This takes place a year before the current storyline
We found the baby in the cabbage patch.
Faust and I were gardening, which is to say, he was gardening, I was lugging wheelbarrows full of dirt, plants, and tools around and dumping compost everywhere that needed it. Most of Faust's garden is full of magically inclined plants that do interesting things to people who don't know how to work with them, but he's also got a few plots and boxes dedicated to mundane stuff.
"Did you hear that?" he said.
I stopped wrestling with the snapdragons. "Hear what?"
He set down his trowel and got to is feet. "Listen."
I did. "I don't hear anything."
He didn't say anything more, but went over to the patch of cabbage heads. Operating under the assumption that anything was better than trying to feed the snapdragons, I of course went to see what he was up to.
"What is it?"
He dropped to his haunches and started rooting around through the plants. Despite him swearing up and down that he doesn't use magic to grow the regular food, these cabbages were larger than any vegetable had a right to be.
"Help me look," he said.
"What are we looking for?"
"I think it's- oh. Oh."
He pulled something out from beneath the leaves and stood up. Whatever it was was swaddled up in a light blue blanket. Every instinct in my rotten old lizard brain told me to turn and run away, right now.
He moved his arms a little lower so I could take a look.
It was a baby. A chubby faced, rosy cheeked, curly haired, button nosed little baby straight out of a Renaissance painting. Though his mouth was mostly now closed, his eyes were red and his cheeks were still red from crying. And I hadn't heard a dang thing.
"Dammit boss! When did you get a kid, and why the hell did you leave it outside? I'm no expert on human babies, but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to just leave them lying around-"
Bossman cradled the baby and glowered at me. "Don't you think that if I were to have a child, you'd know about it by now?"
"You'd think that, wouldn't you? And yet here we are-"
"It's not my baby! It's-" A thought occurred to him. He took a quick peek beneath the blanket. "He's not mine. Someone obviously left him here."
"Somebody came into your back yard and left you a baby."
"Somebody- probably some total stranger- snuck into your garden, past the dozens of alarm spells and security spells and who knows what other spells your paranoid butt has set up around the joint- and left you a baby. And then left again."
"That's what it looks like." He started for the house. I caught up.
"You know you are a terrible father."
"I'm not his father!"
"That. That right there is what I mean. At least own up to it-"
The blue bundle of cloth started kicking. Little fists poked out from beneath the blanket and started wailing on bossman with all their barely contained infant rage. Bossman fumbled, trying to get the kid into a more comfortable holding position.
"Is he crying again?" I said.
"You really can't hear him?"
"Not a bit." I moved closer. "Hey, careful. You're going to-"
The boy decided he'd had enough of this 'being held' business and sank little teeth into bossman's arm. little teeth that, in the glimpse I'd caught of them, looked remarkably like fangs.
Before I could do a damned thing, Faust dropped the baby. The baby, for his part, didn't seem to mind. The second he was free of Faust's grasp, he shed the blanket, spread tiny little bird wings, and flew a few feet in front of us.
The look on bossman's face was priceless. A split second of horror, followed by a split second of relief, and then a much longer period of confusion.
"What is that?" he said. The boy grinned and I think he might've giggled, but I'm just guessing because I still couldn't hear him.
"Why boss, I believe that's a flying baby."
The baby flew over to the poison apple tree and started pulling off the fruit. Instead of eating any, he'd sniff one, then toss it to the ground, only to start pulling off more. Bossman and I ran over to stop him. Bossman, being the tall one, grabbed the boy before could change his mind and eat any.
"No!" he said, showing the kid an apple. "This is bad for you, alright? No. No touch."
I gave him the blue blanket, and he wrapped the baby up again, to the obvious dissatisfaction of the kid himself.
"Why is there a flying baby in my yard?"
"Putti," I said. "They're putti. This one is a putto. And I don't know, have you been in love lately?"
He snorted derisively.
"Alright, stupid question. Maybe he just likes cabbages. What are we going to do?"
The baby started kicking again, but this time Bossman held him and the blanket snugly, presumably pinning down his wings.
"I'm going to find out who left him here and why. Then I'm going to return him. If that doesn't work, I'm calling the CPS."
We made it to the house. "Tell me everything you know about putti," he said.
"Not much to tell, really. When they're nice they're called cherubs, when they're more morally suspect, they're putti. They're all minor celestials, not up to angel snuff, but we let them hang around. They love love."
The kid snapped at bossman's fingers. He barely drew his hand away in time to avoid losing his pinky.
"Here," he said, thrusting the little bundle of joy into my arms.
"What am I supposed to do with this?"
"Just hold him. Don't let go. Don't drop him. I'm going to look up a way to contact his parents. I'm assuming he has some?"
"Not really, no. They're not like real babies, boss. They just sort of show up. Minor manifestations of love." The kid looked up at me with huge blue eyes. When he saw I wasn't charmed, he scowled and started kicking again.
"Well is there anyone I can return him to?"
I struggled with the bundle. "Uh yeah. That would be either Eros or Erato. Ow! The little monster just bit me!"
"Deal with it. I'll be right back."
As soon as bossman had left the room, the baby started wiggling again. I wasn't squeamish about it like Faust was, though. I just deftly wrapped the blanket around him and held the ends together, like a sack.
"Oh no," I said to the bucking blanket-sack. "You aren't getting out that easy."
The blanket went still.
"Good," I said. "Just stay like that and-"
The blanket got wet. A damp spot appeared at the side and was quickly seeping into the rest of the cloth. I dropped it, and the kid flew away.
"Boss!" I shouted. "Trouble!"
The boy zipped around the livingroom, knocking things off shelves as he went. Whenever he found something interesting, he'd pick it up, only for a repeat of the apples outside and toss it away. Since most of the things he was picking up were made out of glass, porcelain, or other such delicate materials, this meant that the room soon filled with the delightful noise of shattering things.
"Stop it!" I said stupidly. I chased after him, trying to catch the stuff he was dropping.
The kid obviously thought this was good fun and started knocking over entire shelves worth of things at once to see if I could catch them all. The answer was a resounding no.
While I was trying to crawl out from under the book case, the kid, apparently bored with this, went over to the window, opened it, and went outside.
Bossman returned a second later.
"Alright, I've got an idea that might work if we- what happened?"
"Your kid!" I said, getting up. "He just flew out the window."
"We have to go after him!" he stuffed the papers he'd been holding into his pocket and ran back into the lab.
"Why?" I said. "All our problems just flew away."
He emerged from the study a second later, carrying a long net he usually used to catch pixies. He gave me a look that quite clearly stated I was scum. "Because he's a baby!"
"But he's not really a-"
Too late. Boss was already out the front door. I groaned and went after him.
* * * * *
The brat led us down the block. He was toying with us. Every time it looked like we were falling behind, he'd stop and wait for us to come into view again before taking off.
"Tell me," I said after the third time. "I can't hear him. Is he laughing at us when he does this?"
"I can't tell you because it will just make you mad."
We were at the corner store when we met the first casualties: a man and woman lying in the street, doing something very natural and terribly indecent. I didn't think much of it because- humans. They do all kinds of weird kinky stuff. Maybe street sex was in that year. Bossman noticed, but he was too worried about the kid to do more than spare a passing glance.
"Hey," he said. "Was that-?"
"Two people canoodling like rats in a sock? Yep."
So we kept on and didn't think much more of it until we passed the Chinese takeout place and found a few more coupled in various states of love rolling around in the street. Cars were parked, and the doors were open, so I'm assuming all the people currently enjoying themselves were the drivers.
"That's gonna hold up traffic," I said.
Bossman frowned. "I don't think this is a coincidence."
"Well thank you captain obvious. Come on, the little monster is getting away."
We found the first kids after that. No, the kids weren't doing anything unsavory. It was a little boy and girl and they were sitting down next to each other, holding hands and looking shyly at one another. We ran into some octogenarians a little ways away, and they too were sitting on a bench and hand holding. I had to assume the putto's influence was trying to keep things at least a little tasteful.
It quickly became apparent that every person the little bastard came in contact suddenly became horrendously, disgustingly, inescapably in love with the first person of acceptable age and opposite gender they saw. I don't know why the putto's spell of whatever was so specific. I guess its version of friendlier mirrored that of a more conservative Valentine's card.
Things were especially bad at the florists. The entire street was blocked off because of all the people enjoying themselves. Someone had kindly set up yellow tape, and the police had been called to break things up. Unfortunately, police officers are also human, and a good chunk of them were joining the horde. The putto was hanging up seven or eight feet in the air, admiring its work. Every so often, he'd see somebody not yet infected, and he'd wiggled his fingers over them. Glittering dust stuff would fall all over them, and they'd grab the first person they saw and do the age appropriate action.
"I really didn't need to see this today," said Faust.
"Yeah, you don't even have a girlfriend this year, do you?"
He tried to smack me, but his heart wasn't into it. The putto saw and zoomed over to us. Bossman tried to snag him with the net, but the little guy was too fast. He dumped some sparkles all over Faust and I, then zipped back another ten feet into the air.
"Monkey flumpers!" I screeched. "Close your eyes! Don't look at anything with a flower!"
Instead of following my expert advice, bossman did not close his eyes and instead gave me a weird look.
"You just said 'monkey flumpers'."
"I did?" I'd been pretty dang sure that was not what I'd said.
"And then 'flower'."
"Flower? Why would I say that?"
"It's the putto," he said, looking at the dot in the sky. "He's making everything friendlier. I guess with you, that was the best he could do."
"He's censoring me? That little blessing is censoring me? Oh I'm going to teacup his kitten until his fluff comes out." I blinked. "Did I-?"
"It's getting worse," he said.
"Oh he's going to pay for this."
The little brat was looking down at me with huge blue eyes and smiling. He knew exactly what he'd done, and the little snot wasn't sorry at all.
"Hey," I said. “Boss, why aren’t you in love?”
He adjusted the net and took another hopeless swipe at the putto. "Because I am just that much of a cold hearted bastard." The putto, of course, dodged the net easily. Bossman tucked it under his left arm and pulled the sleeve up on his right. There was a sign on his wrist done in what looked like marker.
"Also, this. I did it back in the lab. I thought we might be having trouble like this once you mentioned Eros."
“And you didn’t think to give me a nifty charm like that?”
“There wasn’t enough time. Besides, it’s not like you could fall in love.” The putto flew off to spread more joy. We followed.
“But my cursing! I need it!”
My pleas fell on deaf ears, as both the putto and Faust weren’t paying any attention. I grumbled darkly about flowerpots and cuddly ducklings and followed them.
* * * * *
We chased the love-mongering monster through the entire south side of downtown. We lost him once when we got turned around in that one intersection with a Starbucks on all four corners, but he was easy to find again: all we had to do was follow the trail of people making out.
“We’re getting close,” said bossman. “Some of those people are still glittering.”
I looked at the group of old people. They were all outside of the retirement home, walking around holding hands and pointing out clouds and flowers and things to one another.
“Let’s get out of here, all this affection is making me break out in hives.”
“Wait a second.” He ran into a liquor store and came out half a minute after with a red and white card.
“Valentines card?” I said. “He did get to you!”
“There he is! Come on!”
We caught up with him in Amberview Park. He was at the fountain, playing in the bowl on top and spitting water out over the edge like one of the stone dolphins along the side.
"Hey!" I said. "You little chocolate chip cookie! How dare you censor me? I'm gonna Crayola crayon your rainbow if you don't cut this ducklings right now!"
He waved at me and spat out more water. I must give him props: he had good aim.
"Do the darling spell," I hissed, wiping water out of my eyes.
Bossman lifted up the valentine's card and started reading dramatically, the spell amplifying his voice.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
The air got a little warmer. Not unpleasantly so, but in a nice, summery way that didn't belong in mid-February. The sun shone a little brighter, burning through the clouds. The air took on an electric edge to it that made my hair stand up.
. . . And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines. . .
The putto, instead of being upset by the spell, started clapping his hands. He loved love, and this was a love poem, after all.
The reading ended. The electric tingle in the air slowly ebbed, and the putto was doing a back stroke in the fountain.
I was about to ask ‘what now?’ when somebody tapped on my shoulder.
She was six feet tall if she was an inch. She had long, flowing robes and roses weaved into her hair. In her hands was a lyre. And to top it all off, this lady was radiating waves of- not outright lustfulness, but definitely sensuality. It practically sloshed off her. It was like perfume so thick, you could taste it in the air.
She smiled at me and my palms started to sweat. I looked down at them in shock, and then immediately started wiping them on my pant legs.
“So, Erato, I’m guessing?” I said.
She nodded and looked at bossman.
Bossman flushed and held the card out in front of him as discreetly as he could. It took me a second to realize what he was trying to do, and I had to resist the urge to snicker. If the lady's lovin' radiation was strong enough that even I was pegging on to it, I could only imagine what Fausty was going through trying to keep his cool.
"Hi," he said, still burning up like a dry Christmas tree. He mumbled something, and then trailed off, either from shame or shyness.
The woman looked to me. "Why have you summoned me here?"
I pointed to the fountain. "One of your kids got loose and is making everybody act preciously." I scowled at the fountain. "Oh come on!" I said. "That wasn't even a real swear word!"
He cackled. I could tell he was cackling by the way he clasped his hands evilly in front of his belly. Else wise it probably would've just been an annoying little laugh.
She looked at the putto, still smiling. She said something I recognized to be greek, but couldn’t catch exactly.
The little boy shook his head and pouted.
She frowned and said it again, more urgently.
The boy fell back into the fountain and started splashing.
The woman rolled her eyes, went over to the fountain, reached in, and pulled the boy out. I stillcouldn’t hear anything, but it was obvious that he was crying again.
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience he’s caused you,” she said.
Bossman still wasn't talking, so I said, “Don’t worry. No biggie. Small question here, though: he's got a lot of people expressing their love for one another, and he's stopped me from swearing. When is that going to wear off? Especially the swearing thing.”
“At midnight tonight, all will return to normal.”
“Fudge ripple,” I said.
She left, taking my weird squeamish sweaty feeling with her. I wiped off my hands one last time.
“Well, that was weird. You okay? You've got kind of a funny look. . .”
“Excuse me,” he said.
He went straight to the fountain, sat on the edge, and then let himself fall back into the water. A second later he was back up, sopping wet, and acting like nothing had happened.
“Shut up,” he said, coming back over.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Quit smiling like that, then.”
“I’m not doing anything, I swear! What happened to your super special anti-love charm?"
He flushed even redder and checked his wrist. The sign had imploded. Not his wrist or anything- that was all fine, but the exposure to the walking female pheromone machine had made the charm throw up its arms and quit. In its place was a mottled blotch of ink.
Bossman licked his thumb, then rubbed it on the remains of the sign. The ink didn't even smear. "I hope this washes off."
"If it doesn't, you can always pretend it's a tattoo gone awry. Chicks dig tattoos.”
He glared at me. I grinned. He gave up.
"Come on, let's go. Grab the net."
"Right-o, mon capitan. So," I said. "Where to next?"
He ran a hand through his wet hair. "I want to go home, but that love spell on everyone down there probably won't dispel until either Valentines is over, or someone breaks the hoses out on them."
Sirens picked up just then, towards the direction of home. He brightened considerably. "Oh, good! The hoses might be on their way."
"Wanna go watch?" I said. "Ought to be funny."
"I'm actually kind of hungry. How about you?"
"I could eat. And I think since there's two of us, most places are offering discounts-"
So we got out of the park and set off to find some lunch. The place we found was happy to have us, wetness, butterfly net, and all. They'd apparently been having a very slow day. We didn't tell them this was because a good chunk of the populace was outside either canoodling or trying to prevent the aforementioned canoodling and instead asked to see the menu.
The news that night was hilarious.
All in all, a decent Valentine’s Day.