Semper Fae

by Angel Martinez

Zack thought he had a strange job before---Marine medic in a secret government base was odd, but personal assistant to a sidhe prince is downright bizarre and damn dangerous.

Zack thought he had a strange job before. Working as a Marine medic in a secret government installation was odd, but working as a human liaison to the /fae/ and as the personal assistant to a sidhe prince is downright bizarre. Throw in the fact that he's pretty damn sure he's fallen in love with his boss, and things are close to unmanageable.

Of course, around the fae, one never says 'things can't possibly get any worse.' Unexplained events plague the human world. Strange sightings, spontaneous magical explosions, and odd bends in reality crop up. When Finn falls ill and a monstrous creature attacks Zack, things quickly slide into disaster. Lycanthropy, loose-cannon mages, and Lugh conspire to make a hellish mess of things---but the real peril begins when Diego loses an important piece of his mind.

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Excerpt:

While fae and humans cannot, as far as we know, transmit diseases across species, magical diseases come with their own hazards... D. Sandoval, Basic Fae Relations, State Department Publication, F-201-01-12A

 

"Thank you, Mr. Patterson, it's a generous offer." Diego fought against a weary sigh. "But the fae don't have any interest in mass production. Even if such a thing were physically possible, the final result wouldn't meet their standards."

"But think of the revenue, Mr. Sandoval!" the voice on the phone enthused. "Even if we're talking about a small quality dip, the merchandising alone-"

The cell phone rang from Diego's desk drawer, the strains of Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream" floating across Patterson's oily business-speak.

"I'll present the proposal to their majesties, Mr. Patterson, but I can almost guarantee the outcome of-"

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"If I could present it myself," Patterson broke in. "I'm certain we'd have a positive result."

Diego Sandoval, the Human Consul for the Fae Collective, ran out of his legendary patience.

"Thank you, Mr. Patterson, but that won't be possible. Now, I need to cut this short, I have other things to see to today. It's been a pleasure talking to you." It had not, of course. "Good-bye."

Normally his admin, Carol, would have handled the likes of Mr. Patterson, but she had been away from her desk when the call came through. He could hear her scold him, "Why didn't you let it go to voicemail, Mr. S.?"

"Why weren't you where you're supposed to be?" Diego muttered as he fished in his drawer. He stared at the display, which showed Carol's desk phone. "And why are you calling my cell?" He put the phone to his ear. "Hello?"

"I did it!" Finn's voice yelled over the line. "Hello, my handsome husband! I called you!"

Diego laughed. Finn in the office explained a lot, distraction-wise. "Yes, you did." Then realization dawned. "You did? You dialed the numbers? Carol didn't help you?"

A pooka's brain could hold any number of complex magical structures. Shapeshifters and workers of water magic, they were capable of astounding things. Math wasn't one of them, and Finn had struggled simply to learn numeric symbols.

"No, I did it." Finn's smile lit up his voice. "Just me. I have it!"

"Mi vida, that's wonderful. I'm so proud of you."

"I think I'll call Zack next." Finn's voice faded, apparently turned away from the phone. "I can do that from here, can't I, Car-"

A violent sneeze interrupted his question. Diego heard a clunk as if the phone had been dropped. In the background, Carol screamed.

Before his brain had time to register shock, Diego hurled himself from his chair and dashed down the hall to the front office.

The sneezes continued unabated and Diego turned the corner in time to see a rhinoceros knock the computer mouse off Carol's desk as it turned, sneezed, and vanished, replaced by a black tortoise. The tortoise sneezed and became a rooster. Sneeze. Ferret. Sneeze. Panther. Sneeze. Cricket.

The rapid succession of shifts finally ended with Finn sprawled naked and moaning on the hardwood floor, the three office staffers huddled behind the farthest desk.

"Everyone all right?"

"Yessir," Carol answered for them all.

"The scream was because...?"

"He was a rat for a second. Sorry."

"Deep breaths," Diego told his startled office staff. "Just stay out of his way for the moment. Carol, run downstairs and see if any of the healers are in house. If not, see if someone's willing to go through the doorway and find Eithne. Brad, find a blanket for him, please."

He crouched down to address Finn. "Caro, are you all right?"

"No," Finn said on a whimper. His nose wrinkled. "Best move back, my heart. It's-"

Diego only had time to scramble back three feet before the explosive sneezes returned. Feeling helpless and confounded, he could only watch as Finn sneezed through elk, goose, spider, blackbird, bull, and salmon in rapid-fire shifts.

"Bloody hells," Finn moaned as he returned to his own form, his long, black hair a tangled mass hiding half his face.

"You're sick, aren't you?" Diego risked a hand on Finn's shoulder, his normally cool skin furnace hot.

"No!" Finn snapped and then he sneezed again. Badger. Sneeze. Vole. "Perhaps."

"I'd take you to bed, mi amor-"

"Best not, my hero. I might shift to dragon and crush you." Another sneeze. Cormorant. Sneeze. Back to Finn who clutched his head in both hands, whimpering.

Heels clicked back down the hall toward them double-time, accompanied by Carol's voice, "He's in here, Princess Eithne."

"Gracias a Dios," Diego breathed in relief.

Eithne rushed in to kneel beside him, her black-furred ears swiveling atop her head. As a healer, she often spent her days at the Fae Embassy. As the daughter of the Fomorian king, Diego relied on her advice and her good sense. She smoothed her short kilt over furred thighs, the only clothing concession she made for human sensibilities, and placed a hand on Finn's forehead.

"Poor Fionnachd," she murmured. "Are you cold?"

"Yes. Like a frozen lake." Finn curled into a tight ball.

"And your head hurts?"

"It will split in two any moment."

She turned to Diego. "You may move him now, if you wish. This will go in cycles."

"So you know what this is?" Diego prompted as he slid his arms under Finn to lift him.

"Oh, yes."

That was all she would say, though, and Diego assumed she didn't wish to discuss it in front of the staff. He followed her upstairs to his living quarters. To the right, Zack's bedroom door stood open, as it always did when he was away, everything neat and military polished, the bed made with precise hospital corners. Eithne shoved open the left-hand door that led to the suite Diego shared with Finn, the exuberant mess quite a contrast to Zack's need for everything-in-its-place.

As gently as possible, Diego settled Finn on the king-sized four-poster bed and dragged the covers up over him. "Will he be all right?" he asked, fighting to keep the trembling from his voice.

"He will tell you otherwise, no doubt," Eithne said as she took Finn's face between her hands. "But he will live. Fionnachd, look at me."

Finn did as he was told, black eyes swimming with pain as he gazed into hers. His panting slowed, his trembling ceased abruptly, and then his eyes slid shut.

"There. Let him sleep," Eithne whispered.

"I will." Diego took her arm. "But could you please tell me what this is?"

She twined clawed fingers carefully with his and led him out into the hall. "I have not seen this in over a hundred years, but it was once common. It is shifter's fever."

Diego swallowed hard. "Is it...bad?"

"By that do you mean is it deadly? Then no." She patted his chest. "Do not look so distressed. Your mate will be well again. There will be these bouts of uncontrolled shifting, followed by blinding headaches and then a period of exhaustion. The time between will become longer and longer as he recovers. I have no doubt that he will whine and complain and try your patience before long, but he will not die from it."

"So it's something like a shifter version of a human cold?"

"Something like, yes."

COLLAPSE

About the Author

The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, gave birth to one amazing son, and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.


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