"PIZZA'S HERE!" DANNY CALLED as he struggled to balance two pizzas, a six pack of beer and a six pack of soft drinks while opening the apartment door.
"That was fast," Stacey said from the sofa as she swung her feet off the coffee table to the floor. "What did you do, fly?" She wrapped Danny's bathrobe tighter around her body and brushed her bright red hair out of her eyes.
"I know it's the middle of the night, but did you really think I would do the Superman thing in full view of a City of Boston Police precinct station? You know me better than that."
"No, I don't know you better than that. I thought I did, but I was wrong. Until a couple of hours ago I didn't know you could fly, or that you were a healer or that you had a buff friend named Eric who was a fairy with dragonfly wings who could fly and who could get hurt colliding with the guy wire on a radio tower and that I could heal him of his injuries."
Eric took the pizzas from Danny and set them on the dinette table. "You learn quickly. Come get some pizza," Eric said. "You had a long day yesterday and we've kept you up all night. You must be starved."
"And I learned that Eric is a healer and he can sense other healers. Let's see, what else?" She opened the pizza box. "I learned that you like anchovies. ANCHOVIES? YUCK! I hate anchovies!"
"I only put them on one half of one of the pizzas. Eat the other one," Danny replied.
"What else have I learned in the last couple of hours? Your parents are mages. You helped the fairies defeat the elves in a bloody war. You have a friend who is an ogre."
"More like a comrade in arms," Danny quibbled. "He's really Michael's friend."
"You are friends with the queen of the fairies and you helped her realize that this fairy guy Michael loved her."
"I would have done it if he didn't," Eric interrupted with a mouth full of pizza.
"You have friends who are centaurs and you left a woman behind in the land of the fairies who you think is pregnant with your baby. And you have pictures to prove all of it. Have I hit the high points?"
"Enough of them," Danny offered. "Don't forget you need to be in Newton by ten. You're meeting that girl whose parents were killed in the wreck on the Mass Pike yesterday."
"I haven't forgotten," Stacey snapped. "Was that only yesterday?"
"Yup, time flies when you're having fun," Danny quipped as he popped open a beer. "You realize this it the first alcohol I've had in this house since the last time you came to visit."
"At least you remembered what beer I like."
"How could I forget?"
"Look, yesterday morning I was having breakfast with some EMT buddies from the hospital I worked at while I was doing my residency when they got the call for the big wreck on the Pike. I dropped in at the hospital to see if I could help. You came in straight off vacation and went directly into surgery. We worked all day saving lives. We are doctors. We save lives. Just another day at the office. So far so good. I wanted to decompress after the long day and I came here for a little casual sex instead of my normal late night drive to the suburbs and things got strange in a hurry. In the, what is it, eight hours since we left the hospital, my life has turned completely upside down. Cut me some slack, okay?"
Danny's answer was interrupted by a knock on the fire escape door. Danny's face lost its colour. Eric stopped eating in mid-chew. The bottom of the fire escape was locked. There were only two ways to get to that door. One was from one of the other apartments, but the people in the other apartments would come to the front door. The other was to fly. The second knock was more insistent than the first.
Eric furled his wings and put his jacket over them before answering the door. Danny reached behind him and picked up the ceremonial sword, a gift from the fairy queen, that he had laid on the desk. When Eric was sure that Danny was ready, he opened the door.
"Hello, Eric," the elderly man on the landing said cheerfully.
"Judge Levine? Mrs. Levine?" Eric sputtered.
"Dad? Mom? What are you doing here?" Danny shouted.
"May we come in?" Danny's father asked politely.
"Yes, come in."
Danny's mother held her arms out to Stacey. "It is good to see you again. How are you dealing with all this?"
"Um, Mrs. Levine, how did you get on that landing?" Stacey asked fearfully.
Mrs. Levine looked at her son who up to this very second had no idea his parents could fly, but jarringly had come to that inescapable conclusion. "Does she know about you?"
Mrs. Levine's face lit up. "We flew."
Before Stacey had a chance to react, two pixies, one male and one female, flew in through the open door and landed on Mrs Levine's shoulder. "Greetings!" they cheerfully said in unison.
"That's it!" Stacey shrieked, "I'm out of here!" She started for the door.
"Better put some clothes on first," Mrs. Levine suggested.
Trembling, Stacey threw herself on the sofa and covered her face with her hands. The pixies gently rearranged the folds of Danny's robe so her thighs were not exposed.
The female pixie said, "Doctor Danny, she's awfully pale. You should fly her to Florida for the weekend so she can get a tan. We know some great beaches."
Stacey rolled her head side to side slowly saying, "No, no, no." She sounded ready to cry.
Mrs. Levine sat beside Stacy and enfolded her in her arms. As gently as she could, she said, "You know, Stacey, she's right. It wouldn't do to have the entire fairy world know Danny's girlfriend has pasty legs."
Stacey rolled her hands back, her eyes wide with shock. "I am not his girlfriend! He left a pregnant woman behind in fairy land. SHE is his girlfriend."
Mrs. Levine patted Stacey's knee. "Well, you are a girl and you are in his apartment with no clothes on and you are his friend so that makes you his girlfriend. The pixies are horrible gossips and whether you like it or not you are big news."
"No, no, no, what about the other woman?"
"Aurora? You'll meet her soon enough, I suppose."
"Won't she hate me?"
Mrs. Levine laughed, "No, dear, she got what she wanted and sent him on his way."
"I don't understand."
"You don't need to, dear. Trust me. Look, instead of hanging out looking like the start of an X rated movie, get dressed so we can see about getting you to Newton by ten."
"How do you know I need to be in Newton by ten?"
"The pixies. There are no secrets from the pixies. Take a shower. You'll feel better."
Stacey slowly shook her head and cautiously headed for the bedroom.
"Dad!" Danny said exasperated as Stacey closed the bedroom door. "Did you pick all the anchovies off the pizza?"
"They weren't as fresh as I would have liked, but they were tasty."
Danny made a growling noise in his throat. "All right you two, it's about time you came clean with me. I thought you were a pair of drunks, but you're not. What's the deal?"
"It was a cover. It allowed us to be abroad at all hours of the day or night. We have been tracking down enchanted Elvin gold for years and some of that had to be done at night. No one pays attention to the wanderings of a drunk. It worked quite well."
"How did you know I was home?"
"We felt you pull power. You have a distinctive signature. We could tell every time you used it. We knew when you were healing. We knew when you were flying. Ever since you healed your friend Brian, we've known what you could do. We heard about the wreck on the news and felt your work at the hospital. That's how we knew you were home. We were glad you were using your power for the victims, but when we felt you draw it again in the night from here, we became concerned. There were other signatures in the power we didn't recognize. We sent the pixies to spy on you and they reported that Eric was here and that you had healed him except that even accounting for Eric, the signature was wrong. Someone else was drawing power from here and we were afraid it was one of our enemies. I am thrilled to find out it was Stacey. I always liked her. You should have brought her home from school more often."
"But we killed all the elves. What other enemies do we have?" Danny asked.
"No, you killed Hassan and the male elves in his army, but the female elves and the children survived. Not only that, Hassan's clan was only one Elven clan. You won a big battle, but the war has been raging for a thousand years. Whatever victory you might have achieved is but a skirmish in the total conflict. In spite of our best efforts, this war will likely go on for another thousand years. All we can do is keep from losing it."
"There's an encouraging thought," Danny sighed.
Danny's mother put a piece of the pizza on her plate and popped the top on a soft drink. "I always loved the smell of pizza in the morning." She grinned maliciously.
Danny sat in silence while he ate the remains of the slice his father had denuded of anchovies. After he finished it, he said, "Now, what do we do?"
"Your mother and I will continue our search for enchanted elven gold and you will train a medical corps. We will be happy to help your training if you need us."
"Medical corps? Like Army Medical Corps? Like MASH units?" Danny sputtered.
"Exactly," his father replied through a mouthful of pizza.
"You want me to train a bunch of kids from the Boston suburbs and take them into battles like the one I just fought? You want me to risk the lives of innocents?" Danny was aghast.
"Not exactly like, but similar. They will stay behind the lines of combat."
"No! There were no lines of combat! There were no safe areas. Ask Eric."
"That's true, sir, there was no safe place to hide. We all fought," Eric affirmed.
"I heard you were particularly brave, Eric, visiting the ogres, centaurs and gnomes all in a single day. That was an incredible feat of flying stamina and courage. Truly heroic. Had you not enlisted the centaurs' aid, the castle would have fallen," Danny's father said.
"Thank you, sir. I did what I needed to do. I wasn't trying to be a hero," Eric said softly with a catch in his voice. "Sir, did you see the valley where the centaurs shot down the elves and their dragons?"
"I did. It was horrible. I never want to see, hear or smell anything like it again."
"I have seen other battles," Danny's father said gently. "They are the same in that regard. However many you see, you never get used to them. Unfortunately, your cousin Michael will need your services sooner or later. There will be other battles and you will hate every one of them."
They ate in silence until Stacey appeared.
"Oh, my dear," Danny's mother said, "you can't go looking like that."
"I don't have time to drive home and change."
"Dear, do you still live in Lexington?"
"Yes, right off Route 2."
"Eric, can you cloak?" Danny's mother asked.
"Create a bubble of invisibility while you fly."
"No," Eric shook his head, "I didn't know there was such a thing."
"It's rare among fairies, but common among pixies. Some dragons can do it. Could you carry Stacey forty leagues or so?"
"I suppose I could carry her, why?"
Mrs. Levine stood to all of her four and a half feet tall and took off her jacket. When she unfurled her wings, everyone in the room gasped. Stacey collapsed on the sofa with her hand over her mouth. Danny choked on his drink. Eric stood in silence. Danny's father stood up and kissed his wife. "I love when you do that. You are so beautiful."
"Mom! I didn't know you had wings!"
"Well, now you do."
When heart rates and respiration returned to normal, Mrs. Levine said, "Stacey, can you navigate your way home from the air?"
"Yes," she said tentatively.
"Good, give Justin your car keys," she said pointing at Danny's father. "Eric and I will take you home so you can change. I will cloak and Eric will carry. Justin will drive your car to Newton and we will meet him there. We'll fly back and meet you here later."
"Mom, I can drive the car," Danny protested.
"No, little boy, you are going to take a nap. You've had a long day and as soon as I can get everyone else some rest, we're going to do it."
"Eric, I know you're tired, but I will help as much as I can."
"Yes, mother." Danny walked into the bedroom and closed the door.
"Stacey," Danny's mother said, "this will be one of the scariest things you have ever done. I need to ask that you not scream. I can cloak vision and radar, but I can not cloak sound. Understand?"
"Yes," Stacey answered trembling.
"Good. Eric will carry you on his back."
"Won't that get in the way of his wings?"
"A little," Eric answered, "but forty leagues isn't far."
Fairy Chief Justice Justin Levine used his son's computer to map the location of the doctor's office mentioned in the email printed on the desk. He stepped out on the fire escape for the short jump to the hospital parking lot where Stacey had left her car.