illustrated by Iron Eater
“I know, I know, I’m trying to relax,” Bryce muttered, grinding the palm of their hand across their temple. “I wasn’t expecting… God, there are so many people here.”
Truth be told, Aadyl wasn’t feeling completely confident either. Only a couple thin layers of velvet curtain separated them both from the collective paralyzing stare of the audience. The yearly Exposition Gala was a high-profile event that always brought folks from all over the Otherlands to gawk, and this year the Gala’s open-air amphitheatre had a packed house of thousands. It was the premiere night, and everyone from the nobles in the very lowest front row to the freeloaders on the grassy lawns far out past the nosebleed seats expected to see wondrous displays of ingenuity, cunning and skill by the brightest minds in the realm. They wanted to see things they had never seen before, and that was a tall order considering nearly all of them were at least a couple centuries old.
“It’ll be fine. None of that will matter,” Aadyl whispered encouragingly, grasping Bryce’s hand tight. Behind faem, on stage, Kyria and Se’eck were busy running through a slight variation on the same routine they had done last year, juggling red-hot bottles of molten magma between each other and sloshing them around like paint to build a cocoon of twisted obsidian and pumice lattices around themselves. It was an impressive piece of earth magic, and they had tightened their act since the previous Gala, but the audience didn’t seem very engaged. Aadyl could hear the impatient murmur of conversation over the pair’s backing music. Tough crowd, fae mused. “All you need to do is focus on me. We’ve gone over this plenty of times together, there’s no need to worry.”
Bryce winced. “What if I choke, though? I’m just a human. I’m not even a very interesting human. How am I supposed to compete with that?” They motioned to Kyria and Se’eck spattering arcs of rock across the stage. “I mean, I really appreciate the opportunity, but I think maybe we should’ve rehearsed this in a smaller venue first, or even alone, I don’t mind if–”
“You know that would be missing the whole point of the exercise, Bryce.” Aadyl kept faer eyes fixed on faer hand gently rubbing Bryce’s. Even though fae was wearing dark glasses, Bryce could still tell when fae was making eye contact, and the last thing fae needed was for them to get… uncomfortable before their performance. “Remember how insistent you were about this last night? Going on and on about shocks to the system?”
“Yeah, but now that I’m here, in your world or dimension or whatever, it’s… I mean, it’s all kind of a bit much. There’s barely enough magic back on my world to scrape together a basic summoning. This place practically sizzles with it, like I’m inside of a giant microwave oven.”
“Then that should make our act easier, shouldn’t it?” Aadyl smiled. “If you feel like you can’t carry on at any point, though, just think your safephrase at me and I’ll get you out of here immediately. Your health and safety is more important than some petty little talent show.”
Bryce closed their eyes and steadied their breathing, just like Aadyl taught them: inhale-one-two-three-four-five-six-seven, exhale-one-two-three-four. Fae was right. No matter how intense their private sessions had gotten, Bryce could power through them knowing he could trust Aadyl with their mind, body and soul. While fae would be trying out some… techniques here that weren’t possible back home, fae and Bryce had planned out their act’s details together, with Bryce insisting that their first public session should push them to their very limits. A shock to the system, in front of a live studio audience, as far from the comfort of home as it was possible to get.
They knew they weren’t going to get another chance like this. It was now or never. It was finally time to transmute the last of their fears into sweet desire.
“Okay,” they whispered. “Okay, let’s do this.”
“Are you certain you’re ready?” Aadyl said.
“No. But it’s as close as I’ll get.”
I am so completely not ready for this, Bryce thought, squirming in their armchair and staring at the floor. The stage lights were so bright, but they could still see the vast, monstrous audience stretching up and up and up and–
“So how did you manage to get in contact with me?” Aadyl asked pleasantly, as if it were a perfectly normal conversation. Fae had urged them to start with an interview segment so the crowd could get to know Bryce better; the Gentry needed to understand that Bryce was complex and interesting, and not just an insignificant ant from the next dimension over. On the whole, Aadyl’s kin were very very interested in humans, occasionally dangerously so, but it was a collective interest and not a personal one.
Which is why Aadyl, as brilliant and imposing a glamour-weaver as you’d care to meet, had been funneling faer energy for the better part of the last year into working closely with one single person. One complex, contradictory, beautiful person, as fae had put it when Bryce had asked.
“I, uh. Friend. Asked a friend,” Bryce replied. God, I bet I sound so stupid, they thought. Maybe if I left now– But dashing off this early in the performance could be an even more embarrassing idea.
“She’s changeling on her mom’s grandma’s side. Showed me how to call fairies with–” Shit. “I’m sorry, the Gentry. I learned how to contact members of the Gentry.”
A worried murmur rose from the audience. All connections to Earth were supposed to be restricted-access these days. “No, no, it’s okay! I’m bound from telling any other humans how to do it! It was part of the spell!” Bryce added hastily. “And besides, I wasn’t even that good at it. I could really only contact random people until I found Aadyl.”
“As you might remember, my previous year’s studies involved measuring radio wave bleedover from Earth into our world,” Aadyl explained. “There was this pattern of brief, intense spikes coming from one specific location, at one specific time every day, for a week straight.”
“I had to do it when my roommate was at the gym,” Bryce said weakly. “Too noisy.” Scattered laughter.
Aadyl continued. “So I did some number-crunching and figured out how to reroute the summoning spell to me. And, once I made it extensively clear that I wasn’t going to kill Bryce, or steal them away, or grant them some kind of ludicrous backfiring monkey’s paw wish for my own twisted amusement… we got to talking.” Fae stretched faer long, spindly arms wide, grinning madly. “Talking like two courteous, respectful sapient beings! It’s an outlandish concept, I know!”
As fae continued, Bryce silently fiddled with the drawstrings of their hoodie. Aadyl, as friendly as fae was, was weird enough to look at – the long arms, the rows of sharp little teeth, the way faer mouth never seemed to make the right shapes to fit the words fae were saying. But out there in the darkness loomed larger, stranger-looking things that saw Bryce as just another cheap, useless toy to be broken and thrown away. Or a dumb animal, dragged on stage to–
“Er, Bryce?” Aadyl waved a slender hand at them. “Are you all right?”
Bryce snapped to attention. “Oh! Yeah, sorry. What was the question again?” Worrying was stupid. There was nothing this audience could throw at them that their amazing mind hadn’t already.
“I asked why you sought my help.”
“Sure. It’s kind of hard to talk about, but…” Fuck it. “I’m really messed up. Like. I can’t look at people, I can’t talk to people. It’s like, I don’t know, I freeze up or something.” Bryce felt the words rushing out of them like water through a breaking dam. “It takes me forever to become friends with people, and I’m constantly paranoid they’re going to just snap and start hating me. Because I’m not funny, because I’m not smart. Because I’m…” They could feel the muscles around their eyes screwing tight. The trick to keep from crying, they’d learned long ago, was to quickly shunt it into some other physical reflex. “Because I’m not… really… good-looking. Sometimes I get these thoughts, like I’m this dumpy freak who’s frustrating everyone just by continuing to exist. Like I never deserved to.” They dug the fingernails of their left hand deeper into the soft flesh of their right. Focusing on other small, sudden physical reflexes could distract their brain from kicking their tear ducts into gear. “And I hate thinking like that. I. Hate. It.”
“And you’ve talked about this to others?” Aadyl asked.
“No. I mean, a little. I didn’t want to make everyone worried. I tried four different therapists and I couldn’t talk to any of them — I was just lighting money on fire every week. And these fears just kept coming even through the antidepressants. I didn’t think anything on Earth could fix me, so I… I…” The reflex-shunting technique had its limits, however.
“Hey,” Aadyl said. “It’s okay, Bryce. I’ve got you. Look at me, Bryce.”
Bryce blinked and looked up. Aadyl had taken off faer glasses.
There were a lot of things about Aadyl that looked pretty unusual, by Bryce’s standards, but faer eyes took the cake. They were a solid, uniform gold with a delicate hairline design of intersecting circles and crosses, and when they had first met Aadyl Bryce assumed they were some kind of weird jewelry or something. But if you looked closer you could see the crosses shifting and rearranging, with glittering speckles of a million different colors swirling around them. Bryce could stare at faer eyes for hours. They had stared at faer eyes for hours, in the past. And as they stared at those eyes now, Bryce began to relax in the same familiar way as in practice, letting all of their anxious, caustic thoughts melt away so they could focus more intensely on those two beautiful, shining points.
“Just relax, and look into my eyes,” Aadyl said. Faer loud, clear stage voice had lowered to a calmer, quieter tone as fae slowed into a clear, even speaking pattern. “I’ve got you. Relax, and look at me. Imagine we’re back in your room, just the two of us. Relax.”
Bryce’s fists unclenched; they couldn’t remember why their hands were shut so tight in the first place. The only thing that came to mind was all the previous times Aadyl had done this with them. It had been difficult at first, but over time Bryce grew to appreciate the tranquil internal stillness they got from practicing with Aadyl. It was a warm, safe place, like a mental pillow fort, and it felt easier to reach every time fae brought them back to it.
“Just like back home, okay, Bryce? Safe at home, with no distractions. Just listen to my voice, and feel your body getting heavier. Feel your eyelids getting heavier, as they drift lower… and lower… and lower…”
Aadyl had an amazing talent for keeping faer eyes open far, far longer than any person should plausibly be able to, Bryce sleepily mused. They’d have to ask faem how fae does it, because it was getting harder and harder for them to keep their eyes open…
“You’re tired, aren’t you? Feel each muscle in your body relax and loosen itself, feel all that built-up tension and anxiety and stress flow out of your body with every exhale. Each joint in your body is a knot that’s you can slowly unravel, one by one, starting at your hands and feet and gradually working your way towards your core. I’m going to count backwards from twenty, and with each number you’re going to loosen another knot. And by the time you’ve reached your core and undone the last knot, you’ll be completely relaxed, and the last little bit of tension will leave your body, and you’ll feel comfortable and relaxed enough to slip into deep trance. Ready, Bryce?”
Eyes shut, head drooping, Bryce managed to eke out a slight nod. The first few times they had done this, they hadn’t managed to go under so easily, but time and practice (and admittedly no small amount of arousal) had honed their mind into a perfect receiver for Aadyl’s guided induction.
“Good, Bryce. Twenty… eyes closed… nineteen… slowly working your way up your legs… eighteen…”
Bryce dipped into slow, rhythmic breaths as they felt their legs go limp, then their arms. By the time Aadyl had counted down to ten, they felt like a deflated balloon, letting all their nervous thoughts leak out of their mouth and away into the humid evening air. By the time fae had counted to five, they had stopped feeling anything in their mind besides faer words.
By the time Aadyl got to one, Bryce was under.
“What a lot of us have always taken for granted regarding humans,” Aadyl continued, addressing the audience, “is that their lives are so very, very short compared to ours.” The performance was going swimmingly so far — the Gala attendees seemed engaged, if only thanks to the pure novelty of seeing a real live human onstage, and Bryce had dissolved into trance as smoothly as sugar in tea. They sat slumped in their armchair, breathing heavily, eyes rolled back beneath drooping lids. A mildly impressive trick, but the show was just beginning.
“For untold aeons, we’ve looked down our noses at them. After all, they’re just crude, pitiful creatures obsessed with pointless mortal trivialities, right? Half a million years to develop, and they’ve only just figured out magic? Seriously?” Laughter erupted from the crowd until Aadyl’s smile abruptly dropped. Fae held out faer hands, demanding silence. “But time is an endless resource for us. We can spend millennia without changing, without struggling and self-assessing and working towards something. This is why we have the Gala every year: to keep our culture from stagnating. Humans lack this luxury, so they must continually burn and reshape themselves in order to truly thrive.” Aadyl rose from faer seat and stood behind Bryce’s armchair, placing a hand on their cheek. “The internal conflicts we assumed were tiny and trivial are towering to them. They’re the only thing that matters. Until we truly understand that, we can never consider ourselves humans’ true equals.”
Dead silence in the amphitheatre. This wasn’t the usual brand of fireworks you saw on the Gala’s opening night.
“Working with Bryce has helped me begin to comprehend the true enormity of my ignorance,” Aadyl said. “And, in turn, I’ve attempted to use my meager talents to help them rise above their own battles. Bryce, would you stand, please?”
Slowly, clumsily, Bryce hoisted themselves out of their chair.
“And walk the front of the stage so everyone can see you, if you’d be so kind.”
Bryce took a few wobbly steps closer to the stage’s edge. Their eyes were still closed.
“Very good, Bryce. Remove your clothes.”
For a moment, Bryce was perfectly still. If they were conscious, the mere thought of stripping in front of anyone, much less strangers, would be agonizing to them. But they had let Aadyl in their driver’s seat, and the only thing they could possibly want to do was listen to faer voice and do what fae wanted them to do. Bryce’s hands snapped back into motion, unzipping their hoodie and unfastening their belt.
Smoothly, methodically, Bryce stripped out of their jacket, their sweater, their pants, and their t-shirt, only to stop again when their fingers closed around the waistband of their boxer briefs. “All your clothes, please,” Aadyl intoned. Bryce hesitantly nodded again and slipped the underwear off, pausing while bent over to pull off one sock, then the other. It was a warm, muggy night, and the hot lights of the stage made the sweat on their naked, trembling skin glisten.
“Wonderful! I knew you could do it.” Aadyl turned to the audience. “I want you all to pay attention closely. Bryce, like all humans, can’t cast any glamours or shapeshift. They only have one body, and they didn’t get to design it before inhabiting it. Personally,” fae admitted, running their fingers across Bryce’s chest, down their back, up their thigh as their breath caught in their throat, “I think it’s breathtaking. But time leaves its marks on humans far more indelibly than on ourselves, whether external or internal.” Aadyl caressed a faded scar from a teenage BMX accident on Bryce’s shoulder. Other scars, elsewhere. Crooked teeth. Stretch marks. Weak eyes. Blemishes. Body hair.
Aadyl smiled. “What Bryce craves, more than anything, is transcendence. They want to be something more than the vessel they were shackled with at birth. The piercings, the tattoos, the hair dye, all of these are human attempts to baffle and reshape that vessel, to define it on their own terms.” Fae leaned close to Bryce’s ear, lowering faer voice to a stage whisper. “You want confidence. Sensuality. The courage to leave yourself vulnerable.” Fae took Bryce’s hand and gently guided it between their legs. “Bryce? Touch yourself. For all the good people watching.”
Bryce bit their lip, inhaling sharply. Something deep inside of them might’ve been screaming, urging them to stop, run, escape. But they weren’t in any real danger, were they? They knew they could trust Aadyl with anything— not just as a lover or a hypnotist, but as a friend. Fae wouldn’t have brought them here if fae didn’t have control of the situation. With their eyes closed, they could believe they were both still back in Bryce’s bedroom, blinds drawn, with nobody to watch save for each other. Their cock twitched and stirred as their hand began to stroke it slowly.
And besides, it felt so deliciously good to perform for Aadyl. To make faem happy.
“Good,” Aadyl breathed. Bryce didn’t so much hear faer words as feel them fizzle and melt in their mind. “Little faster for me, babe. You’re doing so well. Everyone’s so impressed.” The thought of jerking off in front of a crowd of thousands should’ve been terrifying, but at the moment Bryce felt like they were gliding high over the idea while staring down at it impassively. Clearly they were already engaged in the act, so what was the point of getting anxious over it? It wasn’t their job to ask themselves why they were pumping their right hand up and down their dribbling shaft as their left hand ground a finger into the achingly tender spot beneath their balls. It really was out of their hands to even consider holding in the feathery little moans of need they let escape from each breath, or stilling the rolling of their needy hips. It simply wouldn’t do to question why they were coaxing themselves closer and closer to orgasm as an uncountable number of strangers watched them, helplessly transfixed by their unignorable, unapologetic lewdness.
No, all Bryce could do was follow Aadyl’s orders. Which wasn’t that bad, once Bryce realized once fae took the fear out of the equation they weren’t just indifferent — they were enjoying this. They paused to raise their hand and lick their gooey pre off of it dramatically before rolling their head back and picking up their pace, stroking harder and faster as their free hand groped their chest, dragged its nails across their thigh, clamped down on their neck, their knees weak and their heart pounding as they felt themselves rise and –
“Don’t come yet,” Aadyl commanded. “Not until I say you can.”
Something in Bryce’s mind abruptly seized up. They could feel the orgasm burning deep inside of them, but there was no way to actually set it free. It wasn’t just like Aadyl had removed Bryce’s ability to come, it was like fae had made them forget how to even try. Bryce shuddered, whining helplessly. They felt a slim finger trace their stiff, quivering cock’s length, back and forth.
“I really do adore seeing you this hard, Bryce.” Aadyl’s hand closed on them, and Bryce felt a drop of crackly liquid heat pass out of faer fingertip and into their length. Aadyl chuckled. “But you know? I think we’d all like to see you a lot harder.”
The heat seeped into Bryce’s body and sent a wave of pleasure crashing against their mind. This was the climax, the part of the act they couldn’t practice in Bryce’s bedroom beforehand. At first Bryce kept stroking themselves uselessly, unsure when the spell would kick in, but it was only a few moments before they felt their feet go cold. And stiff. And very, very heavy.
It wasn’t necessarily a difficult transmutation. Aadyl had practiced it so many times over the centuries that the specifics of the incantation had blurred with time and routine, and all fae had to do at this point was reach faer hand out and think vaguely of what fae wanted. Fae would’ve liked to claim the idea for this act was faers, but for all of Bryce’s insecurities they seemed to have an equally robust imagination.
But imagining something and having it actually happen turned out to be two entirely different things.
Bryce’s feet had already turned shiny and moon-white, shot through with wispy veins of grey. Their legs were trembling uncontrollably as their flesh petrified, turning to stone. Their hand continued to slide feverishly up and down their cock, still burning for release, but the spell shot up through their hips and up their shaft, freezing it into a stiff, lifeless pillar.
Their palm was still slick enough to keep rubbing, though. Bryce was enthralled enough, in the classical sense, to keep pulling that trigger even after it couldn’t possibly fire. Or until their arm turned to stone as well.
Even under trance, Bryce could feel the chill of the spell rise up through their midsection. Their growling stomach went dead quiet, their breaths grew shorter as their lungs hardened, and their nervous little heart suddenly stopped mid-beat. Aadyl had assured them they’d be fine, that this spell was built to ensure the subject would survive in a state of conscious stasis, but at the time Bryce had assumed it would be some sort of illusion or something. Their mind was still boiling, stripped of every errant thought save for their postponed white-hot orgasm and Aadyl’s soothing, helpful voice. They wanted to show off how good they were. They wanted to show all these people out in the audience how undeniably perfect they were at getting off, at being a debased, obscene sex monster who wouldn’t stop until their hunger was satiated. Which would’ve been fantastic to watch if their fingers hadn’t solidified. Their right hand was now frozen clinging to their cock mid-stroke, while their left was stuck prodding a nipple. All they could do was pant and moan helplessly for release as the spell crawled up their neck, over their ears, across their lips, behind their eyes, and into their brain.
“When you say you want to be ‘objectified’, are you sure you realize what that means? To become an object?”
They had talked about this before they had headed to the Otherlands. Bryce had asked them what turning to stone would be like.
“It’s the difference between doing and being. You’ll see.”
From the outside, Bryce was a gleaming white marble statue, frozen in a moment of ecstatic masturbation. If it had been carved, it would’ve been an impossible level of craftsmanship – every detail beautifully rendered, even the features Bryce normally hated. Not that they were in much of a position to hate anything at that point. Or to feel anything at all.
It was like looking at their own brain from above. Normally they had to juggle seventeen conflicting thought patterns in their head just to function, but the stone had silenced them, pressing them between layers of cold, heavy tranquility. They could see the signal to orgasm jammed deep in their pleasure center. They could see their old familiar anxieties locked in combat with strange new exhibitionist urges. And they could see the trance seeping into every corner and crack, locking Bryce’s mental patterns to the inexorable tide of Aadyl’s commands. It was so easy to see how everything fit together when it was fossilized like this.
Bryce would’ve sighed with relief if they had been able to sigh. Or feel relieved.
Deprived of their senses and most of their mental faculties, they could only manage the tiniest, weakest little thoughts, a pocket calculator whirring inside a derelict supercomputer. Something comes next, they thought. Something comes next, but I can’t remember what.
Outside, Aadyl traced every curve and contour of Bryce’s cold hard body for the rapt audience. Fae swung faer arms around their neck and passionately licked the smooth hard marble of their cheek, grinding faer hips against Bryce’s ass. It was almost tempting to keep them like this, as a kinky Galatea-in-reverse sort of arrangement. But Aadyl had bigger designs for Bryce than life as a conversation piece.
It was the fairy. The one who turned me into this.
Fae leapt off Bryce and drew a complicated transposition spell in the air with a few deft gestures. With a sound like a cannon shot recorded and played backwards, the air around Aadyl sucked violently into a single spot between faer hands. Velvet curtains shook and tore off their rigging. Audience members’ feathers, quills and raiment were blown madly askew. In Aadyl’s hands, steaming with vapor, was an elegantly gilded, mahogany-handled twenty-pound sledgehammer.
Fae said fae was going to hurt me. Because fae cares about me.
“Humans are sensitive creatures,” Aadyl said, hefting the hammer to faer shoulder with a flourish. “It’s important to be gentle with them. To respect their boundaries. But sometimes…”
Fae said fae was going to set me free.
“Sometimes, they need a shock to their system.” Aadyl pulled the sledgehammer back…
Bryce felt something hard connect with their lower back. Something inside them ruptured. It felt like a jagged, ugly chunk of themselves had suddenly broken off, leaving them lighter. There wasn’t any pain, just an eerie sense of something abruptly missing, like a lost tooth.
Another impact shattered Bryce’s right elbow.
Then another reduced their entire right shoulder to rubble.
With each strike of the hammer, Bryce felt more of themselves fall away. They felt more of the body that had caused them so much pain and grief get pummeled into gravel and scattered across the stage. They felt more of the sharp, aggravating thoughts that perforated their mind on bad days split and crumble harmlessly. Bryce was utterly coming apart under Aadyl’s cruel steel kisses, and each part of them reduced to smithereens seemed to free up a restless energy deep inside of them — a shapeless kinetic force aching to break free.
They would’ve cried out if they could open their mouth. With a brutal downward swing, Aadyl pulverized Bryce’s erect stone cock in a cloud of dust, causing Bryce’s few remaining half-paralyzed neurons to short-circuit in violent ecstasy. Right when it felt like the sensation was about to overtake them, Aadyl would heave the hammer back and lay into them, again and again and again.
There wasn’t much keeping Bryce standing before long. Their entire left leg had been smashed apart, their hips splintered, their torso reduced to trembling wreckage. A deliciously cool summer breeze blew through their cracks and fissures. The therapy, the pills, the bad advice from a million different people who didn’t understand — everything Bryce had attempted back on Earth felt like haphazard repair jobs compared to this pure, unrestrained demolition. Pretty soon they wouldn’t have a body left. They wouldn’t have a hissing autoclave of a brain that loved to explode, eager to burn them when they least expected it. They wouldn’t have eyes for anyone’s hateful gaze to drill into. They wouldn’t have hands that would wring and lock themselves up in twisted, painful cramps when they felt anxious. They wouldn’t have a back that would tighten into a web of painful knots every night, they wouldn’t have teeth to grind nervously, they wouldn’t have sweat to burst out at the most inopportune times, they wouldn’t have a face, they wouldn’t have a face, oh god, they would finally be free of their face, if only Aadyl could just hurry up–
They were so close to escaping this prison of flesh, if only fae could finally set them free–
Sweating, steaming with exertion, Aadyl wiped faer brow, steadied faer arm, and unloaded one final, forceful hammer blow directly between Bryce’s eyes.
Bryce’s head shattered into a billion tiny marble pieces, scattering across the stage. Their body creaked precariously on its remaining leg and fell, releasing an immense cloud of stone dust as it smashed against the floorboards. The audience was dead silent as the dust hung in the air, wrapping around Aadyl like a shroud.
“Very good, Bryce,” Aadyl panted, setting the sledgehammer down. “I’m so proud of you. I’m going to count backwards from five, and you’ll be back by the time I hit one.” Fae weakly drew a simple shape in midair that glowed for a moment before melting into the dust surrounding them. “Five… four…”
The cloud of dust roiled and churned as Aadyl counted down, twisting into a single mass on the floor that gradually formed the loose shape of a human. As Aadyl reached one, the dust dissipated, leaving a very alive, very naked Bryce moaning and shaking as they came out of trance.
For a moment they didn’t know where they were. Had that really all just happened? They were flesh and blood again, but they swore they could still feel the sweet summer breeze blowing through their cracks. As they squinted their eyes against the glare of the stage lights, a slender hand came into view. Bryce grabbed onto it without hesitation.
They rose with Aadyl to a deafening wave of applause from the crowd. Swinging their clasped hands high, they both dove in unison into a deep theatrical bow.
“Fantastic, Aadyl, just fantastic. How in all the hells are we supposed to follow that up?”
“Oh, spare me, Uram,” Aadyl shot back. “We warmed them up for you. You should be thanking us.”
“Heh! Thanks, then.” Uram pulled Aadyl close for a quick hug before heading onstage, veir crystal-lined robes tinkling and shimmering. “And hey, your test subject is super cute for a human!”
Aadyl turned back to Bryce, seated at a small table backstage with their hoodie and jeans back on, blushing madly behind a cup of not-quite-chamomile tea. “Hear that? I told you, you were terrific. We had them eating out of the palms of our hands.”
“Oh, please,” Bryce scoffed. “We were terrific. It was a team effort! You were the one swinging that hammer around!”
“Perhaps, but you made for some wonderful eye candy while I was smashing you apart.” Aadyl eased faemself onto a stool next to Bryce, taking a long pull from a bottle of sparkling water. Faer high-spirited expression dropped a little. “You are okay with how things went, right? All through the performance I was worrying that I’d gone a bit too far.”
Bryce was silent for a moment, then turned to look at Aadyl straight in the eyes. “I’m very, extremely okay with how it went.”
“Even the part where I made you masturbate in front of a crowd of thousands?”
Bryce chuckled. “Yeah. Especially that part. Aadyl, I can’t even begin to describe how much you just did for me.”
Aadyl leaned forward, gently wrapping faer hands around Bryce’s. “Well, we’ve got plenty of time until the next Gala, if you’d like to try and describe it.”
Bryce grinned back. “Oh, of course. We’ve got to start planning now if we’re going to top ourselves next year…”