Oscar shuddered and hugged his arms closer to his center. A distant machine roared, and the metallic sound vibrated all around him. He had to cup his hands over his mouth, a quick attempt to warm his shaking fingers. Oscar’s limbs were stiff as he sought his exit from the air duct.
A late heat wave had prompted the air conditioning to be turned on at full blast. Oscar inwardly cursed the unpredictable weather even as he found the loose panel of metal that was his escape.
Seconds later, Oscar was wending his way past support beams instead. His familiar route home in the walls wasn’t as dusty as the rest of the motel. He worked to keep his “neighborhood” clear, so his steps found no large pebbles of dust as he padded along. Even safely in the walls, Oscar stayed quiet. Years of habit sealed up his voice while he was out of his home. A lot of his luck owed to that natural sense of caution.
Recent adventures aside, Oscar faced everything with a healthy wariness.
He turned a corner in the walls, and inwardly breathed a sigh of relief as he always did when home was in sight. It was one of the few comforting constants in his life. After every day of ensuring his own survival by risking himself out in the motel rooms, there was his home.
At barely three and a quarter inches tall, sometimes even that was a struggle. The furniture, from the modest nightstands to the tall dressers and the massive beds, towered over him. For someone Oscar’s size, they might as well be landmarks. Oscar couldn’t even open a door on his own, though he could wriggle under it if he needed to.
It was the humans that made everything dangerous. Towering people who outsized Oscar with just one finger, he’d been afraid of one finding him since he was a child. As he pushed aside the block of wood he used as a door and entered his home, he could pretend that closing himself in sealed them off from him.
His home wasn’t much, but it was his.
“Made it,” he muttered.
The main room of his humble house was small but cozy. His table was a tupperware lid propped up on small pill bottles, and wooden spools of thread served as his chairs. A counter made of a plastic block with a set of high shelves above lined one near wall, and opposite that was a small alcove with more shelves, hidden from view by a shabby curtain. In the corner was an old, velvety blue ring box, opened wide so Oscar could use it as a comfortable chair. His latest sewing project was strewn across it.
Oscar sighed and went to his pantry, sweeping aside the curtain. He shrugged off his cloth shoulder bag and contemplated where he’d put his latest finds. Normally, he’d pick the emptiest section of shelf.
Lately, he simply didn’t have empty shelves in his pantry. Ever since he met the Winchester brothers, he hadn’t had trouble with food.
They’d been at the motel three times before. As odd as Sam and Dean were, they were Oscar’s friends, the first real friends he’d ever had. When they were around, he felt safe despite Dean’s size.
Dean was a human, but he was unlike the others. Oscar had never heard of a human that would share his food so generously.
Of course, most humans didn’t have a brother that stood four inches tall.
Oscar pushed aside bundles of food kept in cloth or plastic wrap (or in their original packaging) to make more room. It had been a few months since he last saw his friends, but he hadn’t put much of a dent in what they brought him. He’d also been lucky to bring back even more from the rooms most days. Even without the help, Oscar was good at surviving in the motel.
“Did pretty good today,” he said aloud, proud of the haul he’d managed to find. He’d even snatched a small piece of metal from an earring that he could use to make a new sewing needle. Once the food was stored away, he dropped his bag by the ring box and chose part of a chip and a raisin for his dinner.
I’ll sew tomorrow, he decided. When his food was gone and his small stomach satisfied, he wandered into a side room of his home, one dominated by a pile of cloth scraps. The blankets were Oscar’s sanctuary. A chill lingered in his bones from the air conditioning, and Oscar needed no further prompting to burrow into the pile.
“Night,” he murmured, once he was bundled and curled up underneath his blankets.
He’d nearly drifted off to sleep when a knock came at the door.
Oscar opened his eyes and frowned at the dark. His mind, caught in the stupor before sleep, tried to think of why someone would show up at night. He sat up, escaped his warm covers, and was out in the main room before he froze.
Who … ?!
He crept towards the block of wood, staring at it incredulously. Inches away, Oscar flinched at the sound of three more raps, insistent and quick. He couldn’t have imagined them. Someone was out there knocking instead of coming in to greet him. Oscar hadn’t had a visitor to his house in the walls for years.
“U-uhm,” he stammered.
Three more knocks.
After spending some time with Sam and Dean, Oscar knew there were things out there. Monsters and demons and witches and who knew what else. He couldn't face such a strange occurrence without some skepticism.
He scrambled to his supply shelves. He had to pull himself partially onto the counter to reach the top shelf, but there his hand closed around the cold metal of a long needle. It was easily half his length, something humans used to sew their own thick fabric together.
Oscar couldn’t use it for sewing, but he held it close as he crept towards his door. He wondered if Sam and Dean would be proud of him for having a weapon ready.
He hesitated, and then pushed the block of wood aside. He held the needle up in a guard position, and then balked from what he saw waiting on the other side. The needle clattered to the ground and Oscar fell to a seat.
It was a person with yellowish skin that Oscar could swear was glittering. Their clothing was much less shabby than his own. The pants tucked into shiny boots and the jacket had a real lapel and what looked like buttons. Black hair as glittery as their skin topped their head, mussed out of a much nicer hairstyle than Oscar could ever manage.
Despite their striking appearance, it wasn’t even the sparkling that dominated Oscar’s impression of the stranger smiling in at him.
It wasn’t even their dragonfly wings.
Instead, Oscar fixated on the fact that they were so tall they had to squat down just to see into his home. They were over twice his height.
Seeing Oscar, the person grinned and shifted where they crouched to see better into the house. “Ooo, glad I caught you awake, little friend,” they said. “Boy could I use your help!”
Oscar frowned, and then tried to blink more sleepiness out of his eyes. “Caught me awake?” What is going on…
The person laughed, and it was a nice sound. For a moment, Oscar worried that the noise would rouse any nearby humans. Then, his unease washed away as if that laughter was a wellspring of calm washing over him. Still, his skeptical frown remained.
“Oh, little friend,” the stranger said, smiling wider. “I’m sorry. But there’s no need to be shy! Would you mind inviting me in?”
“Inviting you in?!” Oscar echoed the stranger in a confused tone. “Why?”
The person shifted uncomfortably, and that dazzling smile faltered. “Well because otherwise I can’t come in, silly.”
“Um,” Oscar said, pushing himself further back on his floor. His knees drew close and he stared up at the person. He was tempted to dart back into his bedroom to hide under his blankets. Maybe it was all a weird dream. “Who are you?”
They blinked. “Um. Well, names are a bit of a tricky thing, you know. You can call me Goldenrod for now. Like the flower?”
Oscar gave them a blank look in return. “Okay,” he replied, nonplussed. “Um. Why are you … you’ve got wings,” he stammered, glancing over the glittery, translucent wings. They buzzed faintly in response to having the attention on them.
Goldenrod giggled. Oscar still couldn’t place if that laugh was more feminine or masculine, and wondered if he ought to ask or keep his confusion to himself. “I’ve got wings, alright, but they’re tired,” they said, glancing over a shoulder and running a hand through their dark hair as they did. “I’ve been looking all over for a safe place to lay low. All the other thresholds lead to humans and I’m not a fan of those folk these days.”
“Thresholds?” Oscar pushed himself to his feet. His needle, abandoned on the floor, glinted at him and he snatched it up. It was held defensively in front of his chest as he stared out at Goldenrod. “I don’t understand what you’re saying, least not about that. I get wanting to avoid humans, but what are you?”
“I guess those are good questions,” Goldenrod admitted ruefully. They fidgeted. “Lemme in and I can explain.”
Oscar almost did, for the sake of getting answers. Then, he remembered Sam and Dean, and all of the dangers they had to deal with. Shapeshifters and demons, things that could look like someone perfectly safe. That was how they got close enough to cause real hurt. He shook his head. “No. I’m not letting you in without some answers first.”
In response, Goldenrod’s expression darkened, and for a moment Oscar could see how different they really were. The angles of their face sharpened, those eyes burned with otherworldly frustration, and there was a flickering in the shadows behind them. Oscar drew back, intimidated, and a low squeak of fear escaped him.
Then, the moment was gone. Goldenrod looked repentant as they beheld the fear on Oscar’s face. “Ohhh, man, I’m sorry, little guy,” they said. “I’m just… really tired, been a long … year. I’ll answer, okay? Don’t be scared of me.”
“O-okay,” Oscar replied, his voice quieter and shakier than before. He really wished he had some help figuring out what to do. Sam would probably know right away.
But Sam wasn’t there. It was just Oscar and the miniature giant Goldenrod. “Um. What are you, Goldenrod? Never saw anyone like you before…”
Goldenrod rested their hands on their knees. “I’m a pixie, little friend. Haven’t you met any kind of fairy before? You’re practically a brownie yourself, aren’t you?”
Oscar blinked, then glanced down at himself. Looking back up, he caught a bemused smirk on the pixie’s face, and gave his answer. “Um. No, I’m not,” he mumbled, despite never having a word for what he was. “And I haven’t. I didn’t know fairies were real.” Even as he admitted it, he felt silly. Of course fairies would be real.
Goldenrod snickered. “Alright, that’s fair. Any other questions?”
This gave Oscar pause, and he glanced over Goldenrod’s glittery appearance while he pondered. If fairies and pixies were real, he wondered if Sam and Dean had ever met any. If they had, were they supposed to be dangerous?
“What’d you mean about threshold? I don’t even have a real door.”
Goldenrod fidgeted again and glanced over their shoulder. It was as though they expected to find someone else lurking in the dark. “Thresholds have a kinda power, little friend. When a home really belongs to someone, and is important to ‘em, it gets a threshold. Then fairies like me aren’t allowed in without permission.”
Oscar didn’t fully understand why that was, but he didn’t have a way to fact check what the pixie told him. At least Goldenrod hadn’t once made a move to shove themself through the little doorway into his home. “And if I let you in … you won’t hurt me, will you?”
Goldenrod looked almost devastated to receive such a question. “Ohhh, little friend,” they cooed. “I promise I won’t harm you. It’d be poor manners after such a favor. You’d be helping me out if you let me past your threshold and we fairies definitely do not like cheating our friends on favors.”
Oscar shook his head, confused as ever by the things Goldenrod talked about. Favors and and thresholds, actual pixies, were beyond his worldly knowledge. He hedged for a moment, wondering what to do.
Finally, and thinking he definitely needed a second opinion on what to do with his situation, Oscar relented. “Um. Okay. You can come in, but-”
“Oh, little friend!” Goldenrod said happily. As if they were let off a leash, they leaned forward to crawl through the small opening on their hands and knees. Those glittering wings tucked close to their back as they entered, looking entirely too big for the space, and Oscar backpedaled hastily. He forgot what else he wanted to say as someone twice his size sat in his main room, one boot nudging a spool chair aside.
“Thank you!” Goldenrod crowed, twisting around to push the block of wood back into place.
“J-just- hey!” Oscar began, interrupted once again by a quick movement from the pixie. Before he could flinch away, a pair of hands appeared under his arms and hoisted him right off the floor. His legs tucked close in his surprise as Goldenrod lifted him up like a child.
Then, they hugged him close to their chest, clinging to him and resting a cheek atop his head. “Oh, my best little friend,” they said. “Thank you. Thank you so much for letting me in! It’s been so rough on my own out there!”
Oscar squirmed, planting his hands against Goldenrod’s chest in a futile effort to push himself out of their embrace. He could barely even see anything besides the pixie’s twinkling form. “I don’t un’erstand!” he mumbled, his face partially squashed against Goldenrod’s chest. “Lemme go!”
Goldenrod only half complied. They stopped squashing Oscar against their chest, but he was still stuck in their arms when they sighed wistfully and leaned back against the wall of his small home. There really wasn’t room in there for them.
Oscar squirmed pointedly, a worried frown on his face. The needle that he’d picked out for defense was still down on the floor, and he was caught in Goldenrod’s grasp without really knowing what they wanted from him. “Um,” he began, wishing the pixie caught his hints. “Put me down, um, please!”
Goldenrod, who had busied themself looking around Oscar’s little home with a peculiar look on their face, finally glanced down at him. They smiled sheepishly, dazzlingly, and then placed one hand on his head to ruffle his hair. “Right. Sorry, little friend,” they said, even as they shifted to lower Oscar back to solid ground once more. “I was just so overcome by your kindness!”
Oscar huffed and scrambled back, giving himself some space. He found himself with his makeshift table between himself and the pixie, a meager shield but one he needed all the same. “Wh-what happened? Why are you here anyway?”
The pixie sighed, a gesture that slumped their shoulders in the most calculated, put-upon way to show just how much they’d had to endure. Oscar watched them skeptically, and they decided to speak. “Okay. I’ll tell you.”