Warnings: Contains Carnival Row Season 1 spoilers.
These awesome characters and their world belong to Travis Beacham and Rene Echavarria.
The long black coat flapped by his legs as Philo ran up the steps to the Constabulary. He had tied his hair back as soon as he crossed the bridge for the same reason why he threw a coat over his wings - Leggers treated him differently when they thought he was one of them.
At the Carnival Row, he did the opposite: he let his wings out, embracing his Fae features, and set the hair under his hat loose to cover his too-human ears. Most Row residents didn't care that he was Half-Blood, but Faerishyn gave him a look of pity he'd rather avoid.
But on this side of the city, he wouldn't be seen as a Half-Blood. Here, he was just one of the Critch, a subclass of beings unworthy of time or attention of the police. Though it hurt his pride, he needed to be heard today. He had to pretend to be a Legger.
"Good Morning. I'm looking for Darius Sykes," he told the bored clerk who awarded him a fleeting glance.
Philo drummed his fingers on the wooden counter as the clerk did nothing but continued chewing his sandwich. If this was how they treated someone who looked like a working-class human, how would they have handled a Critch?
He adjusted his coat which constricted his wings but it didn't take the discomfort away.
"Check this out, Hank," one of the Constables addressed the clerk who walked away, without acknowledging Philo.
They moved to the side of the large room where some rowdy commotion was taking place, and Philo craned his neck to scan the crowd.
"Darius!" he called out, seeing a familiar face.
His friend smiled in recognition but then cast worried glances at his colleagues and silently led Philo to a dark corner.
"Afraid to be seen with me?" Philo snapped. "I covered my wings, no need to freak out."
Darius raised his hands defensively and stuttered, " That's… That's not…"
"Save it. I don't care." Philo straightened the lapels of his coat. "It's not about me. There was another attack and yet I don't see any of yours sniffing around the Row."
"There are no leads yet on the Unseelie Jack case."
"They're not even investigating!" Philo threw his hands up. "A fourteen-year-old girl was beaten to a pulp and what are they doing? Nothing! They took down her father's statement and left. No one showed up to speak with the witnesses or to inspect the crime scene."
Darius shook his head and put his hands on his hips. "I tried to urge them, and they keep pushing it off, saying other cases are more urgent."
"If she was a Legger, they'd be swarming the Row, but for a Puck, they can't get off their fat saddles."
"Calm down, Philo." Darius put a hand on his shoulder and cast glances in both directions.
"Let them hear it," Philo spat. "Maybe I should make a complaint. If they think a Legger cares..."
"Don't risk it." Darius shook his head and squeezed his shoulder. "If they catch you trying to pass for human, not only they would arrest you but abandon the case altogether just to spite you."
Philo shrugged him off. "If we do nothing, Fae blood will continue running down our streets. You're the police. Do your jobs!"
Darius dropped his eyes and it reminded Philo that it wasn't his fault that the law did not care for Fae lives. He was a good man. One who was wasting his talents by pushing papers.
"Why haven't you applied for an Inspector job? The Row could use a copper on our side."
"You know why." Darius rubbed his temples. "No one pays attention to a clerk. My secret is safer this way."
Philo huffed, irritated with his friend's cowardice but didn't comment. He wore a human coat today. Was he any better?
Over in the room, the uniformed crowd exchanged a mix of catcalls and insults as two Faeries were brought in, looking very worn out and haggard as if they had come directly from the war front.
"You know what will happen if Unseelie Jack is not caught soon," Philo murmured, watching the officers throw slurs at the Fae who sat quietly, waiting to be processed.
"How bad is it?" Darius crossed his arms. "Is Black Raven planning something?"
"You know well that I wouldn't have information like that." Philo shifted in his coat, wishing he could take it off. "I refused the invitation to join their vigilante crew. I'm more concerned about the Cabal - hushed down underground meetings, recruiting more Pucks than ever before. They're lashing themselves, Darius. There's something in the air and these attacks could set it free."
"On Martyr's noose," Darius exhaled and ran a hand through his short hair. "All we need is a bloody coup."
Philo shot him a glance, wondering if he should point out that it could be worse than a coup. While the upper class enjoyed their splendor in peace, a civil war was brewing on the other side of the bridge. The streets were loud with calls to action, enticing the masses to fight back.
The human working class objected to Critch immigrants working for a pittance, taking their jobs. Unseelie Jack was a manifestation of their anger - maybe the first of many more to come. Right next door, the Pucks gathered in tight groups and whispered of their prophesied Hidden One who had a plan for them. Meanwhile, the Black Raven grew in power and numbers as Faerishyn objected to having their wings bound and flight rights restricted.
Philo's wings reflexively tried to flutter and strained under the heavy fabric. He fixed his coat to calm them down discreetly, casting worried glances at the officers. Humans didn't have to keep adjusting their coats. Was he acting suspiciously?
The station filled with raucous laughter, followed by loud exclamations. Someone whistled and the reason for the excitement came into view.
One of the Fae's hose was ripped up to her thigh and the boys got excited about seeing her exposed skin. She held her head high at the catcalls, ignoring the shame of not being offered anything to cover herself with.
"I can't watch this," Philo muttered, his blood boiling at the indignation she was subjected to. He turned back and made his last plea. "Please, Darius. The Row needs help. Unseelie Jack is picking at us one by one."
Darius nodded, his frown deepening his premature wrinkles. "I'll see what I can do."
Philo walked away, having no confidence in his friend's words. No one here cared.
On his way out, he passed by the Faeries who held each other's hands and kept quiet as the officers harassed them.
"Like the shite brothels need more whores."
Philo bit down his growing desire to punch the offending sleazebag and forced his legs to move forward before he did something he would regret.
One of the Fae held his gaze, the tragedies she had witnessed reflected in her pale-blue eyes. He had seen this look on countless war refugees who sought asylum in the city. Instead of finding compassion, they were treated with contempt and disgust.
He had met many good humans over time but seeing this lot, he was losing hope for the entire race and was ashamed that their blood ran through his veins.
He paused, making up his mind and quickly leaned down to sneak a card into the pale-eyed Fae's hand.
"If you ever need help," he whispered, knowing that she would - the city was cruel to immigrants.
"These shipwreck whores are not for hire until we find their owners," a Constable said to him, pushing him away. "Besides, I heard that it's like sticking your dick into a corpse of a mangy ferret," he added with a pig snort.
Philo's temper took over and his fist shot forward, aiming for the crooked nose but was pulled back before it met its target.
"Not today," Darius warned into his ear and pushed him out. "You're welcome."
He shut the door after him, cutting off the laughter that followed, leaving him alone on the stone steps of the Constabulary.
Philo exhaled like a raging bull and stepped in tight circles, his fury looking for a way out.
Those poor Fae had just escaped from one hellhole to another. One day, they could also fall prey to Unseelie Jack or someone like him, who targeted them for no other reason than because they weren't human.
He closed his eyes and tried to calm down by counting the number of heartbeats between his breaths. If the Police wouldn't do anything to capture Unseelie Jack, someone had to take matters into his own hands.
It was time for the Critch to fight back.
A/N: I initially planned a lot more for this fanfic, but since then I've decided to take the idea in a different direction and write something else for it. So this is it.
If you can't get enough of winged Philo, check out Remember That Time We Ran from Zombies?