103. Evolution Hopeful (Thanksgiving after Season 10)
Year of Water, Autumn of the Aligned Raindrops
Having both his parents drop him off in front of the newest and most crowded housing building on Spellementary School premises would have been mortifying enough, but Anti-Wanda took it too far by kissing her "precious bundle a' darling destruction" in the center of his fat square forehead, in front of both Finley Hammerfall and Sammy Sweetsparkle. Well, Finley probably hadn't looked up from his 3DS in time to see it, but pixies had long-distance noses and tasting senses or something, so yeah, he'd probably noticed. Sammy certainly had. And on top of this, her "previous bundle a' darling destruction" was already irritated with an insufferable itch he couldn't seem to scratch away from square head to bare toes. Foop grabbed his bottle to ward the woman off, only for Anti-Cosmo to pluck it from his hand and wave a warning finger.
"Ah, ah, ah. Don't you dare go pointing this at your mother. Bottle that rage up and save it for a few particularly irritating Fairies instead."
"Lookit the little darling." Anti-Wanda bobbed backwards and placed one hand to Anti-Cosmo's chest. "Our brilliant babe is dun gettin' ta be more independent with every passing day. Did we get him everythin' he needs? One of those cute pencil sharpeners that makes the roaring noise? Bandages for his little scabby burned fingers? A claw filer-downer?"
"Mother." Foop itched at his neck and gave each of his ears a twitch. "I implore that you remember this is hardly my first time out of the Castle. In fact, I hardly think dropping me off today really warrants this sort of farewell to begin with. All my stuff is still in my room from last semester. You're just taking me back to school after Halloween break. You'll be seeing me again sooner than I would care to for Valentine's' Day. Wait. No, no, no. I heard it as I said it and I just remembered you will most definitely not be seeing me for Valentine's Day."
Anti-Cosmo rubbed his chin. "Oh? Is that so? Did you hear that, dear? Foop isn't going to be in the Castle on Valentine's Day."
"Shh," she giggled back, pulling the end of her ponytail in front of her mouth. "Snick, we's in front of little ones."
Foop placed his hand over his eyes. Behind him, Sammy was making little effort to conceal his coos and longing sights. At least Poof wasn't here to witness this retch-worthy display. "See," he said, "this is exactly why I don't expect to come home for Valentine's Day."
Anti-Wanda turned her attention away from Anti-Cosmo. Her elbow went up on his shoulder, and she braced her other hand against her waist. "Are ya sure ya don't want us helpin' ya get moved in for the new semester?"
"No!" Foop flung up his hands before he realized everyone was staring at him. Including a few of the other students and parents making their way from their assorted parked vehicles up to the front of the building. The hands went behind his back. "Uh. No. No, thank you. That won't be necessary, yes. Ahem. I can do it alone, Mother. I'm certain of that. Not the least of my reasons being that Poof is probably upstairs and already moved in himself. He doesn't need to see you damaging my careful reputation like this. I managed without you last time, and every time before that, and I'll manage without you again. There's really not much to move." He kicked the lone cardboard box at his feet for emphasis. Pens and pencils rattled inside.
"We could buy y'all snacks," Anti-Wanda wheedled.
"Ooh, ooh!" Sammy thrust that multicolored candy cane of a disaster he called his "sparkle stick" into the air and shook it so it rattled. "I would really enjoy some of your snacks, Mrs. Anti-Fairywinkle."
Foop waved his hands in front of him. "No, no, that isn't necessary, Mother. We'll manage without you."
Anti-Wanda leaned down, her hands braced against her knees. She grinned. "Aww, but I thought you loved my frosted spider tarts and raisin-maggot loaves."
"Ooh." Hiccup slipped into control and wrung his hands. "I do so love your raisin-maggot loaves. May we also partake of your scrumptious honey-smothered cinnamon rolls?"
"No." Foop shoved his alternate personality back into the confines of their shared head again. "Mother." He forced the word through gritted teeth. Balancing his wingbeats, he tried to speak in her ear so Sammy and Finley wouldn't hear him. "First of all, honey brings DEATH to any pixie who tastes it. Second, Poof's and Sammy's families live on Earth. They can't eat the unmagicked chemicals in cloudland food, and I can't afford to give my roommates food poisoning again. Especially Poof. While it was hilarious to watch him squirm beneath me last time, I had to be sick just because he was too. And I didn't even get to enjoy eating those treats you packed myself."
Making his roommates suffer a bout of sickness from time to time may be entertaining while they were merely children, but the four of them were bound to be roommates until they graduated high school (or dropped out- a possibility that seemed all too likely for Poof and Finley). Nipping the sadistic habit in the bud might pay off in the long run, when grades started to matter and the others expected him to take any notes they may have missed.
Or… something. It was a complicated feeling to put into words. The thing was, there weren't a lot of Anti-Fairies attending Spellementary School. In introductory year, he hadn't been particularly popular. But this was his second semester since moving into the dorms. He was older now. He actually had roommates and stayed on campus like the big kids. When things started going wrong, who did people start to blame? The Anti-Fairies. Foop had had enough food thrown on him in the cafeteria and gym class to last him another several years or so. He anticipated going through phases- cause a little mischief here, lie a little low there. Get smarter, get more clever, become more difficult to catch in the act.
That was all. He certainly wasn't going soft. Not before he'd even hit his prime.
Anti-Wanda shrugged. "Yeah, I know about the sickly stuff. That's why I snuck a few li'l snacks from home into that there box of yours, and they're just for you."
"Mother, you evil genius," he said lightly. He kept the compliment formal, so she wouldn't get any silly ideas in her head about him actually liking her or something. He scratched at his neck again, and came away with a handful of pale blue hairs. Hmm. Must be shedding season. Anti-Fairies probably shed. With… with winter around the corner, apparently. Not that it really mattered in the cloudlands, where temperatures remained nearly constant year-round…
Anti-Wanda waved him back to reality with a pat between his ears. "All righty. Well, have a whole bout a' good karma on your heels, then. My big boy. K'yoo!"
Foop rolled his eyes and turned his back- more for show than because he actually planned to leave while his father still had a tight grip on his magic bottle. "Good-bye, Mother."
That was Anti-Cosmo. Foop drew out the moment for an extra two second, scratching his arm, then twisted his entire awkward, square body around to look up at him. Anti-Cosmo floated beside Anti-Wanda with arms crossed.
"Do try not to maim anyone while you're on campus this year. No keeping live monsters in your apartment, no biting any living creature without permission, no attempts at sewing yoo-doo dolls, no occult circles or attempting to contact the spirits of the dead, and no burying people alive and then digging up and punching them."
"With more than your due respect, Father, I am fully aware that the rules of this irritating learning facility are far stricter than what I am used to back in Anti-Fairy World. I'm fully capable of conducting myself like a good boy when in the presence of Fairy witnesses."
"And absolutely," Anti-Cosmo and Anti-Wanda said together, "no dissecting your roommates."
"Yes, thank you, we get it!" Foop almost - almost - resisted the urge to snatch his bottle back from Anti-Cosmo's hand. It was cold and wet with condensation against his skin, the liquid magic inside glinting and reflective regardless of the direction the light hit its sides. All that raw power bubbling icy cold beneath his fingertips, it made him want to lift his hand and-
"Easy does it," Hiccup warned, slipping past Foop's consciousness to take the reins again. He rubbed the bottle against his elbow and forced a smile. "My, and you were doing so very well at keeping your anger maintained, too. We're nearly inside and up in our lovely little apartment. Don't blow everything we've worked so hard for at the entryway."
Foop clenched his fangs. One of the bat wings flanking his bottle scratched against his wrist. "We've worked so hard for? Who is 'we' in this case? You're not exactly one for plotting anybody's demise."
"Ah, do remember that we are out of that enclosed jailspace on probation. We made arrangements that Caudwell would come here to see us. Let's not get ourselves locked up in another tight cell so soon after our last release."
Foop groaned. Stepping back into control, he rubbed one of his upper corners. "Right. We're working on that anger management thing. How nice it will be to spend another all-too-long semester in the very same apartment as my dear nemesis Poof again. This used to be illegal, you know. Fairies and their counterparts rooming together."
"And," Anti-Cosmo said, placing a hand on his son's head, "how grateful we are that times have changed. Not only have we managed to keep the Barrier down for years, but Anti-Fairies are being freely allowed into a school that once denied them entry. Do not. Ruin this for us."
His claws tightened on those final words. The tips pricked against Foop's blubbery head.
Anti-Cosmo pulled back, Anti-Wanda waved one last time. Together they flew back to the jet they'd parked haphazardly on top of some unfortunate Fairy mother's minivan. Anti-Cosmo started up the engine, and the jet lifted shakily into the air. Four booster rockets revved. Flames spewed out the back. They flew in an arc around the floating rocky islands containing the other six housing buildings, passing over the center one that held the Spellementary School building itself, and zoomed off into the starry distance. Finally well on their way back to the actual cloudlands for good.
Foop did not watch their smoke trail disappear. Instead, he huffed through his nostrils and turned to face the pixie and the huldu behind him. The two young Fairykind stood below one of very few leafy trees on their island (useful passageway for the western elves, that; Foop fully intended on gathering some of their DNA this year to see if he could figure out how to trigger the door himself).
He snorted one more time before he waved his bottle. The cardboard box at his feet lifted into the air with a steady stream of purple-blue. "Well? Finley? Sammy? I impart my greetings from Anti-Fairy World. It's a relief to be back here after such a long and stifling three-week break in my parents' castle. True, I did have a lot of spare time to enact some of my evil schemes upon the human population, but I am a baby intended to live away from his mother and father from time to time."
"I ate pizza every day and roped some of my bros into doing my chores," Finley said without looking up from his game.
Foop tilted back his head to take in the building as he and Sammy floated (and Finley walked) up the front steps. As they pushed their way through the front doors, he scratched his throat. "So. Anyone heard any word from Poof yet? He's not exactly a morning person, so I expected him to be checking in late like us."
Finley's 3DS let out music much too cheerful to signal a character's death. He shut it without emotion and pushed his shades down from their usual place on his forehead so they covered his eyes. "Battery's almost dead and the outlets up here only run magical wattage. Of course. Oh. Poof? He got permission to come back early so he could avoid the poofarazzi. Didn't you get his text?"
"No cell signal in Anti-Fairy World, remember? Really, I thought you of all magical creatures would know this. Figures. I have my own personal scry bowl, and a crystal ball small enough to hang from my keychain, and what does he use? The cell phone." Noises down the hall. Foop flicked his ears forward and started to fly faster. "Once I get hooked up to the digi-stream here, I'm sure my phone will EXPLODE with messages. Though it likely won't be as exciting as it sounds. Come on, they're registering down this way. Let's get checked in so we can poof ourselves straight up to our room."
"Ooh, right. About that." Finley ran after him, waving his hand above his head. "Can you be a bro and pick up the tab for me?" When Foop turned his glare on him, the pixie raised his hands defensively. "Tomte. Can't use magic. Or fly. Look, come on. You're doing it for Sammy anyway. We kind of waited for you to show up for this. It would be rad if you came through for us."
Sammy nodded. "My family are all about being natural and getting by on what Mother Nature gave us. They might even" - his voice dropped to a whisper - "pull my ears really hard if they caught me trying to do starpiece magic."
Finley fished around in the pockets of his coat and came up with a small handful of coins. These, he held up to Foop. "I'm sure I can scrape together enough to pay you off. Aren't you here on scholarship anyway just because you're Unseelie? Your poofing fees are all waived even outside the school building, right?"
"Bunch of insipid morons," Foop muttered. But, morons with limited magic between them they may be, they were still, y'know… his friends. Friends he had no problem taking money from, but his friends to some degree nonetheless.
Sammy beamed. "I'm looking forward to hanging with all my learning pals and study buddies again. I spent three weeks in cuddly quarters with my entire extended family. By the end of it, I started to think I might explode, ha ha ha."
"Yes, yes, but you'll have to meet my extended family one of these days." Foop pushed open the door that led into the… registration… room. The one with the super soft carpet where they sometimes sat on towels or blankets and ate pizza or had story time. Sure enough, their RA was already there behind the yellow table, being much too peppy for any sane person as he breezed through the on-campus magic and digi-stream usage permits and practically threw room keys every which way. Those in line for his table dove for cover while the other students looked on sympathetically. Foop grunted, but waved Finley and Sammy through anyway before he let the door fall shut. "Your family are cheerful social nightmares, Sammy. But try having a decent meal when surrounded by crazy cousins on both sides who are all constantly arguing over who gets to be next in line if you don't measure up to standards by the time you're meant to inherit the High Count Seat from your father. They spend their free time planning to inflict me with doom beyond measure, I swear."
"I was ripped away from the family who raised me after I turned three and unceremoniously thrust into the workplace for intense training on how to fill out paperwork in ten different languages, mix exactly the right type of coffee, and pretend I don't have emotions," Finley said mournfully.
"Well." Sammy brushed his fingers down the front of his glittery pink shirt. "This year, my family is going to celebrate Winter Turn with more candy and ice cream than we've ever had before. There's going to be colorful streamers, and bouncy houses, and ice sculptures imported from Iceland that change pretty colors just like the Northern Lights, and my parents are only accepting those because they're a gift from my birth parents-"
"Super lame," Foop groaned, rubbing behind his neck.
Hiccup smacked him out of position. The hovering cardboard box dropped to the floor, bouncing off Finley's head on its way there. Pencils and crayons spilled across the ground. "Ah, ignore my brother's rudeness. I think that all sounds delightful, Sammy. Please do tell us more."
So Sammy did, cheerily waving his sparkle stick about as the three children waited in line at the registration desk for their year. Well, rickety plastic table, but you know how it goes. Hiccup did not miss the fact that many of the other kids nearby had their parents along with them. But, he mused, perhaps in the end, it was all for the best. Fairies tended to run away screaming when his father began to get upset. And High Count Anti-Cosmo wasn't the type who could wait patiently in line without getting upset. Such was his lot in life, the only sane child in their crazy little family.
After they had properly said hello to their RA-slash-surrogate father figure and temporary guardian figure and signed in at the front desk, Hiccup took Foop's bottle and gave it a wave. After a few tries, he managed to poof Finley, Sammy, and himself just outside their apartment door with a cloud of smoke. He coughed into his fist as he looked about.
"Hey! I didn't even forget anybody's limbs this time."
Of course, Sammy leaned against the wall with his head on the ground and his feet in the air, and Finley was spread-eagle on his back. Better than last time, at least. As his two friends sat up with soft groans, Hiccup's attention turned even further down the hall to a cluster of three young damsels who had just turned around. One was an elf with puffy seafoam hair, and the other was a leprechaun wearing a green dress. Hiccup couldn't remember their names, but he did know Goldie Goldenglow by her blonde pigtails and shimmering orange and white wings. So, he offered her a little wave with the hand that wasn't plucking at the skin on his neck. Goldie waved back with a stack of flyers in her hand.
"You shed," he greeted.
"Did I?" Goldie ran her hand along the ruffles of her brown skirt. "A couple a' weeks back, I suppose. Hey, Sammy. Freckley. Fooch."
"Actually, it's Hiccup."
Goldie's face went blank, like this wasn't the correction she'd been expecting.
"Well. Uh." She looked down at her flyers. "That darling man who watches over our housing… Garter, I think his name was. Garter snake? Slither? Stilts? Hmm. Y'all know who I mean. He asked us to come pass these around." So saying, Goldie handed over one of her papers. Hiccup paused from his skin-picking to take it. He held it away from his body and traced out the words, "Opening social." When Sammy and Finley peered over his shoulders, he looked up.
"There's a party down in the lounge tonight? Gee. No one's ever invited me to a party before."
"With healthy snacks like carrot sticks, string cheese, almonds, bananas, kale, and acorn muffins. Oh, I just love carrot sticks." Goldie's smile disappeared. Her hand flapped down. "Not corn. Corn's a starch."
She could rattle off all those foods, but she still couldn't get his name right? Hiccup decided to ignore that train of thought in favor of bunching the flyer between his fingers. "Oh yeah. I'd love to come."
"Give that to Poof, will ya," she said absently, and floated away with a few flits of her wings. Her friends scurried after her, giggling into their hands. Hiccup exchanged looks with Sammy and Finley, shrugged, then reached up to swipe his keycard in the door. It opened into the kitchen, with the living room straight across the way. The blinds were pulled up. They offered a pleasant view into their building's courtyard and playground, but even Hiccup had to wince at the amount of natural sunlight leaking in and tracing jagged patterns along the ceiling. Ah, well. At least all the red-brown cushions were arranged in their proper places on the couch, and the flecked countertop was so neat and tidy, it registered as a smooth surface to his sonar without even a hint of crumbs strewn over everything.
Foop wrenched control back from Hiccup and turned on Finley. "I thought you told us that Poof was already here."
Finley lifted his shades and squinted. "He said he was. Let me check my texts."
Sammy looked around too, pressing a finger to the corner of his lips. "He sent me a letter with a really pretty blue stamp that gave the exact date and time he planned to move in. I thought he'd been here for a week already."
Foop rolled his eyes and scratched behind his neck with one wing on his bottle. "Well, he's obviously not here now. This place is actually clean and organized. If he moved in, then it must have been this morning, just before the rest of us."
Hiccup brought his hands together in front of his chest. "If Sammy says that Poof is here, then Poof must be here."
"Uh." Finley jabbed a thumb at his chest. "Okay. I'm a pixie, though? Really good memory for things I read? I said he was here too."
Hiccup's eyes slid over his face. "I don't believe I was talking to you."
Foop crossed his arms, the bottle chilling in his hand as it reacted to his growing impatience. "He's probably down the hall talking to friends again. Perhaps hanging out with the O'Terraes. No matter. I'll just get myself moved in." He waved his bottle to levitate his box again. "Not that I have that much to move, seeing as I left most of my stuff here over the break. Unlike some technology addicts who can't seem to go hands-off for a refreshing few weeks."
"Oh, so now you're talking about me."
To Foop's relief (and admittedly Hiccup's too), the room they and Finley shared on the left hand side had remained intact and untouched, just the way they'd left it before break. Finley's bed was on the right, straight across from the door. His own was tucked away into the back corner. True, it did place his head very close to the building's metal stairwell, which often irritated his sensitive ears, but the privacy offered by the response effort of getting over there was well worth it.
The adjustable lamp bent over his file organizer. His desk stood at attention with its sticky notes ordered by color and his chair pushed under. While Finley broke out his own stuff, Foop sliced open his box with his claws for the first time to find that his mother had indeed come through for him. Three paper plates of assorted Anti-Fairy breads and goodies had been wrapped in tinfoil and placed carefully among his new desk supplies. Presumably the treats were as sugar-free as had been possible, and presumably that was best for his health. It was a gentle gesture either way, and Foop reflected that perhaps he ought to actually get her something nice for Mother's Day this year, instead of another batch of paper coupons ordering her to stay back whenever he decided to redeem them.
Another bottle flick unwrapped his freshly-clean bedsheets from the bottom of the box and spread them out across his bed. The corners tucked themselves under. The pillows fluffed up. Foop grabbed his new gel pens in his fist and lined them in a row on his desk according to the size of their nib. One started to roll out of place. He put it back.
Perfect. Everyone always said the second semester following the move into the Spellementary dorms was the hardest part of the first seven years, with the biggest leaps in scientific logic made and the introduction of mathematics, ripple effects, and booster wonders to a world that had formerly been capped with child-safety locks. Foop expected all three of his roommates to crack under the pressure, but not him. He, for one, would not let schoolwork catch him unawares.
"And done." Finley stood up and pushed his hat higher with his thumb. "Phew. Dude, you're so lucky you're not a tomte. If I had magic, the first thing I'd do is teach myself how to plug in all these wires so I don't have to untangle all these cords by hand."
Foop winced as he turned around. "Please don't try to turn me into a good luck charm, or I'll be itching the rash for days. Actually hold that thought." He itched several times at his neck, then realized what his roommate had done and stopped. "Oh, wow."
Not surprisingly, Finley had already plugged one of his video game consoles into his personal miniature gaming TV. Various consoles, controllers, and cases containing cartridges, discs, and other assorted games from various advanced races and places in the universe lined his bookshelf until they spilled over at his feet. Foop raised one eyebrow. "Finley, where are your bedsheets?"
"Didn't bring any. Extra bags cost extra coins, and I'm not about that." Finley picked up a gray game controller and threw himself into the gray bean bag he'd dropped between their beds. "I'm sure it'll be fine."
"Finley." Foop positioned himself in front of the screen before Finley could click away from the menu. He tightened his fingers, then let them relax again. "You do realize that you are an ectothermic poikilotherm. You can't regulate your own body temperature."
"Well, yeah, but…" Finley leaned to one side, clicking buttons in his lap. "Neither can you."
"Finley," Foop repeated. He bobbed backwards, spreading his wings to cover as much of the TV as possible until Finley's eyes focused on his face. "Without proper warmth and coverage, you could literally freeze to death."
"Nah, they've got heaters all over this place."
"Yes, so I've noticed. And what would you do if the heaters were to break down without warning? May I remind you, you're a tomte. Also known as, a magicless Fairykind."
"Then I'd find a guy to poof me home to Pixie World."
Foop rolled his eyes. Rubbing behind his ear, he rephrased the question. "If the Big Wand were to shut down, and with it all electricity throughout the cloudlands and surrounding areas, what would you do about it to keep yourself from freezing to death?"
"Okay, first of all." Finley stuck one finger in the air. "I'd just take your blankets. You've got like fifty thousand of them."
"I have two."
"Second, you see these freckles all over my cheeks like acne?" The jabbing finger turned into a pointing thumb. "I'm a gyne, bro. I don't have to worry about that smoof. Instead of freezing, I'd just go into diapause and sleep until I get like, true love's kiss or whatever."
Foop shrugged. "For the record, I made a point of warning you. This is no longer my problem and I cannot be held accountable for anything you may suffer in the future."
"So are you done telling me how to live my life?" Finley asked, perching the controller on his knee. "We've only got five days before classes start, and I still haven't beaten Level 36 on this thing."
"Admittedly, I'm surprised you aren't choosing to get ready for Gray Tuesday instead. You know you'll…" Foop made a swirling gesture with his hand in an attempt to encompass various pixies being flooded with Fairy magic, summoned back to Pixie World, and overseeing paperwork, deliveries, and hectic magical shoppers fighting over low prices, all at the same time.
"Ha ha. You make it sound like I'm a clone of some responsible part of my dad. Nah. I'm the nose-booping, belly-rubbing, tech-obsessed part. Actually, I was thinking I'd skip town for a little while. Dunno where yet, but there's gotta be somewhere the Head won't find me." He glanced over his shoulder. "You going anywhere for the holiday? I could tag along with you."
"It's not really a holiday for those of us who aren't pixies. I was planning to be here, at school, learning. As I am intended to do."
Finley let out a dry, "Ha ha, ha ha" sort of chuckle and leaned back in his bean bag. "It's not really a holiday for those of us who are pixies, either. Keep me posted, bro."
Foop let him be. Rubbing a knuckle against his nose, he drifted out of the room and over the kitchen counter to see Sammy kneeling on the hard floor, rummaging in the cupboards for snacks. "Sammy," he snapped, "don't get your sparkly hands all over the food that's meant for all of us!"
Sammy dropped the cracker box and glanced up. "Oh, uh. I found Poof! He was hiding in the bathroom. He looked like he was feeling really unwell, so I thought I could make him something nice to eat. But it looks like all we have left is some chips and crackers, and these chocolate cookies. Someone already took a big bite out of all of them." He drew the plastic package from the cupboard and stretched up to place them on the kitchen counter. "You can have them if you want. Would you like to try some?"
Foop eyed it with his eyebrows raised. "I've wised up since last semester, and I'm going to pass on accepting food from one of the huldufólk, thanks."
Sammy hummed in the back of his throat, which was essentially his sweet version of groaning. "Aww, of course. I'll get back to you on that." He poured a handful of crackers into his hands and stood. "You know, in the Faroes, some people say that the huldufólk actually look like pixies. They say they wear boring gray colors, and they have really black hair. And then there's the pointy hats." He flicked his own for emphasis. "Maybe it's actually pixies you aren't supposed to accept food from, and huldufólk are fine. Golly. Have you ever thought about that before?"
"The effects of human storytelling on the biology and magic of supernatural creatures such as ourselves is not my area of expertise. I am a man of established, unwavering, predictable science." He gave his hair a tug. "You said Poof was in your bathroom?"
Sammy tucked a scrap of his own bright blond hair behind his pointed ear. "And he doesn't sound like he feels very good."
"All the better, then." Foop picked up the flyer that Hiccup had apparently left forgotten on the counter at some point or another… unless that had been him. The opening social party was scheduled to start soon enough, and he and Poof hadn't even had a good squabble yet today. Flyer in hand, he floated over to the second bedroom in the apartment.
Before he got there, he stopped at the beaded curtain that functioned as a door. It wasn't necessarily the most secure defense of all time, but by the nature of pixie and Anti-Fairy wings, the threat of becoming tangled up in beads did an effective job of keeping them out.
"Poof," he called, craning his neck. He flapped the flyer up and down. No Anti-Fairy for twenty meters could miss that sound. And no simple Fairy either, he figured. "Did Sammy tell you about the super delightful party that you are surely too sick to attend tonight?"
He was answered by heavy retching noises deeper inside the room. Automatically, Foop touched his fingertips to his stomach. His own didn't really feel like it was churning. He turned to look at Sammy, in case the huldu had any news about whatever bug it was that had gotten his counterpart so apparently sick. Sammy shrugged.
Well. Foop pulled in his wings. For a moment, he toed the carpet in front of the doorway. He'd never exactly… been inside Poof's and Sammy's room before. It wasn't like he was explicitly forbidden to (or else that's the first rule he would have broken, just for the smoof of it). He'd just never really wanted to or seen the need, that's all. Poof was something of a cousin to him, and not one with whom he was close enough to want to poke around in his private stuff without permission or the siren call of bad luck. It was just common decency. Not to mention that his natural instincts raged in his brain every time he came close. Getting near Poof always filled him with such a strong, tumultuous emotion- a hot, boiling feeling that made his lips curl into a sneer, made his shoulders tense, and warned him back just like the glowing light on the stove.
And frankly, his own roommate was a pixie. True, Finley's foster family (whoever the Hammerfalls were) had rubbed off on him strongly during his youth and left him more irresponsible than most. But he was still a pixie. The two of them kept their shared room well organized. What might that mean for his counterpart's quarters? Yes, it was a new semester, so their room couldn't have gotten that messed up, but a chaotic fairy and a party-loving huldu within the same enclosed space simply reeked of trouble.
Poof retched again, and this time it was followed by a moan. Foop itched uncertainly at the back of his wrist. He knew all too well that he and Poof shared a bond closer than most Fairy and Anti-Fairy counterparts did. It was that stupid level of magic between them- the way they each held equal shares of their "magic pool", where they drew their available power from the Big Wand. Because he and Poof were so close, Foop even had to share Poof's minor injuries like papercuts.
But he didn't feel at all sick. So what kind of bug could have affected his counterpart, but not affected him? The only reason they wouldn't have synced up was if Poof hadn't technically been inflicted internally with an ailment of some sort. Perhaps he's simply eaten something that didn't agree with him. Perhaps he was puking because he was homesick. He had been here alone for a week, after all. Yes, that could be it. Surely it wouldn't be…
"Oh, smoke no." Foop pushed his hand up his forehead, sliding it back over ears and the single tuft of black hair on his big square head. "Don't tell me he's throwing up will o' the wisp saliva."
That would be just like him, wouldn't it? Foop slapped the beads apart with the back of his hand, keeping his wings very still as he pushed through the curtain.
Oh. So this was the mystery world of Poof and Sammy's bedroom. It was all too easy to tell which of the two beds belonged to his counterpart (Hint: Not the one with the plastic dinosaurs and building blocks all over it). Poof's sheets were silky, purple, and all twisted and tangled up. The wall above the bed had been decorated with posters of both long-ago and present-day saucerbee stars, clippings of newspapers that mentioned either his own or Timmy Turner's name, and various cheerful photos of him hanging out with his friends. Most of them looked to be of him and Timmy, or his parents. A few more of them were dedicated to Goldie Goldenglow. Studying the wall for a moment, Foop even managed to pick out his own face.
After catching a quick glimpse of the cluttered desk in the corner, displaying a half-devoured package of Oreos in place of actual useful items (a notebook, a couple of baskets for organizing homework assignments, a lamp, something), Foop turned away from the bedroom and walked into the bathroom instead.
And there he was. Poof, dressed in his usual pale purple onesie, standing on the tips of his toes with his fat round head almost entirely in the smooth brown basin.
Foop tapped his foot against the tile. "Oh, come on. Stop fooling around, Poof. If you were really that sick, then I would be too."
Poof threw up another barrage of glittering purple sludge. The moment it hit the bowl, it was teleported off into some alternate universe. Oh yes, Foop fondly recalled studying and utilizing the same technology to design a playpen that would have had the same effect on his irritating counterpart. Those were the days.
"Foop," Poof rasped. He reached a twitching hand vaguely in the anti-fairy's direction. "I think it's… my time."
"It's your-? Oh…" Foop leaned away from his counterpart and evaluated the situation over again. The fact that only Poof was currently afflicted with the need to throw up. Sammy's comment about finding only crackers and half-eaten cookies in the cupboards when Cosmo and Wanda always stocked plenty of food for everyone. Foop caught his lower lip with his fangs. "Seriously? You're choosing to shed now? With the new semester starting and the opening social tonight?"
"I didn't choose it," Poof groaned, sinking back to the bowl. "C'mon, don't you think I'd want my parents to be here?" He curled his hand into a fist. "But Timmy just finished a major homework project, and my mama and dad promised to spend the entire day 100% focused on him, no distractions. I… can't get in their way. Even for this."
Foop picked at the thin fur on his forehead and sighed. "I take it now that I'm not going to that party tonight if we're about to shed. In no way do I intend to suddenly lose my form and be caught nude in the middle of the dance floor if the poofarazzi should come snooping around in search of you. Assuming that these opening socials even have dance floors- I seem to remember being stopped in my tracks almost the moment I stepped into the last one. Apparently, flamethrowers are forbidden at these types of things, even when there are ice sculptures on hand. Who knew?"
Poof leaned over the basin and threw up once again. Foop grimaced. Well, at least he didn't have to stand behind him and hold his counterpart's single curly hair out of his face or something.
So, Foop left him to it and crossed back to his own bedroom. His bookshelf was still stacked from last semester with child development books that described the exoskeleton shedding process, though of course Timmy's stupid frozen timestream wish had delayed Poof's growth, and with it, his own. Up 'til now.
"I knew our time had to be coming eventually," he muttered, either to Finley or Hiccup (or whoever else was out there that might be listening), "but I wasn't expecting it first thing when we got back. This is so unfair. I was going to spike the punch bowl at that party with real spikes! Ughh." He leaned back his head. "And the moment Mother and Father get wind of this, my relaxing transition into winter semester is toast. Then it's all statue carvings and extended family gatherings and rubbing shoulders with the elite socialites and those accursed itchy cravats made of owl feathers that Mum is so fond of. Hmm." Foop peered over Finley's bed to watch the racing cars on his TV screen. "There has to be somewhere I can stay when they come looking to drag me into that never-ending spiral of showing off their precious baby prince. Prison? A black hole? The Hocus Poconos? Jersey City?"
"Did you say something?" Finley asked as his car zoomed across the finish line. The fanfare erupted, and Finley golf clapped for his own victory. "Dude, maybe you need to cut back on the grape juice and go back to wine. There's a lot less sugar in that stuff, and you sound like you've cracked."
"Cracked? Ohh, there's an idea!" Foop slapped his forehead. "I should have thought of that myself immediately. Crocker! Mother and Father would never dare to set foot in his place so long as he and his mother are about. Once the word gets out about Fairy World's favorite celebrity entering his juvenile form and Father figures out that I'm not far behind, I'll leave a stuffed dummy in my place and high-tail it to Dimmsdale."
"Whoa, hey." Finley stopped clapping and turned around, craning his neck to peer over his short, sheetless bed. "Did you say Crocker? You mean like, D. Crocker? Didn't he like, die of old age three years ago or something?"
"… No. He didn't. That was the kooky old grandfather who somehow wedged himself into a grandfather clock and didn't survive the surgeries that followed that collision."
"Oh, I remember. Crocker's the guy who goes even more cuckoo over genies than your dad does."
"You're thinking Albert Crocker."
"Wasn't that the witch guy who fell down the well?" Finley asked with a frown.
"And I believe thaaat's Alden Bitterroot."
"Then he's the little guy with the thingie in his hair. The licky thingy. And he's got big red shoes."
Foop rolled his eyes. "Getting warmer."
"Okay, one more try. I think I've got it this time. Crocker's like the RA's dad, right?" Finley turned his hands into scales and made as though weighing invisible objects with magically changing weights. "The crazy rich RA owed him his life, built him a thingie, Sanderson took control of politics, and then suddenly there were geese and squirrels instead of pink elephants everywhere?"
"Sure, Finley. Let's go with that."
"Eh, I gave it a good attempt either way." Finley flicked his shades down over his eyes again. "You really staying with that crackpot just to duck your parents? I've heard he's real bad news. If he can legally buy frosted animal crackers, count me in. I'll just hang with you this Tuesday."
"Rest assured, inkstain- Crocker always has animal crackers in his disheveled hovel of a-" Foop's finger hovered above the Call button on his phone. "Oh, drat. It's bound to be past midnight in Dimmsdale by now, and he always goes to bed around 9:00. Ah, well. I'll just call him in a few hours when his middle-aged bladder wakes him up in the middle of the night."
So saying, Foop tossed his phone on his bed and settled down to skim the first textbook he'd grabbed. Because exoskeleton shedding was supposed to occur in babies at the time of weaning, which was almost always pre-pooferty, there was actually very limited information available on the process of shedding itself. Foop had read this particular chapter so many times in frustrated anticipation that he'd actually bitten the blast and dog-eared the page's corner. Sure enough, he read the familiar words again: The first stage of shedding is when the hunger kicks in. The actual shed results in the loss of warm blubber. Drained of energy, the Fairy faces an immediate need to feast or risk starvation.
Suffice to say, with the limited state of foodstuffs in the kitchen, it was not looking all that good.
"Sammy," Foop called, shutting the heavy book and sliding it back onto its shelf. "Get in here so we can talk. I have something I want to say."
Sammy's head appeared around the doorway. When it did, Foop picked up his bottle and switched off Finley's TV. The screen flashed to black.
"Aw, man." Finley sat up. "What the smoof was that for?"
"Poof is under the weather because he is going to shed his exoskeleton in under an hour. Which means I" - Foop jabbed his thumb into his chest to ensure they understood - "am going to shed my exoskeleton shortly after him. I'm taking a rain check and staying inside so I don't shed in public, but that means I need you losers to get your wings in gear. Poof needs to stuff his face after he sheds, and I'm going to find myself in much the same predicament. He's also going to be itchy, snot-nosed, and freezing. So I need one of you to run down and tell what's-his-face that Poof needs extra blankets from the storage closet. Electric if possible. The other one needs to find food, and a lot of it. It would seem Poof already started eating before we got here, but he'll need even more once the shedding is complete."
"Ooh!" Sammy clasped his hands in front of his chest. "I know which blankets are really the best after shedding. You want the pelts with the hairs on only one side, not the fuzzy kind that have fluff on both. It feels more like blubber that way. I'll see if I can find some downstairs. Maybe no one else is using them. But if they are, I'm sure that they'll be willing to share when they hear that Poof is in need. Making friends and being nice is always possible when you ask for little favors really sweetly."
Foop blinked. "Wow. I'm not sure whether to be sickened here, or break into guffaws. I'm going with sickened. Bleh."
"Yeeeaaah…" Finley leaned back in his bean bag and placed his hat over his eyes. "Food patrol? Not gonna happen, bro. I just got here. Do you even know how long the commute was up here from Pixie World? It was like… long."
Foop snatched the hat away. "Oh, I fully expect it will happen. You want Sammy to grocery shop for us? A huldu? Offering us food? Seriously?"
"Ehhh…" The pixie rubbed his cheek for a moment like he was seriously considering it. Foop rolled his eyes and shoved the pointy hat back into his hands.
"Well, get going. Or when Poof sheds, he's going to eat us out of house and home."
Finley set his controller aside. "Dude, where the hey am I supposed to find food? We can't like, leave to go shopping without the RA, y'know?"
"You're a gyne! Go forage somewhere." Foop gestured towards the door with the hand that wasn't massaging his throat. "The vending machines. The cafeteria. The garbage. Other people's apartments. The party they're probably setting up for. I don't care. Just do it now."
Finley placed his hands to his sharp knees and pushed himself up with a sigh. "I'm a-getting. Come on, Samus."
Foop followed them to their apartment's door to ensure they left. Once it shut behind them, he folded his arms. "Idiots," he muttered. "A wonder the world runs on them. Look at what Sammy alone has done to this kitchen. Torn boxes, tattered plastic bags, dirty dishes, crushed cans, crumbs all over the floor. And he was only left alone out here a few minutes. I won't stand for this. Once the poofarazzi finds out their favorite celebrity is finally shedding, we're going to be overrun. Not to mention I'm likely going to be bedridden for the next day or two, and those utter morons don't know the first thing about organizing." He inhaled and spread his fingers, palms out in front of him. "Not to worry, not to worry. Let's just get on with it."
He picked up the dustpan and the small red brush that paired with it and began to crawl about the floor, sweeping even under the little spots where the counters overhung the floor. Fifteen minutes into his task, Foop sat back on his heels, his claws embedded in the back of his neck. "Wait a minute. What am I doing? Duh!" He grabbed his bottle from behind his back. "Magic bottle, hello! Really, that was obvious."
Poof threw up again on the other side of the wall, much louder this time than before. As Foop watched the dirty kitchen right itself again, he paused. He tip-toed back to the beaded curtain and parted it with his hand.
"Uh… Poof? Are you okay in here?"
"Maybe this is what it feels like when you're about to have a baby." Poof cracked open an eyelid. "Hey, Foop. Maybe you can come in here and talk to me? It'll probably help take my mind off feeling sick, and I've never seen you ever run out of things to say."
"You say that like you ever got bored of saying 'Poof poof' for years on end. I wouldn't really be insulting me at a time like this. I am, after all, the only one left here to look after you." Foop sat on the floor, placing his back against the cupboard under the sink. This way, he could see just enough of Poof's face peering over the basin's edge without having to watch him the entire time, or at least look like he was.
What did people talk about with babies who were shedding? Foop scratched his nose, then glanced over at his counterpart.
"So, ah… What do you think you'll look like? You know, after you get your real body and a full head of hair."
"Mm… I've always thought I'll look more like my mom than my dad." Poof reached up to flick the P-shaped curl on top of his head. "But there's never any way to tell for sure before it happens. It could really go either way. My grandpa has straighter, scruffy hair, and my grandma has curls, even though he's Mama's dad and she's Dad's mama. Go figure." He yawned. His eyelids fell shut. "What about you?"
Foop shrugged his wings. His hands wandered down to his bare feet. He wedged his fingers between his toes. "I'll look however you will, I suppose. Except I'm obviously destined to get the looks between us."
"Heh. If you're the brains and I'm the brawn, I bet you'll look like a baboon's other end."
"I will not! You'll look like a baboon's other end. And that doesn't even make sense, because 'end' in conjecture with 'other' implies the face rather than the tail. Which I suppose doesn't make that much of a difference in the point you were trying to make, come to think of it. Assumption being, of course, that your simile was meant as an insult."
Foop coughed in the back of his mouth and picked at his shoulder. "We'll be, um… naked, won't we? After we shed?"
"I think that's the way it usually goes."
"Well, in that case, shouldn't we poof up our new signature outfits in advance?"
Poof groaned. "Oh man, I haven't even started designing mine."
"What? You are such a procrastinator! I had mine done since I was just a few months old." Foop lashed his bottle and poofed up a notebook with a scaly red cover. He opened it, thumbed through to the well-worn halfway point, and then turned the pages around so Poof could see (even if it was through a squint and permanently bag-heavy eyes). "See, look. I went through hundreds of different designs before, finally, I settled on the perfect one. Well." He frowned. "Hiccup chose the black undershirt, actually, but that's beside the point. See, look. I'm going for dark blue sweater vest. It will look brilliant with my light fur tone and all. And the purple collar and vest sleeves will match my freckles. They'll be coming out more as we get older, you know, what with you being a gyne and me being a pilot, and all."
"I want a purple shirt with yellow cuffs on the ends of the sleeves."
"No you don't. That's a terrible color scheme." Foop slapped the cover of his notebook. "See, Poof, this is why you're supposed to plan these things in advance. You can't expect to be in the right frame of mind for art when you're this close to shedding."
"Foop, I know it kinda works that way for Anti-Fairies, but most of us Fairies don't even hit pooferty until after we shed. We can't really talk or make designs when we're that out of it."
Foop rubbed one of his temples. "Then I suppose I'll have to help you. Any ideas? Any good ideas?"
Poof turned his head away, pressing his cheek against the basin's rim. "Someday, I'm going to get on a sports team and wear one of those cool jackets in my school's color."
"Yes, yes, I'm sure you will. But let's focus on the here and now. So?" He poofed up his reading glasses and his favorite pen- the one with the red ink, and the cap shaped like a skull. "Do you have any concepts to use as a starting point?"
"I want a purple shirt with yellow sleeve cuffs."
"Poof, if you don't contribute seriously, I'm going to design you something more the styles of Anti-Fairy fashion. Honestly, like it or not, you are a celebrity. You've got to own it. If you go around looking like a slob, what is that going to make me?"
"The opposite of a slob?" he suggested innocently.
Foop resisted the urge to snap his pen in half. "Well, yes, I suppose so, but that's beside the point. We're still generally associated with one another, especially when we're doomed to be cohort roommates all the way until we either graduate upper school, or you and Finley snap and kill each other first. Throw me a bone."
"Okay, get this." Poof lifted both hands from the rim of the basin. "I want a simple purple shirt to match my hair."
"And yellow sleeve cuffs."
"Why do you insist on making yourself miserable this way?"
"Suck it up," Poof muttered, closing his eyes. He leaned his cheek against the basin once more. "When I get older, I'm going to wear a yellow shirt. With a green saucerbee jacket for Carl Poofypants High on top. With red heart pins and buttons everywhere. And a blue headband to keep my hair back. With ribbons that flow in the wind. I want all the colors."
Foop removed his reading glasses. "Now you're just talking nonsense. You're going to be a clashing wreck with far too much going on."
"Hey, I might change my mind later." Poof lifted his head again. "Don't tell me you were planning to wear that same black shirt and blue sweater vest design all the way through to your adult years."
"That decision is a work in process. That isn't any of your business either way." Foop threw his notebook down and crossed his arms. "I know what I like, and Hiccup and I finally found something we agree on. I count it as a victory. I've made my choice. It's you I worry about, Poof."
He got a tired smile for that one. "Aw, you do care."
Foop ignored him. Taking up his notebook again, he flipped towards the end. "Look. Here are the sketches I did with Goldie and Kelsia when they were going to shed. They came to me, obviously because they realized I am the smartest and most artistically-talented anti-fairy to have been born since, well, it doesn't even matter, because it was before recorded time. That's why they came to me when we were talking designs on the school bus one day."
Poof frowned at the notebook, shifting his wings along his back. "That's, uh… some really detailed Goldies you've got there."
"Aren't they?" Foop pulled one end of his mustache. "I must admit, I did spend a considerable amount of time gathering research on her shape and movement before I put my thoughts into the clothing that would best accentuate her figure. You know… Having lunch break with her. Walking her from one classroom to the next. Sitting behind her in almost every one." He smiled. "Stalking her from the bushes. Sneaking up to her living room window one night I knew she'd be up late watching scary movies…"
"Dude, you have got to get over her. She's not into you."
Foop dropped his hands to his lap. His scowl fell back into place. "Oh, because I'm sure she's so much more into sickly sweet purple prunes who are currently spewing their guts all over the place. Anyway." He tapped the page with the end of his pen. "Look. Goldie has her golden sweater with its one darker stripe, and her brown skirt. That's eye-catching without also being a clashing disaster. Kelsia has shorter sleeves and real, actual pants. She wears all black- it's a classic. So the question is, what look is Fairy World's oh-so-adored celebrity going to be showing off? And don't say 'purple shirt with yellow sleeve cuffs'."
Poof sighed. Several of his fingers disappeared from the edge of the basin to dangle beside his leg. "Theeen I give up. My head hurts. I can't really think in this condition. You can do the work for me."
Foop rose in a huff. "Well, maybe I will. Enjoy being sick all by yourself."
"Did you know my Mama thought about naming me Dusty?" Poof asked through another yawn. "It was going to be after my grandfather… but she said it hurt too much or something at the time. You could've been Anti-Dusty."
Foop scratched his cheek, wrinkling his brow. "Could've been, I suppose."
Poof clenched his eyes, teeth, and fingers all at the same time. His wings trembled against his back. "You're smart, right? You always do best with the biology stuff, and you read books and all that."
"Of course. As I believe I've already made clear, I'm the most brilliant baby in the entirety of the cloudlands, not only since I've been alive, but since there has ever been. Even my father swears it's true, even when he isn't mind-controlled." Foop paused. "Why?"
Two seconds of pause. Then Poof raised his eyes. "Do you think… I'm going to grow up to be a pixie?"
"What?" Foop stopped scratching. He stared for a second, then shook his head. "Poof, we both know perfectly well who our respective parents are."
He squirmed. "No, really. My mama wrote a song about it once, pixies and stuff. You're an Anti-Fairy. You can hear the magic moving through my lines, right? It twirls kind of funny. I don't… I don't breathe like all the other Fairies do. I breathe like a pixie."
Foop hovered on the tips of his toes, his ears pricked forward. Sure, he couldn't see the infamous magic lines that allowed Seelie Courters like his counterpart to breathe directly from the energy field, but when he listened, he realized that… Poof was right. There seemed to be a… sputter in what he drew, compared to when he'd listened to other Fairies. He'd never really paid attention before now, but he could visualize the way the magic twisted and spun above Poof's head before slipping through all his pores.
"Don't be ridiculous," he said. "Only baby pixies can grow up to be pixies. You'd have to be born as a hexagon and look identical to the rest of them. The Head Pixie would have torn you away from the only parents you'd ever known for your third birthday."
Poof nodded without comment and closed his eyes.
Back at his desk, up on his knees in his big black mesh chair, Foop broke out his new colored pens. He tapped the end of the purple one against his teeth. The only thing better than being Fairy World's favorite celebrity kid had to be being the one to design the long-term look of Fairy World's favorite celebrity kid. The only question was, what sort of outfit would really suit his counterpart?
Agh. This would be so much easier if Poof was here beside him, willing to contribute and pass him snacks like Goldie and Kelsia did.
"Okay. Hiccup, stop me if you think I'm getting too crazy. I'm thinking…" Foop inked in a shirt collar, then a torso. He paused. His thumb stroked down the length of his pen. "Long sleeves. Do you think long sleeves? True, his family are currently residing in California, which is rather warm, but they won't stay there forever. When he's at school, he's up here all the time in the cold. Curses." He drummed his claws. "He's a celebrity. He's really got to nail that celebrity look. I want to design him something that he can wear without overheating, but without freezing to death either. That's important."
"Why not both?" Hiccup asked, taking the pen for himself. "Ah, remember how I designed an undershirt for us? It's black with long sleeves, and is underneath our nice blue sweater vest. So what if…" He emphasized the collar, thickening it out and making a sweeping motion back over the shoulder to suggest a hood. "Poof wore some sort of light shirt like this one? It could have long sleeves. And he can wear white underneath, with sleeves that are short, yes. Then he could take off the top shirt if he gets too hot."
Foop caught his breath. "Oh, Puck, that's brilliant. There are so many things you can do with a hoodie anyway. You can tie it around your waist, or… or… you can wear it. Yes, a celebrity can show off loads of different styles with just a simple hoodie."
"And it comes with a hood in case he wants to cover his face when he's out in public."
"Or around another freckled gyne. It's perfect. But what sort of design do we put on its front? Perhaps a star? A moon? A cow?"
Just as Foop was considering poofing in a book of sewing patterns and designs for inspiration, his cell phone began to jitter on the bed. An incoming call? He checked the screen. Apparently, he'd gotten an influx of messages while he was busy cleaning the floor, or sitting on the floor with Poof or something. The RA must have finally approved him to use the connection for the new semester. He ignored them for now and accepted Finley's incoming scry.
"Finley?" He squinted. "What in… Where are you?"
Wherever he was, it was outdoors. It looked like… he might be outside one of Fairy World's actual grocery stores. He hefted a plastic bag in his fist. "Yeah, man, I got the stuff."
"Where are you?" Foop clenched his claws in his hair. "Did you somehow leave the Spellementary premises? I thought you couldn't fly."
"Well like… You told me to go forage and stuff? So I hopped one of the shuttle buses…"
"You took the bus? In public? Surrounded by grrrown magical creatures who are all dropping their offspring off at school this time of year before they begin to look for holiday deals with the universal return of the starships? Finley-!" Foop pinched his ear as Hiccup stirred in the back of his consciousness. "Gray Tuesday is right around the corner. Do you want to get kidnapped and used as a teleport link directly to the Pixie World warehouses again this year?"
Finley pushed his shades further back in his slick hair. "Okay, I'm starting to think that maybe you don't, see, actually like me? You're giving me a lot of mixed messages, and I don't really swing that way. You've really gotta spell stuff out with me. Did you want the groceries or not?"
Foop made the attempt to pinch his temples with his thumb and forefinger. His hand was too small to reach both sides of his head. Well. Not after tonight, it wouldn't be.
"Look, just get the foraging thing done and get back here. We will talk about the campus store another day. Poof could be shedding any minute, and then it's hunger rampage time."
"Oh!" Finley perked up immediately. "So this is like Pac-Man! Yeah, so I totally got this. See you in a shake, bro."
The call ended. Foop placed it beside his notebook with a sigh. "I worry about that man."
"The key to not being disappointed with others is to keep your expectations low," Hiccup chimed in. "For example, I am amazed that a, hmm… a busy bee like him was able to remember that the bus was making rounds by the grocery store today. I don't think he gets out of Pixie World much."
"Mmhm." Foop picked up his purple pen again, massaging his cheek. A clump of fur came away in the process. He flicked it into the little trash can by his desk. "Now, what would be an appropriate design element to afflict Poof with for potentially the remainder of his childhood, depending on what the public expects him to wear and Fairy culture not actually encouraging much mental or personality growth until high school?"
"Would bright white polka dots work? They might bring out the color of his shirt underneath."
"Spots would be interesting, but I'm not sure if- Ooh, I know."
The design would be basic, but effective. Foop scratched in more lines, zigzagging his pen up and down until he had colored in the whole shirt. Then, adjusting his orientation, he moved at a different angle. At last, the quick design completed, he sat back in his chair.
"And, finished. What do you think?"
It would be purple like Poof's hair, of course, with darker stripes running horizontally across his chest. The collar would be blue. It was a good mirror of Foop's collar that way, which would be purple, and that's what he was going for. When people looked at Poof, they ought to remember him- both as outfit designer, and a celebrity's counterpart. The sleeves would be bare of stripes because… that's just how they were, and they would not include yellow sleeve cuffs.
"It's awfully simple," Hiccup said.
"I don't exactly have endless time to mess around with it."
"Why? Poof can always change it later."
"You wouldn't understand. Your first shirt design is…" Foop tilted his notebook. "It's something special. A lot of Fairies carry such a look through to adulthood. It's a cultural thing we do. You know, own multiples of the same outfits all the time."
Hiccup cleared his throat. "Poof said he wanted yellow."
"He'll change his mind once he sees this brilliance."
"He already told you what he wanted to look like when he's older."
"Poof doesn't know what he's saying."
"He's a celebrity kid, and he's expected to keep up with the fashion trends."
Foop rolled his eyes and reached for the other side of his neck. "That's his day job. I've just designed him something he can wear around the house."
"Purple may not match well with his green saucerbee jacket if he really does try to get on the Poofypants team someday. I can see why he wants yellow. Yellow is nice."
"Of course you would think so. I refuse to work in yellow. It's much too happy. Even Goldie's sweater is more of a golden orange."
Hiccup shrugged. "All right. I suppose I like it well enough."
"I do too," Foop agreed, but then paused. "Where have I seen this design before?"
"It was just up here in our head before you drew it."
"No, no, it seems familiar. Curses." He fingered his usual corner. "Could I have stolen this off someone without realizing it?"
"Maybe you saw it in a book of famous people."
"When do I ever read books about famous people?"
Hiccup shrugged a second time and rose from the chair. A shower of loose fur fell from his clothes in the process. "Well, you can't copyright a design. Everyone is allowed to wear anything they want. Even if it does look familiar, no one will get mad at you."
"Yes, perhaps, but I'm trying to start a new trend, or something. I don't know." As he waved his bottle to switch off the lights and left the room, Foop couldn't resist stroking his goatee with a frown. "I was hoping to put my name on this look, but my fear of being attacked for plagiarism is currently winning out over my desire to be praised at all times and in everything I do. Poof? I'm coming in."
Foop paused, his hand resting against the wood. "Knock knock?"
Poof moaned softly, but Foop's sharp ears were able to pick up the words, "I'm out."
He was out.
Foop shrugged at Hiccup, then turned his back. In that way, he reached behind him to turn the bathroom handle and push open the door. The light was pale. The floor was cold. After taking a yellow towel from its post on the wall, he slowly walked backwards until, halfway to where he thought was Poof's side, his heel came down on something with a crunch. It definitely wasn't tile. It wasn't a body part either. It was crispy and flaky, and broke apart at his touch. His mustache twitched.
"What was that?"
Poof let out a groan. The shifting of his hands suggested he was curled in a ball, holding his stomach. "S'okay. Didn't hurt. That's just my shed skin."
"Uh, right. Well. Ah, here you go." Foop partially tossed and partially dropped the towel over his counterpart. He waited several seconds for Poof to cover himself in case his aim had been off before he turned around to face the lump on the floor. "Well, come on. Let's see how you look."
"I'm coming. I'm coming." The towel rustled for a moment, and then out poked Poof's head. Foop blinked. He was, well…
… He was really big.
The last time Foop had laid eyes on his counterpart, Poof had been the size and shape of a soccer ball, a little bigger than the measurements for the average fairy, him being a gyne instead of a kabouter and all. Now, the soccer ball measurement would be more accurate to describe just his chest. His cheeks were full of pale brown freckles. They were even sprinkled above his nose, still as small and round as it had ever been. His single purple hair had thickened into a whole bunch of purple hairs, all in thick, distinct curls like tentacles around his ears. His hair didn't gleam with the shine of his mother's, but instead carried the dull softness that Uncle Cosmo's showed. He hadn't quite lost the baby fat around his face, and it even showed in the slight protruding of his chin. Foop didn't want to lean forward for a look, but he found himself wondering if Poof had retained a round belly too.
He actually looked… okay beneath the pale yellow of the towel.
Foop cleared his throat. "Um. How do you feel?"
Poof reached behind his shoulder and scratched at his skin. "Itchy. Peeling. Sore. Like I got bitten by a thousand sprites before you rammed me with a spike-covered shield from behind. How do I look?"
"Like a pudgy, dumb, purple puffball."
"Ha, ha. Give me my clothes."
Foop held up his notebook. "This is what I was thinking-"
"No talk. Just clothes." When Foop shot him a look, Poof forced a smile that showed the gap between his front teeth. "I'm in a lot of pain right now, so please? My goals: Get dressed. Get food. I'm starving. Party hard tonight."
Foop waved his bottle without another word. The hoodie he and Hiccup had designed appeared on the floor in a neatly-folded stack, along with the short-sleeved white shirt and a set of black pants. Six black shoes were set off to the side; Poof could pick from what he had. "See if you like what Hiccup and I drew up for you. I don't know about the size, or the slits for your wings in the back. If you need anything changed, just say so. I get a lot of fees waived because I'm here on Unseelie scholarship, you remember."
Slowly, Poof reached out for the white shirt. Foop turned his back and hummed a few notes to himself, occasionally smoothing down the front of his onesie. Speaking of which, Poof's must be…
… He decided to hold off on looking. Instead, he scratched a sharp itch between his wings as best he could with his short arms and the soft nipple of his bottle.
"Do you still feel like throwing up?" he asked over his shoulder.
Rustling suggested Poof was putting on his clothes. "Nah. I'm better now, just really cold. I get the whole 'nymphs need blubber' thing now. Heh heh… Look at that. I'm officially a juvenile, and you're still just a pup. What time was that opening social party supposed to start again?"
"Oh, five minutes ago, I'm sure. I made an attempt to get here early, but…" Foop shrugged. "Time zones."
"Time zones," Poof agreed, a cheery note in his voice. The next rustle sounded like cotton with a hint of polyester. That's what the hoodie was made of. Poof fell silent as he presumably pulled it over his head, but when he popped his face out and started to push his arms through, he said, "You know, the cool kids always show up late to parties. You wanna head down with me?"
Foop moved his bottle lower down his back as he scratched. "It'll probably take a week before you can fly with those new wings. I guarantee you're more top-heavy than your legs can handle right now."
"Yeah, but…" Poof flapped out the dark denim pants Foop had left him with. "There's food down there, and I'm hungry. Besides, it's a party- I've gotta go. And Goldie will probably be there. I wanna show off these new muscles."
Foop didn't try to hold back his snort. "Muscles. Poof, your head is full of cloudfluff right now. I doubt you can even stand on those little legs."
He was startled by the dragging sound behind him. Turning around, Foop found Poof pulling himself across the floor towards him. His fingers closed around Foop's ankle. He stuck out his lower lip. "You'll help me get down there, right? You know if you don't, I can always just poof myself. But if you do it, it's freeee."
"Get off." Foop shook his foot and stepped away, still rubbing behind his back. Poof dropped his head onto his arms. "Seriously, you can't be, well… serious. You just shed, I'm about to shed. A party is out of the question."
"Well, you can shed first, and then we'll go." Poof stared at the ceiling, his hands folded over his stomach. "Hey. Why do you have black hair when your parents both have blue hair?"
"That's an ancient Anti-Fairy secret."
"But it's like, all the other Anti-Fairies have black hair, and then your parents are some of the only ones who don't. Kinda sketchy, don't you think so?"
"That is a stereotype." Foop gave up on scratching with the bottle and returned to his claws instead. It felt so good to really dig them into his skin. "Anti-Fairies can display a variety of natural hair colors, just as you Fairies can. For instance, beside black, there are various tints and shades of blue, purple, white, silver, and sunset."
"Huh." Poof stretched his arms. "Oooor… Maybe Anti-Cosmo's not really your dad. Your real dad could have black hair. Think about it." Poof held up his hands and made a rainbow motion. "You could have a whole nother dad you don't even know about. Your parents could be total cheaters."
Foop nudged him with his foot. "Poof, you realize you just implied your own parents were unfaithful when they had you."
"Oh, right. And I guess it was my dad who had me and your mom who had you, so… Yeah." Poof placed his hands on his knees and, on shaky legs, pulled himself up to his feet. His wings spread out behind him with a flap. Boy, was he ever tall. His hands had gotten fat. His arms were chubby, and yes, there was that tubby roundness around his stomach. Those wings alone could crush an anti-fairy pup if only they could clap shut. "Phew," he said. "Poof to Houston mission control, legs are operational. We have liftoff."
"Who is Houston?" Foop muttered. His neck had started to scab and peel. An awful lot, in fact. All this standing was really wearing on his feet too. He stretched his arms towards the ceiling. His ears flicked. His spine adjusted position with a satisfying pop. Rhoswen's chisel, were his eyelids ever heavy. He rubbed them both with his thumb and forefinger, shaking out the sensation of cobwebs clinging like tree sap to his wings. Foop leaned his cheek against his palm and groaned behind his fangs.
When he opened his eyes again, his vision had gone bleary with exhaustion. Poof arched his eyebrows, then let his gaze wander back down to the six shoes he hadn't tried on yet. His stomach gurgled. He stuffed his hands in the pocket of his hoodie, which looked a little pinker in this light than Foop had planned for. He cleared his throat. "So, about that party tonight."
"Poof, we went over this. Who knows when I might shed? For the next several hours, I can't go anywhere people might be watching me." Foop shivered all over, flapping his hands until he swore his bones rattled. Then he did the same to each of his feet in turn. "Hooooly smokes, it is freezing in here!"
"… Just look down."
He did. After gazing down a long stretch of bare chest, bony knees, and lengthy legs, he found himself surrounded by heap after heap of pale blue fur. Fat bundles of it clumped together, spreading out from his feet all the way over to where Poof's discarded baby skin lay, still untouched and blanketed by the remaining threads of a purple onesie off to the left. Mixed among the hairs were dozens of weird strips of peeled skin that he supposed must be the warm blubber (or "chitin" might be the better word) that had once made up his square exoskeleton. Some of the larger chunks were still reminiscent of his former shape. He'd torn straight through his old clothes, ripping them in the back with a much stronger set of wings than he'd anticipated.
Foop let his eyes slide behind him back through the bathroom door, even though he knew what he'd find. A whole trail of fur and shed skin patches led through the beaded curtain into the living room, and presumably from there back to his own bedroom. He paused mid-scratch, his arm stretched so far over his shoulder that his fangs were practically embedded in the crook of his elbow.
"Oh. So was that it?"
"That was it."
"Huh. Well, that was a bit little more anticlimactic than I was expecting."
Poof shrugged. "I feel like it was a little more dramatic for me. I guess shedding works differently for Anti-Fairies." A smirk picked at the corner of his mouth. He took his hands from his pockets and made finger wands. "Get it? Shedding?" When Foop didn't respond, he poked the anti-fairy in the chest. "Shedding? Because you shed your hair all over the place?"
"Stop it. Ow." Foop slapped his counterpart's hands away. His legs shivered beneath him. He stretched his arm out for the wall. His other hand grabbed the rail that had once held the yellow towel, now discarded on the floor. "Oh, good smoke. My wings are barking. Could you offer me a little privacy like a normal person now? The show's over. I'm not entirely decent right at the moment. And by the other definition, apparently neither are you."
"I wasn't looking," Poof insisted with another roll of his eyes.
"How you can even see anything underneath that shaggy mess on your head is beyond me. You really need to consider tying those wild curls back." Foop leaned further to the right, making the attempt to stand on shaking feet. His toes had grown out extensively in preparation for the life of hanging upside down that was sure to follow. While they were long, Mother Nature hadn't exactly intended for them to be very stable. That's what shoes were for. He clenched his teeth. "Now, do you mind? I am trying to see myself in that mirror behind you."
Poof moved to better block his way. "Get out," Foop snapped, kicking at his shin. The movement almost toppled him, and he made a panicked grab for the towel rack with both hands. "Honestly, I don't deserve this."
"Come on, my wings are translucent. You can see through them."
"Move, you- you- Ugh. I'm too hungry and cold to think up proper insults! Get out of here."
Poof spread his arms and wings, but did so with his eyes closed and his gap-toothed grin showing. "I'm not looking."
"You can see me with your weird Fairy senses, and you know it! Now get… away!" Foop risked a grab for his counterpart's shoulder, even though it made him sway wildly on his newborn legs. Poof chuckled and straightened him out again.
"Aw, come on. What's the big deal anyway? We've got like the exact same body anyway. It's just that yours comes with fur."
"And yours comes with too much sweat, so let go of me." One final shove, and Foop abandoned Poof for the sink counter. It was short just like the one in his and Finley's side of the apartment, designed specifically for young Fairykind to wash up in anytime after their first shed. For the very first time, Foop found it to be his proper height. He grabbed the faucet and the wall, blinking through squinted eyes at his own reflection.
If it weren't for the black fur that made up his mustache and goatee, and his searing magenta eyes, he'd hardly have recognized himself. Well, his fur was still the same extremely pale blue tint as ever, but now his purple freckles were even more prominent than they had been back when he was a pup. True, his frame was a little thin, but that was only to be expected. He was an academic, not a man of muscle.
He had a face. With its own jaw. Foop traced his hand along it, marveling silently at the wonders of a working chin. He sounded out a few letters of the alphabet, pinching his cheeks with forefinger and thumb. For good measure, he moved his hand higher. He really could touch both his temples at the same time!
And his hair! That F-shaped tuft of hair had morphed not into the shaggy coils that hung in Poof's eyes and tickled the back of his neck, but into two enormous curls of black. They sat prominently atop his head, nestled together between his fluffy, pointed ears. Foop traced his fingers over them and followed them all the way down. His hair was long enough that it reached below his cheeks and curled up in the back in two spirals like it had been licked by a hair-licking cow.
Satisfied, Foop turned his attention away from his hair and checked out his fangs by pulling his lips first one way, then the other with his fingers. Long, pleasant fingers with sharp black claws capping every one.
Poof leaned one elbow against the counter and pressed a hand to his rumbling stomach. "So? Like what you see?"
"The whole package. Of course, it still needs one more thing." Foop retrieved his bottle from the floor and ran it under the sink water to rinse off most of the hairs. Giving it a wave, he summoned the long-sleeved black undershirt and dark blue sweater vest with its purple trim, just as he had planned. "There. You can look all you want and bask in the glow of my charms, cottonpuff. Now, I'm perfect."
Poof turned so his reflection came into view in the mirror. He smiled. "Hey, Foop? Thanks for designing this for me. These clothes fit really well. You totally nailed it."
"Yes, well." Foop plucked at a stray clump of loose hairs on his throat and dropped them on the floor. "I'm admittedly conflicted about making this kindly gesture for my nemesis, so let's put a pin in this emotion for now and not go spreading it around quite so early."
Poof tugged at his collar. "I just want to say one thing. You know who this design reminds me of?"
Foop's fingers froze on his chest. Slowly, he turned to look at his counterpart again. "Do tell."
Poof's smile turned to a full-on grin. "Silly Stewart from 'Looky's Lunchbox'."
Poof's chuckling almost drowned out the noise of Foop beating his head against the counter's edge. He wrapped his arm around the anti-fairy's neck and hauled him away. "C'mon. Let's go catch us a party."
A/N - Butch said that Poof's original planned name was Dusty. That'll come back later. A few times.
Also, in the "77 Secrets of Fairly OddParents" revealed just before Season 6, Wanda did indeed sing a line of a country song that goes, "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be pixies!" which I think is a very intriguing piece of information due to the implication that one can "grow up" to be a pixie. Whether it's metaphorical or not, Wanda apparently wrote the song, so Poof probably worries about it. Especially since we saw H.P. tying in his magic lines back in "Open Your Eyes".
Breathing lines. I should've called them breathing lines.