Ian is cooking up some Mac'n'Cheese when Delaney shows up. Part of Cole's plan was to have both Ian and Jack in permanent residence here.
"Mmm," Ian takes in the scent of melted cheese product, "You guys want some? We've got time before we get to work." Tonight, the three of them will be casing a shop Cole wants them to hit in the city.
"I'll pass," Jack says, taking Delaney by the hand to lead her up to 'his' room.
"It's not permanent," Jack says, "I want to get us our own place.
"Still, it will be nice to have this, our own private hideaway," Delaney answers, pushing him onto the couch and climbing on top of him.
She has far better ideas about how to fill in the downtime before work than talk.
Maybe 'private' isn't the best description for this room.
"I'm serious, Laney, I want us to be a family. You, me and Jace," Jack tries to pick up the conversation where they left.
"We are a family," Delaney says, "Just, we'll have unconventional living arrangements."
"That's not good enough," Jack insists.
"C'mon, we need to get ready for work. Now isn't the time discuss this."
"Finally finished?" Ian greets the with a laugh, "I gotta say, Horner, I knew she had you whipped, but I'd still never took you for a bottom."
"Were you watching us, you sick fucking creeper?" Jack shouts.
"Well this stupid town doesn't have a decent porn channel on the cable," Ian says, "What the hell else am I going to watch?"
Jack lunges, prepared to throw down.
"Stop it, both of you!" Delaney demands, stepping in, "Stop acting like children. And, Ian, learn some fucking boundaries. Now, let's go; we have work to do."
"I was thinking we could all read The Loneliest Yeti, then get together to discuss it," Shadow says, meeting Jesse at the Toadstool.
"Great," Jesse agrees, "Cass is almost furnished with that one. I was going to pick it up after her anyway. She's up playing pool. Care to join us for a drink?"
Shadow accepts Jesse's invitation, butt quickly finds himself in the third wheel position. And he's getting hungry, which means it's probably time to head home and see what his father is cooking for dinner.
"Wait, Shadow," Cassidy calls out to him as he tries to make his goodbyes, "Can we talk for a second?"
"Sure, Cass, what's up?"
"I'm worried about Laney," Cassidy says, "Jesse says Jack told him he wanted to straighten up after he got out of jail. But we think Laney has gotten herself involved with the same criminal operation and she's pulling Jack back in."
"I kind of got that feeling, too," Shadow admits, "But you know as well as anyone else, you can't tell Delaney what to do."
"I know," Cassidy agrees with a sigh, "But we have to try."
"So, what, then? An intervention?"
Cassidy shakes her head, "No, that would just make her more determined. "Jack is more easily influenced, maybe we could push on him..."
"I think getting between Delaney and Jack is bad idea," Shadow answers, "Support him if he asks for help, yeah. But trying to manipulate her through him could just break them up. And, honestly, he's her best chance at getting out of trouble."
Even when they're engaged in separate pursuits, Shadow and Iola are still together, connected.
"You were right to tell Cassidy not to interfere," Iola says after a long silence, "Delaney's future has more divergences than any I've ever seen. She could literally go a thousand different ways, and anything we say or do could push toward the worst of them."
"I wish that were more comforting," Shadow says, finishing The Loneliest Yeti and putting it aside for Iola to pick up before their book club meeting.
"I'm sorry," she says softly, "I don't want to lie to you."
Shadow stands and wraps his arms around her, "Don't apologize. And never hold back the truth. Let's go to bed."
"I made another batch of that recipe we found," Shadow says, "I want to take another spirit walk."
Iola nods, "I thought you might. You know I'll be there for you."
Shadow hesitates before asking his next question. "Have you--have you seen anything? About me, what happens...?"
"I have," Iola says. He looks at her expectantly while she tries to find the words to describe what she's seen. "You have a great gift, a power dormant inside you that you are on the path of awakening."
"Iola, promise me one thing. If I ever start going down a path that leads me away from you, stop me."
Iola smiles, "All your paths lead back to me. You made that choice on your last spirit walk, remember?"
It's near dawn when they get back from their job in the city, and Delaney brings Jack back to her place.
"I love working with you, Jack," she whispers, "Planning a robbery together."
She's got an adrenaline rush; Jack knows that feeling well, though he's not sharing in her thrill tonight. His conscious is weighed down, knowing he pulled her down into this with him, and that getting them both out will be the most difficult struggle of his life. And she's going to fight him all the way.
Delaney is surprised when he suddenly lifts her of her feet and tosses her onto the new double bed she bought to replace the two singles, the only change she'd made to her childhood bedroom.
"We aren't kids anymore, Laney," he says, his voice low, almost a grow, "And this isn't stealing papers from the school. This is real, and this could put us in prison, You understand?"
"Yes," she says, her voice breathy with excitement, "We live a dangerous life."
He meant to start a serious conversation, but her obvious arousal at the threat of danger wakens his own inner thrill seeker, and he's as beyond words as she is as they pull off each others clothes.
Jack doesn't sleep well, troubled by dreams of jail and confinement, so he slips downstairs in the early morning while Laney sleeps peacefully, and joins Shadow for breakfast.
"Your wedding was beautiful," Jack says, "Thanks for inviting me."
"You're family," Shadow says, "You're always welcome."
"That means a lot," Jack says, sincere in his gratitude, glad to have some of Laney's family in his corner, since he'll never have her father's approval.
"Jace needs you in his life, Jack," Shadow says, "He needs stability."
"That's what I want," Jack answers, "And I'm going to make it happen."
"Anything I can do to help, just let me know," Shadow says, "I grew up with Laney, and I know how she is..."
"Yeah," Jack laughs, then sighs, "Then you know she can't be pushed. I appreciate your offer though. And your..." Jack pauses, looking for a word.
"Friendship?" Shadow suggests, "I'm on your side, Jack. You're Laney's best chance."
"Most people would say I ruined her life," Jack says, "Hell, sometimes I think that myself."
"She was going to get herself in trouble one way or another Jack. But you can get her out of it."
Shadow chose the Stone Troll fishing hole for his spirit walk. It's usually deserted on weekdays, and Iola says the place still retains the aura of magic practiced here long ago.
"Thanks for coming with me," Shadow says, squeezing her tightly.
"I wouldn't let you do this alone."
Shadow down the vial of bliss, as he's named the concoction.
Despite the promise she's seen in his future, Iola can't help but be a little frightened for him when he puts himself in such a vulnerable state, with only her there to protect him.
Shadow lays down on the grass with his head in her lap. "Your breasts are so nice and soft and pillowy," he murmurs before his physical eyes close.
When he opens his eyes, he finds himself in the middle of battle. The combatants in armed with swords and armored in chain, plate and leather, don't seem to notice him.
They don't look quite real, either, though the clash of metal and screams of pain certainly sound real enough. Should he be trying to heal the wounded? Shadow wonders. Why else would his vision bring him here?
"You can't help them," a voice says, followed by a body that appears in front of him. Unlike the ghostly combatants, this man seems made of flesh, and sees Shadow there. "This battle is long done with, and its survivors are long in their own graves."
"This is real?" Shadow asks.
""'Real' has no meaning here, Shadow Brannon," the man says, "The only question that matters is 'why'. Why did you choose this moment?"
"I didn't choose," Shadow says.
"Not consciously," the man replies, "You probably aren't even aware of the importance of this battle. It didn't make it into the history books as more than a footnote of the larger war, if that. And yet, it is the defining moment of this era, the day our world changed, became what it is."
"There it is, " he continues, his attention turned to one pair of combatants, a man taking a woman hostage. "When she dies, hope is lost, and defeat inevitable."
"These two were bitter enemies, locked in a struggle of ideas, faith, politics. Tonight, he wins that struggle. Tonight, he'll murder her before the altar of his god. I've seen that moment, but I've never seen this one. I wonder what he's whispering to her now, in the moment that he takes her, knows his victory. It's a pity we can't hear. Come, enough of this," the mysterious man says, waving his hand and erasing the world.
It's bright day, and they're sitting in the center of a circle of stones.
"Ancient peoples used these circles as calendars," Shadow observes, remembering this much from history lessons, "The shadows marked the days, especially important ones, like the solstices and equinoxes."
"We used them for a lot more than that," the man says, "My name Kvornan, and you've been reading my grimoire."
"That's yours?" Shadow asks, but he's not surprised, really, when he thinks about it. Who else should he meet here.
"It's not an easy path," Kvornan says, "Are you prepared for this?"
"It's what I was born for," Shadow says, "What I've been preparing for all my life."
"You'll need a guide."
"Will you guide me?"
"It's what I was born for," Kvornan answers with a smile.
"Is this real now?" Shadow asks, waking again in the Stone Troll park, his head pillowed by Iola's thighs and breasts, her lips on his.
"This is real," she assures him, letting him taste her tongue.