The Fae Worlds

An Unexpected Arrival

Spinning, my eyes met with Leo’s, and I stilled, heart pounding. At first, the music surrounding us loud, all I could do was stare. I had questions – the first one being how he got into the house, because I knew the doors were locked. He, teeth buried in his bottom lip, stared back, his eyes filling with tears.
“We chose not to put that song on the album.” One of the tears trickled down Leo’s cheek. “It was one of Connor’s favourites, but there were others we all liked more, and in the end it got cut.”
Opening my mouth I realised I had no idea what to say, so closed it again. There was only one explanation as to how his arrival in my living room was possible. Calling someone was definitely something I needed to do, sooner rather than later, but from the way it looked like Leo was about to break down I knew I had to put him first.
Turning, I stepped over to the dock, planning on turning it off, only to have a hand gently touch my shoulder as I was about to press the button. “Don’t. It’s… good to hear them again. I think.” He sighed. “Where am I?”
“I don’t know for certain, but I think you’ve stepped into an alternate future.” I glanced at him, wishing I could tell him more, and Leo nodded slowly, looking thoughtful. “There are people who can help to guide you through this time. All I need to do is call them.”
“No.” He sounded so certain of that. “I’m not ready to deal with the fae.” His hand left my shoulder, and he stepped away from me. “They…” He shook his head. “Can I stay here?”
“Yes.” The word was out before I could stop myself from saying it, but then it was the lead singer of one of my favourite bands. Well, a version of him, and I turned again, to look at him. “I’m going to have to call them at some point. You exist here. The fact there’s two of you is a complication they’re going to want to know about.”
“Wanting to know about me doesn’t mean they should.” Leo shrugged. “What they were willing to do… “ Breathing in deeply, the tears welling in his eyes again, he slumped on the sofa, like he’d given up on being upright. “There was an accident. A bad one.” Looking down at his body he shook his head. “I survived, somehow.
“Saying goodbye to my three best friends…” Another tear escaped. “It was harder than I could have imagined, but it was made so much worse when our record company came to me, telling me they thought they had a way to fix things. People didn’t know yet exactly what happened. Obviously they heard there was an accident, because we couldn’t hide it.
“Apparently the fae can glamour people. When my ‘bandmates’ walked into the room… “ Leo looked up at the ceiling, the tears rolling down his cheeks faster, and I couldn’t stop myself from sitting next to him, taking his hand in mine. “Fixing the band was more important than anything else. They wanted me to push through the pain, to focus on the tour, as though it was even possible.
“Nothing about what I was feeling mattered.” He squeezed my hand tight, and I did the same, to show my support. “They thought I could do what needed to be done, because that was the most important thing, even though it wasn’t to me – and I just… even though I shouldn’t have left the hospital I walked out that night.
“Up until then I’d been in a coma. No one was certain if I’d wake up, and I was almost certain they had a fake me ready to go. If I wasn’t going to come round what did it matter. They’d do whatever it was they wanted to do, because I… I should have fought them, for everything we’d done, but I was alone. I didn’t have anyone to turn to who’d be able to help, and when I looked at myself…”
“The mirror showed me someone who didn’t look all that different to how he did before.”
Leo looked at me then, his eyes meeting with mine, bluer in real life than they’d been in the videos. “Only I’m not who I was. The accident changed me, in so many ways, and this… maybe it’s a good thing. A fresh start away from everything.”
“As fresh a start as it can be.” The music, his voice, was something I couldn’t ignore, and neither could he. “I can understand wanting to keep your distance from reminders of the past, but…” Finding the words wasn’t simple. “People are going to recognise you. You’ve been everywhere for the last couple of weeks.”
Nodding, Leo raked a hand through his hair. “I know, and I will talk to the fae, but not tonight. What happens next is something I’m not ready for.”
“We can take this as slowly as you need to. I understand why you’d need to, so I’ll do what you think is best, at least for now.”
“You’re dealing with my sudden arrival well.”
Shrugging, I glanced at our hands, feeling a smile tug at my lips. “I’m not going to say this isn’t weird, because it really is, but you… I feel like you’ve been a part of my life for a long time. Your music… it’s helped me through a lot.”
“That was why we made it. It helped us, and it helped others.” Leo ran his tongue over his bottom lip, staring into space. “Those songs… they were a part of who we were. Having other people take their places was something I knew I couldn’t live with. They weren’t my friends, and they were never going to be able to fit into the gaps left.”
Leo tightened his grip on my hand. I didn’t say anything, more because I didn’t know what to say than anything, and I think it might have been the best thing. We listened together to the next song on the album. Then he looked at me again.
“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“Being here. Throwing your life into disarray.” Leo smiled. “Dumping my problems on your shoulders.”
“This isn’t your fault. Magic does this sometimes.” I shrugged. “Do you want anything? Drink? Something to eat?”
Laughing, he shook his head. “You don’t need to do anything for me.”
“Maybe not, but I want to.” My eyes met with his again. “You’re somewhere entirely unexpected, and whatever your life was before…”
“Had this not happened my life would never be the same as it was before. It’s a different kind of change, and I’m not going to pretend this will be easy.” Leo looked at the dock, the music still playing, and the mix of emotions was obvious. “They’re alive here. I’m alive here.” Raking a hand through his hair he shook his head. “It’s not like I can take his place, and go back to how things were.”
“Do you even think they’ll be the same people they were?”
“No, but they’d be similar enough, and that… I don’t know. When I was told they’d died I grieved for them, for everything we’d built together, because it was gone. I’m not their friend. If he were to die they’d grieve, in the same way, not thinking about replacing him – because it would be impossible. Even with me here. I’m not him.
“We could have gone through similar things, but there are no certainties. Hearing our album is a sign of how the choices we made were different to the choices they made. They put songs on we decided against, because they weren’t right for how we viewed ourselves, and the ones they have put on…” He sighed, leaning back against the sofa, looking at the wall. “Meeting them wouldn’t be a good idea.”
“For now probably not. Give it time. You might feel differently, and if you do I’m sure you’ll be able to find a way to make it happen.”
“Even if I do feel differently it’s not as though my life can ever be what it was.”
Leo’s teeth were buried in his lip again, and I studied him. Knowing his music didn’t mean I knew him. Not that it was him. I listened to the words he sang once more, thinking of the songs they’d made the decision to keep off the album. Songs the others might have chosen to put on, for their own reasons, showing a different side to themselves. A side the man sitting beside me might not have.
“You can make your life whatever you want it to be.”
Nodding slowly, Leo raked his free hand through his hair. “All we’d ever wanted was to make music. It was why we did what we did, and now… I don’t know if I can. The thought of trying without them… before we even thought about starting the band I used to write alone. It wasn’t until Connor saw one of my songs anything really happened.
“He was the one who started to put music to those words. From there it snowballed, into something I could never have imagined, as we worked together to build the songs. Putting the guitar in was the first step, before we started to think about who we knew who might be able to add the other elements.
“Tony, the moment we started thinking about a drummer, was the guy we knew we needed. When we went to him to ask him to join us I think he thought we had actually lost our minds, because the likelihood of us becoming anything more than another tiny band… well, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. At the time we didn’t care about becoming known. We wanted to make music, and once Tony understood he was in.
“Once Tony was in there was no way Matt would say no, and we had a band. The four of us making music… working on songs together felt right, in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Even if nothing had come of it every moment we spent was more than worth it. Had we never made it I’m certain we would have kept going for the sheer joy of making music together.” Leo shook his head. “I almost wish we hadn’t.
“Had we not they’d still be alive. We wouldn’t have been doing tours, going from place to place, and we wouldn’t have been in the accident.” He breathed in deeply. “I want to say I don’t regret the choices we made, because it was perfect. At least until they died. That… I don’t know. I’m still feeling it, in so many ways, and if I’d had a chance to grieve there… maybe I’d have managed to work through the pain to be able to keep going, with the three men who were willing to take their places.
“Being famous was hard.” As his eyes met with mine I could see the emotions in them, and how close he probably was to crying again. “If I hadn’t done it with my three best friends I don’t know I would have been able to keep going, because there were days when all I wanted was to live a normal life.”
“What you do next is entirely up to you, Leo.”
It was the first time I’d said his name out loud, the feel of it making everything more real. He really was in my living room, thanks to the magic of the fae, even if he was a different Leo to the one I’d been following since their first album came out. Their music helped me through so much. Even if he wasn’t that Leo he was still someone who’d made similar music, and there would be another me in his version of the universe who’d been there the same way I had.
“Yeah, it is.” Nodding, he smiled, but the pain in it was obvious. “Thank you, for listening to me. I… you’ve been so kind, and I haven’t even asked your name.”
“It’s Alison.” I squeezed his hand again. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to deal with something like this, so I’m not surprised you haven’t asked before.”