Masks and Wings--Fiction by Anne Cain

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Halloween, the one time of year when all the masks and costumes come out of the closet, stock in candy companies soar, and pumpkins become the most popular kid in the vegetable aisle. But anyone who knew anything about the other world--the one beneath the often very thin veil of reality comfortably blinding those who weren’t ready to see or accept--also knew that this was the one time of year where the masks and costumes could be safely tucked into the closet for a change.

Troy pulled the sliding door to his closet shut and looked himself over in the full-length mirror. The magic spells that gave his skin an ordinary, dull tan throughout the rest of the year were gone, the bandages usually wrapped tight around his chest and waist abandoned. For the first time in 364 days, he saw himself as he really was--normal. Glowing silver skin, long black hair falling down his naked back to brush the top of his buttocks, the scar along his belly, and the semi-translucent featherless wings unfurling from his shoulder blades, spreading up to graze the ceiling.

“Lord, I love Halloween,” Troy smiled at the mirror. His pointed fangs flashed back at him.

The doorbell rang and he turned to grab his bath towel from off the bed. Wrapping the cloth around his waist, he happily strode out of his bedroom to the front door.

His condo was part of a complex that unfortunately didn’t have too many kids, but he’d dutifully bought a bag of fun sized chocolates for any tykes who happened to drop by. Snagging the sack of candy off the counter in the kitchenette, he swung open the door without bothering to check the peephole.

It’s not as if there were so many things in the human world that could pose much of a threat to him anyway.

Except for the pair of large, beautiful gray eyes staring at him from across his threshold. They were utterly, remarkably devastating. Expressive without being mournful, sharp and intelligent and full of warmth despite their cool color. They were the kind of eyes that could see right into a person or demon’s soul. And when they started to widen with an expression of recognition, Troy realized with a sense of dread that was exactly what those beautiful eyes were doing.

“I said, ‘Trick or Treat’,” a tiny voice clamored for attention somewhere in the general vicinity of Troy’s waist. He forced himself to break eye contact and look down at a young girl in a Spiderman costume. She held out a mostly-empty plastic pumpkin with one hand while she had the other folded inside the large, protective hand of her male companion.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you before.” Troy hadn’t planned on covering his natural voice tonight, but he found himself forcing his register to go up an octave. It made him sound friendlier, more human. Though the masquerade was silly considering his true nature had already been exposed to the man beside her.

“Let’s go, Dee,” the man said. “I think we picked the wrong apartment.”

Troy refused to return his gaze to those haunting eyes, but he studied everything else about the man. He wore faded jeans with motor grease on them, a black t-shirt that couldn’t hide the well-toned physique underneath, and a light jacket. The fluctuating waves of color surrounding the man were very much like the girl’s--young, full of goodness and sincerity.

“But he’s got a whole bag of candy,” the girl observed. “He was waiting for Trick-or-Treaters.”

“I don’t think so.” The man swallowed loud enough for Troy to hear the gulp. “He’s obviously getting ready for a party or something and we interrupted him. Let’s go.” He turned to leave.

“Don’t,” Troy said softly. He convinced himself he needed to know that the man wasn’t going to do anything rash, like speed dial the closest demon slayer to get medieval on Troy’s otherworldly ass. A better truth would be to admit that he wanted to see those beautiful eyes again.

The man paused, but reluctantly turned back. He’d never released the girl’s hand, and the stiffness of his posture made it clear his instincts were warning him to get as far away from Troy as possible.

But he’d still turned back. Troy couldn’t explain why, but that felt like a victory.

The little girl held out her pumpkin again, hopeful. Troy emptied the entire contents of his bag of candy into the open lid.

“Wow, thanks!” Dee looked thrilled. She could barely hold up her pumpkin from the weight.

“That’s a lot of candy,” the man said flatly.

“It’s good.” Troy met the man’s suspicious gaze. “Safe. From Walmart.”


Troy leaned in the doorframe, again fixated by those beautiful eyes. The more he looked at them, the more comfortable and familiar they seemed to be with the supernatural. Like the young man they belonged too had witnessed more than his fair share of strange things. Troy glanced down at the girl. “Is she your child?”

“My niece.”


“Have you been living in this apartment a long time?” the man asked. He was still suspicious and cautious. Troy didn’t blame him.

“A few months,” Troy replied. He tested the waters. “It seems like I can never stay peacefully in one place for too long.”

“Wanderlust? Or does trouble have a knack for following you around?” The man’s questions were getting more personal.

“Hopefully ‘trouble’ hasn’t found me here yet.” Troy scanned the young man’s handsome face, the messy waves of sandy blond hair cut short on his head, the bit of scruff on his chin and cheeks from having gone a day or two without shaving. “I like living in San Diego. The beaches are nice and the people are friendly. Usually.”

“As long as we can get along,” the man replied evenly.

“That’s all I want,” Troy whispered. “A chance.”

“Can I have a piece now, Uncle Sammy?” The little girl pleaded, interrupting them.

“Wait ‘till your mom has a look at everything first, squirt.”

“‘Uncle Sammy’?” Troy bit back a grin. “How Rat Pack.”

“Just ‘Sam’ to you,” the young man also looked like he was also concealing a smile. “C’mon.” Sam coaxed Dee away from the door and started down the hall. He glanced over his shoulder at Troy one more time before disappearing turning at the end of the hall.

* * * * *

Troy swam in the currents of wind over the bay, gliding close to the water before swooping back up into. He relished the feel of the cool Pacific air caressing his skin, knowing that in the darkness his skin picked up the shades of the black water below and the starless sky at his back. Camouflaged and content, Troy picked out an empty pier near the sprawling convention center and landed among the schooners and fishing boats tethered in the marina. Music from an outdoor concert drifted over and Troy settled on the edge of the wooden ramp, his bare toes skimming the water.

“Did you mean what you said back at your apartment?”

Troy jumped to his feet, wings spreading out behind him, instantly prepared for flight. Sam was leaning against the rail a couple of yards away, hands tucked into his jacket, the collar turned up against the chilly October air.

“Have you been tracking me?” Troy demanded. He wasn’t angry so much as afraid. He’d mistaken the young man for a human with extraordinary perception. It was clear now Sam was a slayer, and even more skilled at disguising his true nature than Troy could ever hope to be.

“Yes.” An expression of guilt flickered across Sam’s face. “I also went back and searched your place.”

Now Troy was angry. “Then have you satisfied your curiosity about me? Or are you here with a more permanent solution in mind?” Instinctually, Troy’s hand went to the ten-inch scar sliced deep into his belly where a slayer’s blade had almost made short work of him some thirty years ago. But he’d deserved a life-ending blow back then. Before he’d learned better and had come to understand the meaning between Good and Bad, Right and Wrong.

“I just want to know if you meant what you said.” Sam held up his hands. “I didn’t come with anything to fight you.”

“That’s stupid,” Troy narrowed his eyes. “You’re taking a big chance that I won’t kill you right now, while I can.”

“I know.” Sam’s heart hammered against his chest, loud enough for Troy’s heart to pick up the same spastic rhythm. Sam’s aura shifted and swirled, reflecting the young man’s uncertainties. “But I want to believe what you said about living peacefully in this city.”

“Then why the hell did you follow me and ransack my apartment?” Troy beat his wings. “Why are you asking me if I meant what I said? You already know the answer.”

“I want to hear it.”

“It’s true, Sam.” A small thrill skittered up Troy’s spine at using the slayer’s first name. It made the situation personal in a way that it shouldn’t be, but he wanted nonetheless. Lord, he wanted this.

Something about the young man had wormed its way into Troy’s soul and he liked it.

“I’ve grown really fond of humankind over the past few decades,” Troy said. “All I want is to keep my cheap apartment, work my shitty nine-to-five job, pay taxes, and buy a Chia Pet.”

“And give out Halloween candy to Trick-or-Treaters,” Sam added.

“Yes. Especially to little girls in superhero costumes.”

Sam laughed and Troy fell in love with the sound. “I wish I knew your name,” he asked, smiling.

“It’s Troy.” His birthname had been something else, but that was from so long ago he couldn’t remember it. This one had belonged to the slayer who’d almost killed him, and he’d never forget it.

“Nice to meet you, Troy.” Sam stepped forward, offering his hand. Troy accepted it, taking pleasure in the warmth and strength in Sam’s fingers. “What kind of demon are you?”

“Demon’s aren’t as concerned with defining and labeling,” Troy raised a brow. “That’s a human prerogative I haven’t picked up yet.”

“Fair enough.” They’d stopped shaking hands a while ago, but neither one had moved to relinquish his hold on the other. A blush spread across Sam’s cheeks as he must have realized it and quickly pulled back.

This behavior pattern had a label in human society, Troy knew that much. “You can consider me gay, if that’s helps you form an identity for me,” he watched Sam carefully. In truth, Troy was surprised to be experiencing any kind of sexual arousal from a human. Thirty years of exposure to males and females of all kinds of persuasion had never moved him, but then again, he’d never been fated to one of them. Sam could turn out to be his…intended. The idea stirred Troy’s heart with an incredible, aching sense of longing. Yes, if attraction to a member of the same sex was what it meant to be gay, then he embraced the concept fully.

“I think ‘Troy’ is plenty enough of an identity.” Sam’s blush deepened.

“Sam, I’d very much like us to be friends,” Troy ventured. He took a cautious step forward, narrowing the space between them. Sam had probably been able to see through the camouflage of his skin, and he would certainly see Troy’s arousal now. But the young man’s attention focused only on Troy’s belly.

“Yeah, me too.” Sam frowned and traced a finger along the jagged scar. To Troy’s relief, he never asked about the mark’s origin. “I have a confession to make. When Dee and I knocked on your door earlier tonight, you took me by surprise .”

“You weren’t the only one,” Troy couldn’t hold back the dry sarcasm from edging into his voice.

“Well, I’m not supposed to be taken by surprise.” Sam’s brow creased as he continued to gently explore the remnants of Troy’s near-fatal wound. “I’m supposed to be able to sense any demons within three city blocks, but I didn’t pick up anything from you. Otherwise, I never would’ve taken my niece in to the building, let alone knocked on your door with her in tow. And you weren’t even wearing any disguises.”

“I don’t understand,” Troy admitted.

“Neither did I, until I tracked you here and watched you fly over the bay.” Sam looked up. “I know my magic is somehow linked to the element of air, and I’m guessing yours must be too. I’ve been studying the traces of energy you give off and they really aren’t all that different from mine. I couldn’t tell yours apart. It’s like we’re cut from the same magic pattern, if that makes any sense.”

“Or it means that we’re fated for each other,” Troy admitted, his voice rumbling deep in his chest with a surge of emotion he couldn’t control.

“I’m not sure about that.” Sam stopped touching him, much to Troy’s regret. “But who knows? Maybe…” His voice trailed off.

“Have you ever flown?” Troy suddenly asked. “Not in those tin can airplanes, but with nothing but the sky and wind on your skin?”

“Uh, no.” Sam pursed lips. “For starters, I don’t have that neat chameleon ability to cover up my naked ass like you do, and secondly, I’m afraid of heights.”


“Yeah,” Sam took a step back. “I don’t bungee jump or hang-glide or any of that shit. My life gets crazy enough as it is without looking for that thrill.”

“But if your magic is tied to the air, then you’re missing out,” Troy said.

“I’ll get by--hey!”

Troy had moved forward and wrapped his arms around Sam’s waist before the man had a chance to react.

“What are you doing?” Sam panicked.

“You went through all the trouble of tracking me down here, the least I can do is return you home.” Troy pushed off the pier, his wings spreading out and catching the wind. He cradled Sam close against his own body, his legs intertwined with Sam’s to hold him fast.

“Open your eyes,” Troy suggested.

Reluctantly, Sam cracked one open. “Hey, we’re close to the water.” The wind whipped his hair around his face, and he raised a hand to push it back.

“With such a strong military presence here, I don’t risk flying too high where I might get their attention.” Troy leaned into the air currents, gliding along their path over the surface of the ocean. “Where do you live?”

“I’m staying with my sister in Coronado.”

That was a shame. The small peninsula lay directly across the bay, and Troy had already covered half the distance. He’d secretly hoped for the need to fly much longer and farther, but maybe he’d demanded too much trust from Sam as it was.

The restaurants along the beach were packed with Halloween partygoers, but with a more laidback island flair than some of the bigger parties that were going on in San Diego’s clubs. Troy found a quiet spot empty of people close to the ferry landing and set Sam down on his feet in the sand.

“Wow, thanks.” Sam had the same kind of thrilled expression his niece had worn when she’d gotten the entire bag of candy. “That actually wasn’t too bad.”

“We’ll have to do it again,” Troy said. “Now that we’re on the way to becoming friends.”

“Sure. I’d like that.” Sam licked his lips, and his aura flickered with that same strange uncertainty as before. In time, Troy was confident he’d learn how to read those hectic shifts and swirls. For now, he needed to ask.

“What is it?”

“I’m gay too.” Sam leaned in and touched his mouth to Troy’s. The warmth that spread through his lips and down into the depths of his core was so unexpected and shocking, Troy gasped. Then just as quickly as the contact had come, it was over. Sam pulled back.

“See you around,” he said. Stuffing his hands into his jacket pockets, he turned on his heel and trudged up the sandy bank to make his way towards the strip of restaurants and shops. He glanced back and called over his shoulder. “And happy Halloween.”

Yes, actually. After tonight, there was at least one man in this city he’d never have to wear a mask around. Troy smiled, spread his wings, and took off into the darkness again.

Part-time cover artist and illustrator, full-time hopeless fangirl, Anne Cain enjoys spreading her love of art and appreciation for the sensual and macabre through her work. Whenever she’s not doodling away in one of her sketch books or painting a cover, Anne spends her time writing and reading too much yaoi.

To learn more about her art and stories, please check out: Anne’s DeviantArt Portfolio or Dragon’s Disciple, her labor of love with co-author Barbara Sheridan.

Like reading short fiction? We have more where this came from. Our Write Here, Write Now subforum is full of original fiction as well.


Interesting. About as derivative as it's possible to be without being fanfic, but once I got past that, I liked the character of Troy. It's hard to convey the idea of the nonhuman mind and still make a character sympathetic (something science fiction writers have been working on a lot the past eighty years).

With Troy being not only a disguised demon, but gay, we're reminded that people in daily life are always putting on a set of behaviors like a costume, reminding themselves to do things that may not be in their basic natures in order to function in society. (Actually, I guess you can be openly gay in San Diego, but openly demonic might be a problem.)

I also like the fact that neither character fits any kind of gay stereotype, but also doesn't seem self-consciously anti-stereotype.