Anywhere I Hang My Head Is Home
Min followed Nadir from the cafeteria, dragging his suitcase behind him. He had asked several times just how they would be traveling to the realms but Nadir's answers had been evasive. Min had thought of many possibilities but somehow walking hadn't been one of them. Yet here they were, traipsing through the snow into the woods surrounding the school.
Nadir paused from time to time and looked about for some sign that eluded Min, before heading off in another direction. Min tried to repress his curiosity but this only lasted for about the first mile.
"Nadir, what the hell are we doing?"
"Looking for the door."
"The door? As in the thing one usually finds in a building? Not a thing one usually finds in the middle of the woods?"
"That doesn't hold true for this door."
"The door to Faerie is in this woods?"
"Yes and no."
"I don't suppose you could explain that a bit more clearly? Perhaps while we rest and set these suitcases down for a minute? This thing is heavy."
"Hand it here, I'll carry it. And it's a bit hard to explain. The entry to the realms is not in any one place really, it's in many places. And in none. It's between places."
"Thanks, that helps. How are you expected to find it?"
"There are signs for those who know what to look for. I don't know if you can see them or not, I know most humans can't but then you're not only human. You can feel the direction sometime, or hear a sound that leads you in the right direction. I've heard it's different for everyone."
"Is there any way to know how long it will take to get there?"
"Not really, although I can feel that we're getting fairly close."
Nadir stopped, set the suitcases down and took Min's hand.
"Just close your eyes for a moment and relax."
Min did as he was asked and after a time felt a slight pull, a compulsion to move in one direction. He pointed in that direction and opened his eyes to Nadir's smile.
"I feel it! Just a little but it's that way isn't it?"
"Yes, the feeling should get stronger as we get closer. It won't be too long now."
Min started walking with renewed energy, eager to arrive at this land so few half-breeds and even fewer humans had ever seen. They went perhaps another mile before Min thought he saw a strange blur in the air, an area of distortion. He slowed, turning to Nadir for confirmation.
"Yes, that's it. Are you ready?"
"More than ready! I can't wait!"
Sky watched the scenery streaming by outside the train window. Grey had fallen asleep shortly after they boarded and was leaning against Sky's shoulder, snoring lightly.
It was fascinating to watch the snow abate and then disappear, the land grow softer and greener. He had shrugged off his jacket and was eagerly awaiting the moment he could open a window and feel warm air against his skin.
Grey stirred restlessly and Sky stroked his hair, soothing him back into sleep. They had at least a few hours left to travel so there was no need for Grey to wake yet.
He went back to watching the changing scene and wondering what the next few weeks would bring. He hoped to hell he didn't mess things up entirely, or that if he did it didn't reflect on Grey. He knew that Grey and his family were close, no matter how much their worldviews diverged from each other and didn't want Grey to lose whatever security that brought him. He assumed that in Grey's present state of mind, false security was better than nothing.
In this somber frame of mind Sky drifted off into uneasy sleep.
Min felt an odd tingle as they passed through the doorway, and once through he had to stop a moment to get his bearings.
At first the surroundings looked like a continuation of the same woods they had been walking through. The differences took a moment to sink in. The lack of snow, for one thing, and the trees on closer inspection were of types Min had never seen before. There were birds singing somewhere, a lovely trilling that Min couldn't match to any species he was familiar with.
The light was different too, they had set off in bright sunlight and now the light was muted, overcast but not in the least dreary.
Min turned to Nadir and his jaw dropped. While Nadir was still recognizably himself his hair and skin glowed slightly, his eyes seemed brighter and his smile was openly joyful. He seemed more vibrant, even more attractive than usual. Min couldn't look at him without feeling the need to touch him, he hoped he got over this reaction pretty quickly or this visit was going to prove more difficult than he'd feared.
"Wow, you look just...wow!"
"So do you. The magic here let's the magic within you shine through more clearly."
"I don't have any magic."
"I beg to differ. You have plenty of magic in your blood and soul. Just wait until you catch sight of yourself in a mirror, I'll never manage to drag you away!"
"Are you calling me vain?"
"Not as a rule, but you may develop the trait once you see yourself here."
Min tried to figure out if this counted as a compliment but soon gave up to focus on more pressing matters.
"Is your house near here? Or a town?"
"A town is fairly near, and there will be someone to meet us there and convey us to my family home."
"Great! Lead on!"
"Sky, wake up, we're there."
"Oh, sorry. Must have fallen asleep. Um, we're where exactly?"
"Willow. It's the town near my house. My parents should be here to pick us up. I think I can see them, hurry up!"
Sky ran a hand through his hair, took a deep breath and followed in Grey's enthusiastic wake.
They exited the train and there on the platform were two people smiling broadly in their direction. Sky trailed a bit behind Grey, and when Grey was swept into the woman's arms for a brief but warm hug and then passed to the man for a repeat performance Sky looked away, a bit abashed at this show of family affection.
The three chattered happily for a few moments before Grey drew back and interrupted to renew their acquaintance with his roommate. Grey's parents lost a bit of their glow but gamely greeted him with civility if no great warmth. He returned the greetings with quiet warmth, projecting sincerity for all he was worth. This moved Grey's father enough to offer his hand and Sky shook it, gauging his grip carefully to make the proper impression. He had never quite figured out the weight that human males of a certain age placed on this ritual but he was willing to do his best for Grey.
It must have worked, Grey's father smile grew a bit warmer and when he let go and Sky took the opportunity to pick up Grey's suitcase as well as his own he actually clapped Sky on the back in a half hearted way. Grey's mother spared a moment of gazing with happy pride at her son to give Sky a thankful look and he grinned back as they made their way to the car. Maybe this would work out better than he'd thought.
Min looked from side to side in fascination, the town was like he nothing he had ever seen. The buildings were comfortably spaced and in a wide variety of styles, from sleek modern structures to fanciful stone buildings resembling miniature fairy tale castles. The people they passed on the wide lane were even more fascinating, fey of every sort strolled about talking to each other and some paused to look quickly at the stranger in their midst. Min smiled and nodded at everyone they passed and most smiled back, a few greeting him in a friendly fashion.
Nadir wasn't greeted the same way, he got respectful nods instead. Min watched him from the corner of his eye and saw him nod briefly in return, his face showing little expression beyond a kind of frozen, low level arrogance. A few such interactions went by before Min nudged Nadir with an elbow, an act that brought amazed looks from people passing by as well as startling the victim.
"Would it kill you to smile once in a while?"
"I smile, you've seen me smile."
"Well, I haven't seen it in the last few minutes and I miss it already. Smile, okay? For me?"
"You may not understand the concept of maintaining a dignified distance but..."
"I understand snootiness just fine and that's just a different way of saying the same thing. Just smile, it's good for your blood pressure."
"My what? I don't have any.."
"Well, it's good for my blood pressure, okay? It keeps me happy and healthy, you want me to stay healthy right? So humor me, it won't hurt you a bit."