Hue crouched down beside a large orange flower and dug a glass vial from a satchel that hung at his side, not taking his eyes from the droplet of nectar that welled at the center. Although the tips of the petals were already starting to brown and turn inwards, the nectar droplet emitted a sweet, earthy scent that filled Hue with relief.
I’ll make quota this month.
Vial at the ready, he took a moment to slow his breathing after the steep climb up the side of the rocky cliff. He turned his head to the side so not even his breath could disturb the delicate flower. Hue felt around the ground where he crouched, finally coming up with a small twig that he used to push the flower forward from its base. The nectar droplet swelled, fell still, then finally broke free and rolled down a waxy petal and landed directly into the waiting glass vial below.
Breath held, Hue pushed the glass stopper into the vial and produced some soft wax to seal the vial shut. Only when the vial was wrapped in two layers of soft cloth and tucked away into the satchel did Hue remember to let his breath out shakily. He let out a whoop that was drowned out by the sound of crashing waves at his back and the haunting sound of wind rushing through the pine tree forest that butted up to the coastline.
Hue had never cared for the sound of wind through pine needles. He was certain that if loneliness had a sound, it would be the shh of wind through a pine forest. Seagulls cried in the distance, adding words to the lonely tune of the wind.
Hue couldn’t complain, at least out loud. Living between the windswept rocky coastline and the dense forest meant that he could live untroubled by the noise, the clamor, the chaos of living with other people. Infrequent visits by Collectors were more than enough human contact to satisfy Hue. Speaking of Collectors… Hue got to his feet, scanning the short stretches of the trail leading to his cabin that were visible through the trees below. His visitors were late, judging by how far the sun had risen into the sky.
He looked back to the orange flower that bloomed on a rough, twisted branch sprouting out of the hard ground. Nectar gone, it had already begun to wither and droop. Hue placed an affectionate hand on the gnarled branch.
“Thank you, Orange. Now rest easy, you won’t need to fill another order until winter.” I hope.
Hue carefully made his way down the rocky path towards the forest below, but he stopped when he heard a low rumble.
Hue jogged and slid his way down the rest of the path until his boots once again crunched on dry pine needles that covered the forest floor. The rumbling sound grew louder, and now even the ground below his feet began to vibrate. Dry needles flew into the air and rained down on Hue as something large burst from beneath the ground in front of him. Hue didn’t shy away, but instead reached out a hand to meet the creature that exploded towards him.
“Hey now, hey. Easy, Red! What’s the rush? Is Ben here yet?” Hue spoke gently, as one might reassure a pet, as he stroked the lashing tentacle that now writhed above the ground. It was brownish green and earth fell easily away from the waxy, wrinkled skin. A trail of raised earth marked the path it had taken to reach Hue at the edge of the trees. Small reddish-brown buds popped up on the surface of the tentacle, but the flowers did not bloom. Hue’s eyes widened.
“He’s here? Shit. Is he still in the trees?”
The tentacle offered no answer, but dove back down beneath the earth as soon as the newly-formed buds withered and fell off. A fresh trail of earth bulged up as the creature moved off to Hue’s left. He spared a quick glance towards the cabin, then charged off through the trees beside the burrowing tentacle.
Hue shoved branches away from his head as he ran, keeping his gaze upwards towards the treetops. Suddenly he saw a flash of color that interrupted the deep green of the leaves and the blue of the clear sky above. He hooked an arm around a tree and slammed a foot down once, twice, three times. The rumbling stopped and the tentacle once more burst in front of him, followed by several smaller tentacles. Hue placed a finger over his lips and gestured with his other hand, palm down.
“Shh, Red. We don’t want to scare him.”
The larger tentacle slowed and matched the gentle motions of Hue’s hand, but a smaller tentacle lashed out suddenly, rushing upwards where Hue had spotted the figure. Hue jumped and grabbed it as it sped upwards, and they tangled together on the forest floor. Finally Hue struggled to his feet once more, the tentacle shuddering under his boot. He spoke quietly to the larger tentacle, which still bobbed calmly.
“I know, Red, I know. But we can’t scare him. Now be good, and stay behind me.”
Hue bent down to grip the lashing tentacle in his hand, then walked slowly forward, stepping lightly on the dense carpet of fallen needles. Now even more tentacles emerged from the ground, obediently slithering at his back, twisting lightly on his shoulders, and curling at his feet. There.
A small figure stood perched at the very tip of a pine tree. He balanced on one foot, his other leg thrown out lazily as he spun in a slow circle. Although his foot stayed rooted in place, his body swung out at impossible, gravity-defying angles over the treetop. He moved his arms gracefully over his head as he danced. The wings that sprouted from his back were almost the length of his body, translucent and shining in the morning sunlight. Hue couldn’t see that the fairy ever needed to flap his wings; instead, he simply seemed to hover while his wings fluttered in the breeze. His eyes were closed, and he wore a relaxed smile.
Hue’s breath caught as he watched the fairy dance high above him. He wasn’t sure if the fairy danced to the rhythm of the swaying branches around him, or if the trees themselves moved to match his gentle swaying. Today he was clothed in yellow strips of cloth that made a fluttering skirt that didn’t always cover him completely as he rotated. There was a band on his upper arm and Hue could see the sparkle of something around his neck.
“He’s beautiful, isn’t he, Red?” Hue breathed. He kept his grip firm on the wayward tentacle that lashed against Hue’s body as it fruitlessly attempted to free itself. “Do you think he’ll go to the south garden today? Or maybe the north garden, if Ben is making a racket on the main road?”
Hue brushed away another tentacle that crawled over his shoulder, intent on seeing the direction the fairy would take. When he woke from his dance and flew, Hue knew it would only take a second for him to disappear from view. The tentacle that flopped over Hue’s shoulder now pulsed and moved right under his nose. Hue finally looked down and winced.
“Already?” Hue cursed soundlessly, looking at the small red flowers that were now blooming, withering, falling, blooming again on the patch of tentacle beneath his eyes. “Are you sure they made it all the way to the cabin?”
Hue looked up again and this time cursed aloud. The fairy was nowhere in sight. Hue moved a few steps north, meaning to try his luck that the fairy had flown off in that direction.
A wall of tentacles blocked his path.
Hue ran his fingers through his hair in irritation. “Fine! Alright, you win. I’ll go see our guests.” He started only a few steps back towards the cabin before turning around once more. “Red, you’re coming with me. You know you’re not allowed to go near the fairy without me.”
Hue stepped forward, yanking on the smaller tentacle. Man and plant held in stalemate for several seconds before the wall of waving appendages rumbled back down into the earth, carving a raised trail in the direction of Hue’s cabin.
Hue nodded in relief. A Collection day was no time to enter a power struggle. He walked to the side of Red’s trail, lost in thought. Hue knew that losing focus around Red was about as reckless as stepping up to a tiger to hand feed.
Red’s been restless lately. And these damn Collection days keep increasing. Gotta get my head straight.
Hue spared one last glance up through the trees, looking for a hint of yellow through the sea of green. Perhaps it was for the best. Such a delicate, lovely creature. The more the fairy came, the more Hue couldn’t help but want to do more than watch from afar. What would those gossamer wings feel like? What would he smell like if Hue buried his face into his neck? Ran his fingers across the smooth skin of his chest, grabbed his slim hips, lifted him into his arms, forced his mouth open and tasted his sweetness…
Hue started, forced from his reverie by the sight of his cabin just barely visible through the trees. He held his hands up, noting the calluses, the cracked skin, a few barely healed scratches. Such coarse hands could never touch a fairy. Hands skilled in keeping Red under control could only hope to break such a fragile creature. Hue gritted his teeth.
This time there were two visitors at his porch. One man stood in loose-fitting clothes with his back to the door, shading his eyes as he peered into the forest. The second man was collapsed bonelessly in Hue’s chair on the porch, head leaned back and panting.
“Ben. You’re late,” Hue called out.
The man standing at his door turned his face towards the sound of Hue’s voice. “Ah, Hue, shut the fuck up. I wouldn’t be late if you didn’t live all the way out on the edge of the world. And aren’t I the one here waiting for you?” Despite his overly gruff tone, Ben came forward to greet Hue, grasping his hand and squeezing.
“Good to see you,” Hue said.
Ben nodded, “Still not eaten by those monsters of yours, huh? Meat’d probably taste like shit anyway.”
“Who’s this you dragged to my doorstep? An offering?” Hue asked.
The man slumped in the chair finally lifted his head. He wore a sweat-stained button-up shirt that he’d rolled up to the elbows and shoes that looked more suited to an office building than a trek out in the woods.
“Give me a break, will you old man?” He leaned his head back again and fanned himself.
Hue raised his eyebrows towards Ben in a silent question.
Ben kicked the side of the chair. “Hey kid, quit fucking around. Is this how you represent the Group? Naptime’s over.” He turned back to Hue. “He’s a new hire the Boss is having me train. He’s not as stupid as he looks, most of the time.”
Hue shrugged. “Well, c’mon in, let’s get this over with.” He pushed through his front door, not stopping to hold it open.
Ben stepped in without a word and sat at the small round table by a window. He reached into his pocket and dug out a crumpled list.
“Kid” slumped next to him, not done with his complaints. “Seriously, Ben, this doesn’t make sense. If this operation is so important why doesn’t he just put a train station out this way? Or at least pave the goddam road?”
Ben arched an eyebrow. “Kid, I go and tell Hue you’re not as stupid as you look, and then you come up with that bullshit? You think train tracks would survive a Man Eater? There’s one loose in the miles of forest out there, just waiting to destroy anything we could lay down.”
Hue thumped two earthen mugs of water down in front of the two men. “More like, there’s miles of Man Eater out there in the forest, burrowed under every tree you see and just waiting to pull down numbfucks like you.”
Kid sat up, trying to look nonchalant but powerless to resist a peek through the window towards the darkness of the forest beyond. “That’s–that’s bullshit! A Man Eater couldn’t grow that big.”
All three men turned their gaze towards a distant rumble and watched as the top of a tree sank below the canopy as it fell. Nice timing, Red. Hue didn’t let his amusement show on his face when he looked back towards the young man.
“Miles and miles of Man Eater,” Hue confirmed. “But maybe it won’t eat you after all. It might just drop a tree on you and let the bears have your rotting carcass.”
“Whatever! I gotta take a leak,” Kid said, his voice betraying a single waver.
Kid pushed his chair back with a clatter and moved between the table and the small wood-burning stove that doubled as Hue’s oven. He glanced at the bed in the opposite corner of the room, then roughly pulled open the only other door in the simple cabin. He took one step forward before turning wordlessly back towards Hue and Ben.
Ben laughed. “You gonna piss in his empty vials and spare rainboots, kid?” He cocked a thumb towards the front door “C’mon, outhouse is out back.”
Kid’s eyes widened, but was apparently shocked into silence. He pushed open the front door and stomped towards the back of the cabin.
Hue again raised a questioning eyebrow at Ben.
“Oh c’mon, don’t give me that look,” Ben said. “He’s a dipshit, alright, but he has potential. Boss just wants him to see the whole process, you know? Teach him what it takes to deal in Nectar.” He craned his neck, making sure Kid had disappeared around the side of the cabin. “But between you and me, he could do with a bit of humility. If that monster of yours were to smack him around a bit, I wouldn’t need to report that. Damn kid’s read a book or two and thinks he knows what he’s dealing with.”
Hue shook his head, setting wax-sealed vials next to the list Ben had tossed on the table. “That right? And what would you report if Red sunk its claws in and I was just a bit slow pulling him out? I think someone would object to his new hire coming home in a vial.”
Ben looked out into the woods again. “Don’t worry, you’ve lived with that Man Eater for years. I trust you can handle it.”
“I appreciate your trust, but trust will get someone killed,” Hue said, looking up from the table and meeting Ben’s eyes. “Getting Red to stay off the trail is about all I can do for you. If either of you were to stray, I couldn’t guarantee your safety. Would be a safer bet to guarantee your death.”
Ben sighed. “Alright, alright, point taken.” He gathered up the vials into a foam case, not bothering to check them against the list he’d laid out. “Full quota, the Boss will be pleased. He’s got another Fill in two weeks, can you do it?”
“Two weeks? You know it’s not like turning on a tap,” Hue complained, running a hand through his hair.
Ben held up his hands. “I know, I know. Just do your best, I’ll take care of the rest.” He set a new list under his empty mug. “You know Hue, you could always come back–”
His words were interrupted by a shout and a thump. Hue grabbed his satchel and rushed outside, Ben close behind him. Kid was pressed against the side of the cabin, staring in horror towards the forest edge. Hue let out a sigh of relief, releasing his grip on the knife he kept hidden in the satchel.
Red had exploded above ground at the forest edge, letting a wave of tentacles rise ten feet or more into the air, breaking branches and shoving the trunks of smaller trees to the side. Hue strolled out casually to the edge of the clearing, letting the longest of the tentacles meet his hand. He turned it over, checking for flowers but seeing only wrinkled, waxy flesh. Kid shouted again in horror.
Hue turned back towards his guests. “It looks like breaktime is over. Ben, can you get him out of here? Poor Red here is tired of the commotion.”
Ben’s face had grown pale, but he didn’t shout out. He nodded grimly and gripped Kid’s shoulder, pulling him backwards. “We’ll be back in two weeks. You be safe now, Hue.”
Hue nodded, and watched as Kid all but ran back down the path, his exhaustion forgotten. He looked up to the swarming mass of tentacles. “Nice timing back there, Red. Did he go to the north garden?” Hue swayed his body in a clumsy imitation of the fairy’s dance. A single flower popped up at the tip of a tentacle. Hue nodded, letting a smile creep back onto his face now that the men were heading away.
“Let’s go see the flowers he bloomed for us.”
Two weeks passed, and Hue spent every day and even a few nights either clinging to the rocky cliffs above the coast or deep within the forest. Two weeks for a full rainbow of Nectar was a harsh demand, but Ben had taken up too much slack for him already. And so he worked feverishly, moving from Blue to Orange to Pink, to White at night and to Yellow in the early morning, coaxing out every drop of nectar from the flowers he found along the gnarled branches and waving tentacles.
Red was the only Man Eater big enough to be dangerous, so he let the other plants move their tentacles freely around him as he worked. Most Man Eaters had a rough time growing in rocky soil, but Red had clearly rooted somewhere deep and fertile that let it expand to a massive size. It was an excellent guard, as long as it didn’t get too hungry.
Hue paused from his collection above a shining blue flower, letting the rumbling from Red’s underground movements pass before he held a vial back up below the nectar droplet. Blue sometimes didn’t move at all, preferring to spend its time more as a plant and making its nectar hard to collect. A shame, since Blue Nectar had potent healing properties.
A droplet of sweat slid down Hue’s back, but he didn’t move his hand as he used a stick to push against the base of a flower. “Just a little more for me” he pleaded.
Red rumbled by again, closer this time. Hue lifted his eyes briefly but kept the pressure on the flower constant. The nectar droplet shivered. Red and I both will need a vacation after this Collection. There! The nectar shivered and fell into the vial, which Hue hurriedly capped.
He looked up finally, scanning the forest. “Oi, Red! What are you doing out there?”
No answer, and the ground was still beneath his feet. Hue rose to his feet stiffly and sniffed, catching the faintest hint of Red’s flowers in the air. He wrinkled his forehead in confusion.
Hue turned back to give Blue an affectionate pat on a gnarled branch, but couldn’t coax more than a tired wiggle from a single tentacle. He walked a few steps closer to the trees and kicked aside pine needles to dig into the earth below. Slightly damp, smelling of rich soil and freshly fallen needles. Hue rubbed the back of his neck with muddy fingers.
“Blue? Now why don’t you send roots over here?” Hue asked.
As expected, no response. Hue got up and pulled a tentacle over to his freshly dug hole. Hue widened his eyes when it moved slightly, but then huffed in irritation. Just Red shaking the ground again. Hue looked up sharply as Red once more sent burrowing tentacles plunging through the forest. Something’s not right.
Blue’s stupor forgotten, Hue ran in the direction Red had been traveling. As he moved through the forest, the smell of Red’s flowers grew heavy in the air. Hue didn’t bother covering his nose – one sniff of the potent pollen was all it would take to induce hallucination. And judging by the strength of the smell, he could expect the hallucinations to appear soon.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” Hue paused, hearing only the showering of dirt and rocks up ahead, indicating that Red had burst above the surface. “If there’s anyone there, you’d better say something now! Only one of us here will harm you, and it’s not me!”
Splashes of color burst in the corner of Hue’s vision, signaling Red’s pollen was beginning to have an effect. Hue was forced to slow his pace as the underbrush thickened and the hallucinations increased. An impossibly small crow flew in front of him, and a blue nectar vial endlessly dripped out precious shining droplets before disappearing into thin air.
Now that Hue could hear the sound of tentacles whipping through the air, he paused, preparing himself for the possibility that some would-be thief had met a gruesome end. Another hallucination appeared, this time real enough to make Hue bend down for a closer look. This vision was a foot pushing through the undergrowth. It was smaller than Hue’s, shapely and with smooth skin. Exactly what he would expect his occasional fairy visitor to look like, though he’d only ever observed him from afar.
He reached out a finger and brushed it lightly over the sole, imagining he could feel soft skin beneath his rough, calloused finger. Toes flexed slightly at his touch, strengthening the reality of the hallucination. Hue knew better, he knew better, but still he remained crouching, lost in the impossible daydream of touching that lovely, delicate fairy. He tickled the high arch and smiled in delight when he heard a high, clear laugh.
Suddenly the laugh was cut short by a wet sound, and the foot disappeared back into the bushes. Hue burst to his feet in horror. Could that vision have been real?
Hue kicked through bushes and fell forward into a small clearing. Finally he could see where Red had burst above ground in a mass of waving, frenzied tentacles. But what kept Hue frozen in shock was the sight of what was snared in Red’s tentacles.
The very-much-real fairy was completely swarmed by tentacles. A large tentacle wrapped around the fairy’s waist, holding him horizontally, and both of his arms were pulled out and away from his body. One foot disappeared entirely into the waving mass, while his other side was gripped tightly around the upper leg. Tentacles rubbed obscenely below the fairy’s waist, caressing his bottom and stroking his rising cock.
The fairy turned his head slightly to look towards Hue, but didn’t call out. No, couldn’t call out. His mouth was filled with the end of a tentacle that was covered in red, glistening flowers. Red actually seemed to be producing Nectar directly from the tentacle and filling the mouth of the ensnared fairy.
Hue stood rooted to the ground, filling his eyes with a sight he hadn’t even allowed himself to dream of. The fairy’s hips rocked with the motion of the stroking tentacles, and desire exploded throughout Hue’s body. He stepped forward, meaning to push the tentacles aside and take the little fairy himself, when he caught sight of more of Red’s tentacles searching across the fairy’s upturned ass.
“Wait! Red, stop! You can’t touch him, remember?” Hue shook himself free of his lustful trance and burst forward, digging into his satchel as he ran. He hooked an arm around the tentacle that filled the fairy’s mouth, releasing it with a pop and a splash of nectar. The fairy coughed and gasped.
“Fairy!” Hue called. “Are you okay? Hold on, I’ll get you free!”
Hue didn’t wait, didn’t plead with Red, he just plunged the knife from his satchel directly into a thick tentacle in front of the mass bursting from the ground. All of the appendages shuddered at the impact. Hue used his boot next, kicking at the base of the ground while twisting the knife further.
“Red! I mean it! That’s enough. I swear I’ll light a fire next if you don’t back off.”
Hue slapped at a tentacle that reached for the knife. Once again man and plant stood in a stalemate. Finally the ground shook again and the tentacles slowly began to retreat below the earth. Hue pulled the knife away as the mass in front of him sank lower. He ran back to the fairy, getting under him just in time as the tentacle around his waist slid away. Hue caught the fairy as he fell, slipping one arm under his bottom and using his other arm to press across his shoulders to hug him close. He was as light as Hue had imagined, and he held him easily.
“…good,” the fairy mumbled.
Hue moved the fairy up a bit to bring his head right by his ear. “What? What did you say?”
“Feels good.” The fairy’s eyes fluttered and he threw his arms around Hue’s neck. “Please, don’t stop now!”
The fairy slid down a little as Hue’s arms went weak with surprise. The fairy started to rock his hips, moving his still-hard cock against Hue’s own. When Hue trailed a hand down the fairy’s back he moaned softly and nuzzled his face into Hue’s neck.
They pressed against each other, both momentarily lost in a haze of lust and hallucination. The fairy cried out first, his voice lovely and musical. Hue clutched him tightly, riding his own climax with a soft, desperate exhalation.
For a short while, the only sounds in the clearing were the ragged breathing of both fairy and man. Red had resurfaced, but for now left only a few tentacles above ground that swayed in time with the fairy’s exhalations.
Hue opened his mouth several times, unsure of what to say. “Are you–are you alright?” he asked.
The fairy looked up, hands resting confidently on Hue’s shoulders. “I’m fine. I just…” He trailed off, his eyes suddenly becoming unfocused. Then the little fairy slumped forward in Hue’s arms, his head bumping lightly against his shoulder.
Hue gasped. “Hold on! Everything is okay!” He looked around desperately, his darting gaze finally landing on his dropped satchel. Not daring to put the fairy down on the ground, in case Red burst through to reclaim his prize, Hue used his foot to lift the satchel into his free hand. He turned around and jogged in the direction of the cabin.
Hue kicked in his door and brought the fairy inside to lay him down across his bed. Although Hue’s feet hung off the end of the mattress by a few inches, the fairy seemed dwarfed by the bed. He didn’t seem to have any injuries aside from some reddened patches of skin where the tentacles had gripped him roughly.
Yet the fairy seemed slightly delirious, and his eyelids fluttered open only briefly before closing again. Hue dug into his satchel, holding the precious blue bottle that was half filled from the morning’s harvest.
“Fairy? Are you awake? Can you open your mouth for me?”
The fairy opened his mouth a crack, and Hue held the bottle to his lips, letting several precious drops roll down his tongue.
“Now, swallow. Good. Yes, that’s right…” Hue sighed in relief when the fairy’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Fairy? Can you hear me?”
When the fairy’s eyes opened again, his gaze locked on to Hue’s with an unwavering intensity. “I can hear you,” he said. “You were singing! Singing along with that plant.” The fairy turned his gaze out of the window. “And what was that plant? I’ve never heard anything like it!”
Hue blinked in surprise. “Singing? Well, uh, you see, Red’s pollen causes hallucinations so you might have…” he trailed off lamely.
The fairy shook his head. “I’m sure that was real.” He sat up and folded his legs underneath himself to sit on his heels. He placed a hand on Hue’s upper leg so he could lean forward and peer into Hue’s eyes. “How did you learn to sing like that?”
Hue broke the fairy’s gaze, instead staring down at the hand on his leg. The fairy’s arms were bare save for two bands worn at his upper arms. He wore a tight necklace around his neck that looked to be made of unwilting white-petaled flowers. Silvery threads that sparkled like spider webs dusted with morning dew ran between his necklace and the armbands, making his shoulders sparkle. For now, the strips of light-blue cloth gathered at his waist in an airy skirt covered what was below.
The fairy cocked his head, unbothered by Hue’s silence. His hair was long enough to brush the tops of his shoulders, and the fairy used his other hand to brush a lock back behind his ear. If pressed to name a color, Hue might have called it white, but he suspected a more accurate description was that the fairy’s hair was colorless, and only looked white when it gathered together. Hue wondered if his hair would change color if the fairy danced over the yellow flowers of the north garden or the clusters of pink flowers in the south garden.
“You sure are quiet when you’re not singing, Human. What’s your name?” the fairy asked.
“It’s Hue. I’ve, uh, seen you dancing before. It’s lovely.” Hue regretted his words as soon as he spoke them. Now he’ll think I planned Red’s attack!
The fairy smiled and leaned back. “Your forest is full of songs I can’t hear anywhere else.” His smile faded slightly as he looked out the window.
“Could I ask for your name?” Hue asked.
The fairy turned back towards Hue, smiling brightly once more. “I’ve never given my name to a human before!” He made a sound that sounded like a combination of birdsong and the babbling of a stream before noticing Hue’s baffled expression. “Oh! Right. I think humans can’t make those sounds.” The fairy thought for a moment. “Then, you can give me another name! Choose something you can pronounce.” He sat forward expectantly.
Hue took another lingering glance over the delicate fairy, thinking of his graceful dances. “How about Petal?”
The fairy’s eyes lit up. “Petal!” he laughed. He leaned forward and put his arms around Hue, burying his face into his neck once more. “I like Petal.”
Hue froze, feeling very much like a bull in a china shop. It was a wonder he hadn’t hurt Petal when he lost control in the forest. His arms raised as if to embrace, then hung in the air indecisively.
A rumble sounded in the forest beyond, and Petal raised his head to look in the direction of the forest. He gasped, “There are people coming!” Petal floated up, his legs rising above the bed, and suddenly crashed back down, almost falling over the edge of the bed. “My wings!”
Hue’s horror at the distant sound of Ben’s voice was replaced with a fresh stab of shock. Only now did he realize that Petal’s wings, which normally spread from over the top of his head down to his knees, were suddenly, horribly missing.
Petal turned his back to Hue and asked, “Can you see them?”
Hue gasped. “I see them! They’re still there. But, Petal, they’re tiny.” He reached out to touch then pulled his hand back, hesitant to damage them further. These wings couldn’t have been over four inches tall from top to bottom.
Petal turned back around, sighing. “That’s okay then. They’ll grow back.” He squeaked in surprise at the sound of footsteps on Hue’s porch.
“Hue!” Ben called out.
Hue scooped his arms under Petal’s bottom once more, easily lifting him. Petal clung to him and he quickly strode over to his vial storage room. He gently set Petal on the floor, and the fairy quickly scooted under the wooden table inside and pulled his legs up to his chest.
“Don’t worry. Just stay in here, they won’t find you,” Hue reassured. Hue went back to the bed to retrieve the almost-empty blue vial. He passed it to Petal, whispering, “This is Blue Nectar. It has healing properties. I used most of it to wake you, but please finish the rest. If it doesn’t help your wings, it will at least make you feel better.”
Petal silently nodded, and Hue shut the door quietly.
“Hue!” Ben shouted, not bothering to knock at the door. “If you’re out there, get your ass back here now! That monster of yours is wild today!”
Hue opened the front door. “No need to shout, Ben.”
Ben whirled in alarm. Kid, who was standing with his back to the cabin wall, actually shouted aloud.
“Hue!” Ben said in a low voice. “You asshole, don’t scare me like that! Christ, you’re never in your cabin.”
Hue ignored his complaints and motioned them inside. “Red is restless today. You two had better not stick around.”
Kid rushed inside, and even Ben quickened his step with a glance backward over his shoulder. Hue quickly collected wax-sealed vials as the two men sat in the offered seats and sipped water. He set the list next to the rainbow of vials as Ben brought out a foam case to store them in.
“Sorry to do this to you Ben, but I’m short on Blue this month. I can give you a few extra Red and make up the Blue for the next order,” Hue said.
Kid straightened up, finding his courage now that he was inside the cabin with Hue. “Now hold on a minute! Blue is our most valuable product. You can’t go changing the order around.” He narrowed his eyes. “Or maybe you’re using the Blue yourself. Is that it? Sure you don’t have some extra vials around here?” He pushed his chair back and stepped towards the closed storage room door.
Hue stood up to block the door and said, “If you think you can handle these Man Eaters better, maybe I could learn a thing or two from you. Should I put you outside, then, so you can show me?” He grabbed the front of Kid’s shirt.
Ben shouted, “Kid! Shut the fuck up and sit down. You near shit yourself from fear even taking the road past that monster.” Ben made a calming motion at Hue, who slowly released Kid’s collar. “Hue, don’t worry about it. I said I’ll take care of it, so I’ll take care of it. But, are you sure you should be out there with your plant going wild like that?”
Red rumbled at the edge of the clearing by Hue’s cabin, seeming to emphasize Ben’s words.
Relaxing slightly as Kid sullenly returned to Ben’s side, Hue said, “I’m fine, Ben. Really. But you can see how Red is lately, so I recommend you head on back now.”
Ben nodded, tucking the last of the vials away. “We’re gone. I’ll tell the Boss to give you a few weeks off, how about that?”
Hue grasped Ben’s hand. “Thanks, my friend.”
Ben slipped his arms through his pack again and motioned to Kid. “Let’s get out of here.”
Hue followed them out, shouldering his satchel. “I’ll call Red over here so the road is quiet for you.” With that he headed to the edge of the forest and stomped several times on the ground. Red exploded in front of him at the sound, tentacles lashing furiously. Hue smiled softly as he heard a faint shout from Kid. He held his hand out and Red slipped a tentacle over his fingers, docile despite the wall of waving tentacles.
Hue squeezed it gently. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Red. You know you weren’t supposed to go near that fairy. But I suppose I should be thanking you for not hurting him.” He reached into the pack and removed a chunk of cured meat. The tentacle curled around the meat at once, drawing it down into the hole where it had emerged.
Hue took one final glance down the road, making sure Ben and Kid were out of sight, then quickly went back into the cabin. He placed a hand on the storage room door, suddenly afraid he would open it to find an empty room. He counted to three, then pulled the door open in a rush.
Petal looked up at his sudden entry. “Hue? Are they gone?”
Hue breathed out in a rush. “They’re gone. Here, come out to the bed and lie down.”
Petal’s smile widened and he leapt to his feet. With a light bounce he hopped upwards and hugged around Hue’s neck once more. Hue nervously put his arms around the fairy, being careful not to squeeze too tightly.
When Hue deposited him on the edge of the bed, Petal’s gaze turned serious. “Hue, you ran out of Nectar because of me, didn’t you?”
Hue paused, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I, uh, think it’s because of me that you were trapped in the first place. Petal, I’m sorry. I warned Red over and over never to interfere with you. And now your lovely wings…”
Petal shook his head. “They’re just shrunk from the Red Nectar.” He reached behind and rubbed at his back experimentally. Hue shamelessly took in the sight of Petal’s chest as he twisted back and forth to examine his wings. “I think they should be back to full size in about a week. Oh, but don’t worry! I can still float, see?” He lifted his body above the mattress and hovered for a few seconds before toppling over to one side. “Although it is hard to steer without my wings at full size.”
“Please stay here until they’re regrown!” Hue burst out. “It’s too dangerous for you to leave by the main road, and if you can’t steer your flight…”
“Hue! Are you sure? Even after I took your Nectar?”
Hue thought his chest would burst with happiness. He hadn’t allowed himself to hope for even a single meeting with him, and now Petal was sitting on his bed and excitedly swinging his legs.
“Petal, please stay as long as you like,” Hue said.
Hue opened his eyes blearily the next morning. He had spent a restless night on the floor in front of his wood burning stove. Petal was eager to share the mattress, but Hue knew he wouldn’t have caught a single wink of sleep if they had shared the same bed. Even so, sleep had eluded him for most of the night. Behind his eyelids played endless memories of the day before. Petal with his arms stretched out before him and shuddering at the touch of a tentacle over an erect nipple. His hips moving with the rhythm of a tentacle stroking his dick, sticky with nectar and precome. Petal grinding his hips against Hue’s own, moaning deliriously into Hue’s shoulder.
Hue sat up, looking guiltily at the bed. Petal was curled into a small ball under two blankets, despite the heat still coming from the stove. At the sound of Hue shrugging into clean clothes, Petal popped his head free of the bundle of blankets. He smiled brightly at Hue.
“Hue, are you going to sing more today? You’ll let me listen again, won’t you?” Petal hopped from the bed and allowed his feet to float slowly down to the floor, wobbling a little in the air. He came over to Hue and buried his face in his back, wrapping his arms around his waist. Hue froze in the act of putting a pot on the top of the stove to heat water.
Hue stiffened slightly, then said, “Ah, wouldn’t you rather stay in the cabin and rest? I’m only going out to visit Blue today.”
“Please, Hue? I won’t disturb you,” Petal pleaded.
Hue grimaced, feeling his fear of getting the fragile little fairy hurt crumble in the face of his innocent pleas. “Well, alright,” he agreed. “But tell me if you start to feel tired, okay? And you’ll have to eat something before you leave.”
Petal threw his arms up and cheered, spinning lightly on one heel. “Thank you, Hue! Don’t worry about me, I won’t be hungry for at least a few more days. You and Red fed me enough yesterday!”
Hue felt the tips of his ears grow hot, remembering the dripping tentacle that slid in and out of Petal’s mouth. “A shower! I uh, I’d better go take a shower. I’ll be right back.” Hue escaped outside to a waiting bucket of cold water.
Hue inspected the hole he had dug for Blue before all Hell had broken loose the day before. Blue’s tentacle remained lifelessly flopped across the freshly dug earth, and Hue couldn’t see any signs that it had moved during the night. Petal crunched across the fallen pine needles beside him, seemingly indifferent to the sharp leaves on his bare feet. He cocked his head, listening.
“Hue, why is Blue so quiet?” Petal asked.
They both looked to Blue’s center, which sprouted from rocky soil closer to the cliffs that bordered the beach. No flowers bloomed today, so Blue’s branches and exposed tentacles remained an unbroken steel gray color.
Hue shook his head, answering, “I think Blue doesn’t care for the soil that it’s in now. Problem is, I can’t get it to wake up enough to burrow down into this better ground here.” Hue looked up quickly. “Petal, do you think you could wake Blue up?”
Petal looked uncertain. “I’m not sure. I can hear the song, but it’s faint. And it’s singing in a language that I’ve never…” He turned his head to the other side, lips moving. Finally, he shook his head. “I can’t understand it. But Hue, don’t you know the words?”
Hue shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid I don’t.”
Petal ran fingers lightly over the tentacle. “Such a pretty color.”
“Petal, won’t you at least dance for Blue? Maybe it’ll wake up just to see you dance,” Hue suggested, a little shocked at his boldness.
Petal didn’t seem to mind, and asked, “Will you help me balance?” The fairy held out an arm to demonstrate for Hue.
Hue held an arm straight out, and his breath caught as Petal began to whirl and spin, much as he had when Hue last glimpsed him on the top of the pine tree. When he wobbled, Petal reached out and held on to Hue’s hand, using him for balance. When Petal brought up one leg almost to his chest, Hue felt his whole body grow warm.
When he looked away to catch hold of his racing heart, he noticed that Blue’s outstretched tentacle had actually lifted several feet off the ground and was bobbing to the rhythm of Petal’s spins. “Petal, it’s working! You’re doing it!” Hue cheered.
Petal’s eyelids fluttered open, and he held one hand outstretched to the languid tentacle. Blue moved to meet his fingertips, the tip moving slowly into Petal’s palm. “Hue, it wants you to sing!” Petal cried.
Hue stood dumbfounded. “I don’t know how,” he admitted, loath to let the little fairy down.
Blue’s tentacle extended more, wrapping around Petal’s chest and underneath his arms. Petal laughed softly at the touch and lifted his feet up, allowing Blue to hold him up completely. Hue’s head spun, seeing Petal offered up just out of arm’s reach.
“That’s right, Hue! I can hear your song. Sing louder!” Petal encouraged.
Blue moved Petal closer, as if it could hear Hue’s innermost desires. If Hue extended an arm now, he could caress Petal’s exposed belly, maybe run a finger down his hip bone, rip off his skirt, grasp the part of him below that was rising up and peeking out between the strips of fluttering cloth… Hue looked up, meeting Petal’s intense gaze.
Petal held his arms out to Hue and said simply, “Sing with me.”
Hue forced his next words out with jaw clenched. “I don’t want to hurt you Petal. My hands are fit only to wrestle with monsters.”
Petal shut one eye and winced. Blue’s tentacle relaxed, drooping Petal almost down to the ground. The fairy clutched at Blue to keep from falling, and said, “Hue, don’t stop your song now. Please. I might be small, but I’m not fragile. Please, sing with me!” He reached his arms out again to Hue.
Two steps forward and Hue was standing directly in front of Petal. He clutched his waist to move him up higher, and he kissed Petal with an urgency that surprised both of them. Petal gasped, and then shivered as Hue moved his tongue deeply into his mouth.
Blue’s tentacle snapped awake at Petal’s soft sounds, once again holding the fairy high so Hue could easily deepen the kiss further. Hue placed one hand at Petal’s back, stroking gently and making Petal shiver once more.
Hue finally broke their kiss, and both human and fairy alike gasped for air. Hue felt something at his leg and was shocked to see several more of Blue’s tentacles surrounding them. One moved lazily around Hue’s feet, while several more circled around Petal’s wrists and ankles. The tentacle around Petal’s chest moved up and away, and Petal squirmed at the caress against his nipples.
“Blue, a bit higher for me?” Hue motioned upwards with his hand and Petal was instantly, obediently moved higher into the air. He buried his face into Petal’s chest, then took one of his nipples into his mouth and massaged gently with his tongue.
“Hue!” Petal gasped and squirmed, held tight by man and Man Eater both.
Hue looked up into Petal’s desperate gaze. “Petal, does it feel good?”
“Feels… good!” Petal gasped. “More, Hue!”
Hue tugged at Petal’s waist to draw him down closer so their lips could once again meet. Hue greedily drank down Petal’s moans and pulled the fairy even closer so his erection could rub against Hue’s belly as they kissed. Hue slowly, teasingly moved a hand down from Petal’s nipple, over his hips, and finally grasped his throbbing cock. It was already wet with precome, and Petal shuddered at the touch.
“Hue! Wait, I’m about to…!” Petal gasped.
“C’mon Petal. Add your voice to the song,” Hue said softly. He pumped his hand up and down, and sealed Petal’s lips once more with his own as he cried out and came. Hand now wet, Hue reached behind Petal to loosen him. Blue’s tentacles swarmed his hand, surprising Hue with their intensity. When he looked up, he found that Petal’s hair had turned a light blue from the amount of flowers that bloomed up and down the waving tentacles that now surrounded them both.
Petal looked up too, then jumped in surprise as a flower dripped nectar across his cheek. Droplets that had been as scarce as desert rain the week before now showered down over them. Laughing, Hue reached out a hand to collect some of the moisture.
Hue began, “Petal, are you sure you can–!”
Petal leaned forward and kissed Hue while moving his hips back slightly to open himself further to Hue’s probing fingers. Hue pressed his fingers inside Petal, feeling the fairy clench and shudder around him. Blue added a small tentacle to Hue’s fingers, and Petal cried out happily. “Hue, so full! I’m about to–!”
“Not so fast, now,” Hue murmured. “Blue, turn him around for me.”
The plant withdrew its tentacle from inside Petal and plunged it deep into the rich soil at their feet. Several more tentacles moved to caress Petal’s cock as his whole body was turned around.
“Wait! I want Hue to–!” Petal protested.
“Here I come, Petal,” Hue reassured.
Hue covered his own throbbing cock with more of the dripping nectar, then pushed himself inside the fairy. Waves of pleasure burst through Hue, making even the soles of his feet tingle. He wrapped a hand across Petal’s soft belly, and began to thrust.
Petal’s delicate sounds of pleasure were cut off as a tentacle pushed its way into his mouth. Petal clenched down around Hue’s cock, almost pushing him to climax. Hue halted his thrusting to push the tentacle away. Petal looked back questioningly.
“I want to hear your voice, Petal,” Hue explained. He replaced the tentacle with two of his fingers, and Petal licked them eagerly as he began to thrust once more. Hue removed his hand from the fairy’s mouth and used it to stroke Petal’s cock instead. Blue’s tentacles moved away obediently, and Petal’s musical cries filled the air as Hue caressed him in front and filled him from the back.
“Hue!” Petal threw his head back and shuddered as his pleasure carried him away.
Hue cried out as he came too, clutching tightly to Petal as Blue’s tentacles surrounded them both. They held for a moment, as shivers of pleasure continued to hit like aftershocks. Finally, Blue’s tentacles loosened and began to rumble below ground all throughout the ground below their feet.
Hue’s knees suddenly buckled, and Petal fell on top of him, laughing. Hue clutched him tight, breathing in the fresh smell of his hair.
“I’ve never sung a song like that before,” Petal said softly. He pushed himself up on his elbows, resting on Hue’s chest. “But don’t you need to collect the Nectar?”
Hue ran a finger under Petal’s chin, making him giggle. “I’m sure Blue will leave us out a few flowers for later, don’t you think? For now…” He pulled Petal’s chin forward so he could press their lips together once more. Petal happily opened his mouth, making soft exhalations as Hue trailed a finger across his bare back.
Hue spent the next week in a happy daydream. He and Petal roamed the forest and the rocky cliffs together, visiting each of Hue’s plants. Petal listened to the quiet song that each Man Eater hummed in their sleep, then he and Hue sung together to awaken them once more. Yellow held Petal tight as Hue teased and tickled every inch of his body with light touches before turning his giggles into exhalations of delight. Green preferred Hue’s tongue on Petal, and Hue took Petal down deep into his mouth over and over. Pink fed Petal droplets of nectar that heightened his pleasure and had him clinging to Hue in ecstasy. They kept their distance from Red, and Red rumbled in the opposite direction of whatever area they visited.
Petal’s wings were restored on their tenth day together. Petal floated up above Hue’s head and then joyously zoomed through the air, twirling, looping, swooping. After a dizzying display that would have sent him crashing back down to the ground without the support of full wings, he drifted back directly above Hue. He changed position to give Hue the best view under his fluttering skirt and smiled at Hue’s appreciative gaze. Hue held his arms out, and Petals eyes flashed with happiness as he rushed into Hue’s offered embrace.
“Petal. There’s one more plant I’d like you to meet,” Hue said.
“You mean Red? Really?” Petal spun in excitement before flitting to the ground once more. “But I thought Red didn’t like me very much. It pulled me down, after all, but hasn’t come around since then. Isn’t it living all throughout the forest?”
Hue nodded and said, “Red stretches for miles and miles. But Red is… well, it’s different from the others. Red is dangerous.” Hue shook his head at Petals raised eyebrow. “No I’m not just saying that because you’re small. Red can be a danger to any living being, even me. That’s why I told it to keep its distance. Well, I asked it.” He squeezed Petal’s hand. “That’s why, if you’d still like to meet him, I need you to understand that there is real danger in being around Red.”
Petal looked up solemnly. “Red is precious to you, isn’t it?”
Hue nodded once in silent confirmation.
“Then let it come to me, Hue! I want to know Red too,” Petal said brightly.
Hue bent down to kiss Petal, then nibbled at his earlobe, making him giggle. They went hand-in-hand into the forest, Hue walking and Petal floating lazily a few feet above the ground and letting Hue pull him forward. After they walked for some minutes, Hue sometimes stopped briefly to pound a heel into the ground, sending out a signal. Soon a distant rumble announced that Red had detected their presence. Petal had just settled lightly on the ground when Red exploded out of the earth in front of them, showering them both in dirt and leaves.
Hue stepped forward quickly, reaching a hand out for Red to touch. “Red, I brought Petal. You remember him, don’t you?” He squeezed hard on a tentacle. “But we never, ever, hurt Petal. Okay?”
The mass of tentacles slowed slightly and turned towards Petal when he stepped beside Hue. He cocked his head to the side, staring solemnly upwards. When he reached out his own hand, a thinner tentacle extended slowly to curl around his fingers.
Hue kept his attention focused on Red as more tentacles slowly, cautiously wound around Petal, circling and gently caressing. Petal’s laugh put Hue more at ease. It seemed that Red intended to behave obediently. A large tentacle rose in front of Petal, sprouting a huge red flower as big as Hue’s head that dripped with nectar. Hue moved to cover his nose, but Red didn’t release any puffs of hallucinogenic pollen.
Petal stroked a waxy petal of Red’s flower appreciatively. “Red, you’re lovely! It’s nice to meet you again!”
The flower fell from the tentacle and landed at Petal’s feet. With one more caress for Petal and Hue both, the mass began to sink back below the surface.
“Red!” Hue called out. He threw another piece of dried meat that was eagerly snapped up by a retreating tentacle. “Good, Red! Thank you.”
When the earth had completely stopped shaking and they could barely hear Red’s rumble in the distance, Petal excitedly jumped into Hue’s arms. Hue hugged him back, laughing. He carried Petal all the way back to the cabin that way, nestled in his arms. When they stepped into the clearing of the cabin, Hue put Petal down carefully.
Petal cocked his head and asked, “Hue? Was I too heavy? Your arms…”
Hue shook his head. “Sorry, I guess I might be a little nervous.” He cleared his throat. “Petal, I’d like to ask you something. Your wings have grown back, but well…” Hue paused, waiting for the tremor in his voice to smooth out. “I was hoping that maybe you’d consider living with me here?”
He didn’t dare look down to read Petal’s expression, so he blurted out the rest in a rush as he squinted at the sinking sun. “I mean, I’m sure you have family and friends somewhere else, so, well, I mean you wouldn’t need to be here all the time, but if you came back some of the time, what I mean to say is that I just love you so much-” Hue stopped, color rising in his cheeks. He hadn’t meant to say the last part.
His surprise at his blurted confession was increased when Petal leapt into his arms. He fell backwards into the soft grass with Petal perched on top of him, laughing. “I love you too, Hue! I want to stay here with you. You’ll really let me?”
Hue gripped Petal tightly, one arm around his back and his other arm cupped behind Petal’s neck. “Of course. Stay with me.”
Petal moved forward to meet his lips with Hue’s, laughing as Hue moved a hand lower to cup his bottom. He could feel Hue getting hard beneath him, so Petal broke their kiss and scooted down Hue’s body to rub his cheek against Hue’s dick. “Fill me up a little more, Hue?” the fairy asked.
The next morning, Hue and Petal stood on the porch, watching the sun rise over the forest. Petal started to float, stretching his wings and moving this way and that to warm himself in the morning light.
Petal finally turned his back to the rising sun and said, “Hue, I think I should go back to my home Garden. Just for today! This forest has a reputation, so I want to let everyone know that I’m okay.”
Hue nodded, then looked back to Petal in surprise. “A reputation? What reputation?”
Petal shrugged. “Some say there are strange disappearances, out here at the edge of the world. Or that strange songs come from the trees.” He laughed. “Well, there are strange songs. But the rest is just some old story to keep us flying over farms. Still, I should probably let them know.”
Hue reached out for his hand and squeezed. “Of course. Will you be okay by yourself?”
Petal laughed and said, “I came by myself all those other times, didn’t I?” He leaned down, giving Hue a lingering kiss. “I’ll be back tonight. Or tomorrow night at the latest. Okay?”
“Okay. I’ll be waiting. I love you,” Hue said with a smile
Petal burst into the air, shouting back as he climbed higher. “I love you too!”
Hue watched him fly off over the trees, squeezing his eyes shut as Petal flew directly in the line of the rising sun. When he reopened his eyes, Petal had already disappeared. He turned to start his chores for the day.
With the sunlight glaring into his eyes, Hue didn’t see the single tentacle that exploded high above the trees. It snared Petal by the ankle and pulled him below the treetops before he could even make a sound.
On the morning of the third day, Hue stood on the porch at first light, staring in the direction of the rising sun. His stomach was twisted in knots and his heart felt heavy with dread. Something must have happened. He paced back and forth, occasionally pausing to look fruitlessly up in the sky. He couldn’t fly like Petal, and he could only begin to travel in the direction he had flown. How could he expect to find where Petal had gone? Fairy groups were notoriously secretive, and “Petal” was a name known only to Hue and Petal himself, so Hue couldn’t exactly ask around for him by name.
Hue walked to the edge of the forest, then walked back to his porch. He shook his head, then returned to the trees once more. No option seemed good, but he just had to do something. Hue clenched his fists and closed his eyes. What would Petal do?
Hue cocked his head, imitating Petal. “Petal would listen for a song,” Hue murmured to himself.
He heard a distant rumble from Red. Birdsong as the sun rose. Crashing of waves at the coast. The damned lonely whoosh of wind through pine needles. He sat down on a carpet of pine needles, at a loss. The morning breeze died down and Hue unconsciously held his breath as the whole forest seemed to pause.
Hue sat up straight, eyes shooting open. Just now… He concentrated, listening as hard as he could. The breeze picked up again, continuing its lonely song, but Hue stubbornly held his breath, waiting. For that brief moment of quiet, it seemed like another song had echoed through the trees, just loud enough to reach his ears.
On a whim, Hue put his ear down to the ground, once more holding his breath. There! The song had no words and the melody somehow slipped from his mind as soon as he pulled his head up from the forest floor, but he had no doubt of who could sing such a song. Hue’s heart sped, and a jolt of adrenaline burst through him. Petal’s here! And he’s calling me!
Hue ran back to the cabin to retrieve his satchel, then threw himself back down in the same patch of earth, listening. The call came again. Hue burst up, not bothering to remove the pine needles that clung to his clothes and hair, and moved into the trees.
As the coolness of the morning gave way to the heat of midday, Hue’s pace began to quicken. At first he had stopped often, frequently needing to backtrack and search around for the direction of the faint song. But now he was deep in the forest and Petal’s cry was growing louder and louder.
Hue crouched down to the ground to listen, no longer needing to place his head directly to the earth. The song flowed through his mind, the feeling of hopeful loneliness lingering until he stood up once more and the melody slipped from his memory. He must not have even made it beyond the edge of the forest. Hue glanced around, wary. He usually left this area alone for Red to own completely. This far from the cabin, Red wouldn’t need to travel beneath the ground, it could simply have tentacles embedded permanently under the very ground on which he stood.
Hue walked until he came to a ledge with a sharp dropoff. He paced at the edge, looking for a safe path down. He heard a faint sound, and once more placed his ear close to the ground. He recoiled sharply in surprise as the song blasted into his mind. He’s close! A muted rumble and sounds of crumbling earth sounded below him. Hue leaned over the edge of the ledge and sucked in his breath. The ledge wasn’t a ledge at all, but the top of a cave. Hue struggled for a few minutes before picking a winding path along the side to stand on the ground at the entrance of the cave.
He almost shouted out, but caught his words before they passed his lips. If Red was the one who had taken Petal, he would need the element of surprise to get him back. Instead he stepped lightly inside the cave, keeping a hand on the damp rock along the side. Hue approached a large boulder and peaked over. Nothing moved where the outside light illuminated, but he could hear echoes from deeper inside where the sun couldn’t reach.
Hue walked farther inside and then paused to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. He saw a glow ahead and stepped forward slowly so his footsteps didn’t echo. A strange plant grew from the side of the cave, looking like an average succulent except for the constant glow that emitted from the center of its leaves. Hue brought his face close, almost blinded by its light. He reached out a finger to touch, then pulled his hand back. If it was somehow connected to Red, he couldn’t risk giving away his presence. Once his eyes readjusted once more, Hue could see a brighter glow further down the path where the strange echoing sounds were coming from. He crouched beside the next bend and peaked around an outcrop.
The path opened into a huge chamber, and glowing plants flourished along the walls and ceiling so that the beings inside were clearly illuminated. Masses of Red’s tentacles exploded from the ground, from the walls, and from deeper inside. And sitting in the middle of every mass was unmistakably a fairy. Although most weren’t sitting at all, but squirmed, rocked, and writhed with the caresses of Red’s tentacles.
The fairy closest to Hue had his mouth filled with a dripping tentacle while several more slithered wetly across his rigid dick. He was caught in a sitting position, angled slightly backwards to allow easy access for the large tentacle that moved in and out of his ass with the same rhythm as the tentacle plunging into his throat. When the fairy climaxed, arching his back and crying out, tentacles furiously moved around his middle to collect the fallen come.
Another fairy was gripped tightly at the waist and positioned slightly downward, so that his come splashed across several waiting tentacles below. The fairy moaned in pleasure as another tentacle scooped away the last few drops of come from his shivering penis. The tentacle that had thrusted deep inside him a moment before withdrew, actually smacking across the fairy’s upturned ass with a sharp sound before yielding the hole to another waiting tentacle. The fairy’s eyelids fluttered as the appendage entered him
Similar scenes played out as far back as Hue could see, and cries of pleasure echoed all around. Red’s tentacles busily shuttled between writhing fairies and into the darkness further along the tunnel. Hue caught his breath at the sight of so many beautiful fairies performing such erotic dances. But he knew from a glance that Petal wasn’t among them.
Hue stood up and slowly walked around the boulder, wary of waving tentacles. The fairies didn’t call out, and Red’s tentacles were distracted with their lovely prizes. Hue moved deeper into the cave, hardly daring to breathe. Several fairies opened their eyes to watch Hue, but their gazes were distant and they soon returned their focus to Red.
A clear, musical laugh echoed from deeper inside the cave. Petal! Hue ran around a corner, looking desperately around. There!
Petal was in the back of the next cave chamber, locked inside a swarming mass of tentacles. Another fairy stood in front of him, using a finger to tickle Petal where the tentacles moved aside. The fairy leaned close to Petal’s ear, speaking quietly. Petal opened his mouth to respond, but gasped instead when Red’s tentacles slid wetly over his dick.
“Petal!” Hue shouted, unable to keep still a moment longer. Petal’s head shot up at once, and he called out to Hue. Hue ran forward, ignoring the surprised fairy beside him. “Petal! Are you okay?” Hue asked.
Petal nodded, trying to reach out a hand to Hue through the writhing tentacles. “I’m alright! Red pulled me down here, I don’t know how long ago. Hue, I tried to get free!” Petal was suddenly turned horizontally on his back by the mass of tentacles. Petal gasped in pleasure as he was caressed on his chest, belly, and twitching cock. Petal turned his head back, looking at Hue upside down, calling out, ”Hue!” as he reached his arms out. His wings were once more smaller than Hue’s palm.
Hue slapped at the tentacles closest to him and reached his own hand out to Petal’s. His path forward was suddenly blocked by the fairy that had been speaking to Petal. Hue took a step backward in surprise. He knew there would be resistance from Red, but Hue had expected the second fairy to be as timid as Petal had been when Ben had come for a Collection.
The fairy was beautiful, and his long dark hair was bound loosely behind his back. He stood firmly on the ground, and Hue couldn’t see any sign of wings. The fairy made an upward gesture with one hand, ignoring both Hue and Petal’s cries as the mass of tentacles encircling Petal pulled upward, dragging Petal out of Hue’s reach.
The fairy smiled, looking confidently up into Hue’s eyes. He said, “You must be Hue. I admit, I doubted that you would come.” He began his next words in the language of fairies, then stopped when he saw Hue’s look of confusion. His smile widened as he said, “Ah, you called him ‘Petal’? As I was saying, ‘Petal’ has joined us here with Master. As you can see, he is well taken care of, so you can return to the surface.”
Hue shook his head. “Petal belongs on the surface,” he declared, meeting the fairy’s gaze.
The fairy laughed, his voice musical. “Petal’s place is right here,” he said.
Petal called out above them, “Pollen, tell Red to let me go with Hue! Please, I–” A tentacle filled Petal’s mouth, cutting off his pleas.
The fairy shook his head, then shrugged. “I suppose ‘Pollen’ is as close to my real name as any human word can be expected to get. Very well. Hue, I am Pollen. I was Master’s first fairy. As you can see, Master has since acquired an entire Garden of us. Petal, as you call him, has found his true place here.”
Hue again shook his head. “Petal doesn’t want to be here! His place is…” Hue trailed off.
Pollen laughed, then said mockingly, “His place is with you, is that what you think?” He laughed again, his voice attracting the attention of several tentacles. They wrapped around Pollen’s waist, lifting him up slightly as he continued to speak. “As the self-proclaimed caretaker of this forest, you are surprisingly ignorant.”
Pollen opened his mouth to continue, then suddenly paused, turning an ear towards the interior of the cave. Hue looked up to Petal and saw he was also turning his head as if listening. The cave fell silent aside from the gentle exhalations of the fairies still wrapped in tentacles.
Petal finally broke the hush with a cry as the tentacles gripping him pulled away and he slipped downwards. Hue lunged forward, getting under Petal just in time to catch him before his feet touched the ground. Hue hugged Petal tight, feeling the little fairy squeeze him back. When Hue turned to the way he had entered, his path was blocked by an enormous wall of waving, lashing tentacles. Hue tensed.
Pollen spoke in a calm voice, saying, “Now, now, no reason for all of that. You’ve been granted a great honor. I’ll take you to Master now.” The tentacles gripping Pollen released their hold, and he walked deeping inside the cave.
Hue looked questioningly at Petal, who nodded.
“I think Red wants to talk with you, Hue,” Petal confirmed. He slid out of Hue’s arms, then reached out to grasp Hue’s hand. “Let’s go.”
Man and fairy walked side by side into darkness. The air grew chilly as they moved farther from the entrance, and the path forward grew dimer as the number of bioluminescent plants decreased. Finally they turned a corner and found Pollen sitting atop a dense ball of tentacles. A single light source grew above their heads.
Hue asked, “Is this Red’s core?”
Hue jumped, hearing own name echoing clearly in his head in a buzzing, low tone. He turned, but no one else was visible.
Pollen laughed again, seeing Hue’s confusion. “So you finally can hear Master! You call yourself a caretaker of these woods, and yet it took you this long to hear Master’s words for yourself.”
Hue opened and closed his mouth several times before he found his words. “You mean, that was Red? Red can talk?” Hue asked.
Hue. I am. Red. The voice buzzed into his head again. A slow-moving tentacle reached out and Hue met it with his own hand reflexively.
Hue stroked it wonderingly, and said, “Red, you’re truly a wonder!” He looked at the tentacle seriously, unsure of where else to focus his gaze. “But since you can understand my words, it means that you’ll remember our conversations about you leaving Petal alone.” His words were met with a wordless buzz that echoed in his mind.
Pollen spoke up, saying, “And what greater purpose could there be for a fairy than to serve Master? The other Man Eaters would be destroyed without Master to protect them. And how can Master keep its strength without us to feed it our own Nectar?”
Hue said, “I agree the Man Eaters should be safe. But I have a contract! As long as I’m here, you have my word I’ll prevent others from harming them!”
Pollen sat back against the mass of tentacles and ran his fingers over the rough surface of a tentacle that crawled over his lap. “But you are causing harm. Without Fairy Nectar, Man Eaters remain small and produce only a small number of flowers. And yet you find these precious few flowers and harvest Nectar just to give to other humans. How can Man Eaters grow strong if their Nectar is constantly harvested and they cannot attract other fairies?” Pollen countered.
Hue sighed and admitted, “I can’t exactly say you’re wrong. But please believe me that if I wasn’t here, others might simply destroy the forest out of fear. I’m doing all I can to keep Red and the rest of the Man Eaters safe.”
“Is the lesser of two evils really any less evil?” Pollen asked. “No, the only sure way is for Master to grow even stronger. Petal’s place is among us, to help Master achieve that.” Pollen watched as several tentacles reached for Petal and said, “See? Master has grown particularly fond of him already.”
Want. Petal. Red’s thoughts buzzed through Hue’s mind once more. Hue looked down to Petal.
Petal touched Red lightly, but stiffened when the tentacles began to pull him away from Hue. “Red, I’ll give you everything I can, but I want to stay on the surface with Hue!” Petal declared.
Red’s tentacles pulled on Petal harder, and his feet slid several inches closer to the mass upon which Pollen sat. Pollen was beginning to rock his hips to the rhythm of several tentacles, seemingly done with further discussion.
Hue gripped Petal by his shoulders with one arm while he shoved his other hand into his satchel and pulled out a long knife. It was a weak threat, but the only remaining bargaining chip they had. If Red decided to, it could easily take them both.
Hue lifted it high. “Red, we’ve been living together all these years, out here on the edge of things. It seems I wasn’t your only company, but you were mine. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to hurt you. But I will do both of those things to allow Petal to make his own choice. So what I need to know from you is what will you do? You’re no monster.”
Want. Petal. The same thought buzzed again, this time sounding slightly petulant.
“Well, I want him too. But the only one who gets to decide is Petal,” Hue said quietly. “I’ll do everything I can to stop the Collections and make sure you and the others are completely safe. You have my word. Please, trust me that I will help you. Just as I trust you now that you’ll let Petal go.” Hue released his grip on Petal and stepped back.
Petal immediately slid closer to Red’s mass. He looked back at Hue desperately but didn’t speak or struggle. When he was pulled close enough for Pollen to reach out and caress his cheek, Petal simply said, “I want to be with Hue.”
Hue tensed, preparing to drive his weapon into the nearest tentacle. He knew he wouldn’t be able to survive Red’s full fury, but he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he let the little fairy be pulled into Red without a fight.
Suddenly the tentacles surrounding Petal fell away. Petal swayed slightly at the sudden change, then stood tall and faced the tentacles. Even Pollen stopped his movements as man and fairy alike waited for Red’s response.
Red. Will. Trust.
Red’s thoughts were barely more than a whisper, but Petal immediately turned and leaped into Hue’s arms, laughing as he buried his face into Hue’s neck. Hue laughed back, clutching him tight. He looked over Petal’s shoulder and saw Red had already turned its attention back to Pollen.
Hue whispered, “Thank you, Red.” He put the knife back into its sheath, but paused before tucking it back into his satchel. Instead he tossed the weapon beside Red’s core, where it was immediately swallowed below ground by a tentacle. “We won’t let you down,” Hue promised.
When they reached the entrance of the cave, Petal struggled in Hue’s arms until Hue set him gently to the ground. Petal silently looked back to the cave, cocking his head once more. Hue stilled his breath and listened, but heard only birdsong and the wind through pine needles.
Petal finally turned back to Hue, a sunny smile lighting up his face. “Hue, let’s go home!”
Hue clutched Petal’s lower back with one arm, using his other hand to draw Petal’s cheek upwards for a kiss. Petal obliged happily, opening his mouth and meeting Hue’s tongue with his own.
Hue smiled. “Welcome back, my love.”
Ben pressed his back against the porch door, nervously scanning the woods. Something rumbled close to the edge of the trees, and another rumble along the rocky cliffs towards the beach was followed by the clattering of rocks rolling downhill.
He knocked gently at the door, afraid to call attention to his position. “Hue? Hue, it’s me. C’mon, open up,” he said quietly.
Something shook the tops of the trees nearby, making it look like a windstorm was blowing through a very select area of the forest. Ben’s eyes widened, and he knocked louder with his back still pressed against the door, not quite daring to take his eyes off the trees.
“Hue!” The door opened suddenly and Ben stumbled backwards into the cabin.
Hue said, “Ben, you’re early. You should have knocked louder, I didn’t hear you.” Hue blinked in confusion as Ben hurried to slam the door shut again.
Once the door was bolted, Ben finally turned his attention to Hue. “What the hell’s going on out there, Hue?” he asked.
Hue walked to the window and looked out. He suddenly turned back in alarm, realizing only Ben had made it inside the cabin. “Ben, you didn’t lose Kid out there somewhere, did you?” he asked, already moving to put on his boots.
Ben said, “What? Oh, the kid? No, of course not. He hates coming out here, says it’s creepy. But now I want to know what you did to these damn woods, Hue. It is creepy. Like the whole damn place is alive!”
“You’re right about that,” Hue said with a smile. “More alive than ever.”
Ben was aghast. “Hue. I mean it, what happened out here? To you? I haven’t seen you crack a smile in years and now your woods are more monster than tree and you’re smiling?”
Hue ignored his question, but came over to sit beside Ben at his table. “Did you bring the list I asked for last time?”
Ben sighed and nodded. “I brought it, but you should know the Boss won’t let you go easily.” He pulled a stack of papers from his back pocket, pointing as he talked. “To buy out your contract alone, that’s this here. The cabin and the acre it sits on, right here. And for the rest of the land from the train station to the coast, here. Well, his offer is a little low for the forest, but of course it’s filled with monsters, so I think he was willing to make a deal.”
Hue scanned each page, then stood up and disappeared into his closet.
Ben made a calming gesture with his hands and said, “I know, Hue, I know. I told you it was impossible. Look, I brought your regular order here. Just fill that and I’ll see about getting you another break. Why don’t you come back…”
Ben trailed off when Hue put a wooden crate down on the table. It was filled with vials of every color, packed tightly and sealed with wax. Hue pointed a finger over the lines on each page, mouthing the words as he counted.
Hue paused in his counting and said, “One sec, Ben. I should have the rest.” He returned to his closet and brought out two more containers, each bursting with a rainbow of vials. He set them on the floor next to the table, hesitant to stack the precious liquid too high.
Ben opened his mouth, then closed it again. “I’ll, uh. I’ll need a hand to the train station.”
Hue walked back along the path to the cabin, periodically pressing a hand to his pocket to make sure Ben’s hastily written receipt wasn’t a lovely daydream brought on by Red’s pollen. Still there. Still there. Still there!
After the precious paper was safely transferred from his pocket to the now-empty vial closet, Hue finally let his breath out. He reached for his satchel as he stepped back outside, but let his arm fall to his side just before his fingers brushed the strap. His fingers tingled with the urge to grab something, to be prepared, so he walked instead to the patch of crops growing at the edge of the woods and plucked a few weeds that had snuck between rows of potatoes.
Trees shuddered from within the woods, urging Hue to roughly brush the dirt from his fingers and head towards the sound. In the distance he saw a flash of color, eye-catching against the green canopy and the pale blue sky.
When he emerged into the clearing, Hue stood back for some moments, silently watching. Petal danced above, performing graceful loops and spins in the air. Tentacles of all types lashed into the sky, blooming with a rainbow of flowers as they chased the fairy. Hue saw that even Blue had sent a sleepy tentacle into the clearing, although it only rose a few feet from the ground as it lazily tracked Petal’s movements high above.
Petal rose high above the ground and opened his arms teasingly towards the forest of tentacles below. He let the tentacles brush lightly against his skin before rising higher, urging the tentacles to follow. Petal widened his eyes when Hue finally stepped into view.
“Hue! You’re back!” Petal called.
Hue nodded and held his own arms out, matching the Man Eaters in front of him. Petal didn’t hesitate, and zoomed around the clutching tentacles and down into Hue’s arms. Hue braced his heel as Petal dropped, narrowly avoiding being knocked to the ground.
“Did you do it?” Petal asked.
“I did it,” Hue confirmed. “We did it.”
Red sent an insistent tentacle up at Hue’s feet and wrapped around Petal’s waist. Petal laughed and stroked the wrinkled surface.
“Red, did you hear that?” Petal asked.
Hue let Red hold Petal up and cupped a hand against the fairy’s cheek for a kiss. “The forest is ours,” he confirmed.
Petal cheered, all but disappearing in a wave of tentacles that responded to his cry. An afternoon breeze blew through the trees, but the lonely sound of wind through pine needles was drowned out by Petal’s laughter and the lashing of the multicolored appendages in front of him. Hue’s eyes widened when Petal became visible again from beneath the tentacles.
Petal’s arms were pulled out to each side above his head, and both legs were similarly spread apart. His skirt had been ripped away, and Petal was already hard against the stroking tentacles. Red pushed a tentacle into his mouth and Petal made a wet sound. Hue stepped forward before Red could drip nectar and moved the wet tentacle down so it could stroke a nipple instead.
“Hue,” Petal called dreamily.
Hue kissed Petal deeply and gripped his sides to feel his body squirm with the teasing touch of so many tentacles. Petal broke their kiss, his face red with passion, and pleaded Hue’s name once more.
Hue nodded, unable to wait longer himself. He pushed aside the tentacles that gripped Petal’s legs, and the fairy immediately wrapped his legs around Hue’s waist. With his ass spread even wider, Petal gasped as tentacles wetly pushed their way inside. Even the tentacles holding his arms now dropped away, fighting for a better position to squirm inside the fairy.
Petal put his arms around Hue’s neck, squeezing him tight. Hue impatiently pulled the tentacles away, and thrust his own throbbing cock deep inside Petal. The fairy cried out in ecstasy, rocking his hips to Hue’s rhythm.
They lost themselves to their passion, and there at the lonely edge of the world where deep forest met rocky coastline and the endless sea beyond, the forest came alive.