Isellta trailed after Jay, feeling pretty happy and all around great.
“Oh!” said Jay. “We don’t have any more pickles. Someone, not saying who, discovered your half-eaten pickle in the jar and threw the whole lot out.”
“Oh. What am I going to eat then?”
Jay smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll slap something together for you. You don’t have any allergies or weird toxic reactions to food, do you?”
“Good. I’m gonna make you spaghetti.”
Isellta did a quick blink. “For lunch?”
Isellta hugged his arm. “Thank you.”
Both fey and human froze as Preyuna strode towards them.
Isellta trembled and hid his face in Jay’s arm.
“I need to talk to you.”
“No.” said Jay.
“This is none of your business, human. This is matter between a queen and her subject.”
“I don’t care. He is not going anywhere with you. I know what you did to him. I will not let you touch him again.”
Preyuna fell silent.
Isellta glanced cautiously at her.
“Isellta. Is this man, this human, your lover?”
He released Jay’s arm. “He…He’s just a friend.”
“Then, he has no say in the matter. Step aside, human. I need to talk to him. Now.”
“Whatever you need to say, say it here. I’ll plug up my ears if that will make you feel better.”
“I don’t appreciate insolence.”
“I don’t want you to hurt him.”
“If you don’t do as I say and leave us, I will hurt him and you.”
Isellta gave him a panicky look. “Don’t leave me.” he whispered.
“I won’t. You hear me? I said I won’t.”
She shrugged. “Humans are so nonsensical.” Her eyes became white.
Jay turned pale. “No. Please. Mae. Mae.” He crumpled to his knees and broke down into a hard sob.
“Stop it. I’ll do whatever you want. Just stop hurting him.”
Her eyes returned to normal. “Then, follow me.”
Isellta looked down at him. “Jay.”
“I said, follow me.”
Isellta reluctantly obeyed her.
She led him into a spare room and locked the door behind them.
His wings flittered erratically. “Please. Not again. Please not again.”
“Please! I can’t. I physically can’t. Don’t force me to. Please.”
“Not even to spare your friend’s life?”
“You still don’t understand. I want to protect you. This will protect you.”
He crumpled into a grovel and cried.
She went silent.
“Please. Please don’t.”
His stomach clenched up as he recognized Robin’s voice.
Robin ran his hand over Isellta’s head. “You’re such a stupid little thing.”
The fey half-laughed, half-cried. He looked up.
Robin stroked his face.
Isellta leaned joyfully into his hand. “Oh, Robin.”
He smiled and undid the top button of Isellta’s shirt. “Yes? Or no?”
Isellta laughed. “Yes!”
He unfastened the next button. “Shall I keep going?”
“Yes.” But wait. This doesn’t make sense. It can’t be him. He isn’t here.
And the next button.
Robin isn’t here!
The next button.
This isn’t Robin.
The next button.
“This isn’t what I want. I told you before. I meant it then. I mean it now. I don’t want you. I want Robin. My Robin who thinks everything I do is stupid and I can’t do anything right and I think everything he does and says is nonsense. I want him. Not you, Queen Preyuna.”
She stood and transformed back into her true form. Her fingers became claws. “I could shred your face open for such an insult. The very idea that you’d reject me for an ugly low-form like him…It’s nonsense, Isellta.”
“It’s what I want. He is what I want.”
She went silent again.
Isellta stayed on the floor. It seemed safer down there. He studied the whorls in the hardwood floor. He traced the lines with his finger, trying to find the sense in them.
“I don’t understand you. Any other male fey would be thrilled to hrrash ka kae with me. Why do you keep rejecting me?”
“Because I can’t do it. No matter how hard I try, no matter how hard you try, I can’t. And it hurts to keep trying.”
“You were willing to do it with him.”
His finger went still.
“He was able to get a reaction from you. Why can’t I?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know.”
“Isellta. I’m asking for just one time.”
He shook his head.
“All it would take is one time.”
“Stop! Stop trying to talk me into it. I don’t want to do it with you. I will not do it with you. Ever.”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
“I agree. But this is how it is. This is how I am.”
They fell into silence.
He focused hard on the lines before him. “Are you going to keep doing this to me?”
“What would be the point if I can’t arouse you?” She paused. “Will you still help me when the time comes? Will you help me kill Mark Caten?”
“Good. That’s all I need to know.”
Isellta listened to her leave.
He stayed on the floor in a flooded mess up of relief and fear and tears and triumph. “She won’t do that again. I’m safe.” His wings flapped. “I’m safe.”