The Gift of Roots and Wings

Submitted into Contest #121 in response to: Write about someone giving or receiving a gift.... view prompt


Fiction LGBTQ+ Fantasy

[The First Gift]

There is a boy behind the wall. It isn’t a very tall wall, maybe waist height and made of cobble and moss, so it isn’t a very good hiding place. Erin would know. He tried that one ages ago, and the matrons found him very quickly. 

He places his book to the side, tucking a leaf between the pages to hold his place, and stands from the porch of the Ol’ Vic. He turns around, craning his neck to see into the kitchen, where the matrons and some of the other children were busy practicing their spellwork. Erin was not invited to help. He had been sent outside to collect the water and check that the NotDeer hadn’t been trying to get into the greenhouse again. He didn’t see how the boy got to the wall, so it must have been then. 

After making sure they were busy enough not to notice his absence, he makes his way up to the wall that is doing a pitiful job of hiding this boy. He places both his hands on the stone, warm from the summer sun, and uses it to hoist himself on top to get a clearer view. 

The boy who is now below him looked as though he had been crying. He is folded in on himself, with his face tucked between his knees and his arms coming up to wrap around his head. He doesn’t look as though he’s crying anymore. Now, he looks as though he’s bracing for impact. 

Erin does not hit him. Instead, he slides sort of haphazardly off the wall to plop down beside the not-crying boy, who glances over at him. He can’t be much older than Erin is, maybe 10 or 11? 

“Who’re you?” The boy’s voice sounds hoarse. He had definitely been crying. 

Erin realizes, now, that he has made a definite mistake. He can’t talk to this boy. 

“Why not?” 

Erin’s head snaps up at him. What.

“Why can’t you talk to me? You came over here.”

He did come over here, didn’t he? Maybe he should’ve thought about his lack of vocal cords before allowing his curiosity to-

“You don’t have vocal cords? Oh.” The boy catches sight of the ugly scars that run the length of Erin’s neck, who self consciously pulls his collar higher. “It’s okay!” The boy grins in what Erin supposes is meant to be reassuring. “You don’t have to talk! At least, not out loud.”

This boy is weird. And definitely magical. But he’s not at the Coven with Erin so he must still have his parents-

“Oh, uh, I don’t have parents either. I’m just an apprentice! In Sill.” He gestures down the road as though Erin, who has lived here all his life, did not know where Sill was. The boy scratches the back of his neck. “Right, sorry. Course you know where Sill is. Um-” he scuffs his sleeve beneath his eye as if to try and rub away the redness. “I’m just, uh, m’not from here. Oh, sorry. M’names D- Ian. Ian. What’s yours?”

Erin blinks at this boy. You, he thinks as clearly as he can manage, can read minds. Can’t you?

Ian pinches his lips together, then nods slowly.

Erin sighs, rubbing his hands across his face. Alright. Okay, that’s fine. I can’t, though, so you’re gonna have to talk out loud.

“Yeah,” he whispers. “I figured. Believe it or not, that’s how most people are.”

Erin gives a silent laugh that’s mostly little snorts, and places both hands over his face to stifle it. 

“Y’know, you didn’t answer my question.”

He takes a minute to think about what said question might’ve been. Oh. Erin. M’name’s Erin.

Ian extends his hand. “Nice to meet you, Erin.” 

Erin shakes it. Why’re you cryin’?

“I’m, uh.” Ian frowns and rubs at his eyes again. “M’not cryin’.”

Erin gives him a pointed stare. 

“What! M’not! Well, not anymore. I was just, uh-” He rubs his sleeve beneath his nose, and Erin winces with disgust. “Just, uh, got some’in in my eye, s’all.”

And your nose? Erin thinks.

“Hey! No, i’s just, uh, well-”

Erin cuts him off by pulling a little handkerchief with purple embroidery out of the back pocket of his shorts and holding it out to him.

Ian stares at it for a moment, then takes it with a pout. “Thanks.”


“Erin!” A different voice, this one the strict tones of Matron Ahimsa -- an oxymoron of a name, in Erin’s opinion -- echoes across the lawn from the front porch. “Where are you, boy?” Erin ducks low below the wall, nearly lying flat on his stomach, and he tugs Ian down to do the same. He listens carefully for the footsteps that are stomping their way around the porch, and then down to the lawn, then back around the Ol’ Vic toward the greenhouses, shouting obscenities and curses at his laziness and lack of general gratitude.

I gotta go.

“I can see that.”

This is a bad hidin’ spot. Next time, you should go there. Erin points into the wood that surrounds the house. See those bushes? Right behind ‘em’s a path. That’s a good hidin’ spot, but don’t ever- he grabs Ian by the shoulders and makes him look him in the eye -I mean it. Ever. Stand in the Fairy Ring. 

“I know that, I ain’t stupid.”

I mean it, Ian. Don’t you do it- Erin is cut off by Matron Ahimsa calling again, and it sounds like she’s coming back around the house to the front again. 

I gotta go. Go back to Sill ‘fore you get in trouble.

“Hey, wait, but-”

I said go, Ian.

And then he’s hopping back over the wall, and starting to jog back toward the porch. Ian takes one last look at the boy before he turns as well, and starts to sprint down the path, away from the Foundling Home and back toward Sill.

[The Second Gift]

Erin sits right inside of an alleyway, perched on a few crates of who knows what and hidden behind a stall that’s selling potions claiming to “help grant whatever wish your heart desires, just in time for The Festival!”

He knows this is bullshit, of course. It’s just a bit of water and aloe, for maybe a day’s worth of slightly better luck, that’s been dressed up with some glamour magic to look purple and sparkly. It is way overpriced for what it is, as are most things being sold for The Festival, but quite a few things for sale aren’t actually bullshit.

This is, though, so Erin doesn’t feel bad in the slightest for periodically lifting coins out of the till when the vendor is distracted, and having them fly over to his hiding spot. So far, he has collected nearly enough to buy himself shoes that fit, which is a nice thought. 

Sill is abuzz with energy, everyone preparing for The Festival. Erin has never understood the appeal. Ian loves it, though. This will be their fifth year going together, a tradition started the year they first met.


Speak of the devil.

“And he shall appear,” Ian finishes in a whisper as he clambers onto the crate beside him. “What’cha doin’?”

Nothin’. Totally not stealing from peddlers, no no he is not.

“You’re stealin’? ‘Rin I am surprised at you! You’re s’posed to be the mild mannered, quiet and respectful one, and I’m the roguishly handsome, rebellious one.”

You collect dried flowers. Erin deadpans at him.

“Says the one who collects bottle caps.”

They’re so neat though! Erin pouts at him. ‘Sides, we don’t got anythin’ like ‘em in Sill.

“That,” Ian throws his arm around Erin’s shoulders. “Is very true. Which reminds me.”

Ian uses his free hand to dig in the leather slung around his shoulders. From it, he produces a little velvet pouch which he promptly plops in Erin’s lap. It makes the tinkling sounds of metal on impact, and Erin immediately picks it up and dumps it out on the crate next to him. Out of the bag pour several bottle caps of all shapes, sizes, makes and models. He grins as he picks each up to examine them. 

“Missed you too, Rin.”

Erin looks up at him. Was I thinking that?

“Yup.” Ian leans against him, and presses his face in his shoulder. “M’sorry my apprenticeship took so long.”

Did you have to be gone all winter?

“I know… but, m’back now! And m’no longer an apprentice. Practically an adult, which means I can do as I please. Maybe I’ll take you back to ‘Merica with me one day. You can meet my mama.”

Erin leans his head against Ian’s shoulder as he spins a bottle cap between his fingers. I think I’d like that.

[The Third Gift]

“Honey, I’m home.”

A pillow lifts itself off the couch for the sole purpose of smacking into Ian’s face. He laughs and grabs the pillow, placing it back on the couch. 

Don’t you dare try to pull that cheesy shit on me when you come home late.

Erin’s thoughts come from the kitchen, so that’s where Ian heads. He leans against the door, listening to the 20s style jazz that croons in a language he can barely speak and Erin is humming along with in his head. He simply watches as his lovely boyfriend works his way around the kitchen. Something is boiling on the stove, being stirred by a spoon that works on its own, as Erin reads through what looks to be a recipe book. The counter is covered in a wide array of ingredients, most of which Ian knows the magical properties for, but less so their usefulness in cooking. 

If you get mud in my kitchen, I’m cutting off your dick and hanging it on the porch as a trophy. 

“And quite the trophy it is.”

Erin snorts and glances up from his book. You keep thinking that.

“I mean,” Ian steps into the kitchen -- his shoes aren’t muddy, Erin does not make threats lightly -- “It’s not like you were complaining when we-”

A towel catches Ian in the face. I think that’s enough for now. 

“What is it with you throwing things at my face today?”

Erin stares at him, lips pursed, one eyebrow raised. Really?

Ian raises his hands in defeat. “Right. Home late. I know, and I’m sorry. Bu-u-ut.” He leans across the counter conspiratorially, a shit eating grin adorning his -- Erin must admit -- roguishly handsome face. “I have a surprise for you.”

Erin narrows his eyes at him. What kind of surprise?

“A big one-”

You didn’t kill someone, did you? Erin only looks as though he’s half kidding when he asks this. 

“No, I didn’t kill anyone. But, it’s pretty big. I’d brace myself, if I were you.”

Erin places his hands on the edge of the counter, a shit eating grin on his own face that’s significantly daintier than Ian’s. Okay. I’m braced. What is it?

Ian laughs, and rounds the counter. He grabs Erin’s hand, and from his pocket brings out an intricately carved golden ring. “We’ve known each other for over a decade now, so I think we’ve surpassed moving too quickly, but if you want to wait, we absolutely can. I don’t mind.”

Erin stares with glassy eyes at the ring, then up at Ian, then back at the ring. It’s beautiful, seemingly made from vines of pure gold. Erin looks back up at Ian, who’s now properly nervous. 

“Again, if you think we’re going to fast or something, I don’t mind waiting, just-”

You haven’t asked.

Ian blinks. “M’sorry, what?”

Erin shakes his hand and stares at him so intensely, Ian fears withering away like a dead flower. Ask me.

Oh. He hasn’t even asked. He snorts, shakes his head, and says: “Erin, will you make me the happiest man alive, and marry me?”

He almost has to take a step back from the overwhelming cacophony of YES in Erin’s thoughts. But he doesn’t. Instead, he slips the ring onto his fiancé's -- his fiancé! -- finger before he wraps his arms around his waist and lifts him up, spinning the two of them around before they collapse to the ground in an overjoyed heap. 

I think, Erin presses his face into Ian’s jaw, dinner is burning.

Ian lifts his head, and flicks a hand toward the stove, putting out the fire. “I think,” he presses a kiss to Erin’s head, then cheek, then mouth, “We’ll be just fine.”

November 27, 2021 04:44

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