This is a story of Changeling: the Dreaming, although there is very little of that setting that you need to know to read this.
In short, at least in older versions of the setting, when changelings reach a certain point – age often helps – of banality in their lives, they fall into a stage where they forget their fae souls. But their human bodies live on…
The temperatures were over 100F. There was a drought on that had been going for more than a month. The city had been in and out of water restrictions since late May, and the sun was searing down as if it was trying to bake everyone who dared to go outside.
And on a street in a neighborhood where the police always went in twos and preferably in threes, a hydrant was spraying water all over the sidewalk and the road.
Seven children from toddler age to teens were dancing in the water. Normally, the police would chase them off, close the hydrant, and maybe make stern noises at the oldest of them. But this time, they were dancing with two grey-haired people who were definitely old enough to arrest.
Hell, their retirements might be old enough to arrest.
The old man was wearing a pair of cargo shorts and showing off skin wrinkled and spotted from decades in the sun, but also showing off muscles that made the police tread carefully. The old woman had put a bandanna over her short-cropped natural ‘do and was otherwise wearing a cute halter and skirt sort of swimsuit that made her look more like a genie than a threat.
The police bundled them into the back of the police car and started asking them questions on the way to the station. They appeared to be laughing too hard to answer, which did not reassure the police about their sanity or stability.
The matron they sent in to question the woman used the sort of voice people use with the very old and the very young. “Ma’am, do you know where you are?”
The woman’s voice, on the other hand, had the tone she reserved for the very irritating or the very stupid. “In a police interrogation room.”
“And do you know why you’re in here?”
“Let’s see.” The woman’s smile was too sharp. The officer should have been worried. “The city stripped the budget for new pools and eliminated all but one of the extant city swimming facilities, under the guise of lowering property taxes – which it did not do. They got rid of three fresh-air summer camps for city kids for the same reasons. The zoning board three times denied my application for a private pool in my back yard under the concern of ‘public safety’ and police insisted we get rid of a nice sprinkler system we set up as a water park for the kids – that means that there was no safe, clean way for the kids to play in the water. The water prices have gone up in the city four times in the last two years and I know – because I researched it – that the reservoirs, the back-up tanks, and even the back-up back-ups are not hurting.”
“There’s water rationing in effect-” the officer started. Or tried to.
“No. There was rationing in effect. The order ended three days ago.”
“So you’re admitting that you opened the fire hydrant?”
“I asked Hank to do it for me, yes. He’s better with tools.” She gestured unerringly in the direction of the other interrogation room.
The matron was now absolutely certain of two things: The woman in front of her was in no way suffering from dementia, and she, Officer Hannigan, was in way over her head.
In the other room, the man called Hank was being belligerent and worrying a younger officer. “Where’s my lady, my woman. Where’s my wife? Where’s Letitia?”
“Your-” the officer was looking at paperwork she had not been expecting. The man had been carrying so many tools in his shorts that they had despaired of getting him to get rid of all of them. After the officer had told him to remove all his tools and been faced with a tray full that looked like it would stock their local Sears, she had been struck with an urge, raised her eyebrows at him, and told him all of them, sir.
That man had tools in places she did not want to think about.
And – *and* – he had an arrest record whose summary was longer than her CV, even if most of it was twenty to sixty years ago.
What he did not have on file was a wife.
He raised his eyebrows and leaned forward over the table. They had not cuffed the old man. She was regretting this.
“My common-law wife of the last forty-seven years. Letitia Brown. Where is she?”
The officer regained her poise. “She is in another room, sir. What you ought to be worried about, Mr. Henderson, is yourself. I see you’ve been arrested for disturbing the peace before-” She looked down at her papers. The last time, he’d been naked. There were photos.
She had a very good poker face. She looked up at the man and raised her own eyebrows.
“Oh, you, you remind me of – of this woman, this officer of the law, back when I was a young buck. Back when I got arrested starkers protesting, man, that was fun. But she, she was like you. Very comfortable in the rule of law. Very secure and firm. Oh, she liked her rules, and I has such fun tweaking her nose. Never did no harm, of course, just playin’ with her, but she woudl get so mad-”
The glee in the man’s voice turned into more laughter. The officer’s face only made him laugh more. Then his smile seemed to take on a life of its own.
The wave of Glamour that washed over the room spilled out into the police station, onto the road, and was felt across nearly the entire city. The man in front of her looked somehow shorter and taller, stronger and older, and his grin was missing three teeth but seemed all the more gleeful.
In the other room, Officer Hannigan watched as the woman became taller and her ears pointed. She stood, this Letitia Brown, and she was a queen. Her eyes raked over the officer.
They would forget this, but the impressions would remain. They would remember the joy and the presence, but the police station would continue being mundane.
Except in a crime lab in the basement, where a young crime tech stretched and remembered why he had first begun to learn cantrips, why he had learned to be fast before he even knew what fae were.
Except in the room with Hank Henderson, where and officer was trying to regain her calm and knowing that nothing would ever be the same again.
Except in the room where a queen looked over Officer Hannigan and she knew fear and awe and somehow, somehow, did not kneel.
“I believe-” The queen’s voice was like fire. “-that you should either call my lawyer or let us go.”
When Officer Hannigan did not move, the woman added, more gently but no less on fire, “now.”
Letitia had not felt this good in years, decades, and she did not want to waste a moment of it.