It's an extremely cold December afternoon, and the girl with an eyepatch is very grateful for the warmth of Starbucks. What she's not very grateful for is the huge queue. Why is there a huge queue?
Peter follows along.
She removes the eye patch and pockets it, holds her head high, and disappears.
Inside the court, her human nature is diminished and her fae nature enhanced. An eerie wind moves her hair, one of her eyes is simultaneously pitch black and glowing while and it takes some attention to notice that the other one isn't. Her body language changes slightly, subtly, giving off different hints - dangerous, predatory, intelligent. Inhuman.
And the faerie are waiting.
(That is kind of scary. And hot.)
A fairy with iridescent blue skin and horns that resembles a stag beetle drops from a nearby tree and stares at Kaede.
She knows that's not the only fairy around; she can feel the other fairies hiding in that way they're wont to do, staying just out of sight, the hint of a movement detected from the corner of your eye which you can never catch. She smiles pleasantly at the fairy.
"Have you come invited?" asks the beetle-fairy.
"By your most gracious queen."
"She was very generous to allow your entrance in her domain. And as such we should bring you directly to her."
The dismissive tone makes this sound more insulting than a "fuck you!"
"I'm sure I would be honoured."
Beetle-fairy leads them to the Queen.
Most fairies don't join them - or not visibly, anyway. But Kaede still knows they're there, lurking.
They reach the clearing before the Queen's throne; she is there, behind the curtain as always, and Dear Kind Sweetness is nearby.
"You must be our dear Human's friend," says the fairy.
"Yes, that would be me. My name is Kaede," she replies, and bows ever-so-slightly towards the Queen.
"You have walked in here of your own accord -"
"Invited by your most splendorous queen, and exactly on time. I wouldn't want to be late, of course, that would have been terribly rude."
Peter keeps the flinch entirely internal.
The shadow behind the curtain moves a bit, at that, leaning forward ever-so-slightly.
Dear Kind Sweetness raises both eyebrows and the placid, polite smile turns a little bit sharper. "Indeed," she says, nodding along as if that's what she meant. "Children nowadays - especially human - you know, so often very impolite, aren't they?"
"They are," Kaede agrees easily. "But personally I think following social norms of conduct and politeness is the bare minimum one can do, especially when in such esteemed company." Once again, she's talking to the Queen, here. "It would be disrespectful, and I don't want to give the impression I don't value your time."
There's some tittering, from the bushes, now, which could be mistaken for the rustling of leaves or the tinkling of bells by one who had not met fairies. "I'm glad our Human managed to find someone with a good head on their shoulders," Sweetness replies.
"I would like to think I have one of those, yes."
"So you would, so you would... Tell me, weren't you meant to be a boy?"
Kaede looks genuinely surprised. "Forgive me, I didn't think you would concern yourselves with such temporary human aesthetic concerns."
"Ah, but our Human is human, and has such concerns."
"I've been led to believe he does not have a very strong opinion about whether his friends are boys or girls."
"I do not. Maybe it's the benefit of my unique upbringing."
"Oh, that's very good of you! Human silliness."
"Indeed." She smiles pleasantly.
"At least it keeps things interesting."
No one says anything to that. The uncomfortable silence stretches, then is temporarily filled by more tittering from the bushes, but finally descends into a quiet so deadly not even the (presumed) animals of the woods are making any sounds.
"So!" Dear Kind Sweetness says after this has gone on for even longer, "Why don't you join us for night tea?"
"Oh, I could not possibly impose..."
"Please! We insist."
"Well, I suppose I am staying here a while longer."
"Marvelous!" And at no visible command, the clearing explodes in a flurry of activity, with a number of fairies emerging from all sorts of unlikely places to fetch table and chair and cloth and cutlery, but also drapery and glass decorations and wind chimes and glowing bulbous flowers. The place is soon completely transformed into a tea room right out of a fairytale.
"You are doing very well," Peter says in a whisper. A politely loud whisper, not the conspiratorially impolite whisper. "I can see everyone is very impressed with you."
Hopefully she catches this as a warning. Impressing is... something to be acquired.
"I like to think I'm pretty impressive."
Various fairies sit at various small tables. The largest one is a flattened oval, with the Queen's throne standing directly at one edge. Dear Kind Sweetness sits to her right, and two seats are left vacant to her left.
Peter pulls the chair for Kaede, such that he will be sitting directly next to the Queen and in front of Dear Kind Sweetness.
The fairies serve out dishes, tea and coffee and bread and cheese and various sweets and finger foods. None of them touch anything until Dear Kind Sweetness picks a cheese cube and pops it into her mouth, making an appreciative hum, but once she does it's tea time. Kaede smiles at all the procedures but does not immediately eat anything.
He keeps a polite smile during all these procedures as well, he has very good table manners. At least when in front of both Dear Kind Sweetness and the Queen.
And he very politely takes a serving of various foods and sets in front of himself and is about to take a fork when suddenly, "Oh, sorry. I actually served this one for you." And he puts the plate in front of Kaede.
"Oh, thank you, that's very kind of you."
Dear Kind Sweetness purses her lips but the Queen can be heard to be tittering.
"You're welcome. I have learned a lot about the value of kindness." He gives his most charming smile to the table in general.
She grins, then grabs a fork and takes a little bit of cake into her mouth, very deliberately looking nondeliberate. "My compliments to the chef," she says, sounding genuine.
One of the fairies sits up straighter and beams at her, and giggles when Dear Kind Sweetness throws him a glance that Peter might recognise as the equivalent of a glare. Then she turns her smile back to Kaede. "I am curious about how a human got to be so... closely acquainted with us fae. We typically go through reasonable pains to remain hidden."
"Sometimes accidents happen," Kaede replies between bites. "And I once found a Nixie in need of help to return to her river."