The damage wasn't nearly what George expected. The sudden hailstorm this morning before had been brief, but furious. He'd expected to see something more like destruction in the woods behind the house, but to his surprise there wasn't much to see. Beyond the regular leaf litter and a few freshly broken branches it was pretty much as he usually found it.
George wasn't interested in the woods, though.
He wandered further down the trail and turned at a familiar rock. He walked a good half mile until he saw the clearing. He almost snuck up on it, tiptoeing though the leaf litter. He pushed a couple of small branches off the trail with his foot and leaned across a lichen covered boulder. He closed his eyes took a deep breath, afraid of what he'd see.
He prayed it was what he'd seen so many times before since that fateful morning last spring. He'd wandered quietly off the trail following some raccoon tracks and kept going when they ended at the thick underbrush. He'd stopped to rest at this boulder when he'd seen her. He would never, could never forget that moment when he'd laid eyes for the first time on a real fairy.
The tiny, winged creature was beautiful, so beautiful. If she had simply been human sized she could have led any man around by the nose. George watched her flit around the clearing from flower to flower in the sunlight, looking for all the world like a bee pollinating each plant. He watched the sun glint off those translucent wings for hours before darkness fell and she flitted off into the night, never having noticed him.
George returned the next day, and the next. For some reason, she kept coming back to this clearing, this meadow. George took his place behind the rock and watched, falling in love with the creature he couldn't have, a creature he was far too scared to try and contact even if she was only a few feet away. He liked to think that she knew he was there, indeed if he could see her there seemed little doubt she could see him, but she never tried to come closer that a few feet, and always maintained the fiction that they were no where near each other.
It was the small sob that caught his attention.
The sound was so small and delicate, but filled with sadness. George felt his heart sink as he looked over the edge of the boulder. She was indeed sitting there, sobbing into her hands. His nervousness faded ever so slightly, "Are you okay?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.
She looked up and wiped a tear away. There was no hint of surprise in her expression, "No, I'm hurt," she said sadly.
George looked at her dumbly, "Anything I can do to help?"
She thought a little, her expression brightening and her apparent pain fading, "Maybe. My name is Fa," she reached a hand up and after a moment, George lowered his own. She gripped his index finger and mimicked a shake, "Nice to meet you."
George was stunned, unsure what to say now. He'd never really expected to talk to her, much less find out she had a name and much, much less to find her so polite. "What's wrong?" he asked, "Why are you crying?"
She reached a shapely hand and pushed on her left wing, the lower part of it was damaged badly. "This. I was hit with a hailstone and my wing is hurt!" She sobbed, "I'm not sure how I'll get home now! It's so far on foot, and so many things would try and eat me if they could."
He was a little surprised by that, even if that had been his main concern George didn't think that a fairy could be hurt. "Can I get you home?"
She looked at him and smiled, her tiny face glowing radiantly now, "Oh! You can! You can!" Her useless wings fluttered a little, throwing her off to one side, "Ow!" George lowered his hand and she gratefully stepped onto it. "You are a sweet man, for a human," she said with a smile.
George got his first close look at Fa. She was stunning, absolutely stunning. Her proportions were perfect, her skin looked smooth and unblemished. If she was just the size of a human, she would be far out of Georges league. "Where can I take you?" he asked breathlessly, hoping she'd want to go to his home.
She motioned toward the woods. "Go that way, I'll tell you when you're close." Fa seemed to read his thoughts and leaned seductively against his thumb, "Lean over here," she said. When he did, she kissed him on the tip of the nose, "that's for helping me."
Georges mind was still reeling a little from the situation. He was holding a fairy of all things! No one would ever believe this! Given that she was hurt, he suddenly realized that he probably could take her to his home, keep her forever as his own. Somehow, he couldn't bring himself to seriously think that way. She was so beautiful that to keep her in some kind of cage felt horribly wrong. Somewhat reluctantly, he started walking where she had pointed. "You live in the woods?" he asked.
She laughed, a sound like the ringing of perfect crystal, "Not in woods like you know, but something like that." She sat cross-legged in his palm and looked up at him, "My people live in another realm, something like your world but more perfect. It's a land of pure beauty and enchantment."
He looked away from her only long enough to step over a log, "Then why do you come here?" he asked, barely omitting the word everyday.
She smiled, "Your world isn't as enchanting, but it's just as fascinating, and there are things here that we don't have in my world. For some reason, dandelions just don't grow there." She shrugged, "All of my people come here from time to time, even if this world is darker than my own."
"So your world is a place of pure light or something?" he asked.
She laughed again, and George felt his heart leap. It was a sound that he couldn't get enough of, "Of course not," she said as she leaned back a little and stroked one of his fingers, "There are some things that are just no fun in the light."
His heart was going a mile a minute, he felt his lust growing, "I...I..." he stammered then stopped.
She smiled again and rolled over in his hand, giving him a view of her perfect body from behind. "It's right over there," she said pointing at a large pine tree.
George walked over and knelt by the base of the tree. "This is it?" he asked.
Fa pointed at a pile of rocks, "Brush away those leaves."
He did, revealing a small hole that seemed to stretch on to infinity, lined by rocks. "This is it?" he repeated a bit more loudly. Somehow, he'd been expecting more.
"The links between our worlds are small," she explained, "Otherwise we'd have humans coming there all the time."
"All the time," he repeated, "You mean people go there?" he asked feeling hopeful.
"Once in a while," she said with a smile, "when they do something that makes one of us pleased with them." She looked at him coyly, "You have feelings for me, don't you?" she asked. "Don't lie, I've seen you behind that boulder since the first day."
George turned bright red with embarrassment, "No! I...! I...!" He stammered and shuddered. He felt like he wanted to die. "I'm sorry! But you're so beautiful! I had to see you whenever I could!" His ears burned, "I always wanted to say something, but couldn't."
Fa didn't laugh, but climbed quickly up his arm to his shoulder and kissed him on the cheek. "Don't worry," she said sweetly and seductively, "I'm used to it." She tugged gently on his ear and whispered, "I like it, in fact. Why do you think I come here? If I'd minded, I'd have taken care of the problem on the first day." She laughed again, "I've done it before, to men that have gone beyond watching."
He turned to look at her, tears of shame in his eyes. He felt horrible for what he'd been doing for so many months, "You're so beautiful," he repeated, "You're the most beautiful woman I've seen in my life."
She smiled as if she already knew that, "I am flattered, of course. I'd even take you with me if I could," she said. Then she motioned toward the entrance, "You can see that you won't fit through the gateway."
"How did others make it though?" he asked, "You said that there were others."
"It's a simple matter, really," she said. "I just make a few adjustments, a little change in your bones, a little fur..."
"Fur?" he asked, "What are you talking about?"
"In my world, the powers of my people are nearly absolute. I could make you a man," she said tugging on his ear, "that is the same size as I." She punctuated that with a kiss. "Here, though, I'm limited. I can't do something like that. I can still alter your form, but it would have to be something found here or the balances are upset."
George was catching on, "You want to make me into an animal to get though the gate," he said slowly. "Then we can be together?"
She smiled, "We can be together forever, if you like." She held up a hand, "There is a price. While my wing mends, I will need a devoted steed. If you agree to stay an animal while that happens, we can be together after."
"How long will that take?"
"Time is meaningless in the fairy world," she explained simply.
He wasn't sure he like that, but it meant more time with Fa. "What if I want to come back?" he asked almost reluctantly.
"I can bring you back to this moment, if you choose, like nothing happened," she said.
George considered it, knowing in his heart that Fa wouldn't hurt him. "Won't you be coming back, though? For your dandelions?"
She shook her head sadly, "Not for a long time. A wingless fairy is unprotected, and our abilities here are weaker than we'd like. We're magical, but no more tuned to the world that you are. More than one of my people have been killed by a stray housecat or dog because they lost a wing. It just doesn't happen in out world." She smiled again, "It's a world that knows no pain or sorrow or death, we don't allow it. Want to come?"
He reached a hand toward her and let his finger touch her feet gently. She was so beautiful. "Say the word, and I'll go."
With a gentle kiss from her lips onto his neck, he felt strange. His muscles spasmed a moment, then relaxed. He reached a hand up and felt long hairs beginning to grow from it. He then looked at his hand as the fingers started to change, looking like they were getting longer even as it shrank. He could feel Fa shift off his shoulder and onto the back of his neck as it narrowed. He crossed his eyes and watched his nose and mouth turn into a muzzle. His breath came in faster as his body was covered in thick fur.
George could feel Fa rubbing the top of his head, running her fingers through his new fur and sending a bit of pleasure through his body. "You're perfect, George. A beautiful raccoon."
He leaned his head back so she could rub it harder, but all he go was a short laugh and a little pressure on his neck from her legs, "Later, my lovely steed. Right now, though the gateway."
George fell off his haunches and onto all fours, noticing how natural it felt to walk like this. His banded tail held slightly off the ground, he made straight for the dark gateway with the guiding motions of Fa driving him forward.
He crawled into the hole, feeling completely natural in the tiny space. He couldn't see anything as he got deep inside, but the sensation of the walls on his whiskers helped to guide him unerringly though the dark abyss without running into anything. It was only a short time before he burst through the other side into the light.
And what a light it was.
It was a world exactly as Fa described. They stood on the top of a hill covered in short grass and strange blue flowers that overlooked a valley so golden and beautiful that it could only be supernatural. The air was perfectly clear and smelled sweet as a bakery. Fa let him gaze on the valley for a while, then gently nudged him with her legs. George went forward through the grass, deciding that acting as Fa's steed for a little while was small payment for getting to such a place.
"You and I will be together for a long time," she whispered into his ear. As she rubbed her hands through the fur on his head, he felt a slight pressure on his mind. His lust for Fa slowly turned to devotion, a devotion stronger than anything he knew was possible. The memories of George were there, but they were pushed aside in his single minded devotion to Fa. He would take her home, climb any tree with her on his back. He would carry her to the ends of this world if she asked.
As they approached the village in the valley, Fa gently pushed away anything left of the humans mind and left only the workings of a devoted, happy raccoon steed. It was only right and kind, after all. She wasn't cruel, and even if the human had been a voyeur he was being more than punished. After a few years, George would have felt trapped in his raccoon body, his love for Fa always growing but always unrequited. He would have been useless as a steed, but bound by his agreement he would have no recourse but to remain as he was until the end of time.
Fairies lived forever, but fairy wings never healed.