The Brannon's bought a large old Victorian house in Drake's hollow with more than enough room for all of them. Elliot and his three children took the room on the second floor, and Farrel, Aouregan and their twins took the third floor.
Aouregan has a lot to adjust to in the world she was woken up into, but gardening has changed little since the time she came from, and it has become her solace and her retreat. While she's working in her new garden, a small, gray visitor appears.
"Mist?" she asks in surprise. Her cat was left behind when the Landgraabs took her, and she assumed she'd never see him again. "How did you get here?" she asks him, but the cat cannot answer.
Elliot explores his new surroundings by taking his kids out to the nearby playground.
While the kids play, Elliot meets and greets with his new neighbors. Nathaniel Hawthorne has a daughter, Julia, about the same age as Kyle, as well as two teenagers.
"No wife, huh?" Nathaniel asks with a slightly envious smile as he shakes Elliot hand. Everyone in town knows without openly acknowledging that Nathaniel is the father of Scarlet Prynne's daughter, Jewel. Everyone except these newcomers, Nathaniel thinks, wondering how long it will be before they, too, are in on his personal business. Small towns are bad places for secrets.
Claire Charming is also pleased to meet the newcomer who has no preconceptions about her. Not that she has any secrets to hide; rather the opposite. Though she's moved out of her family's mansion to a small cabin by the edge of the river, the town will always see her as the privileged daughter of Caterina Charming, and it's a great pleasure for her to for once be seen as just the regular girl she's tried so hard to present herself as.
Elliot tries not to think of Shelly, not to miss her, but she's still a part of him, the mother of his children, even if she rejected that role. He looks around at the nursery he decorated for his girls, and wonders if he did it to please Shelly as much as for Delaney and Cassidy.
His thoughts are interrupted by a phone call from Claire. She asks how he's settling in and offers any assistance he might need. It's just a friendly call, but there's a light flirtatiousness in her voice, which Elliot does his best to deflect. It's flattering, but he's in no way ready for anything like that yet.
"The kids have been adjusting well," Farrell comments as he sits on the edge of the bed next to Aouregan.
"It's been easier for them than for me," Aouregan sighs, "They suddenly have a mother, but they're young enough to accept that, accept me..." She leaves unsaid the difficulty she had recognizing the toddlers as her own while she had to meet them like strangers.
"When my mother brought them to me and told me they were mine, it was hard for me to accept, too," Farrell admits, "I know it must be harder for you...you gave birth to them and never got to see them. And then you wake up to discover they were already walking and talking."
"At least you rescued me before they were any more grown up than that," Aouregan says with a comforting smile. She knows Farrell puts a lot of unfair blame on himself for what happened to her. "MorcuCorp wanted you to find me, wanted our children...but why?"
"I still don't know what they were after, exactly," Farrell sighs, "They knew I was descended from Ametair and Trifine, so I assume they were interested in whatever traces of werewolf genes I carry. You must have something special in your line as well, something they want..."
"But my brother married a Landgraab, didn't he?" Aouregan asks, "Surely whatever they wanted from me, they could have gotten from him. Quite willingly," she finishes with a bitter tone, still stung by her brother's betrayal.
"I've asked my mother, but she doesn't know. She was part of their plan, but they never told her anything beyond her orders to seduce my father. Ariel Hawksquill seems to know a lot of obscure history, maybe he can shed some light on your ancestry," Farrell suggests.
"It's worth asking, at least," Aouregan agrees, "We'll pay them a visit tomorrow evening."
"We need to know about my ancestry," Aouregan explains when they are seated with Ariel Hawksquill and his wife in their parlor, "Why would MorcuCorp go to such lengths to get Farrell and me together?"
"Your ancestry..." Ariel says, his voice taking on the intonation of a chant, "Yes, yes, I see it."
"Your line goes back to the dawn of humanity. One of your ancestors was beloved of a very powerful fae. He gave her his heart, and that gave her great power, a magic that passed on to her children, and their children, through many thousands of years, right up to you and your brother. But you were the last of your kind; that magic disappears after you."
"Until now," Noelle chimes in, "Your children carry that power."
"But my brother's children?" Aouregan asks.
"His descendants live on in the Landgraab line, but they didn't inherit his magic. Perhaps it was because he worked so hard to hide the power he was born with, or perhaps it was because he turned from the goddess to the new religion. I cannot say how it was lost, but your brother's children did not carry the magic of your family's line. And with your disappearance, that magic was gone from our world," Ariel says.
"Until now," Noelle repeats, "When MorcuCorp brought you here, to this time, they brought back a magic that had been lost to us for centuries."
"My mother always taught us to treat our power with respect, to use it carefully in the service of the Lady, but she never said we had fae ancestry," Aouregan says.
"You don't," Ariel says, "Your magic comes from a gift a fae gave one of your ancestors, but your line is all human."
"Your children, however, do carry the fae blood, from him," Noelle adds, nodding at Farrell.
"But it's been latent for so long in your ancestry, I can't help but wonder what use MorcuCorp intended to make of it," Ariel finishes for his wife.
"How do you know so much about us?" Farrell asks. He'd researched every source he could find in the annals of history for his ancestry and had found only the remotest traces, while Ariel speaks like he has first hand knowledge of human history going back to the dawn of time.
"Ah, that," Ariel says with a slight hum, "I, too, carry a gift bestowed on one of my ancestors which has passed down to all his descendants. He angered a fae who cursed him with knowledge, the ability to see a person, or thing, and know its origins, its history."
"That's a curse?" Farrell asks, bewildered.
Ariel laughs, "In some languages, the word for curse is the same word for blessing. The spell that twas put on you," he nods in Aouregan's direction, "Was meant to protect you from harm until you could be rescued. But that same spell has been used by many a fae as a curse. The magic is the same, the only difference is the intent of the caster. The fae who cursed my ancestor meant to hurt him, but I look on my gift as a blessing. most of the time. There are days, I suppose, when I think it might be better to live in the ignorance most people enjoy, touching things without seeing their history, meeting people without meeting their entire ancestry at the same time...but in truth, I would miss my gift were it taken from me."
Before he goes to bed, Elliot stops to look at his prom photo, which he'd placed on his dresser. Maybe he shouldn't have brought it, he thinks. Dwelling in the past isn't going to help, whatever he and Shelly had didn't long outlive their brief tenure as the king and queen of the prom. Still, he can't help but wonder if things might have been different if he'd gone into professional sports like she'd wanted, if there were more he could have done to save their marriage.
Another call from Claire disturbs his reflections on his failed marriage, and this time, he joins in with subtle flirting, but he still resists taking her up on the suggestion that they get together.
He goes to bed alone, and his doubts and worries about his choices, his marriage, haunt his dreams.
The next morning is dark and cloudy, reflecting Elliot's mood. Today is his girls' birthday, and when Kyle gets home from school, they will have cake. And their mother won't be here to see it. Does Shelly even remember their children's birthdays? Elliot has his doubts. Trying to clear his head, he takes a jog around the neighborhood.
He passes by the bistro down the street at the same time as Kyle and his schoolmates are heading in for their field trip with their teacher.
There are a lot of girls in Kyle's class, Elliot notes, and soon they'll be in high school. Elliot's nostalgia for his own high school days is bittersweet; everything was perfect then, and he had so much he was looking forward to. He thought it had all come true when he married Shelly, when he made a successful career for himself, bought the house she wanted and had their family. Why wasn't it good enough for her?
Kyle smiles and waves back at his father before the kids all file into the bistro. Elliot smiles, too, happy that his children have moved on, that they don't seem to miss their mother now that she's out of their lives. As he jogs past the grocery store, it occurs to him to turn around and go in, and buy a bouquet of flowers.
Claire's cabin is just another few blocks outside of town, and Elliot keeps on jogging until he gets there, and is pleased to see her out on her porch.
"I was just about to run out and do some errands," she says, "You almost missed me."
"I got here just in time then," Elliot smiles, and gives her the flowers.
"It's really unexpected," Claire sighs, hugging him, "But very sweet."
"We're having birthday cake for my girls this afternoon," Elliot says, "Not a party, really, since we don't know many people yet. But if you'd like to come by..."
"Oh," Claire says, pulling back, "I've been hoping you'd ask me out since we met, but I'm not sure I'm ready for family time with your kids yet..."
"Yeah, I guess that is a bit much for a first date," Elliot laughs, "I'm really out of practice, I never dated anyone except my ex, and we married right out of high school."
"Another time then?" she asks hopefully.
"Sure, whenever you want. My schedule is wide open," Elliot agrees, getting a quick kiss from her before he goes.
As soon as Kyle gets home from school, they round the girls up for their birthday cake.
Delaney is first to blow out the candles.
She doesn't wait for her sister's turn before grabbing her first slice of birthday cake.
Next up is Cassidy.
After the excitement of the cake dies down, Farrell finds Cassidy up in her room, reading his copy of White River Haikus.
"I took your book, Uncle Farrell," she says, not really apologizing, "I hope that's okay. All the kids books we have in our bookshelf are just so...juvenile."
"That's fine, Cass," Farrell laughs, "You can take my books any time." He pulls a package from behind hi back, "I got this one especially for you." Cassidy looks just like mother, but the resemblance is only skin deep, and while Farrell would never say this to his brother, he's glad she got away from Shelly's influence so young. Her mother would not be pleased with her bookish leanings and would have likely prevented her from reading as much as she liked.
"Plan 8 from Lunar Lakes! Wow, thanks, Uncle Farrell."
"I signed you up for the book club as well. You'll get a new title in the mail every week."
Cassidy has no words to express her gratitude, and just squeals in happiness.
Delaney takes after her father in looks and interests. Like Elliot, she'll do anything on a dare. And her most prized possessions are her toys, so Farrell's gift to her is another bear for her collection of plush toys.
Left alone in their room full of the toys and gifts they got for their birthday, the twins celebrate ignoring them all to pummel each other with their pillows.
Claire shows up shortly after they kids have all retreated to their rooms to play.
"I didn't think you were coming," Elliot says, "I think there's still some cake left..."
"I'm not here for cake," Claire laughs, "Is there somewhere quiet where we can talk?"
Elliot leads her out onto one of the porches; even with the kids shut up in their rooms and Farrell's toddlers upstairs in their nursery, their shouts and laughter can be heard in every room of the house. He's used to the chaos, but for a single girl like Claire, it must seem like bedlam.
"I felt bad about turning down your invitation," she says as they sit together on the balcony, looking out at the stars.
"It's okay, Claire," he assures her, "I got way ahead of myself there, anyway. We should get to know each other more before I get my kids involved."
"I want to get to know you, too," Claire says, "But, I'm a little scared of what getting involved with you would mean."
"Because being with me would mean being with my kids. If it got serious..."
"I'd have to be ready to be like a mother to them, right? I'm not sure I'm ready for that."
"Having kids is a huge commitment," Elliot agrees, "And being part of my life would mean being part of my kids' lives too. But not right away, Claire. We can take this slow, and see where it goes. When you're ready to go the next step, if that ever happens, then we can talk about how you'll fit in to my family. But for now, it's just you and me, getting to know each other."
"I can handle that," Claire says.