Title: Does it spark joy?
It's been a hard week. One of those she would gladly forget and that will remain carved in her mind forever nonetheless, because there is no joy in her life and also because, among her many gifts, there is a very strong memory. How lucky she is!
Their training has been awful. Or better her training alone in the forest has been awful, because the two princes – Adam and Leo, of course – are being personally trained by Blaine himself while she's forced to do everything alone. Alright, she is a witch and Blaine can't teach her how to cast spells because he knows nothing about magic, but it's still pretty annoying to be confined in the forest, miles away from everybody, as she tries to make sense of her spell book, which has none, by the way.
It has always been very difficult, but it is particularly so now that she's trying very hard to understand which one is her element of choice. According to her stupid book, which she's starting to distrust at this point, it's a very important choice that a witch should make as soon as possible because, and she's quoting, a proper witch is able to put any element at her service, but there must be one that she favors and masters better than the others, otherwise she will always be mediocre. And Annie can't be that. It's either she's the best witch in town or she's not a witch at all.
She's been trying to understand what is her element for the past eight weeks – two full months of pure agony, casting spell over spell over spell – and if she has to judge the situation by the results, none of them is. Spells come out perfect, but it's all mechanic. Say the word, make the gesture, here the sparkle, the rain, the little earthquake, the slightly frightening tremble of the soul. None of the element moves her, none of them sparks joy – that is what her book says it's supposed to happen.
She's at a loss, here.
Sad, frustrated and very tired as she is, she can't deal with Adam and Leo's cockfights too.
But apparently the universe hates her, or her stupid family does, because when she gets home, the house is in chaos. Adam and Leo are barking at each other like two rabid dogs and Blaine is trying to break their fight, failing miserably. One of them bit him and the other punched him in the eye, and they're both still trying to claw each other's eyes out.
“What is going on?” She asks, dropping her bag on the floor.
Blaine puts all his strength into keeping Adam away from Leo, who doesn't stand a chance in a fist fight with Adam. Everybody seems to know that, except him. “One of them said something, the other said something else. Does it even matter at this point?”
“No, of course not,” she sighs.
“Could you please give me a hand, princess?” Blaine asks. “I'm not sure I can keep them safe.”
“Do we have to?”
And that's when it happens. The surge of magic starts from her toes and runs up through her body, she can feel it wrapping itself around her spine before moving forward. It's stronger than it usually is, it's intoxicating and violent and fulfilling in a way. She feels like she can lose control of it at any moment, and yet she doesn't.
For the first time since she started studying magic, she doesn't cast a fire spell, she summons fire itself from whatever dimension it lies waiting for her call. This is it, she thinks, the strong connection that was supposed to be there. Flames erupt from her hand and fly towards Adam and Leo.
Their pants catch fire and she screams, happily. “It's fire!” She jumps up and down as the boys throw themselves to the ground rolling. “Blaine, it's fire!”
Blaine looks at her in confusion, but then it dawns on him. “Your element! It's fire! You're a fire witch! I'm so proud of you, princess,” he says, smiling at her. And his smile is worth all these weeks of frustration.
“This is the best day ever!”
“I bet it is, princess,” Blaine goes on, now smacking the boys with a throw blanket. “Now, would you mind putting them out before they turn to ashes? I would really appreciate it.”
She flips her fingers and a dash of water rains on both of them. It came easily to her, but she definitely can feel the difference.
She's a proper witch now and she's going to be the best.
Title: Nice things to do
Chores in their house are divided between the two of them, not equally but wisely.
Blaine cleans the whole house, keeps track of every bill and every payment, and stores away all the receipts so he can do their tax return at the end of the year. He is the one taking the kids to school and then picking them up at the end of the day, remembering when they have to go to the doctor and taking them to see their grandparents. Leo prepares every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner – goes grocery shopping and helps with the kids' homework.
That's the only way it can work.
Left in Leo's hands the house would never be cleaned except for the kitchen, he would probably forget to pay the bills or the kids at school. The twins would never see a doctor or their grandparents again – especially their grandparents since Leo hates Kurt and Dave with a passion.
But most importantly, one step inside the kitchen and Blaine turns into an health hazard. He burns most of what he tries to cook and what he doesn't burn, it turns out to be disgusting and, maybe, even poisonous.
This is the sad consequence of a life of luxury. He has been rich all his life, which means he has never really needed to learn how to fill his pantry in a sensible way or how to cook for himself. There were fine restaurants and delivery services. What was the point of cooking? Then Leo came along and the kid had a lot of issues but he knew how to cook, even at fifteen.
Blaine was spoiled.
He knows that. In fact, he's extremely well aware of that. It's because of that that he decided that he and Leo should share the chores between them the way they do. And yet, this morning he woke up and decided he was going to make breakfast for Leo. It's not their anniversary or any particular day, he just thought it was a nice thing to do.
And now, of course, the pan in his hand is on fire.
He has seen Leo making breakfast a hundred times. He wasn't expecting to be as quick and efficient as his husband is every morning – Blaine always watches in awe as a man who usually turns the channel on the TV with his foot if he doesn't have the remote nearby turns into a pancake or a waffle machine – but he was hoping to at least being able to replicate Leo's gestures in some fashion. He did, for a while, and then something went wrong – the pancakes rebelled! – and now he's wandering around the kitchen with a flaming pan in his hands and he doesn't know what to do.
He doesn't know how it happened and, more importantly, now he has no idea how to fix it.
“What the hell happened in here?” Leo stands on the threshold, and looks around the kitchen. There are bowls and utensils scattered everywhere, too much flour on the table for a recipe that doesn't require it, the shells of three eggs on the kitchen stool and two whole eggs on the floor.
Blaine turns towards him, the flames in the pan singing his eyebrows. “Oh. Hi, kid,” he waves nonchalantly despite the fire. “I was trying to make breakfast.”
Leo sighs and he marches into the room. He grabs the pan and throws it in the sink, opening the tap. The fire, quite obviously, goes out. “Blaine, I love you, I really do, but never try again," he says, holding his husband's face in his hands and kissing him on his lips. "Come on now, go get the kids ready while I clean this mess and get the car."
"Where are we going?"
"At the French bakery downtown," Leo answers. "You're buying me breakfast."
Well, Blaine can't cook but he can certainly pay.
That's a nice thing to do too.
Leo storms into the E.R like a fury, ignoring everything and everyone around him. Vince standing up to meet him, Alex throwing himself in Timmy's arms, Blaine already trying to contain a situation even he can't control. None of that matters to him. All he sees is the nurse who's coming out of Surgery in that very moment.
“I need to see Cody,” Leo says, going straight for her.
She seems confused by who he is and what he's doing in the middle of the waiting room, her eyes move to the group of people in the background. She must have spoken to Vince until now. “Visitors are not allowed, at the moment.” Her eyes keep searching for Vince and that's infuriating.
“You're talking to me,” Leo forces her to look back at him, to see him, because he is here now and things are about to change.
“I'm sorry, sir,” the nurse insists. She's young and plump with a nice little rounded face. She's evidently tired from the long night shift and yet she finds it in herself to speak kindly and calmly to him. “I can't let you in, right now. Please, sit down.”
“I need to see him,” Leo pushes against Blaine arms that try to keep him still. “If you don't let me in, I swear to God I'm going to kick the door down. I'm gonna walk over you if I need to!”
“Lower your voice,” she says, sternly as if she was talking to a child. He didn't know he was screaming. Now he knows and he doesn't care.
“Let me in,” he hisses, taking a few steps towards her and against Blaine, who keeps holding him back and still asks gently to the nurse, Can you make an exception?
That's when she gets nervous. “No, sir I can't. And who the hell are you anyway?”
Words explode out of him without him thinking them. “I'm his boyfriend,” he says and it rings true the way truth does. He can feel the silence that falls afterward on his skin, like electricity in the air but he doesn't care. He stands his ground, eyes purposefully away from Blaine and trained on the nurse, daring her to call him a liar.
Vince, Cody's husband, is seating right behind him but it doesn't matter. He doesn't matter anymore. Look what happened when he was looking after the most precious thing each of them has ever had in his life.
Cody is dying because I was away, but I'm here now.
"Let me in" – He's mine – "I need to see him."
Vince doesn't speak, and he wins.
"Come this way."
Title: Anderson Home for Peculiar Children
It starts with the little things.
Sometimes they are so small that he doesn't even register them as anomalies. A pebble that doesn't collapse like the others when he knocks them over with the tip of his tennis shoe. A bird a little too still on the telephone wire. The curtains in the living room that don't even move while a gust of wind slams the door closed.
Leo makes nothing of it.
There must be an explanation – maybe it's not like it seems or maybe he just didn't see what he thinks he saw – and he's just too lazy to find one. And why would he want to anyway? Who cares if a stupid bird likes to stand very very still while his brothers are prancing about like crazy? Maybe his legs hurt o he's just the laziest sparrow that ever existed.
Everything is perfectly fine – or at least it looks so – until the remote control gets stuck in the air, a few inches from his clumsy fingers and several from the ground.
It's a snow day and he's home from school. He intends to spend the whole day sitting on the couch, snacks at the ready, watching the second season of his favorite show. Only three types of breaks are allowed: to go to the bathroom, to grab more food, to answer Adam's messages on his phone. Everything else is not a priority.
He grabs the remote – a state of the art device that controls everything in his house, from the TV to the security system – and it just slips from his hand, maybe a little greasy from the chips.
Nothing really happens inside Leo, no big electric discharge, no generic uneasiness, not even an headache. He just thinks 'No!' – that thing costs more than his internal organs if he sold them on the black market – and the remote just stops mid-jump towards its certain destruction on the wooden floor.
It just stands there as if hanging from an invisible thread, except that there is no thread and the remote is literally frozen in the air. Leo doesn't know much about physics, but he's pretty sure this is not possible in any way.
Leo stares at it for half an hour, expecting it to fall at any moment – whatever force is keeping it up can't be eternal, can it? – but the remote remains there as if it was in its nature to float like that. He's freaking out, of course, because this is some urban fantasy shit and he's no magical being nor a young teenage girl waiting for a prince from another universe (he might have read one or two of those books), but he's also very intrigued.
Is it possible that it was him?
After the initial shock, he just starts to improvise. If thinking 'No!' made it stop, maybe thinking something else will make it move again. He tries 'Move' and the remote unfreezes, falling to the ground. It obviously breaks into a million pieces, which sends Leo into a panic (that thing costs and his father will kick his ass into a new century), which consequently forces the remote to put itself back together and sends it flying backwards into Leo's hand.
Leo throws the remote on the couch and never picks it up again for days.
Whatever happened didn't happen. He just has to convince himself that he didn't see what he saw. Besides, the remote couldn't have broken if it's perfectly intact now. It simple logic.
He thinks that's the end of the story, but it gets worse.
Other things get stuck, more get broken and then repair themselves, until one day Leo gets angry at his father and he rewinds him when the man tells him he's grounded. One moment his dad is forbidding him to go anywhere for the next twenty years, the moment after he's smiling at him, oblivious of the past two hours.
“So, what is it that you do?” The man asks, putting a cup of hot cocoa in front of him. This is supposed to be a school for gifted kids but this Blaine guy doesn't look like a professor at all. He must be his father age, but cooler, way cooler.
“I can stop time and rewind it." When he says it aloud he sounds bonkers even to him. "But not for everybody, just for one single object at the time."
"People?" Blaine asks, resting against the table.
"That too," Leo nods. "But I don't know how I do it. It just happens."
Blaine smiles, friendly. "Don't worry, we will teach you."
Title: Not all dragons
“I told you that monster was going to destroy everything but did you listen to me? No! Because you never fucking listen, you stupid teenager!” Blaine screams at him as they both run for cover again. The dragon doesn't even bother taking flight and she chases them on the ground. She destroyed everything within a mile radius, so she can move freely. Another couple of fireballs and they will have no more place to hide.
“You didn't say she would destroy everything,” Leo retorts as he dives behind the last slate of rock still standing in the whole plain. He pulls Blaine to himself by the loops of his belt and they both bend over as the next ball of fire flies just a few inches above their heads. The air turns scorching hot and unbreathable. Leo's lungs feel on fire for a second or two. “You said she might destroy everything before we could stop her. There was unquestionably some room for hope there.”
“She's a fucking Stormclaw, Leo!” Blaine snaps at him. “What did you think it would happen? That she would accept to sit down for tea?”
“I don't know, but not all dragons instantly turns aggressive the moment they see you!”
The Stormclaw roars furiously and sends the slate of rock flying with her paw. They start running again, fire singing the back of their head. “Well, this one clearly does!” Blaine grunts.
“I'm just saying you're always too quick to judge a dragon when you see one.”
“Are you trying to advocate to me that dragons are not automatically aggressive while one of them is trying to eat us alive? Seriously, Leo? I swear, sometimes I think you'd be way more useful as cannon fodder!" Blaine looks down at the big gun in his hands, which is powered by a dragon's fire gland. It can spit fire the same way a dragon does, but it needs to recharge and it is doing it exceptionally slow for the situation they're currently in.
"We have three dragons eggs with us and soon dragon pups will come out of them. You shouldn't be so prejudiced!"
"I already told you, we're not keeping the pups, Leo." Blaine stops and turns around, aiming the gun at the dragon that is running furiously towards them, the ground trembling under her weight. "Now stand down or I'm throwing you at this fucking beast and we'll see if you can calm it down!"
Leo gets down and crosses his fingers. He hears the roar of the gun firing and the even louder rumble of the fireball clashing against the huge body of the beast. The Stormclaw screeches in agony as her wings catch fire, preventing him from flying away. Blaine always aims at the their head or their wings. He's merciless.
The beast cries out in pain, she takes a few uncoordinated steps and then collapses to the ground, dead.
"Ah ah, that's another fire gland for daddy," Blaine cheers as he approaches the dragon's body, knife already in hand.
It'll come the day Leo will succeed in teaching Blaine a more humane way to deal with dragons – possibly before their eggs hatch – but that day is clearly not today. He turns around and closes his eyes, waiting for Blaine to be done desecrating the carcass.
Prompt: Get Curious
Title: Only Passionately Curious
The elders said clearly not to go anywhere near the strange people that the falling stars brought to their land a few nights ago.
Their ftale non'r – the huge stone bird they arrived in – takes up the space of at least two villages and it destroyed a big part of the forest when it landed with a big frightening roar that could be heard from miles away and that woke them all up. They can't possibly be good news, that is what the elders say.
But the elders are always too apprehensive, that is a fact. They are constantly forbidding them to do things just because they think they might be dangerous somehow, even when there is no danger at all. It's their job, Leo thinks, to be excessively thoughtful for all of them, especially those among them that are the most fragile. He doesn't blame the elders for trying to protect everybody, but he does disobey them a lot.
That, according to him, it's his job.
He's a hunter, after all. He goes into the forest every single day to provide food for the whole village. He knows every trail, every plant, every animal. He knows how to move without being seen or heard. He's a silent killing machine when he wants to be. He's not defenseless like a kid or an old person, he can take care of himself.
And he's also very curious.
So curious that he can't just remain in the village while the elders decide what to do with these new people, if they should approach them in friendship or attack them before they can attack first, if they should wait to see what happens instead. Leo hates all those ifs. He hates the pointlessness of them. Suppositions make no sense. If they want to know what the fuss is all about, there's nothing else to do but going there and see it.
And if nobody wants to do it, then he's more than happy to.
Prompt: The Alchemist
Title: Science vs Alchemy
“I'm so disappointed in you,” Leo declares, standing on the threshold of his lab, legs parted and hands on his hips.
“Disappointment does seem to be your dominant emotion,” Blaine comments, barely looking up from a series of test tubes filled with different colored liquids. “What is it this time?”
“You said you were gonna teach me this stuff that you do,” Leo frowns. “Instead you're here alone.”
“You'll find out that I'm in here alone a lot. Mostly because you two kids prefer to distract yourself in other ways,” Blaine scribbles something on a notepad. “But also because I have a job and here is where I do it. Besides, you were sleeping. I tried to wake you up and you bit me.”
Leo has the decency to blush as he looks at the impression of his teeth on Blaine's wrist. “Sorry 'bout that. It's a defense mechanism. I've slept for a very long time in a place where they tended to throw you on a cart and take you away if you were still for too long.”
Leo speaks of his other life with incredible ease, but Blaine suspects that this fake nonchalance is just his way to exorcise the nightmares that he still has at night and that he doesn't even want to acknowledge, let alone speak about.
Blaine found him in a city locked down for the plague. He was alone and running from a group of frenzied citizen convinced he was the one spreading the disease. Moving from plagued city to plague city searching for a way to produce a cure, Blaine had seen the same scene a hundred times and he knew very well that it was going to end with the death of the kid. Scared people do horrible things when they think they've found a way to stop what scares them.
Blaine had turned his back to a lot of scenes like that before, but this time he didn't. The reason was that the kid didn't look sick – even better, he looked healthy – which was something close to a miracle in a city that had been locked down for weeks, where the dead were more numerous than the living. The disease was taking down the last survivors one by one and yet this kid didn't even show the early symptoms of the disease. He was just a little skinny, perhaps, but that was to be expected.
Blaine had taken him out the city with him, both to save him and to study his blood.
“How do you feel?” Blaine dares a look at him and finds him playing with an alembic.
Leo shrugs and ignores the question. “Do you want to teach me some alchemist stuff or not?” He retorts.
When Leo arrived, he instantly showed interest in two things: Blaine's work and Blaine's assistant. And since Cody has been more than capable of showing Leo all that there was to learn about him, Blaine has been left with the task of teaching him chemistry.
Blaine stretches a little and his back makes all kind of horrible crunching sounds. Cody always says that if he keeps bending like this on his worktable he will get a hump and the kid might be right. “First of all, I'm not an alchemist, I'm a scientist.”
“What's the difference?”
Blaine frowns at him in outrage. “Well, I make experiments and I draw conclusions based on scientific evidence,” he answers. “Alchemists put two rocks and a bunch of sage in a pot and hope for the moon to turn everything into gold.”
Leo chuckles and pushes all his equipment on a side of the table to sit on it. “I sense some bitterness,” he mocks him.
It is Blaine's turn to pouts. “Do you want to learn some science or not?” He snaps.
Leo laughs happily, and then he leans forward to place a kiss on his lips. “I do, scientist.”
Blaine sighs. He still feels mocked, but it's nice.
Prompt: The Magi
Title: Christmas at Nonna's
This is the first time in four years that Timmy is allowed inside the home of the family's matriarch – Alex's nonna – who has constantly refused to acknowledge his presence, let alone having him over for Sunday lunch, which is the Italian equivalent of being abjured.
Every meal in this country is sacred and a moment shared with friends, family and the entire community. If you're not invited to participate is because they hate you.
Alex's grandmother has one big reason to hate him: he is her nephew's boyfriend, which in her old-fashioned mind makes Alex being gay even more real.
She has avoided any contact with Timmy for all these years, but now that her nephew is about to leave for the United States, she has no choice but to meet the guy who's taking him away from her. Not exactly the best of premises, but it's a first step.
Timmy was supposed to come over for Christmas, but Leo doesn't let anybody leave the country during the Christmas week – Christmas must be celebrated in the Anderson Karofsky-Hummel house – so Timmy had to come here earlier, which was a little like refusing the woman's invitation to her Christmas lunch. She was disappointed. Again, not exactly the best of premises.
He did come in time to witness an important procedure, though.
Alex's grandmother is a Christian and she's extremely religious – prayers, masses, the whole shebang Timmy knows nothing about because Blaine is an atheist and Leo doesn't care, so he grew up in a household where religion wasn't really a thing – so she takes that part of Christmas very seriously. The Christmas tree is there, lighted up and decorated, but the centerpiece of the Christmas decorations in the house is a nativity scene that takes up half the living room. There is the manger with the little angel on top of it and then hundreds of figurines depicting people doing all kind of stuff. It is so detailed that there's even a mill with real water flowing.
Timmy can understand why Alex's grandmother wants to show it off – It's quite impressive – what he can't understand is why the whole family is gathered in the room, looking at the whole display with solemn faces. He knows Italians are passionate, but they all seem a little bit too intense for a diorama. "What are we doing here again?" He whispers to Alex.
"She has to place the Wise Men at the beginning of their journey," Alex whispers back, pointing at a corner of the living room, "which is that little coffee table over there. She's going to move them a few inches every day until they reach the manger on January 6th."
Timmy finds befuddling that it's so important for this woman to move some plastic figurines around her living room for almost a month, but he will be the nice, tolerant person his father Blaine has raised him to be and he will witness this ritual silently, giving it the respect it deserves.
If that is what it'll take to be loved by the only member of Alex's family who's not already madly in love with him, so be it.
He'll be following every step of the Wise Men's journey so closely that they will sue him for stalking.
Prompt: The Magi
Title: Three (not necessarily) wise men
The kid is lounging on a pile of velvet pillows, his little white tunic barely covering him. His longish black hair has been combed back and braided with pearls and jewels, and he is been anointed with scented oils. He smells like vanilla and carnation, and something else that Blaine can't really recognize.
The boy looks up at them with big blue eyes. He is supposed to know who they are, but he doesn't seem to. He looks confused and disoriented, and if Blaine has to judge by the size of his pupils, heavily drugged too. This is disconcerting.
Blaine, Adam and Leo have traveled a long way to be here today. Three kings from three countries on the other side of the world, as the tradition requires. They have spent most of their lives preparing for this very moment, to pay tribute to the Chose One, to honor him and give him the most precious gifts their lands have to offer. But they were expecting either an infant or a grown man, not this young kid – close in age to two of them – who's clearly unaware of what's happening around him and he's either mute or doesn't know the common language to communicate with them as he should be doing by now, welcoming them and blessing their visit.
Bound to his sacred duty, Blaine places his chest of gold at the boy's feet, anyway. That is when he sees the shackle around his ankle, half hidden under a pillow. As Leo bows and presents the boy with an automaton – a precious doll, moving through one of the complicate mechanisms his land is famous for – and Adam gives him a set of color powders to paint, they both see the chain too.
The boy is not here willingly and now it's possible he doesn't even know why he's here.
All it takes is one look among them to decide they're going to come back tonight and take him away.