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Hospitality, Kind Of (part one of several)


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...hospitality, at least, in the sense that someone is welcome in someone else's home.

This was an off-forum Secret Santa gift for Sen Beret. It'll probably have four or five parts in total and be warned: it's a fucking slow burn. If you're seeking a fic that's nothing but sneezing you might want to give it a pass, but if a gradually progressing cold is up your alley, read on. This is set in a modern fantasy universe that Sen and I and some of our friends have collaborated on and roleplay in, in a coastal town in New England called Linden Harbor, and it's about a faun, a fire elemental, and a human. Let's roll:


Other (wealthier) parts of Linden Harbor often looked like something out of a shitty oil-painted Christmas card this time of year, but despite the dense layer of snow, two inches deep, that frosted each of the small rowhouses pinched along Grasmere Street, that wasn’t the case here. No, the residents of Grasmere Street had an unspoken agreement to decorate as garishly as was within their means, resulting in a scene that looked like a bomb made up of the tackiest Christmas sections at everyone’s favorite retail stores had exploded along the street. Mismatched, multicolored lights lined almost every window that faced the street. Glowing, plastic snowmen (and snowmonsters) and Santas leered out of the windows, their eyes and smiles cold and unfeeling in that haunted-old-Christmas-decoration sort of way.  It was a lamentable plight to many people who lived here that nobody had a yard big enough for gaudy inflatables. It was all absolutely hideous, and Flora had flung herself into it wholeheartedly as soon as she’d moved onto the street and learned about the tradition two years ago.

At first, she thought it would be funny to confuse her friends by saying she lived in the best-decorated house on the street, but decided against it on the basis that they might drive up and down the street forever, stuck in a neverending loop as they became trapped in a tacky Christmas hellscape. Their drive from Boston would take a few hours and Flora would have felt a little bit bad if she’d given Paz the runaround about her location and made it take even longer for them to arrive, even though they would probably have found it at least a little bit funny. Aside from all of the colored lights that lined her windows, her house wasn’t half as startling as the others, but she had procured a particularly dead-eyed plastic Santa to wave solemnly out the front window to greet people with.

Flora moved across the living room to stare out the front window above her cursed Santa’s head, the clacks of her cloven hooves louder against the areas of faded, bare hardwood and muffled against the worn area rugs arranged on the floor. Sparse snowflakes drifted slowly from the sky – not enough to add to the existing layer of snow on the ground, but enough to remind anybody who looked outside that temperatures remained just below freezing.

The noise of car tires rolling over crunchy, impacted snow sounded from the end of the street, and Flora snapped her head around to look, just in time for a beaten red Toyota Camry to roll into view. She threw open her front door and waved the car on, indicating the open spot in front of her apartment. As soon as the car was situated, both occupants rushed out of the car and up the sidewalk to meet Flora, who’d clacked down her front steps in her enthusiasm.

“Oh my god, hi!” She threw her arms around the taller (god, really quite tall) of the two humanoids and relished the heat radiating from their body as they hugged her back. She took a step back and repeated the bonecrushing hug with the second visitor.

“How are you guys, how was the drive?”

“It was fine!” said Paz, popping the truck of their car. “It’s not that long of a drive.”

“Mmm, it’s longer than I would want to drive,” Flora said. “What about you?”

“Oh, I’m fine! I’m really excited to finally visit you here!”

“That’s like, a half truth,” said Paz, hefting a piece of their luggage out of the trunk of their car. “Not about being excited to be here, the other part. Anara’s been sniffling and clearing her throat for the entire two hour trip, so she seems less than fine to me.”

“Wow, put me on blast right away,” Anara said, lifting her own suitcase out of the car. “Sorry! It’s really bad timing! But it’s fine, it’s like, no big deal. I’ll suck down like a dozen cough drops and be all good.”

“It’s not something to apologize for, dude!” Paz said, following Flora as she led the pair up the steps.

“I would just rather not be legitimately sick and hold us all back from enacting our grand plans,” Anara said.

“We don’t have grand plans!” Flora laughed, holding the door open for Paz and Anara as they trudged over the threshold with their bags. “We’ll do whatever, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Well, anyway,” Anara said, clearly eager to derail this line of conversation, “you were not joking about people really going all out with ugly here. Do they find all of that in stores or is some of it handmade?”

“Oh, one of the stipulations for the tradition is that you can’t have made it yourself, so there’s like, some hideous storebought stuff, a lot of insane hand-me-downs, and some weird shit that like, peoples’ grandmas have made and stuff,” Flora said.

“A lot of those decorations seem like cursed objects,” said Paz. “The Santa you have in your window is absolutely chilling.”

Whaaat! It’s good!” Flora insisted. “You have no Christmas spirit.”

“Is that what Christmas spirit is, appreciating tasteless decor?” Anara said. She dragged her bag to the couch, plunking herself down on it, unzipping the pockets, and rummaging around.

“Yes, absolutely!” said Flora. “I can’t believe you guys don’t think it’s awesome.”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t awesome, I just said it was cursed, and I stand by that,” said Paz.

“I guess that’s fair,” Flora said. “Anyway, just put your bags wherever, mi casa es su casa and all that jazz. Please trash the place if you want to.”

“How’re you doing, Anara?”

The sun had begun to set and Paz and Anara had settled into the temporary quarters that was Flora’s apartment. The trio of friends reunited had not stopped talking since they’d come together again (except for a short intermission to eat), and Flora was beginning to hear the toll it was taking on Anara’s voice.

“What? Me? I’m good!” she said, instantly (and unconsciously, Flora suspected) clearing her throat. “Why?”

“Oh, you know!” said Flora cheerfully.

“I’m fine! But actually, if you do have tea…” Anara trailed off meekly.

“Ah, I’m totally out.”

“What the fuck?” said Paz incredulously. “You own a tea shop. How can you possibly be out of tea.”

“I know, I’m just kidding.” Flora was already en route to the kitchen. Paz rolled their eyes and Flora pulled her kettle from one of the cabinets and began to fill it. “What kind of tea do you want?”


It wasn’t earth-shatteringly loud, but it was enough for Flora to hear it over the water filling the kettle.

“That’s not an answer, but bless you!” she sang over her shoulder, setting the kettle on the hob and turning it on.

“Thank you! Wait. HuhNNNT’shoo!”

“Bless you again!”

“Thank you! I’m done this time! Just black tea is fine, with honey if you have it!”

A few minutes of boiling water and tea-steeping later, Flora walked back out into the kitchen, extending a blue mug to Anara.

“Look, check it out,” she said, indicating a raised glass oval on the mug’s handle, a red to blue gradient extending downwards. “It’s enchanted so you can keep it the correct temperature. Just run your thumb up or down and it will warm and cool it as needed and keep it that way. I keep wanting to buy these for the shop but they’re such an investment and people break this kind of thing so easily…”

“How high does it go?” Anara said, instantly running her thumb up the glass several times, and steam billowed from the surface of the liquid. “Ohwowouchnevermind.” She ran her thumb back down until the steam receded, the liquid at a significantly more reasonable temperature.

“Also yeah, that, I’m afraid of patrons burning themselves on the mug when they inevitably do that,” Flora added. Paz, who was otherwise engrossed in their smartphone’s screen, snickered.

“I didn’t burn myself!” Anara insisted.

“It sounded like you did,” said Paz, looking up from their phone and making eye contact with Anara. She pointedly looked away from them.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I am very busy drinking my tea.”

The hours ticked by, and the three had been so engrossed in catching up that it was two in the morning before any of the, had registered that the time had been passing. As the host, Flora took it upon herself to make the administrative decision to call it a night.

“Remember, we’ve got grand plans for the next few days,” she said, grinning. “According to Anara, at least.”

“That’s right!” said Anara, returning the smile despite her voice cracking on the second word.

“‘Night, dudes.”


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Ok, I'm biased because we know each other. :D But I like this a lot.

Particularly I like the opening. I think it's a shame you don't write detective fiction, because the start reminded me so much of some hard-boiled detective writing. The detail and cynicism, like the private eye observing the ridiculous things people do in the city. Maybe I read too much of that stuff...

I  would love to see this continue.

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