Short Story: Poisonous

Blythe let out a little snort of a laugh. "Okay, unexpected I can believe. You can't possibly be saying that Adair is dangerous, though. He's about as dangerous as a kitten in a basket of yarn."

Etri was back. Adair still wasn't entirely sure how they'd managed that but having him back was even better than having his map back. He could technically have made another map. Another Etri would have been impossible, although Sol would have probably tried to build a mechanical version for Etri to haunt. That would have been weird. And way less fun to kiss. No, having Etri back to normal was much better and it meant that Adair could finally ask the question that had been bugging him for weeks.

He put his sketchbook down and scooted closer to Etri. When Etri wrapped an arm around his shoulders, Adair was glad Sol didn't have to get creative. A metal Etri would have been way less snuggly.

"Etch? Why do you call us 'toadstools'?"

Across the room Blythe shut off the faucet and reached for a hand towel. Aha. So she wanted to hear the answer, too. It made Adair feel a little better if she was as clueless as he was. Etri couldn't possibly mean it as a short joke, the way Adair had assumed at first. Not when he called Blythe that, too, and Blythe was tall even for a Protectorate.

After a pause, Etri said, "You did not ask this of Sol."

Of course Adair had. It made sense to ask Etri's twin what he meant, but considering Sol rarely even knew what Sol meant, it had been a lost cause. "Yeah, I did. He just thought I was asking him what he wanted for dinner. I'm assuming that's not what you mean. Although if you want mushrooms, you only have to ask."

Etri chuckled and pulled Adair into a tighter hug. "Perhaps later. No, it is because you are poisonous."

"I… what?"

Adair might be many things. An artist, a good cook, full of pies and puns, but he was pretty sure he wasn't poisonous. Fortunately the person to ask came over and sat on Etri's other side. "Blade, I'm not poisonous, right?"

Besides, why would Etri touch him if he was? Although considering Etri's habit of self-sacrifice, maybe that was the wrong question to ask.

Blythe picked at the dried paint on her shirt. "I'd probably call you contagious… Come on, were you even using blue paint today?"

She was a big help.

"I do not mean that in the literal sense when I call you both as such. It is figurative. If I may ask, how is it that a toadstool appears?"

Oh! Adair knew this one! The perk of growing up in the home of a culinary master. "Something to do with underground fungus and growing where there's decomposing wood."

Etri was silent for a long moment. Adair turned his head to find Etri's eyebrows knitted. Did this mean there was finally a fact he didn't know or was Adair's information that wrong? It had been a long time since he went mushroom gathering and he was never very good at paying attention.

"It's a food fact. Of course he's right."

Adair stuck his tongue out at Blythe. "And the girl with enough plants in her house to equal a small forest would know. I swear I saw one trying to push my bags out the door the other day."

Etri cleared his throat. "If I am incorrect, then the reason behind the term is incorrect and I will cease using it."

"Oh no you don't," Blythe said. "You're not off the hook that easily. What's the reason?"

Etri pushed himself back on the bed until his back was against the wall, making it so that he could see both of his pair. "I will tell. In the temple in which I grew, relationships are forbidden. I have said this, yes?"

Adair nodded and took one of Etri's hands while Blythe took the other, earning a once-rare smile from Etri. Those were becoming more common, even during a subject that Adair knew made him uncomfortable. When Blythe and Adair had been alone earlier in the day, she'd grumbled and threatened to go to Montglace to give everyone there a piece of her mind for making Etri's past so terrible. If Etri's birthplace hadn't been a gazillion miles away, she probably would have done it right then. Adair couldn't blame her.

Etri squeezed their hands tightly. "Yet still there are those who seek out companionship and friendship. This is done in secret."

While Adair tried to wrap his head around not being able to have even friendships, Blythe was getting impatient. "And this ties into mushrooms how? Do the people involved sneak out for dinner together?"

Etri shook his head. "If you knew Montglace as I, you would not jest. It is because these relationships are unexpected and dangerous. The same is thought of toadstools, which are believed to grow in unexpected places."

Blythe let out a little snort of a laugh. "Okay, unexpected I can believe. You can't possibly be saying that Adair is dangerous, though. He's about as dangerous as a kitten in a basket of yarn."

"Hey! I can be dangerous! There was the time I… no, that won't work, that just ended in me burning dinner. Or when… no, that was Sol getting me into trouble. Wait! … No, that was Sol again." Adair tapped his head with the palm of his hand. There had to be a memory in there somewhere. After discarding a few more possibilities, he had to admit defeat. "Okay, yeah, fine, I'm a kitten."

"You're sweet, even if you aren't poisonous." Blythe leaned over to kiss his cheek, then turned back to Etri. "So you're saying that because your people think mushrooms are dangerous and pop up unexpectedly, and relationships do the same, that you call those people your toadstools. Makes sense, I guess. More sense than me thinking you were calling us short."

Adair threw his arms up. "So I'm not the only one who thought that!"

Etri caught his hand and squeezed it again. "I apologize for the confusion. If you would rather I cease to use the term because it is wrong or not to your liking-"

"No!" Adair said at the same time as Blythe. She grinned and gestured at him to talk, probably thinking he'd be better at talking relationship stuff than she would.

Which he was, but she was going to regret it. "It's cute, Etch. We want you to keep calling us that. But does that mean I can start calling you both 'pumpkin'?"

Blythe buried her face in her hands. "Why do I ever let you open your mouth?"

"I'm not hearing a no."

(This is a quick little story I wrote for a writing challenge. This would take place sometime during Colorweaver [Book 1].)



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