Consider this a down payment on kelkyag‘s commissioned request.
Juniper, babysitting Baby Smith as she did most afternoons after school, found that there were three pixies sitting in the windowsill – not kids, either, but adults, armed with tiny spears and wicked-looking knives. She fed them sugar-water and a well-diced tomato, and, since they didn’t seem to want to play, went back to reading to Baby and playing Pirates Against the Mean Monarchy and Princesses Held Down by the Cruel Oppressors and Adventure on the Island (which was her favorite, though it helped to have more people).
Baby was starting to follow what she said, although it still only answered on belches and burbles (and the occasional tiny steam-gout, which mostly only curled her hair). But even Baby noticed something was up when the Harpies started flying by the next day.
It only got weirder. Juniper would have thought that the Smiths and her parents had decided she couldn’t be trusted, except that all the kids in the neighborhood were getting the same treatment. Three centaurs had started galloping alongside the bus home from school – just their bus, just the bus to Smokey Knoll, not the busses to the human neighborhoods – and the gremlins that you never saw were suddenly a little bit visible, sticking out of mailboxes and, on more than one occasion, hiding in Juniper’s backpack.
“It’s the poacher, isn’t it?” she asked Jin, who was spending a lot more time around the house lately. She didn’t know if he’d answer her – Jin was in that weird place between kid and grown-up – but when he nodded, she risked another question. “Nobody poaches human kids. I can see protecting Baby, but what are the gremlins doing following me at school?”
Jin’s face did the switch-thing it had been doing lately, kid-adult-kid, and, instead of giving her a decent answer, he squished her into a hug.
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