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Land of the Fays

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Empires come and go. Kings and queens gain power and lose it again. What was great poetry will become gibberish once a language dies.

You’d think there’s not a thing that will not cease to exist, but there is: It is the land of the fays.

If there is nothing to eat, there’s still the land of the fays, where the rivers are of milk and the trees bear roasted broilers. If there is no hope in this world, there is hope in the land of the fays. If your loved ones die, maybe they are still alive in the land of the fays.

The land of the fays is where love is forever and where every hut is a palace. In the land of the fays summers do not end. In the land of the fays wine makes you tipsy but it doesn’t make your head ache.

The land of the fays is the place where anything is possible. There are no limits in the land of the fays.

 

However, the reasons to dream away to the land of the fays widely differ from person to person. Because of this, no one’s land of the fays will ever be the same land of the fays as anyone else’s.

 

Gavin is a knight of the realm and distant cousin to the king. Gavin’s father was a lord, but he died, so Gavin is lord now. He as access to all the riches this world has to offer. And yet… He is so intrigued by the idea. To go to the land of the fays. If it was ever possible. He believes that is because he loves everything that’s beautiful and exquisite, and if everything’s possible in the land of the fays, things should be even more beautiful and exquisite in the land of the fays than they are in this world, right? Any level of better than what you already have is worth longing for after all.

 

Leofric is a farm-hand and potion seller in one of the villages in Gavin’s fief. The one closest to the castle. He always tells himself he doesn’t believe in the land of the fays. It never works. He has so many ambitions that don’t fit the life he’s supposed to live.

 

Gavin knows how to use his hands to be gentle. He knows how to give a firm touch on the upper arm an additional, more suggestive meaning. How to leave an invitation to his private chambers with his fingertips - only just touching another boy’s skin, but lingering on for so much longer. He caresses handsome faces with his gentle hands and, some of the nights, he carefully ties the wrists of his latest plaything to the bed – tight, but not too tight. Firm and gentle all the same.

When with his bedmates he cares less about conversation. Of course that negligence is not due to a lack of skills on his part. He is trained in conversing like a knight, using the full range of appropriate social cues. He knows how to hold a conversation with a knight, a lady, or a priest. But with a commoner? Gavin doesn’t want to confuse his paramours by picking up topics they are not educated in. Also, he couldn’t care less for the day-to-day life of a farm-hand. So he says a few words of sweet nothingness during his nightly encounters, and nothing more. Usually he offers the boys a small monetary compensation for their services and their silence.

However, Leofric, his latest fling, a farm-hand from the village, seems so genuinely smitten. And paying for something he could get for free sounds like plain nonsense to Gavin. Now that he has taken Leofric to bed for almost two months (and, during that time, only Leofric, he realizes), Gavin feels like he should talk with him about something. Nourish the boy’s romantic illusion of being in a relationship. In this case, finding a topic really isn’t that hard. Leofric is the village’s potion master. He’s nothing like the famed potion masters who travel from court to court and offer their magical abilities to the nobility. But even if his skills are of minor quality, even if he only sells his potions to village folk – Gavin as a knight needs potions to enhance his fighting skills and to speed up the healing of his wounds and Leofric produces such potions. There should at least be some common ground for conversation. So, Gavin starts to ask him questions about it. Contrary to his expectations, Leofric doesn’t take well to his curiosity. The boy from the village changes the topic whenever Gavin brings it up.

This night, Leofric is still tied to Gavin’s bed. Gavin has granted Leofric his long-earned orgasm just moments ago and now Gavin takes pleasure in kissing him. Very soon he will untie him and then Leofric will dress and leave. Gavin wishes that he would stay the night. But Gavin isn’t going to offer Leofric a position in his household or the prospect of a long term exclusive relationship and Leofric isn’t going to stay the night. It’s only a fair deal. To prolong Leofric’s stay in his bed a little, Gavin asks about the potions again. Tells him that he has only ever heard praise of his skill from villagers (it’s a lie; he heard that Leofric does sell potions, but he never heard anything about his skills whatsoever which can only mean that they are sufficiently mediocre), asks him to bring some potion the next time they meet so that he can try it.

Then Leofric says that sentence. “My potions are too strong for you.” When he hears that, Gavin has to suppress laughter at first. The potions a village potion-seller makes too strong for a noble? Sure. But then his reaction changes. There’s a tinge to the tone of Leofric’s voice Gavin doesn’t like at all. Leofric sounds somewhat dismissive, almost as if he was disgusted with Gavin, as if Gavin wasn’t good enough for Leofric’s potions. “Don’t you dare to talk to me in that way”, Gavin says and then he slaps Leofrick in the face, hard. Leofric looks as if it hurts. It better should.

Leofric doesn’t stop talking in that way. He demands to be freed at once (Gavin does cut the strips of expensive silk he used to restrain the boy with his dagger at once, but he still wonders whether Leofric had intended a double meaning – well, Gavin certainly isn’t going to go on a serf freeing spree). He says that this is exactly what he meant: Gavin being a weak man, yes, Gavin enjoying hitting people who are tied up, unable to survive in an honest fight. That Gavin knows nothing about surviving without a crowd of servants and a great number of men working on his fields. A man who expects Leofric to show up whenever he feels like it but has never given him a way to contact him in return. A man who is ashamed of the man he fucks and of the way he fucks him.

Leofric is already on his way out of the door. Gavin asks him why he leaves. “I didn’t come here to get hit”, Leofric says. (And he did come, in part, to get hit, but he didn’t come to get hit in that way, and both of them know that). “When why did you come here in the first place?” Leofric glances at Gavin’s hands, and then his gaze settles at something in the distance. “I’m not going to put that in words.” “Why?” Leofric chuckles bitterly. “Pride”, he says.

And then he is gone.

 

Leofric hates belonging. And he loves belonging.

In the world where he grows up, where he spends the first 25 years of his life (there is a version of him, that is convinced those years are the first, for another version of him, concepts like ‘first’ or ‘last’ or putting things in order just don’t hold any meaning) people know exactly there they belong.

A son of a serf will be a serf, farming the same plot of land his father farmed before him. Oh, he could become a landless farm-hand or a servant in the local noble’s household if he’s a second son, or a third, like Leofric is. A son of a lord will be a lord. Or a knight, or at least a priest. The son of a craftsman or a merchant will pick up the same trade. A woman will be a woman and as such dependent on the men in her life.

Leofric can’t stand the thought of forever working his ass off for the idle crowd in the castle. He wants to take part in the festivities of the nobility. To taste their food, to drink their wine, to wear their fancy clothes. It seems like something that will only ever happen in the land of the fays. But doesn’t want to go to that land. He does belong to his world. It’s just that he wants it to change so badly. So that it becomes more like the land of the fays. Better than the land of the fays. Leofric’s land. The land that Leofric will make his own.

That is, until he gets to know Gavin. And until he learns about the art of potion making.

 

People talk about young Gavin. A boy that will become the perfect knight, equally skilled both in fighting and in the arts of chivalry. And he is handsome. So handsome (and so unlike his father or his mother in his looks) that people say that the boy is a fay.

But fays don’t exist. People could get ideas if they thought the land of the fays was a place where they could go.

Gavin has a whole lot of ideas about that land of the fays. Gavin could be satisfied with the life he leads outside the land of the fays, but he gets bored.

People rumor that fays are changing their minds too quickly. That they are never satisfied until they reach the land of the fays. Fathers are hesitant to introduce their daughters to him, because they fear that he could not be satisfied and decide for a better bride. The king doesn’t trust him with any position of importance because he fears he might become a usurper.

They are not far off from the truth. Gavin isn’t sexually interested in anyone’s daughter, but with boys he does change his mind a lot. He fears he might be missing out on something more interesting. And usurping? At the moment, the idea bores him. But maybe one day, if he can make sure that he will profit from that.

 

There are potion makers. People who possess a magic talent other people don’t have and channel their magic in the only way known to humankind, which is making powerful potions. The talent is so rare that a child – regardless of gender, family background or social class who can work magic will become sought-after by the richest of the rich who desire to become invincible in fighting, heal wounds that would otherwise kill or change their appearance to hide from their enemies.

Most people are scared of the potion-makers. They fear having magic or their children having magic, because potion-makers, however sought after and admired they are – they also stay outside of society, not belonging to anyone but themselves. Sometimes they do gruesome things. They can start a war, send a noblemen who has fallen out of favour with the king to exile or discourage a crowd of peasants from starting an uprising simply by threatening to use their potions.

Leofric doesn’t fear being a potion-maker. He desires to be one. If only Leofric had the talent of magic he could be anything he wanted and he could demand anything he desired – that he is sure of. There is only one problem: He doesn’t possess any magic. Well, as far as he knows, at least.

 

When Leofric is a child, a wandering potion-maker comes into the village. He stays for the duration of a summer and tests the children of the village for signs of magic. It is a simple test. Every child has to blow into a fire, if the fire changes colour, the child has magical abilities. When Leofric hears of this he knows that he doesn’t possess any magic at once. At home he often helps building a fire. He has to blow into it because the fire needs air to grow. He never sees its colour change. However, he also knows something else: some minerals, if thrown into a fire could change the colour of its flame. So, when he gets tested for magic, the flame turns into a bright green. The wandering mage is satisfied. And so is Leofric.

To his surprise following the potion-maker’s instructions isn’t difficult at all. Most of the things he is asked to do he can pretend to do, with other tasks he can just say that he was still learning the trade and that not everything can be achieved at once. To Leofric’s relief the wandering mage also tells him about herbs that require no actual use of magic to do their work. Soon Leofric discoveres that his potions work best when he acts very convincing while promoting the effects the potions supposedly have. When the wandering mage leaves the village, Leofric is the only potion-seller around, so he just starts to work, doing his best to satisfy his customers, hoping that his deceit is never discovered.

 

As he grows older, Leofric muses about the unattainable: The freedom to do whatever he likes to do. Being a real potion-seller (and if he was, he would be free, except for the freedoms he could only search for in the land of the fays). And Gavin.

 

Gavin is a self-righteous prick who doesn’t let a chance slip to show off his better-than-thou-attitude. But there is something else. Somehing about the look in his eyes that scream I am not satisfied. Some degree of longing that Leofric can identify with so much. It doesn’t matter that what Leofric desires is a decent life and Gavin desires something more than decent, because Leofric’s desire doesn’t stop at decent and Gavin’s desire doesn’t stop at more than decent.

Also, the young knight in shining armor is handsome. Leofric doesn’t want to be attracted to plain handsomeness so much. It feels filthy to him, superficial. But he is. He enjoys fantasizing about a revolution to come, about creating a better world, about leaving the place that was designed for him in this world, about being so much better a potion-maker than he actually is. About going places he has never heared of and about running out of fucks to give. But in his daydreams he sees more than that: He sees a young night with gentle hands caressing his face and him enjoying that touch so, so much because it tells of touches to come that will be far more firm and more demanding, and he will enjoy those too. And then Gavin’s hand will not move where he expects it to move but it will linger on his throat and press down just a little and Leofric will gasp and his eyes will say more of that. And then, his hair and his clothes will be pulled at by a knight. And he will be pushed and he will be hurt in ways that he enjoys.

This is where it becomes difficult for Leofric to enjoy his fantasies. Even if it’s not something Gavin’s aware of himself because to him, acting the way he acts is normal, the way he should act: Leofric hates being ordered about by the lord, to work on the lord’s fields and to make lord Gavin richer. And still, in his land of the fays, Leofric consents to being tied to the lord’s bed every time.

And still, Leofric doesn’t want to settle on a fantasy. He never does, with none of his dreams. He is a potion-seller now, no matter how unlikely that seemed to begin with. He will not stay where he is. And he is attracted to a certain knight so he will do something about it. He wants a truth that’s made of desire, of Gavin desiring him. And of something more that’s not confessed because confessing is what criminals do and that is not what he aspires to be. He wants to – and he will – enjoy the things that he enjoys without feeling ashamed about it.

He will not need the land of the fays. To Leofric the land of the fays sounds like a story that could have been rather than a story that will have been one day and he is not so sure which one he wants to tell.

 

As it turns out, getting into Gavin’s bed doesn’t require much more than a few suggestive glances during one of the occasions when Gavin comes to the village to check if everything works to his satisfaction and to be admired by the common folk. Gavin always seeks out a new adventure, after all. Leofric likes being touched by Gavin in all the ways he imagined and more, but something he fantasized about is missing and that is the something more Gavin can’t confess because it is not there.

It isn’t there when Gavin stops a meal to great Leofric with a number of very satisfactory kisses (at the corner of his mouth, at his neck, and then, oh then…), but doesn’t care to ask whether Leofric is hungry at all (very often, he is). It isn’t there when Leofric asks for a day off once (to get a herb for a potion that grows almost a day’s march away) and gets that granted to his great surprise – only to find himself being summoned to Gavin’s private chambers on the morning of exactly that day. What followed is – in a way – one of the best experiences he’s ever had, but in another way, it is one of the worst. Then there is the topic of conversation. Leofric would love to talk with Gavin about something. He doesn’t feel like they know each other at all. And then, Gavin asks Leofric a question, and it’s about the potions, and Leofric feels as if he could cry.

What should he tell Gavin? That he is a liar? One who plays pretend? Surely Gavin usually only consumes potions produced only by the best potion-makers of the kingdom. He will surely notice that Leofric can’t do any magic. Also, the potions are supposed to be something that is only for Leofric. For getting Leofric in a better position. For getting him a better life. They are not for Gavin at all. Unlike the work that he does on his fields and unlike the moans that he gives in his bed.

Gavin keeps asking about the potions, but Leofric decides that potions are for strong men, for men that do not believe in the land of the fays, for men who have found themselves a future they were never supposed to have. Not for noblemen who only know being served and catered to their every whishes. Not for knights who (Leofric still hopes that this is true rather than the other, likelier option) are too afraid to act on emotions that they do feel. Such men are weak. Too weak for his potions.

Then Leofric says so and Gavin hits him for that and Leofric would have never consented to that and he is furious and he leaves.

Now, Leofric does make a potion for Gavin. Never before has he tried to make a deadly potion, but he has been warned about certain plants well enough so that, when he is finished, he is completely sure that his potion will do the trick. With shaking hands he fills it in a bottle and sets out for the castle, not completely sure if he wants to kill a man or a fantasy.

 

The guards catch Leofric at the door. The man demanding to be led in front of the Lord immediately looks bewildered, completely out of place, like a threat to the Lord’s life. When brought before the Lord he keeps talking of some potion that he made and that Gavin needs to drink. Every single one of Gavin’s advisors tells him not to touch that bottle. If he absolutely needs to try it, someone of way lesser importance (preferably the potion-maker himself) should try it before he does. Gavin is tense. He has asked for Leofric’s potion in the first place. Now that he finally got some, it looks like a trap that’s not even thinly disguised. This potion is poison, he thinks and: I should not drink it. Still, he does reach for the bottle. Sniffs at it, looks at it. It smells unpleasant and has an ill colour. No, he will definitely not try to drink it. But curious he is. He just can’t resist asking the man he has spent so many nights with: “What’s this potion supposed to do?”

Leofric smiles. He knows the perfect answer: “This potion will take you to the land of the fays.”

And Gavin is the fay boy again. The one who doesn’t care for anything other than the best. The one who’s got everything he could possibly wish for but wishes for the impossible instead. The fay boy doesn’t resist temptation. He drinks, and drinks, and drops dead to the floor.

And then Gavin opens his eyes again, and within the beat of a heart, the world has changed.

 

“Darling, Leo, my love – why are we here?”

 

Leofric is startled. Never has Gavin called him ‘darling’ or ‘love’. And Leo is not a nickname he uses.

“Just a moment ago we’re having this skype conversation and I’m complaining that I have to board a plane to visit you while you can come over within seconds, and you’re just doing this skype thing to tease me, and you’re telling me about your plans for pride, I tell you that I very much approve of the fact that there is so little actual cloth used in the outfit you plan to wear, and the next moment we’re here again. Really? You’ve always hated this place, and so do I, so I really don’t see any reason to come here of all places…”

When Gavin notices the startled look in Leofric’s eyes, he stops talking for a moment, only to ask a question: “What on earth is wrong with you now?”

Leofric laughs. “Wrong with me? Would you please tell me what you are talking about? Since when exactly do you consider me to be your love? What on earth is skype? And what is this pride-event you’re talking about? And I would I want to wear few clothing for that? And yeah, I hate this place, but this is where I’ve always been and where you’ve become unconscious just a moment ago, so there do you expect us to be?”

The expression on Gavin’s face changes. He looks desperate, as if Leofric has just given him his death sentence. “So, you don’t remember anything, about us, at all?”

“Us? There never was ‘us’. You treated me as if I was nothing more than a pastime, and I was a fool.”

“You? A fool? No. You are the dream that never ends.” Gavin says, and his voice is different, as if coming from far away, as if making a prophecy. “Me - a fucking dream? If anything, I am your fate.”Leofric says. He flees the place for good. No one is trying to catch him for now, everyone being far too spooked by talk of fays.

 

Leofric runs for his life and he runs far. He needs to hide, but he can’t do magic. He learns how to disguise himself, how to speak like a woman, how to fake a limp. People believe in his impersonations. He learns that a disguise is not a thing that requires real magic. He wonders if anything really is. As soon as he is far away enough from home to feel safe again, he begins to sell potions again. People in the towns and cities are no less impressed with his abilities than the villagers were. It’s strange. They must have access to potions that actually work produced by actual mages.

From time to time he observes other potion-makers. Maybe he can catch them working their magic. But he never sees anything that differs from his own techniques. Once he secretly follows a potion selling girl to a well where she fills a couple of bottles made from expensive colourful glass with plain water. She doesn’t do anything special with the bottles, just carries them back to her stall where she sells them for an horrendous price, far exceeding any reasonable price for the glass alone. Later, when both of them close their stalls because of the evening curfew he approaches her and asks her when she applied the magic to her potions.

The girl, (her name is Joanna as she tells him later – or is it? It could be a pseudonym for all that Leofric knows) laughs. “You still believe in magic? How long have you been a potion-seller?” She can’t believe it. A mage who believes in magic! The mages, Joanna tells him, are not the chosen ones. They are the ones who chose not to fit in, not to belong. When Leofric wonders about the magic tests she cannot stop laughing. The tests, she says, are designed to be cheated on. They ask for phenomena that occur in the natural world and can be achieved using no magic at all. A child desperate to break free from destiny will find a way to cheat so that he or she or them passes the test.

“Don’t you realize,” she asks, “that all of this is make-believe?” Not only potions. Not only magic. The social order of the world exists because people believe in it, art is art, because people believe that it is. Joanna mentions the realm of the holy and the afterlife. Yes, that realm is in the thoughts of humankind – but does it exist anywhere else? And is there an ‘anywhere’ outside of human thoughts there it could exist? Leofric shivers. He asks Joanna about love. She tells him that she doesn’t want to talk about love. Neither does Leofric.

Love is, Leofric concludes, what he once made himself believe a certain knight has felt for him. It was one of his better tricks since there was no basis on which to conclude that Gavin felt anything for Leofric at all. But that is hindsight and hindsight is never nice to you.

 

Then the days of the great battles come. The city where Leofric stays at the time fills with warriors, some of them knights in shining armor, travelling south to where the battlefields are. So many men who are going to fight. So many men who are desperate to buy a potion that makes them just a little more invincible. Some of them are frightened. Some of them keep smiling.

After the first battle, Leofric never sees any of his first customers again. He doesn’t know whether that is because they try their luck with a different potion-seller or because they have died in battle. The second option is not unlikely. Leofric suspects that nothing about the battles is great except for the numbers of men who fight and fall. Oh, and the fortune he makes by selling his potions could hardly be any greater.

Didn’t he set out to defy destiny once? At the moment he feels like he, and all the other potion-sellers, are destining so many men for death on the battlefields. Or are they? He wonders what would happen if all of them stopped selling potions. Would any of the fighters still have reason to assume that they would surely survive because they had the potion that would spare their lives? Or would they go to battle because they would know that – while they didn’t have potion to aid them – no one else would have potion either? A lot of things to muse about – but Leofric doesn’t stop selling. He doesn’t even know what to do with his money any longer. He has so much of that now.

Then he sees that knight crossing the marketplace, aiming just at his stall. Leofric’s heart almost skips a beat. Gavin is as handsome as ever. Leofric double-checks his disguise. Apart from that it’s been years since they have last seen each other and Gavin has no reason to suspect he’s here of all places. Gavin will not recognize him. Leofric is sure of that. And Leofric will not sell Gavin potion. Because he’s still hurt and furious. And because he still hopes that some other potion seller might be able to do real magic. As long as there’s the faintest possibility that some other potion seller can save Gavin’s life, Leofric will not sell him flavored water. He has tried to kill him once out of spite, but he is glad that he didn’t succeed. He is so glad now. Because of the memories. Because of Leofric masturbating to a dreamlike image of Gavin in his mind. Because of a fantasy that never became quite true no matter the number of times they had sex. And also because Gavin called him darling, for reasons Leofric knows nothing about.

When Gavin asks for his strongest potion with a degree of despair in his voice that Leofric doesn’t recognize and Leofric says that his potions are too strong for Gavin because he can’t think of anything else to stay (and because Gavin is not a strong man and because drinking the untainted waer could kill him on the battlefields), Gavin becomes more and more desperate and he realizes something, he remembers the phrase Leofric keeps repeating from a time so long ago (it has been so much longer for Gavin than for Leofric), and yet he doesn’t recognize, not quite, no he doesn’t consciously see a former lover at that stall, not yet.

And then Leofric tells Gavin that his potions can do anything a knight can do and more, because it’s true. He can send someone to war and he can dry someone’s tears and if he can’t save a man’s life, at least he can save a man’s hope up to the very last moment. But Gavin says no, he doesn’t believe that Leofric’s potions are too strong for him. He says that once, he has tasted a potion that took him to the land of the fays.

That potion. That potion has almost been too strong for him. Not because of the land of the fays. The land of the fays was wonderful. It was all he ever dreamed of and all he never thought of dreaming of because he couldn’t imagine it and more. What has almost killed him since is the reaction of people upon his return. They say that he is strange, that he is a fay (now they have proof of that), that fays are not to be trusted. He keeps talking about the world (the worlds) that he knows, about the world he’s lived in for so many years, how so many things could be better in this world because they were better in other worlds. But people, they say that he is poisoning the wells and killing their children and sucking their blood, and they say that his beauty is disgusting and not real and not deserved. He says that he has lost all his lands and his admirers for saying things that are true. That no one who knows his story will sell him any potion.

And then he sees directly through Leofric’s disguise (he must have done so before, it’s impossible he realizes just that moment) and says: “I do want your strongest potion, Leofric. Your potion has once brought me to the place where I belong. To the land of the fays. It’s true, I am a fay, and the land of the fays is as beautiful a place as they say. Or… no – that’s not entirely correct, the land of the fays is not a single land, it’s all the lands and all the times and it’s all of this at the same time and you can chose the land you like most and stay there. I beg you, I need to go to the land of the fays, and you are the only one who can help me to get there. And if you’re strongest potion can’t do that, and if your strongest potion will kill me, I want that instead.”

The man who says all these things is a man that Leofric doesn’t know and has never known. He’s a man with thousands and thousands of years of life experience of which he shares only twenty-two with a man Leofric has known once. But then there are the looks. Both versions of Gavin, the version he shared a bed with and the version that stands in front of his stall now, share the looks with the version of Gavin Leofric fantasized about back when he didn’t know much more about the man than his looks and his title.

“Why should I bring you of all people to the land of the fays? There are so many people here who would fare so much better in any world different from this one.”

“Many people can see a glimpse of the land of the fays, but only fays can ever enter.” Leofric wonders how Gavin knows this and if it is true. He decides that the fact that this might be true is enough to frighten him. “This means that I will not enter. Because I am no fay.”

“No you are no fay. But I can make you one. Fays can do this.”

You can make me one?” Leofric doesn’t like the idea of having to depend on Gavin once more, not at all, not even if this is a different Gavin. But now, that he hears that he actually could, the idea of entering the land of the fays does sound alluring to him. “If fays can make people into fays then why doesn’t this happen more often?” Fays had an eternity ahead of them, after all. It would be only natural that they got attached to people, wanted them to stay with them when they changed worlds, and turned them into fays. There should be no people left, only fays.

“Fays can’t create a fay from scratch. They can only share their own powers and each time they do that, they will lose a fraction of their own power to the other person.”

“So what will happen to you if you make me a fay?”

“It’s likely that I’ll not be able to change worlds on my own. You’d be able to change worlds as you please and you could take me with you.” With these words, Leofric’s decision is settled. The idea that the arrogant knight would have to depend on him for something important for the duration of fucking eternity is just too good to be true. It isn’t nice motivation, but it is motivation. So, Leofric says yes and only after he sais yes, his expression becomes somewhat nauseated. “You knew that I would agree to this because I have agreed to this already. We have already made this deal and you knew this. Is that right?” Gavin doesn’t reply, not in that world.

Instead, Leofric sees Joanna laughing. Joanna laughing about something that is make-believe. Joanna laughing at Leofric. And Leofric is make-believe.

 

“You really can’t be bothered to make me a cup of coffee as well, when you prepare one for yourself, can you?” The captain of the space ship and his second in command are sitting in the leisure room reserved for leading members of the crew.

“My espresso is too strong for you, hipster,” commander Leo says.

Gavin sighs: “So, you’ll never get rid of this in-joke. May I remind you that this really isn’t the century of the hipster?”

Leo chuckles. “You may, but this still won’t get you any coffee.” Gavin looks at his lover. No one would ever suspect that this man tends to be submissive in bed (although he does enjoy switching well enough) if it weren’t for the collar he is wearing for centuries already. The cabin is plastered with wedding photographs. They have obviously been taken in the twenty-first century, but that’s not a reason to hide them. People are slowly getting used to a little time-travelling now and then.

Gavin loves to remember the time when equal wedding slowly became a thing all over the world. They got married over and over again in each and every country. On top of all the wedding photos, too much awkward dancing (one would think that’s something you learn if you have thousands of years of time, but it just never became Leo’s thing, much to Gavin’s displeasure), and all that cake, there had been some truly memorable wedding nights.

Leo stops him from fantasizing about that for a moment: “Do you see the spaceship in the distance? It’s black. As if it’s supposed to be an enemy. I want to start a war on that one tomorrow.”

“Not a good idea. That’s suicide. I’ve researched them. They’re better equipped than we are.”

“I know that it’s suicide. That’s why I want you to fight them.”

“Great to hear how much you care about my life.”

Leo rolls his eyes. “Oh, come on, are you still bitching about that one time I time-travelled back to the middle ages to have sex with myself, because you’re oh-so-jealous-of-me? That was 300 years ago!”

“I was just saying that it is a little rude of you to suggest that I should kill myself for your pleasure.”

“You know as well as I do, that you can’t die. I just love to watch you ‘die’ for me. I get off on that. You do, too.”

“No, I’m not…” Leo raises a single eyebrow. Finally, Gavin gives in. Nowadays he never manages not to give in to Leo. “Well, yes, you’re right, I do. But it’s still weird as fuck. Just as weird as you wanting me to demand all kinds of things from you in bed while at the same time missing no opportunity to tell me that I shouldn’t take charge in any other aspect of our relationship.”

Leo stops Gavin from talking by gently pressing a kiss to his lips. “Would you please stop kinkshaming me and start acknowledging that your damsel is in distress? I will die if you don’t defend me from the enemy.”

 

From time to time Leo thinks about the last moments he ever spent as a potion master. Since then he has travelled to so many parallel worlds. But in that moment he had exactly two choices: one choice that was exactly that – one choice; and one that included all the other choices he could ever make in any world. It’s weird: he has always been one to fantasize about the unattainable and now there is only one unattainable scenario left for him.

 

That scenario includes not being in love with a fay, and it includes being mortal. For a moment, Leo fantasizes about that, but then he starts to shiver.

 

And he shivers, and he shivers, and he shivers.

 

 

(Commander Leo faces the huge, panoramic window, showing him millions of tiny lights that could be stars. He doesn’t see the wall behind him, featuring a hundred versions of himself, smiling, on their wedding days.)

 

(Gavin would tell a different story.)