t been fairies ‘round here for years. There still aren’t, to most people’s knowledge. Why aren’t you, I dunno, granting wishes or something?”

“We flew in with the dandelions and took root with the ivy,” Marianne smirked, “and we grant the wishes that come our way. It isn’t our fault that no one comes here.”

“D’you have to stay here forever, then?”

“Nothing’s forever, except maybe love.”

“Right,” Dan stretched out the word; he stood, dusting his hands off on his jeans, “Well, then. Hope to see you next time I’m in town, I s’pose.”

***

Dan met Phil two weeks after returning to University. They’d been talking about meeting for ages. Dan would float the idea, and Phil would agree, but it would be vague, and then the idea would die in the games of twenty questions and anime recommendations and which video games they should play next. Sometimes Phil would throw out a comment about “when are you back in the city?’ and “when i see you, remind me to show you…”, but it wasn’t pressing. It was something they assumed would happen eventually, but they weren’t too bothered with waiting - somethings, Dan thought, took time.

And then, one day, they didn’t. Phil texted him, asking if he knew the Starbucks on Oxford Rd, and would he be free to finally meet in person next Friday. It was an odd request, Dan thought, out of character, almost, but then he reminded himself that he didn’t actually know Phil’s character - sure, he had an idea in his head of who he thought his friend was, but this was cobbled together from regular texting and whatever persona Phil presented in his videos. At this point, Dan watched them pretty regularly. He had even created a YouTube account so he could comment from time to time. Danisnotonfire; he was rather proud of the name. It wasn’t a joke, it wasn’t a euphemism - there was no way that anyone could connect the account with his identity.

Not, of course, that he was creating anything, or doing anything other than leaving a few ironic comments for a few of Phil’s videos, things he thought would make Phil laugh, or that no one else would understand. Sometimes, he wondered what it would be like to create these videos himself, to start talking to a camera and then showing people the result. He didn’t think it would be pretty, or interesting, or captivating, in the way that Phil was. If he was honest with himself, and he often tried not to be, there wasn’t anything special about what Phil was saying. He would go on about something that happened in his life, or that he wanted to do, or something about his family, and throw in some trippy editing, and post a video. But there was something about the way that he said it - nervous and low and quiet, but continuing on, sharing odd experiences and small failures and successes as if they were normal occurrences. Which, if you stop to think about it, they were.

Anyways, when Dan agreed to meet Phil, he thought about Erin first. And he didn’t know why he thought about Erin, but he remembered the day that she asked him out. It was a sunny day, and he had been putting his notebook in his bag, and she had looked so fierce and determined, and at the time he thought it was magic, his wish come to life. All these years later, he just wondered what it would be like to have that fire - to like someone enough that you would allow them to hurt you - and he had hurt her.

Still, he swallowed the thought, definitely did not spend two hours deciding what to wear, and set off just early enough that he would be on time.

When he got to the Starbucks, the first thing that caught his eye was how normal everything was. He didn’t know what he was expecting, but he expected something that reflected what he felt: all jumbled up and knotted inside. He stammered through an order of a tall caramel macchiato, and picked a small table near the window, so he could look out onto the street. It wouldn’t be long now.

***

A few years later, Dan would return to the garden. He would look at the overgrown ivy and smile, waiting for one or another fairy to peak their heads out. Eventually, he watched one of the daffodils unfold, and Nick stepped out with a cheeky look on his face, as if he knew what Dan was going to say, which was ridiculous, because Dan didn’t know what he was going to say until he said it.

“You were right.”

“Yeah,” Nick shrugged. “I usually am. What about?”

“My wish. When I was sixteen. It was selfish. I - I was only thinking about myself, and it hurt someone I cared about. But I think I get it now.”

“Do you,” he sounded mock-impressed, “What’d you learn, then?”

“Mainly, that fairies are pricks.” They both laughed. “But also, that love means wanting the other person to be happy, or like, a mutual symbiotic happiness, if that makes any sense?”

“Nah,” Nick’s eyes twinkled. “No sense at all. So you’re a hotshot lawyer now, then?”

“Not even close,” Dan grinned. “Mum wasn’t too happy at first. Said I didn’t have much sense. That’s probably true, but we made it work. We’re doing pretty well for ourselves, now.”

“Thought it might work out in your favor.”

“How? Fairies can’t see the future, can they?”

“Not as such, no,” Nick agreed. “But I know your wishes, Daniel Howell, and your dandelion is so full, that I know you aren’t here for another wish.”

“No,” Dan agreed. “I think I’m here to say thank you. And good-bye. And - and I wish you could have met him. Or, rather could meet him.”

“Oh, I could, I suppose. But I think you and I both know that there’s very little point. You’ve found a magic stronger than any I could give you.”

“Yeah,” Dan smiled. “Suppose I have. Anyways, I’ve got to catch a train back to London. I just wanted to - well, see you again. Just once more.”

“And now you have,” Nick said kindly. “Go home, Dan. Be happy. Wish for kindness, and grant as many wishes as have been granted to you. And who knows, maybe one day, our paths will cross again.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Dan turned with one last look at the hopelessly overgrown garden, and started walking to the train station. He had to go home, after all.