The Auction

02 – Bedside Manners

‘If you’re not about to die, you can wait,’ Parker-2 said as soon as the infirmary became clear.

‘No problem, Doc,’ Curt said and took one of the beds towards the back of the infirmary while the twins tended to the fairy siblings.

He tried not to look at the unmarked door that led to the morgue.

Most people, apparently, didn’t even know it was there. He only knew it wasn’t some benign storeroom due to being “friends” with Parker-2.

And right now, two cold shelves would be holding dead Solstice.

Mags was right. Anyone who had fallen so far as to willingly kidnap kids probably wasn’t worth rehabilitation.

There were a lot of people – really, most people who knew a bit about the Solstice – who assumed that everyone working for them was pure evil.

What a lot of recruits failed to realise was how compartmentalised knowledge was within the Solstice. Didn’t realise how easy it was to draw people in with the idea of protecting their friends and loved ones and being a saviour of humanity.

It was easy to think you were a good guy when all you saw were fae in their most monstrous forms; nymphs fighting with everything they had, turning them into eldritch masses of vines and tangled trunks.

And for the most part, the Solstice he’d interacted with had been so…normal. Blokes who would have arguments about footy, part-timers who worked their “save the world” schedule around uni. People who kept photos of their family on their call centre desks when they were in the admin part of their schedule.

Normal, ordinary people.

People who acted like they were working for SHIELD, for the BPRD, as Ghostbusters.

The bright sun that would hunt down the dangers in the dark.

And the people who knew more and had the broader picture were so careful about how they introduced information. Waiting for more and more propaganda and disinformation to take root before planting the next seed.

He’d been lucky.

He’d been so lucky.

They’d fucked up, let him see who they really were before he’d fully lost his soul, and it had been enough to break his programming.

And he had to believe he wasn’t beyond redemption. Otherwise… Otherwise there was no point in waking up, no point in trying to be a good recruit, no point in fighting when some other brainwashed bastard tried to throw him into a van.

He looked down at his wrists, at the torn skin under the rough metal of the cuffs where he’d struggled against them.

He was bleeding onto his shirt and onto his pants, where his hands rested on his lap.

One thought dismissed the cuffs, and another removed his tie, vest and button-up shirt. That left the thick T-shirt he wore under his uniform shirt to hide his tattoos from the world.

Each was a trophy, a reward for killing a monster.

Each was a reminder that he had sins he could never escape.

He slipped off the bed, grabbed the privacy curtain and dragged it around his bed, cutting off Gem and Ori’s view, just in case. No need to traumatise them further if they saw a hint of a tattoo peeking through.

The Agency didn’t have MIB neuralisers, but they did have some ability to fuck with memories. Whatever the exact parameters of those powers were had been diluted through a thousand Solstice rumours. And it wasn’t something he’d had the balls to ask Parker-2 about in the months since his transfer from Adelaide.

If there was kindness in the world, they’d use it on the kids, to at least reduce the trauma they’d have to work through and save them from nightmares.

His nightmares, on the other hand, were well-deserved.

The sleeping tablets that the Parkers formulated for him worked as intended. He woke each morning, fully rested, with enough energy for the day, but…They didn’t stop his mind from throwing every horrific image into a blender and throwing incomprehensible combinations at him.

He started to inventory his injuries.

Wrists, mostly skin deep. A bloody patch on his side that had probably been a knife. Bruises on every limb. Blood on the back of his neck, probably from some wound on his head.

All in all, he’d gotten off easy.

If they’d known who he was, had even a hint that he was ex-Solstice, Magnolia would have had to drag his unconscious body from the van. If they hadn’t just ended it and left his body in the alley.

Parker-2 pulled back the curtain and wielded a lollipop in his direction. ‘Suck on this, O’Connor. We’re still working with the kids.’


‘It’s painkiller flavoured,’ Parker-2 said, jamming it against his closed lips. ‘Stop being a baby.’

He swiped it from the doctor and dutifully put it in his mouth. ‘Fine,’ he said around the decidedly lime-tasting candy. ‘I’m not likely to die in the next half hour.’

‘You’re not allowed to die in my infirmary, asshole,’ Parker-2 said with a wink, stepped back, pushed the curtain into privacy mode, and returned to help his twin with the kids.

Side bleeding, head bleeding, he propped up the stiff pillows and gingerly leaned back against them. He checked his pockets. The guy who’d grabbed him had stomped his Agency phone and taken his gun but hadn’t done a thorough job of frisking him.

Admittedly, most recruits didn’t carry two phones. Most didn’t want to bother paying the extortionate prices that the Fairyland ISPs tended to charge non-citizens. Even fewer had the necessary fae currency to keep a plan active.

Money was a weird thing when it came to the Agency. You could require whatever you wanted, so a weekly wage just wasn’t a thing. It was like getting to experience one tiny bit of what living in the Star Trek universe must be like. You didn’t join Starfleet to get paid, but for the adventure.

Everyone else used money, though. You couldn’t walk into Faerie, flash your Agency ID and expect to get a free coffee or bus ticket.

Thus, any time you had to deal with Faerie as a recruit, you got issued a per diem – enough to feed you and cover basic expenses – and you were allowed to keep whatever was leftover at the end of the assignment.

Per diem allowances were the most common way recruits accumulated any fae money. In his limited observations, for most, it tended to end up like leftover foreign money after an overseas holiday. Something to throw into a drawer on the off-chance that you’d use it again.

Some recruits used it to tip each other for favours. Raz had handed him a small bag of change after he’d helped the Tech rehearse a short presentation for a crime scene conference.

Mostly, he kept quiet about having a five-figure bank account in Fairyland. It wasn’t something the Agency needed to know. And it might make him seem like a flight risk if they did know.

Mostly, he kept quiet about his friendship with Carmichel in general. Carmichel had lots of fingers in many pies in the worlds of security, information, and the like. If reality ran on movie logic, he’d be the morally-grey-coded information broker that the good guys would go see, who hung out in the fanciest private room of a club he owned, casually draped in eye candy.

And that, really, was more or less Carmichel’s actual life.

He had a very friendly relationship with the Agency, one that could only be tarnished if they knew he was good friends with an ex-Solstice recruit. And he intruded on Carmichel’s life enough without ruining his friend’s one real joy in life, ever vigilantly working on the goal of seducing and fucking every agent walking the earth.

It was something he’d actually helped with a couple of times, though not with any of the Queen Street agents. Other than the Parkers, he had doubts that any of the agents he had regular contact with actually fucked.

Ryan was so emotionless that it wouldn’t have surprised him at all to learn that the Director had gotten rid of his dick decades ago, due to it being a useless frivolity. Jones read as an “overworked nerd”, and Taylor…Taylor was his only real “maybe”. Even as separate as he was from recruit social circles, rumours persisted that Taylor was hiding a porn-worthy cock under his uniform pants.

And most rumours had a grain of truth.

Carmichel tended to trade favours for sex, and requirements couldn’t fulfil every wish.

The Agency had its own in-house social media platform, and you could automatically see the public posts of everyone in your Agency’s network, which included agents at their various outposts associated with Queen Street.

One agent had publicly complained about the paperwork it took to get the licence for a pet dragon. Another had repeatedly posted mood boards about some of the exclusive money-can’t-buy experiences at one of the large Fairyland theme parks.

He’d given both of their names to Carmichel, and…transactions had happened, as his friend liked to put it.

And by way of thanks, his bank account had received a nice bump each time.

Money made the world go round, and by the time he was able to safely leave the Agency, he’d have a nice nest egg waiting for him.

His Genie phone pinged – the icon for the Rose Room app showing an alert. He clicked to open it, happy that it was simply a passive-slash-for-your-information alert rather than someone actively messaging him.

The map showed the avatar and username of a fairy girl he’d slept with before and that her status was “Blooming”.

Blooming amounted to pinging anyone in the area you’d previously had contact with, generally for some sort of activity first, then intimacy later.

It was a good status to set when you were in an area for work or didn’t want to do touristy stuff alone. A nice, casual mid-point between a proper date and the “I want to fuck right now” immediacy that the Rose Rooms had originally been designed for.

He dismissed the alert. Even though the Parkers would fix him up, leave him without scars and send him on his way in mere minutes, nothing about his emotional state made him feel like going out for a quickie would be a good idea.

A couple of taps silenced alerts for twelve hours.

Finally, Parker-2 pulled back the curtain again. ‘Not dead? Good.’

‘When I eventually die in here, I imagine it’ll be at your hand, Doc.’

Parker-2 smacked him with a clipboard. ‘Not before I’ve gotten the paperwork to harvest your organs, O’Connor. Shirt.’

He hated this step. Hated…hated knowing that however much Parker-2 could compartmentalise when he was in uniform, the tattoos would make the doctor think less of him. Hated that he cared what an agent thought. Hated that he didn’t hate the Parkers.


At least Parker-2 never pushed. Never just dismissed his clothes off his body. Whenever he was conscious, Parker-2 always waited. Always gave him control of the situation.

And that was something he was grateful beyond words for.

Maybe the Parkers did it for everyone, maybe that consent was just built into their programming. Maybe he’d flinched the first time Parker-2 had started to undress him to treat a wound. Maybe he just looked like a victim to those who knew what to look for.

He let out a breath to centre himself, then dismissed everything other than his boxers and socks.

‘The little boy wouldn’t shut up about you,’ Parker-2 said as he cleaned the knife wound. ‘Good thing too. I think it kept him from realising how injured his sister really was.’

‘And how is she?’

‘Not dead, thanks to you and Mags’ team. She’ll be fine, but recovery is going to take longer. Neither of them will be flying for months. They’re both resting for now and will be transferred to their local hospital in the morning. Parents are inbound, so I’ll try and get you out of here before they arrive.’ He tossed a bloody wad of cotton aside. ‘I’ll mix your sleepers with whatever I give you, so don’t take a second dose when you get back to your room. How are they doing? Need any adjustments?’

He shook his head. ‘Working as intended.’

‘And you’re still not going to let me get you in with a psychologist. I can find someone who doesn’t wear a suit, you know.’

‘Yeah, because paying out of pocket for-’

‘You know I could arrange it.’

He stared at Parker-2 and shook his head. The offer was genuine, the intent was good, but- No. Never. Or at least a “not yet” that may as well have been “never”.

‘You’re a stubborn fuck,’ Parker-2 said, ‘and I know a lot of stubborn fucks, and in a field of stubborn fucks you’re a stubborn fuck.’

‘Always so eloquent, Doc.’

Parker-2 slapped a patch onto the knife wound. ‘My better half gets the words. I get the frustration. Leave that on till at least nine tomorrow morning. Now bend forward like you’re gonna suck my dick so I can get a look at your head.’

‘Is it safe to sleep with a concussion?’ he asked as Parker-2 cleaned the wound.

‘Most of the time, it’s fine, but you won’t have one by the time you leave here anyway.’

‘So why do people think you die?’

‘A lot of people don’t know how many holes there are in the human body or what their actual functions are. People are incredibly stupid, Curt.’

‘Yeah, won’t argue with that.’

‘Now shut up and let me finish.’


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