Raz opened his eyes, the panic disappearing from his throat as he took in the feel of the Agency sheets under his skin. Required sheets. Required bed. Everything so much nicer than it had been in his crappy little bedsit.
The air was clean. The air was always clean. It always so comforting: the faint scent of air conditioning, recycled air, and chemical cleaners.
It was the smell he’d come to associate with the word “home”.
He was Dorothy, and the Agency was Oz. Narnia. Wonderland. It was the one place on Earth where he belonged. Where he could be…himself, without fear of recrimination, judgement, or pity.
The fairy in his arms stirred, and Raz felt a smile cross his face.
He kissed the man’s head, even though it was likely gauche to do so.
He whispered a good morning as the fairy sat up and smiled sleepily. The fairy – Troy – had tan skin, with a golden undertone in most places, but there were lighter patches. In a human, Raz would have guessed at vitiligo.
Troy was beautiful. And he’d been good company.
‘I didn’t ask last night,’ Troy said, ‘but this was your first time, wasn’t it?’
‘With a fairy, or a sex worker?’ Raz asked, feeling the burn of a blush. ‘Both, actually.’
It had been one of the nights out. Screen, Sacha, and him – the trio he’d found himself a part of. A weekend pass to Fairyland, some pooled cash, some Agency-granted per diems slipped their way by Jonesy and a few budget-conscious vouchers collected by Screen.
Please Touch the Merchandise – or ‘Please Touch’, as locals called it – had been on their to-do list for a long time. The concept of completely normalised sex work had fascinated him since he’d started learning about Fairyland and Faerie in general. The fact that the fair folk were more free and open about sex than he was used to was a pleasant surprise – as was the fact that there didn’t seem to be any bigotry based on gender, sex, or orientation.
The fact that he was a gay Chinese guy seemed to be completely natural there.
Sexporiums were the ultimate logical end to strip clubs and brothels. Most of them were themed; most of them were run like chain stores, with membership cards and benefits – except the “product” they sold tended to be sweet (or saucy) experiences with their employees.
Please Touch was one of the major chains, and they also branched out from their primary industry. Besides their sex workers and strippers, they also ran a major speculative fiction blog and news site, and they were one of the major retailers of figurines and collectibles.
All in all, it was an excellent place for three queer nerds to spend a night.
They’d entered a door prize competition upon buying their memberships – and they’d agreed to split the prize if they won. (The prize being twelve in-home visits by an employee of their choice.)
They’d won a month ago, and last night, he’d used his first visit.
He’d inputted his preferences, his triggers, and his likes, and Troy had popped out of Please Touch’s random generator. And the fairy had been perfect.
Troy kissed him again, then stood and pulled on his silvery boxer shorts. ‘Recruit,’ he said, shaking his fairy ass, ‘would you mind requiring us some breakfast?’
Raz sat up, reached for the Pride Parade card that sat on his bedside table, and ran his index finger over the colour. His breath hitched as he touched pink, but the pain wasn’t as intense as it had been, pre-Agency.
Pink was easy to avoid – unless Alfie was having one of her punk girl days – but Alfie didn’t hug without consent, so he was looking at a manageable day.
There’d been a lot more manageable days since Ryan had told Raz that he could be a recruit. Since Jonesy had given him a home. Since he’d started being around people who didn’t judge him for being schitz.
He slid out of bed and waved his hands. ‘Accio Breakfast!’ he cried, and a selection of food covered his coffee table.
Troy gave him a curious look, then pulled a plain waffle from a plate and settled himself onto the couch and began to eat.
‘What?’ Raz asked, taking the other end of the couch. ‘You can’t blame me for being a nerd.’
‘You just don’t strike me as being a Harry Potter fan,’ Troy said, his wings extending behind him as they grew back to full size.
‘I like the fanon better than the canon,’ Raz admitted. ‘Muggles making the Wi-Fi work and spells to help their disabled students. I can’t hate it, because I’m basically living in Hogwarts. Three houses instead of four, but the point remains.’
Raz closed his eyes and focussed on his “breakfast juice” – an unlocked requirement, thanks to the Parkers, that contained his morning meds. The cold glass appeared in his hand. The beads of condensation were always slick against his fingers, but never enough to make him drop the glass.
He regarded the fairy for a moment. ‘Can I ask a question?’
‘You’ve already asked a lot less questions than most muggles I service,’ Troy said. ‘No question is too silly. You’re still esqui to the world, right?’
‘Es-quee?’ Raz asked.
Troy weighed his hands for a moment. ‘Analogous to “new”, like what you call a level one player in an MMO. It’s from–’ The fairy paused for a moment, then picked up the phone he’d left on the table. He tapped into an app and flicked through it for a moment. ‘It’s from a movie that’s somewhat like Fairyland’s version of Manos – old, low-budget and infamous. “Esqui” is one of the only things that have stuck in popular culture, though.’
‘And that app…finds similar stuff for purposes of conversation?’
Troy nodded. ‘When you get a Genie phone, it should be your first thing to install.’
Raz shifted uncomfortably. ‘I was thinking of getting one of The Mount’s branded ones. They have a human subscription plan. I won’t be needing a big voice plan or anything.’
Troy made a face. ‘If that’s what you want. Genie is sexy, though. And Baron von Smartypants is a great guy.’
Raz made a face. ‘Who von Who?’
‘Baron von Smartypants. CEO of Genie. He ran a fundraising campaign for the Lost a few years ago. People raised money on the proviso that he’d change his name for ten years.’ Troy held up a hand and affected a rather agent-like tone. ‘Certain terms and conditions obviously apply. He wasn’t going to change his name to anything that conflicted with his ideals.’
‘Or advertise a competitor,’ Raz suggested.
Troy’s eyes twinkled. ‘Actually, that wasn’t part of the Ts-and-Cs. Both The Mount and Sheen tried to outbid each other for the right to name their biggest competitor after their flagship products.’
Raz giggled and finished off his juice. ‘But they lost?’
‘The indie development circuit ended up pooling all their donations under a single non-profit name. The name was chosen from a pot.’
‘Why did the indies back him?’
‘Genie open-patents a lot of their developments, so anyone can use them. They’re slick, and they market as though they’re signing contracts with a mirror pen, but they’re largely a benevolent force.’
Raz held up his hands in surrender. ‘All right, I’ll get a Genie phone.’
‘Please Touch has a discount program for members. If you choose to avail yourself of my services again, I could take you to the Joxy flagship store and get you kitted out.’
Raz felt another blush.
Part of him – a part slowly hardening in his boxers – was looking forward to seeing the fairy again for quite obvious reasons. The less obvious and less hormone-driven part of him was enjoying the simple pleasure of a conversation that would have been impossible mere months ago.
‘How about a month from now?’ he asked. ‘I’ll have to make sure it works in with my schedule.’
Troy pulled another dry waffle from the table. ‘I thought you were one of the lab nerds. Less scheduling issues?’
Raz felt pride swelling. ‘I’m also a monitor for an agent.’ Thoughts of Curt really didn’t help with his burgeoning erection. ‘So I’ll just have to check on his schedule, and organise a replacement.’
Troy gave him a look of amazement. ‘I’ve serviced a lot of recruits, but none have been a monitor for an agent. A couple of aides, but you’re just a standard recruit, right?’
‘Agent O’Connor is an augment,’ he explained. ‘Former Solstice, so not a lot of my colleagues want to keep him safe.’
‘He sounds fascinating,’ Troy said. ‘Bring him next time you come to the club. I dance on the weekends – it’s better than taking a jog, and I don’t get distracted, flirting with people.’ He stood and began to dress. ‘I don’t flirt whilst I’m on the clock. It’s unprofessional.’
He grabbed his boots and crashed back on the couch, playing with the complicated straps. ‘I know my human counterparts have a far worse time of it – men who think if a stripper smiles, it’s something other than good customer service. In Fairyland, that’s a lot rarer, but it still happens.’
Raz played with a piece of bacon.
‘For absolute clarity,’ Troy said, ‘I’m still on the clock with you, but I think I’d like to flirt with you, if you think you can handle you could handle dating someone like me.’
Raz tried to disappear into his bacon. ‘I haven’t dated anyone since I went crazy. I’m not sure I’m ready–’ He tried to meet Troy’s eyes. ‘Friend me on The Mount. I flirt better on IM.’
Troy kissed him once more. ‘Willing to take the customer satisfaction survey?’
Raz nodded and accepted Troy’s phone, where he selected 5/5 on all of the options. ‘I know this is really dorky,’ he said, ‘but that survey interface is amazing.’
‘You’re right, that is dorky, but I feel the same way.’
Troy gave him a wave and excused himself from Raz’s room.