Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chapter 21: Never Lose You Again

Kyle signed up for ballet classes after school, and comes home from his first lesson dying to show off his new plie skills to his mother.

Shelly is less than impressed. "Why couldn't you sign up for scouts?" she complains, "Ballet is for girls. Or sissies."

"Is not," Kyle protests weakly, but his mother has turned back to her TV show and stopped paying attention to him.

Elliot isn't at home to appreciate his son's new dance moves because he has an early show at Doug's Hangout. While he's doing a simple Walking into the Wind mime, he feels a sudden, sharp stab in the back and collapses onto the floor. Unable to move, let alone perform, Elliot is rushed to the hospital.

They let Shelly in to see him as soon as the examination is done.

"I slipped a disc," he tells her, "It may get better on its own over time, or I may need surgery. Either way, it's finished my career."

"Do you remember what you said about why you weren't pursuing a career in professional sports?" she asks in an accusing tone, "You said there was a risk of career ending injuries. So, you basically gave it all up for nothing."

Elliot had expected a more sympathetic reaction from his wife, some show of love and support. Instead, he gets this. "Shell, I had a lot of reasons for not choosing to go into professional sports, the main one being to do what I actually wanted to do."

"You did what you wanted and it ruined you!" Shelly sobs, "Now you'll never be anything but a failed acrobat."

"I'm in a lot of pain here, Shelly," Elliot says, his voice and even as he holds himself through sheer will. When he gets no response, he just sighs. There's no point in telling her how he feels about the abrupt end of his career and the pain the doctor says he will likely experience for the rest of his life, she filters out anything that isn't directly about her.  "They're going to release me as soon the paperwork is settled; why don't you go out front and check on that?" he suggests, to get her out of his sight for awhile.

"We're here," Moth announces as he leads the small group up the cobblestone path to a man who stands waiting for the, by his front steps. Farrell, Aouregan and Pearl had met up with Moth in the woods not far from the MorcuCorp lab after their narrow escape. The fairy promised he'd secured them a safe place to hide in a town called Drake's Hollow.

"My name is Ariel Hawksquill," the man introduces himself, "Moth tells me you seek sanctuary. Come inside. We've been waiting for you."

Ariel introduces them to his wife, Noelle, and gestures for them to sit on the couches of the front parlor of his old Victorian home.

"Drake's Hollow was once a nesting site for a family of dragons," Ariel says when they are all seated, "Though dragons are magical creatures by nature, like the fae, their magic only manifests in two ways; first, in their ability to shift forms..."

"I knew it," Aouregan cries out, interrupting, "I knew the dragons were more than they seemed."

"Indeed," Ariel smiles wryly, and then continues without missing a beat, "And secondly, in their ability to cast powerful protective wards. Though the dragons who nested here are long gone, tens of thousands of years gone, the wards they've placed on this land remained. Greatly weakened, of course. When the dragons were here, no human would be able to find this spot, intentionally or by accident. Now, of course, we can, but it's extremely difficult. People who know of the place, even those of us who were born here, have trouble finding the way in, even with maps to guide them."

"You're saying that will be enough to keep MorcuCorp from finding us?" Farrell asks doubtfully, not wanting to rely on the magic of thousands of years gone dragons for his and Aouregan's safety.

"No, not at all," Ariel answers, "But it provides an excellent base for Moth and Tansy and weave their protective spell around you. Maintaining a glamour of that magnitude for your entire lives will require much of their energy; doing it here means they at least don't have to build it from scratch, they can just strengthen and focus the residual magic left by the dragons' wards."

Ariel sounds scholarly and learned enough, Farrell thinks, but all this talk of dragons and magical wards is still hard for him to swallow. "Tansy?" he asks, not recognizing the name.

"I'm surprised Moth hasn't mentioned her," Ariel laughs, "He's been quite smitten with her since he came to our little village. She is fae, like he is, and has volunteered to help him hide you from your pursuers. Tansy is young, but very powerful."

Farrell glances at Pearl, who nods at him with a grim frown. Working for MorcuCorp has made her more accustomed to accepting these flights of fancy living side by side with hard science. And apparently Farrell is going to have to accustom himself to it as well. MorcuCorp will never leave them alone, never stop looking for them, and his only recourse is to take shelter here.

"It's getting late," Noelle observes, taking her husband's hand, "I'm sure our guests would like sometime to themselves. There will be time for history lessons later."

They both have so many questions they want to ask each other, and so many things they want to say, but, finally left alone together in the Hawksquills' guest room, Farrell and Aouregan exchange no words as their arms wrap around each other and their lips meet in a tender kiss.

They make love clinging to each other, clasped together, to never be parted again.

"Tell me about our children," Aouregan breaks the blissful silence, twining her fingers into his.

"They're amazing," Farrell sighs happily, "They both look mostly like you; Aourora is your image in miniature. Shadow has my hair, but your eyes."

"Why Shadow?" Aouregan asks, "Is that a common name now?"

"I had to come up with names on the spot, when my brother asked," Farrell explains, "We can change it if you'd like."

"Does he know his name yet?" Aouregan asks.

Farrell smiles, "He does. He likes to say it, too, extending the first syllable, like, Shhhhaaaadow," he says, imitating the way his son pronounces his name.

"Well, I wouldn't to change it on him," Aouregan says softly, her eyes brimming with tears.

"I'm sorry," Farrel says, "I should have put more thought into naming him. After Aurora, I just kind of got stuck for ideas."

Aouregan wipes the tears from her cheeks, "That's not it," she says, "It's just, I've missed so much. I've never seen them, or held them..."

"I'm sorry about that, too," Farrell sighs, "I should have been there before MorcuCorp got to you. I should have paid more attention to the dates, the calendar shift..."

"Don't," she whispers, "Don't blame yourself. My brother handed me over to the Landgraabs, and they handed me over to this MorcuCorp. You aren't to blame for any of that."

"But I could have..."

"It doesn't matter now," she says, squeezing his hand, "We're together again, and tomorrow we'll have our children back with us."

Farrell eventually falls asleep, but Aouregan has spent more than enough time in dreams recently and doesn't join him.

Getting out of bed, she stands by the window, looking out at this strange new world with it's smmoth, black roads and bright lit houses. She had hesitated to come here, when Farrell asked, but she was brought here anyway, kept locked away, and her children taken from her. There's no going back now, she knows, not while the Landgraabs hold power. No, this world is her home now, this world her children have been raised in. For their sake, and for Farrell, she will learn to love it here as much as she loves them.

Farrell wakes, the bed empty beside him, and jolts up, looking for Aouregan, afraid that MorcuCorp had stolen in and taken her from him once again.

"Come away from the window, my love," Farrell whispers, pulling her towards him, "Neighbors here are closer than you're used to, and the stay up much later."

She folds her arms around him, and the fear of waking to and empty bed followed by the relief of finding her still in the room with him finds expression in one long sob that wrenches out of him,  "I can't lose you again," he whispers, lips pressed to her neck, "I will never lose you again."

In the morning, they breakfast with the Hawksquills, discussing their plans for the day, and for the future. Farrell will go back to Storybrook with Moth to pick up his children and bring them here. Aouregan will stay with Noelle, who will find her some clothes and introduce her to the basics of modern living. Pearl and Ariel will begin house hunting in the neighborhood for the couple, and for herself.

"I want to go with you," Aouregan says as Farrell kisses her goodbye. "I don't like to be away from you, not so soon."

"I know," Farrell sighs, "But it's safer this way. I can slip in and out of town without much notice, but if I drive in and then take off with a strange woman, the whole town will start talking. It won't be long, I'll br back to you before you know it, I promise."

Farrell looks for his brother first thing, and finally finds him sitting on the floor of Kyle's room.

Farrell takes a seat beside Elliot, and hesitates before speaking. He'd practiced several ways to tell his brother that he's leaving town for good, but all the practice does him no good now that it's time to say it in person. Before he can get started, Elliot surprises him by telling him about his back injury and the end it's put to his career.

"That's awful," Farrell says.

"I'll get through it," Elliot sighs, "I'm having a harder time dealing with Shelly's reaction to all this. She's been acting like this something that happened to her, you know? I'm never going to be the basketball star she always wanted me to be. And, I'm wondering, did she ever love me at all? Or did she just latch onto me because I was a jock in high school?" Farrell stays quiet, so Elliot continues, "And she's putting this crap on Kyle, too, giving him a hard time because he wanted to take ballet."

"You didn't ask my opinion, but...I've never thought she was right for you," Farrell admits.

"Well, how was your symposium?" Elliots asks, changing the subject.

"What?" Farrell asks, and then remembers that he told Elliot he was going out of town for an inventor's symposium to cover his absence while he was infiltrating MorcuCorp's lab, "Yeah, there wasn't any symposium. I was rescuing my wife from MorcuCorp."

"You should have told me the truth; I would have come with you," Elliot chides his brother.

"That's why I lied," Farrell explains, "It turned out to be a trap. If my mother weren't a highly trained ninja assassin, I'd be locked up in a secret lab right now."

Elliot glances over his shoulder at Farrell, "You know how crazy that sounds?"

"Believe me, I know. I'm still not used to the crazy enough yet that I've stopped questioning it."

"But you got your wife back?"

"Yes," Farrell says, "MorcuCorp is still after us. They'll always be after us. So we're going to have to live in hiding. I'm just here to get my kids and say goodbye."

"Just like that?" Elliot asks.

"I don't have a choice," Farrell says, "I'll miss you."

"I'm not letting you go like that," Elliot says, "If you have to go into hiding somewhere, I'm going with you."

"Elliot, you can't just uproot yourself like that," Farrell protests.

"Why not?" Elliot answers, "My career is shot, but I've made enough to support us all wherever we go. My girls are too young to have grown roots here, and Kyle has just started school, he doesn't have any close friends yet to be torn away from."

"And Rochelle?" Farrell hesitates to ask.

Elliot's lips set in a hard frown, "You're my brother, Farrell. I'm not losing you. If Shelly can't see that..." He doesn't finish the thought, he doesn't have to.

Farrell nods, "I won't say no to you. But, I have to leave today, and I can't leave directions behind for you. If you're coming, it has to be now."

Elliot finds Shelly out in her vineyard. "I have news," he says, "Farrell has to move away, out of town."

"Oh, that's great!" Shelly enthuses, "Finally, we can have the place to ourselves!"

"I want to go with him."

"What?" Shelly's enthusiasm changes to petulance, "No. I'm not leaving."

"Shell, he's my brother, my family. I want to go with him."

"Look, I've put up with him living with us, I even put up with him dumping his bastards on our house, but now that he's finally leaving, there's no way I'm following. N-O!"

"We don't all have to live in the same house," Elliot says, "I just want to be in the same town as he is."

Shelly's eyes narrow into slits, "You love him more than me," she hisses.

"I never wanted this to be a contest between you. But, he's my brother, Shell. If you loved me you'd be more supportive of my decision."

"And what about my vineyard?" Shelly asks.

"You complain all the time about the work and that it hasn't paid off the way you wanted," Elliot points out, "Maybe it's time you found something else..."

"Maybe it's time I found someone else," she snaps back.

"Seriously, Shell? That's where you want to take this?"

"You're the one who's leaving. I'm not going anywhere, Elliot. You want to be my husband, then you stay. If you go chasing after your brother, then you do it without me, and I move on to find someone who'll put me first."

"Fine," Elliot says, "Stay then."

"What about the kids?" Shelly asks, "There's no way you're leaving me to raise three kids on my own."

"I'm not leaving my children," Elliot says, "They're coming with me."

"Then that's settled," Shelly says, turning her back on him in a huff.

"That's it?" Elliot gasps, "You just let your children go like that? You won't even fight for them? Do you even care about them?"

"Just go if you're going, Elliot," Shelly snarls.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chapter 20: True Love's Kiss

"Thank you for calling me, Ms. Bowman, and not the police," Elliot shakes the consignment store owner's hand.

"Well, your family is well known around these parts," Shannon Bowman answers, "I didn't want to get the law involved and drag your name through the mud unnecessarily.  I'm sure we can work this out between us."

"Of course," Elliot assures her, "I'll pay for anything she took."

Shelly gapes in her horror as her husband apologizes to the shopkeeper and hands over the amount she asks for without question. She'd expected her white knight to come in to her rescue, to stand up to her accuser, but instead he's actually taking the shopkeeper's side against her.

"That was incredibly humiliating, Shell," Elliot says when they are back at home, alone in their bedroom, the first words he's spoken to her since the shopkeeper called to tell him she caught his wife shoplifting in her store, "Why were you shoplifting, anyway? There's nothing, absolutely nothing, in that shop that we couldn't afford. You have no reason to be stealing anything from anyone."

"I know," Shelly sighs, trying to explain, "I didn't want to buy the stuff I took, I didn't even want it, I just had to take it."

"That makes no sense," Elliot says, "What do you mean you had to take it?"

Shelly can't explain the urge that comes over sometimes, the need to steal things just to steal them. Unable to defend her actions, she turns the argument around on Elliot. "I can't believe you took her side," she says, tossing her head indignantly, "I'm your wife, you should have stood up for me."

"Stood up for you?" Elliot asks, "Shell, you broke the law. We were lucky she didn't call the police or I'd be down at the station posting your bail."

"Still, you could have asked my side of the story or something," Shelly insists.

"Well, it's over now, let's just put this behind us," Elliot says, reaching over to hug her.

Shelly pushes him away before he can get his arms around her. "No," she says firmly, refusing to be placated by his affection, "Just leave me alone."

"Fine," Elliot grumbles, walking out of the room.

While he's working, Farrell receives a cryptic text from his mother, setting up a meeting time and place. 

"Auberon," she sighs, reaching for him, longing to feel his embrace. It's been such a long time, she thinks, since she felt his body against her, tasted his kiss, heard him whisper her name...her name, what is her name? How strange that she can't remember.

His arms clasp her shoulders, but not with the passion she was expecting. He shakes her, as though trying to rouse her from sleep. "These are not your memories, child," he says, "They belong to another. Remember yourself."

"I don't...I don't know who I am," she ays, tears of frustration welling up in her eyes, "I've been so many people, so many names, so many faces..."

"Your name is Aouregan," he tells her, "You are dreaming."

"Aouregan," she says, remembering now, "I need to wake up. My baby," she gasps, looking down at her flat stomach, and remembering giving birth in that dungeon, the room with the strange bed. And then nothing. After that, all she can remember is this long dream lived in other bodies, other lives. "Farrell, how will he find me here?"

"Calm yourself," Auberon says, guiding her to a seat beside him, "You cannot wake up, not on your own. Evenfall put a spell on you, for your protection, and you can only be awakened when the right condition is met."

"What condition?"

"True love's kiss," he answers with a slight smile, "Evenfall is truly her mother's daughter. She was worried, your sleep has gone on longer than she'd anticipated, and you are not our kind, despite your magic. She feared you might become lost in the dreaming, and she asked me to find you, watch over you."

"Farrell hasn't come for me," Aouregan says.

"He did," Auberon answers, "But he was too late. Evenfall tried to explain it to me, you mortals managed to change time, bend it," he shakes his head, "My daughter says that we fae are too enmeshed in the now to see anything beyond its borders, past or future, and that I don't spend enough time in the 'real' world to even grasp the present properly. Perhaps she is right. I can only tell you that you have been sleeping for a very long time, and that your true love searches for you, to awaken you."

One of Pearl's informants had tipped her off about a 'Project Sleeping Beauty', a woman held in a stasis that none of their scientists or doctors had been able to break. They were holding her in the underground labs beneath the Landgraab Water Treatment facility in Meadow Glen.

"The cells in the facility will be walled in the fae suppressant  material," Pearl had warned him. Farrell had had no success so far in creating a counter agent for the radioactive alloy, so he would not be able to call on his fairy allies for this rescue mission, but they will wait for him just outside the perimeter to facilitate their escape. 

"I don't like using you as a distraction," Farrell protests one more time before they carry out their plan, "I could use the ghost potion now, and slip past the guard unseen..."

"We've been through this; your ghost potion will only give you invisibility for a few moments, and you'll need that to get past the scientists when you are actually in the lab. Let me handle the guard."

"Mom..." Farrell says, and Pearl smiles indulgently at her son.

"I haven't been a real mother to you. That was just never possible. All I could give you was freedom. And if I have to give myself up to MorcuCorp to buy freedom for the mother of my grandchildren, then that's what I intend to do."

Before she sets off on her part of the mission, Pearl hugs her son for the first time.

Without the slightest fear or hesitation, she strides forward to present herself to the guard who stands watch over the secret lab's door.

Her disguise and even her MorcuCorp employee badge aren't going to get her very far, and she knows it. Her ruse about a security situation in the main building that requires his immediate attention is expected fail. Pearl is MorcuCorp, after all, she knows how they work. The guard is not going anywhere with her until he's confirmed her identity with a retina scan.

The retina scan of course reveals her for the wanted traitor she is, and the guard wastes no time in cuffing her and leading her into the main building to his superiors.

As soon as the coast is clear, Farrell rushes to the door and punches the code Pearl's informant gave them into the security lock.

The elevator leads him down into a long hallway lined with securely locked doors, each one a lab for a different project.

Only one door interests Farrell, the one his Aouregan is locked behind. He peers through the door's small window, sees the scientists inside. The labs are never left unattended, his mother had told him, even at he latest hours, you'll find someone working.

Farrell drops the vial of the ghost potion he'd created on the floor, and the rising vapor swirls around him, putting him in an immaterial state that will hide him from human sight, and allow him to pass through walls.

He hasn't had much time to field test it, but the scientist inside don't notice his entry.

Before the ghost vapor dissipates, Farrel quickly drops another vial onto the ground. The scientists react to the sound of glass shattering, but it's too late for them; the gas he released knocks them out instantaneously. His own immaterial state makes him immune to it, and will last slightly longer than than the noxious gas' rate of dissipation.

This lab has windows facing two separate cells, Farrell quickly notices. In one, a man, or something that looks like a man, anyway, sits on the floor so deep in meditation that he doesn't seem to notice that his captors have all fallen unconscious. Farrell can't be sure what he is, but he notices the panels on the walls of the cell, very like the panels that had covered the walls of Moth's cell in the dungeon of Landgraab castle.

The other cell houses a woman asleep on the single hospital bed. Aouregan, at last. He only has to awaken her, and then get her out of here.

His ghostly state vanishes as the vapor dissipates, so Farrell must enter her cell by unlocking the door manually.

Her sleep is no natural state, he can see that immediately. She lays too still, too perfectly unmoving, cocooned in a sparkling nimbus of light. She can only be awaked by true love's kiss, the fairy Evenfall had told him. He still wonders how that works, how the spell would be able to tell the kiss of true of love from any other kind of kiss, or how one would even define 'love' outside the vagueries of philosophy. But there isn't the time for musing about those sorts of things; either this works, or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, he'll carry her out of here and figure out another way. Farrell caresses her hair as he leans over her, brushes his lips against her cheek.

"Come back to me, Aouregan," he whispers before gently touching his lips to hers in a tender kiss.

She moans, the smallest of sounds, and her eyes flutter open. Farrell sink to the ground on his knees, overcome with relief.

"This is real?" she asks, taking his hand as she sits up on the bed. "I'm not dreaming?"

"This is real," he assures her, "We don't have much time, we're not safe here."

"So, sleeping beauty finally wakes up," a voice crackles over the intercom, followed by the snicking sound of the electronic lock on the cell door sealing them in. "Excellent work, Brannon, now we have you both."

It was a trap, Farrell realizes, Pearl's 'informant' fed them this information to get him here. And he just fell right into it.

"The Landgraab's assassin!" Aouregan gasps, recognizing her face immediately, "She's the one that took me captive."

"She's...my mother," Farrell says, recognizing her face just as clearly, "But, no, that's not possible. She's too  young. A clone, of course," he says, figuring it out as he speaks, "Pearl's DNA was crafted in a lab, of course they'd be able to make copies."

"Honestly, Teal, I would have thought a copy of me would at least know how to dress more practically for battle," Pearl says, coming up behind the geneticist-assassin.

"How did you...?" Teal starts to ask, but Pearl is on her too quickly, pressing her arm against her throat as she pushes her into the wall. Locked in their cell, Farrell and Aouregan can only watch, helpless.

But Teal is as well trained as the original, and breaks free from Pearl's grasp, punching her hard in the gut, knocking her back.

The captive in the other cell rises from his meditations to watch as the women fight outside his window.

Age hasn't slowed Pearl down, she's as fit as ever and has years of combat experience over her competition, giving her the edge she needs to reverse their situation and come back out on top.

Holding her throat, Pearl cuts Teal's air off until she loses consciousness, and then quickly unlocks the cell her son is locked in.

"We'll copy whatever data they have here, then scrub their system," Pearl says, "Move quickly, before they figure out I've escaped and come down to rescue you."

"What about him?" Farrell asks, gesturing toward the other prisoner, watching them impassively from his cell, "We can't just leave him here."

"We have no idea who, or what, he is," Pearl answers, "You can't just unleash him on the world like that."

"Whatever he is, he doesn't deserve to be experimented on by MorcuCorp. And letting them keep him can hardly be in the best interests of society," Farrell says, "If he's dangerous, that's more reason to get him out of MorcuCorp's hands."

Pearl shrugs, "Good point. Do it quickly then, we don't have a lot of time."

Farrell unlocks the cell and steps inside. The captive doesn't so much as look in his direction. "You're free to go," Farrell says, wondering if the man-creature-whatever even understands him, "But if you want to leave, do it soon. They'll be back, looking for us."

The newly freed captive does not respond, but follows them as they take the elevator up to the ground floor.

"What's your name?" Aouregan asks him gently, "Are you of the fair folk?"

"I am called Suchandra," he answers, breaking his silence, "I am of the gandharva."

Farrell, Pearl and Aouregan exchange glances; none of them have ever heard of a gandharva.

"Let's hope he's not bent on world destruction," Pearl grumbles.

"My power returns," Suchandra declares once they've stepped outside. He raises his hands and looks back over his shoulder at him. "Flee now, mortals, or die."

"Oh, crap," Pearl sighs as a swirl of magically energy surrounds the gandharva. "Run, now," he says one more time.

The sky above them crackles with unnatural light, and they do not need to be told again to run for their lives.


Extra special thanks to Zhippidy for making the 'true love's kiss' pose set for this chapter. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that, no other pose set quite fit the bill for that.