A/N - Gary and Betty backstory, anyone? As you guys may have figured out, I adore both of them. Between their happy peppy charm and all the hints that they were in on the magical world the whole time, how can I resist? Those of you who have been keeping up with 130 Reasons Why I'm Fairy Trash should have noticed that Gary and Betty have a major plotline throughout that one-shot collection. However, I jumped the gun with "Solo" and as a result, the 130 Prompts don't cover much about the Gary / Betty relationship pre-"Solo".
So, that's what Pink and Gray here helps with. This 'fic will tell the story of Gary's and Betty's happy peppy childhood, their interactions with the Pixies, and how they met Flappy Bob. For best results, read Pink and Gray after my 'fic Baby, You're a Rich Man. The 130 Prompt "Solo" picks up just after Pink and Gray ends.
Do Not Pass Go
Year of Water, Winter of the Sunlit River
Friday, December 27th, 1991
In this game of life, consider Player 1. His heritage is mixed, his tan skin an odd match for the light freckles around his bright green eyes. And especially for the scruffy ginger hair which rises from his head in spikes like a startled hedgehog's quills.
Within the depths of an ever-expanding storeroom, best known by the nickname the Pixies call it—The Labyrinth—and filed away in the undercloud of a mystical realm called Sprigganhame, we could normally find Player 1's permanent file. It would be hidden in a folder hidden in a drawer, interesting only to a single pixie who wandered the maze of shelves with two sharp cowlicks in his hair. The boy, human, by his nature belonged to a race with a limited lifespan. Up until a week ago, just a single pixie was aware of his existence.
We could normally find Player 1's permanent file organized neatly and alphabetically in a particular drawer of a particular cabinet. Normally, yes. But not tonight. Tonight that file rests open on a desk carved of stained purple chesberry wood, beside its unrelated twin.
Full Name: Garrett Juan Tuckfield Cabrera
Background: A child of the outdoors with an affiliation for nature and discovery. He makes friends that don't stay, as is the life of a boy who works in entertainment. The Tuckfields are the current owners (or rather, the maintainers) of a pleasant miniature golf course just west of Jetmore, Kansas that, for sentimental reasons, the Pixie race holds a fondness for. With the birth of Mister Ennet Sanderson on Hole 10 of that particular course many millennia ago, the Pixie race came into existence, and such was the beginning of order in the universe.
Strengths: Sensitivity. Patience. Passion.
Weaknesses: Where do we begin?
For these reasons, Player 1 has been affectionately code-named as a bishop. The name is fitting, for he is devout to everything he is told (blindly faithful at times), and surprisingly few suspect a bishop to skid across the chessboard and turn the tide of the game.
His parents began to argue when he was only five years old. Now, with him recently eight, they are finally silent. The decision was made, and the wedding bands have been removed. Player 1 will keep the Cabrera name.
He leans his head against the window of a shiny silver pick-up truck, his eyes open yet unable to notice each rolling field of fences and thin snow that passes by. The dirt road is riddled with holes and lumps. White stars sprinkle the clear, dark sky overhead. A half-eaten chicken sandwich, heavy on the pickles and heavier on the bacon, rests on the greasy paper bag in his lap. The radio blares on. His father cracks a joke about cold cows wandering their pastures with udders full of ice cream. Player 1 does not reply.
The other little boys in Jetmore have both moms and dads. Why not him?
Then again, the other little boys are good kids. They always come inside the house when the sky gets dark and never try to dodge their baths by washing in the water traps on the golf course. He's never seen them complain when told to clean up their rooms, or ever protest when told to spoon steaming green slop into their mouths. His parents always warned him he'd have to face the consequences if he were disobedient. He did not listen, and now look at what he's done.
In this game of life, consider Players 2 and 3. Siblings (unfortunately). Like Player 1, they are bound currently within a car. But though they travel the same road, they are heading the opposite way to visit relatives in another state. As of yet, the drivers of the two cars are unaware of the other's existence. They do not know yet that their paths will cross on the little dirt road for the first time as well as the last. They do not know yet, and won't ever, that at the crossing point, two small men dressed in gray float with square, beating wings to watch and wait.
Player 2 is female. Blue-eyed. Rosy-cheeked. Strong-willed. Powerful. Blonde. The damsel is a natural leader, born to an adventurous farmer of a mother and a sharp-tongued gambler of a father who doesn't drink and doesn't lose; no DNA test necessary. She will be the perfect influence for turning Player 1's timidity to strategic caution. While he has shown the capability to act in self-defense, three years of feeling alone and tossed about in the world means the capability has not generalized into the drive of protecting another. A cowardly bishop is a worthless one. He requires something—or someone—to care about in order for his gifts of sensitivity to be effective. Player 4 is sure of it, as he is sure of many things. And this, too, comes from a man who has made his feelings about emotions endlessly clear.
Player 2 has discovered the difficulties of playing The Alphabet Game throughout a long car ride of mostly pastures, gray lumps of slush, and distant wooden barns. She stretches both arms into the air, then tucks them away behind her head. She does not ask her mother if they have reached their destination yet, as she can see for herself that they haven't. Her father, who isn't driving, turns back to smile at her with waltzing eyes. In his hand he holds a deck of cards. For some time now he has been teaching her to play Poker, though she isn't very good at it. She smiles too often, and up until now it's given her away. But recently, Player 2 has developed a new strategy. If she cannot stop herself from smiling, then why not smile all the time throughout the game? Her dad could not discern the difference in her then. He shows her a card with his thumbs over the numbers, and she identifies it instantly and correctly as the nine of spades without counting them up. She has gotten very good at pretending to smile even when she isn't happy.
Beside her sits Player 3, kicking his legs and occasionally stretching for the cards with grabby hands. Player 2 looks on her young brother with hesitance and pity. His fingers will bend the cards and damage something she holds dear, for he is too little, of course, to understand their purpose. Yet her father chuckles and gives him a card anyway, teasing that it's only a two of clubs, and perhaps he should teach his children how to play Hearts.
Her file is the twin that rests upon the desk in the office up in Pixie World. Full Name: Elizabeth Arica Lovell
Background: Raised in an apple orchard and brought up riding horses and chasing ducks, she rapidly learned to ignore the scrapes and bruises she gathered while lost in the pursuit of "fun". Physical pain is inconsequential when it comes to following her heart, and she grows more immune to it with every scratch and strain. She is a warrior unrestrained. Were one to turn her heart for their own means, it's undoubtable she would make a powerful ally. Player 4 desires exactly that.
Strengths: Energy. Charisma. Grit.
Weaknesses: She requires taming. A snappy temper boils beneath the gentle exterior. Her play is aggressive and oftimes she finds it difficult to control her anger. Such emotional flaws will be corrected soon enough. Secret investigations report devoted parents and a stable home life, so these notable behavior patterns, while unpleasant, aren't likely to manifest into anything of serious concern. Not so long as she isn't traumatized too badly.
Player 3, only four years old, is unruly and babyish. Simple of mind and raised on the same farm and around the same time, what could he possibly have to offer the Pixie race that Player 2 can't? He does little besides watch VCR tapes on repeat, and isn't particularly interesting either.
Yet he remains an unfortunate burden. Something will have to be done eventually, but for now, the girl cares about him so dearly that removing him from the equation now would simply cause distress. She will be critical in shaping Player 1, who in turn will be critical in shaping her, and both must play their parts to shape each other (and, someday, Player 6) if this 37-year plan to reorganize the integral societal structure of the planet and gain absolute control of Fairy World is to be pulled off without a hitch.
For these reasons, she was chosen as a knight, protective and powerful with mental shield and sword to bear. He was chosen as a pawn. His name is Kenneth Thomas Lovell, and his file was left down in the dark corners of the Labyrinth.
In this game of life, consider Player 4. He dons a gray cap with a long tail instead of a golden crown, and a gray business suit with a collared white shirt and straight black tie instead of stuffy royal robes. A king, called ruthless; rightly so. For 27 years he's worked this plan. Delaying, occasionally, to dovetail it with others, as he is tonight, as he always does. Some call it procrastination. He prefers the term "practicality".
Some call ruling the universe ambitious– nay, maniacal! But soft, poor fools; one pities thee for the small minds the shells of your bodies are forced to bear. Some say the world will end in chaos, some say in order. Players 1 and 2 were chosen for this task after nights and days of careful calculations following one fateful evening when our Player 5 accidentally let his secret slip. Instantly he'd pulled the large brush away from his boss's wings, where it quivered a single millimeter in his grip and was forgotten. Player 4 sharply turned his head. A staring contest began. It ended when Player 5 chose to blink.
"What human children?" Player 4 had questioned.
"No human children, sir," Player 5 replied, his gaze flickering to his clothes. Like Player 4, he is all but always suited in gray, though his pointed hat lacks the long tail and the jingling metal star that dangles so tantalizingly on its low-hanging end. Accursed, tasty little star.
"I mentioned the Tuckfields, sir. From Kansas. Quincy's nymph. Eunice Tuckfield's gran–"
Experience has taught him not to use the word "son". Player 5 hesitates, then mumbles "grandnymph" in its place.
"I wasn't informed that Eunice had a grandnymph."
"He's a young human drake who craves a friend and stable life after so many years of standing by on a miniature golf course and watching children his age come and go. The divorce affected his gentle heart even more. He's just eight now, the drake. But– he won't be of any use to us, and there's really no reason to consider uprooting-"
"Don't the Lovells have a damsel now?"
There is a pause. Player 4 still hasn't blinked. Player 5 blinks again. Something wet and warm is running down his head. It feels like sweat. His fingers clench around the handle of the wing brush until they turn white.
"The Lovells have… two children, sir. The older is a damsel. The younger is a drake."
"Interesting. And she's the age of Quincy's nymph?"
"Sir, it wouldn't be practical, or even ethical, to breed them–"
"There's that flaw of yours again, Sanderson. For a pixie, you always do insist on thinking with emotions."
Player 5 does not say anything. Inwardly he winces, a shard of imaginary glass stabbing a corner of his soul, but he is resilient, and the flicker of pain does not show on his face.
"As for me," continues Player 4, "I don't think in terms of romance and desire so much as in terms of friendship. My relationship with the High Count of the Anti-Fairies is one of practicality and trust, and that's why I consider Anti-Cosmo my best and dearest friend."
Player 5 does not say anything about this, either. It is a bitter subject, and the scab has only recently begun to heal. His teeth clench in silence. He knows Player 4 will notice. Player 4 always notices.
"I see myself in that young drake and damsel," Player 4 reveals. He does not acknowledge the fact that he has never met or even heard of them before, as such a fact is irrelevant and would only waste his, and therefore everyone's, valuable time. "If Anti-Cosmo and I had been raised together, that would be these human children."
Player 5 does not understand this logic. This isn't new, as there have been many times that Player 5 can't quite seem to follow Player 4's superior intellect. It is for reasons like this that Player 5, not Player 4, is the boss of Pixies Inc., and Head Pixie of their race as a whole. He scratches his head with the brush.
"Raised together, sir?"
"They need to be taught to work as a team. I see strength in coordination. Once their loyalty to us and our values is assured, and their skills are honed, they could be just the pieces we need to fit into our 37-year plan. We'll do what we did with Flappy Bob. We'll find them on the side of the road, and take them under our wing. But this time, we won't need to maintain such a distance."
The brush clatters to the floor. "But–"
"Valleysky v. Geraldson, Sanderson. I'll need you to pull it all together. The children are under eighteen. With all potential guardians out of the way, and with Amity Angel Safety and Protective Recall Agency's permission (or should I say, my baby sister Emery's), they're ours for the taking. I'll have Longwood organize the paperwork by tomorrow night."
"We'll feign to the human authorities that they're dead," Player 4 decides, leaning back in his chair. He folds his arms behind his head, his wings skipping with a pleasant buzz.
"But– but– That's the genie way of doing things." Even the pointy gray hat floating above his head shudders with the rest of him.
"Which is why no one would suspect it from a pixie."
"Sir, Valleysky v. Geraldson is a last resort case. The Fairies won't like it if we cut corners to try and adopt–"
Knuckles crack. "We can't bring adults into the cloudlands. We don't have the capability to erase their memories, either, so we can't leave them in the know when we snatch their children away. We're too late to miss the changeling fate. Now, if this is going to work as I envision, we need legal documentation such as citizenship and birth certificates in place. Longwood will gray the files out of human detection until we need them. That leaves the task of getting rid of the parents to you. What I don't want is you causing a noticeable stir that would bring attention to the fact that they're alive. Get rid of the parents quietly and easily, without an investigation from either human or magical persons. Make it look like an accident, and leave the rest of the strings to me."
Player 5 opens his mouth, but no words leave his tongue.
In this game of life, consider Player 5. A loyal servant—a warrior—who knows little fear except the snow; so dear to the man's heart the Head of Pixies is. And yet, still too, the human nymphs. He's watched them long, and still recalls a tale of kindness never lost. A child at a golf course and two children on a farm. It was 27 years ago. How quickly time passes for the human race. To think that they're parents now.
Player 5 was given a job to do, and his job is doing jobs. My king, he once protested, I can't. Not them. His fingers burned from combing through his sweeping cowlicks, and he refused to show his eyes behind the tinted plastic of his shades. Not only out of accordance with the traditions of his culture.
Sanderson, Player 4 said, tilting down his own, clear glasses as he stared.
And now they are here. Two pixies, not even eight feet tall between the pair. They hover above a snow-dusted pasture near the crossing point, thirty seconds to go, and they wait beneath the stars. The cars come to them.
"Sanderson," Player 4 says.
Appropriately, if slowly, Player 5 raises his ballpoint pen. Its back end is capped with a star, which glows with channeled magic and sparks with energy and heat like a playful thing. From this distance on the hill, he cuts the brake lines of both cars. He hardens the dirt and ices the roads. As the Anti-Fairies would have said, he twisted destiny and created a knot in the midst of fate.
The first car skids at once. Player 1, who'd just begun to nod off, jerks up his head. The second car careens likewise, with Players 2 and 3 both alert and alarmed. Player 5 flings forward his hand, batting his own star-capped pen through the air. Something goes ping! and the children fall asleep. Bodies limp and relaxed, dusted with magic, they are shielded from the brunt of the damage when the cars collide. The night sky is too clear and too beautiful for a brutal collision to play out this way.
It's a car crash, caused by drowsy drivers late at night in the middle of winter. It won't cause a noticeable stir. Three adults and three children die in the accident.
Then Player 4 takes Player 5 by the shoulder. "Good boy," he says, and Player 5 can scarcely manage a wordless nod. He is not crying. He has been trained too well for 253,147 years to throw his training away now. He is as stoic as a warrior who knows little fear except the snow.
In a buzzing of glossy square wings, they cross past the wooden fence and descend a slight hill to the road, Player 4 in front and Player 5 stiff and silent behind. Twisted pieces of metal and sprinkles of glass are everywhere, so it is fortunate the pair can float. Player 4 examines the results of their handiwork, while Player 5 hangs back and plays at keeping watch. Three children survived the accident.
An eyebrow lifts at the sight of one adult attempting to sit up. "Sanderson. You missed one."
He did. He does not tell Player 4 it was on purpose. He was not asked to reveal that information. Player 5 drifts over to the only twitching body on the muddy road, his arms dangling at his sides.
She is the strong human damsel tasked with driving the westbound car. On her injured back, she moans first for her children, then cries her husband's name. Player 5 does not flinch when he hears it, or when he notices that the straw hat she'd been wearing flew away and left her perfect blonde hair tangled, dirty, and exposed to the harsh sun. She is hurt, with bruises already swelling up her arm. Fabric seat belts do not resist the tug of magic and are so easy to manipulate. Her breaths come out in huffing gasps. Bits of chicken sandwich lay beside her, surrounded by snips of pickles.
It would only take a few waves of his pen to save her. True, the price of magic drawn from the Big Wand in Fairy World would not be cheap, and the stack of paperwork to file regarding such a simple whim would be daunting, but Player 5 is a pixie born and pixie bred. He does not mind either of those things.
He doesn't. Mind or save her. Instead, he wedges his shoe against her neck, and slows the beating of his wings. They stop. His weight returns, no longer held at bay by the helium gasket in his head which grants partial immunity from gravity's strictest laws. One foot settles on the ground. Without hesitation, he pushes the other down.
The damsel does not remember him much, nor the promise he made on a hill long ago… shouted with her hat on his head, a torn wing dangling down his back, and a supply of water bottles in his arms. The promise that he would always watch over her children has been essentially forgotten. Reminding her now would be as pointless as remembering it. He does his job quickly and feels nothing.
"Hawkins and Wilcox have already taken steps to ensure the extended family members won't get in our way."
Player 5 looks over at these words from his king. He removes his foot. It's quiet on the road.
"Everything is in order but the paperwork," Player 4 clarifies. "I'll ask Longwood to blur their records in the census data until we need them again. Get the little damsel. I'll carry the drakes. We'll ping to my office and wait until the sleeping charm wears off." Player 4 pauses then and massages his chin. He looks down at the three silent children curled up on the ground before him; already, he disentangled them from the straps of their seats. The boy with the spiky ginger hair and tan skin hugs a crumpled paper bag to his chest. The girl and her brother reach hopelessly for one another in their dreams. "I hope I didn't overdose them. I meant to check how much their bodies can handle before the charm is lethal. I just didn't get around to it."
Consider the game of life. See how our masters play, binding chancelings to their rules.
Such is our story. And it is with the wave of a pen and a twinkling cloud of dust that we leave this lonely, damaged road. With a second cloud appearing softly in a tidy office decked out entirely in purple and gray decor, we choose to set our scene. Soon, the three children wake.
Soon, the next level in their game of life begins.