Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chapter 47: Some Things Can Never Be Fixed

Jack holds Delaney close, all night long.

Hours before dawn, they wake up and make love, tender and slow. He's always been the one; she's always known it. So why did she stray, why did she hurt him?

"Jack, you know you don't have to work at all if you don't want to," Delaney says, rolling on top of him, "You could just move in here with us. We have so much money, believe me, another income is not required."

Jack looks into her eyes and thinks about it. Her plan does have a certain appeal. They'd be together at last. He'd get to live with his son. "Laney, I can't," he sighs, reluctantly letting go of that dream. He wants it, wants that real family, but not that way, "I want to be someone Jace can look up to. I can't just loaf around on your money."

Delaney tucks her head under his chin, "You do what you have to do, Jack," she whispers, "Just know that you don't have to prove anything to me, you never did. I love you, no matter what you do."

Jace is thrilled to wake up the next morning and find his father has spent the night. "You and Mom are back together now?" he asks eagerly, "Does this mean you're moving in with us?"

"Your Mom and I are back together," Jack confirms his son's deepest wish, "And I guess I am moving in here, sort of. I need to work, and I'll need to be in the city for that. So I'll mostly be around on weekends." That is if he can find a job, and if Cole will really be as easy about letting him go as Laney says. But Jack is determined to make it happen.

"I don't get why you can't work here in Drake's Hollow," Jace says.

Jack presses his lips together, wishing he could get away with telling his son the embarrassing truth. But owning up to your faults is part of the lesson he wants to teach Jace, part of the example he wants to set. "I did a lot of really stupid things when I was your age, Jace. Stupid irresponsible things that ruined my reputation around here. I didn't graduate high school, and no one who knows my name will hire me. That's why I have to find work in the city."

"Can't people see you've changed?" Jace asks, "You aren't the same as you were in high school."

"People aren't so forgiving, and they don't forget," Jack says, "I'm sorry it has to be this way. I wanted to be better, for you. But the damage was done by the time you were born."

"I love you, Dad, I don't care what anyone else thinks, or whatyou've done. You've always been an awesome dad."

Jack smiles. There's one thing in his life, at least, he didn't manage to fuck the hell up.

Both of his parents ride motorcycles and haven't been inside a car since they were his age, so Jace gets his driving lessons from Farrell.

After he's got his license, Jace meets up with Cricket Sunbright at the park for the last day of the Fall Festival. Tomorrow will be the first day of winter and this will all be taken down.

"I'm asking Tabatha Meadows to the prom," Cricket announces, though neither boy has set foot in the high school yet, since they both aged up Friday evening and have the whole weekend before classes begin. "How about you?"

"Kirsten Foster," Jace answers.

"Kirtsten's not even a teen yet!" Cricket laugh, "You can't take a child to the prom."

"Her birthday is tonight. I'm going to ask her tomorrow."

"Ooh, school boy crush," Cricket teases.

"Like your thing for Tabatha is totally mature," Jace laughs.

"No," Cricket laughs in return, "Fairies don't mature. Just look at my dad. He's like,  million years old and he still plays with toys."

When they get bored at the festival they go back to the Brannon house.

"Your parents aren't married, right?" Jace asks, "If they did get married, would you change your name to you father's?" Jace has been a Brannon all his life, but ever since childhood, he's filled a few pages of his notebook with 'Jace Horner', wondering what it would be like to have a regular family with one last name.

"No, fairies don't do that name changing thing. Everyone has their own name, we don't trade them or share them. My brother and I got stuck with our mother's name because the school system couldn't handle the idea of kids having completely different last names than at least one of their parents. So, we're Sunbrights, legally, I guess. My name is Morningsong. And cloud is a Rainstorm."

"Are you guys doing anything special for uncle Farrell's birthday tonight?" Cassidy drops by Shadow's shop to ask.

"No," Shadow answers, "It's Fergus' birthday too. We're not making a big deal of it. Not even a cake. But, you know you and Jesse are always welcome to drop by."

"Thanks, but Jesse and I are kind of doing the same  for Laurie, having a quiet birthday for her. I just wanted to make sure it's okay that we aren't coming over tonight for anything."

Back at home, Shadow bathes his youngest before he becomes a toddler. Ever since his dream on the night of the equinox, Shadow has watched his sons for signs...of what exactly, Shadow couldn't say. Anything that would indicate that Fergus was anything other than a normal baby boy. He's found nothing to cause him worry, but worry is all Shadow does.

Jack got a call from Cole just an hour after he got o the city and met up with Enrique. Something personal had come up and he was canceling the job tonight and temporarily putting Delaney in charge. With no work for the night, Enrique suggested they go out drinking, but Jack turned him down. He has something else that needs taking care of.

He drops by Heather's place without calling first. He's going to have a hard enough time saying what he has to say in person without having to kep it out of his voice on the phone. When he shows up at her doorstop, she's on her way out.

"I'm sorry if this is a bad time," Jack apologizes, looking at her with no little surprise. The way she's dressed seems so wrong for her.

"I was just on my way to visit my brother," Heather says, sweeping her hand over her jacket with a smile, "He gets all snooty if I don't look 'presentable', even when it's just us. If I had known you were free tonight, I would have blown him off." She gestures for Jack to come in, mentally kicking herself for being in Heather's house while out of character. She wasn't expecting to see Jack tonight, and assumed he'd call first if he ever got the urge for an unplanned booty call. Never assume, she chides herself. At least her cover story seemed to have worked.

"I won't stay long," Jack says, sitting down on the bean bag chair, away from the love seat.

Peridot senses it immediately, he's here to end their 'relationship'. And he does, telling her that he's getting back with Delaney, to try to work things out. "I'm sorry, Heather," he apologizes, "I probably shouldn't have started anything with you in the first place. knowing how much I still felt for her."

"I'm just worried about you, Jack," Heather says, "She hurt you so badly. Are you sure getting back together with her is the right thing to do? That she won't just turn around and betray you again?"

"I don't know, Heather," Jack admits, "I want to believe she won't do that gain. Whatever she does,I love her, and I'm not going to just get over her. I want to try to work it out with her, and that's a risk I have to take."

Peridot frowns, her objective slipping away from her. Trying to seduce him now would more than likely fail, and the attempt would push him away from her forever. All she can do is take the supportive friend role, wish him the best, and tell him to call her if he ever needs someone to talk to.

Jack sighs in relief when she sees him out. "Thanks, Heather," he says, "I really didn't want to hurt you."

Heathr smiles as she waves goodbye, "I had a feeling we'd end up as friends rather than lovers, " she says brightly, "Not that I wasn't willing to try. But, dharma is what it is. Keep in touch, Jack. I want to know how things work out."

"I will," Jack promises.

"You handled that well," Geoffrey assures Peridot when she reports on Jack's unexpected visit. "Better than well, you've still got a line on him without having to sleep with him. I'm not going to use you for that kind of mission any more. I don't like thinking about you with other men, not even when it's business."

"You're putting us over MorcuCorp?" Peridot asks, more than a little surprised.

"I am MorcuCorp," Geoffrey answers.

"Still, you've been working on this operation for so long now," Peridot observes, "Every time you get close, fate intervenes to snatch it from you."

"And every time it does, it produces better results," Geoffrey says, "We had Aouregan's twins; they were taken from us. Now, the male has fathered children on a Hawksquill, something I'd never planned for or anticipated."

"I've never understood exactly what you're trying to achieve with this," Peridot says, "Genetically superior humans?"

"What do you get when you cross a fairy, a dragon, a werewolf, a witch and a person cursed by a fairy with the ability to read the entire history of every person or thing she touches?" Geoffrey asks in response.

"Is that a riddle?" Peridot asks.

"It is," Geoffrey says, "And solving that riddle is my life's work."

"And what about Jack Horner?" Peridot asks, "He may keep Heather as a friend, but I don't see him inviting her back to his hometown now that he's reuniting with the Brannon girl."

"He told you he was dissatisfied with his job," Geoffrey says, "That he wanted to better himself?"

"Yes. The poor thing had such a hard time talking about how he wanted something better without coming out and admitting he was basically a thug for hire," Perdidot laughs lightly.

"Thug for hire," Geoffrey muses, "He'd be perfect for Bluewater. I'll call Derek King in the morning to set something up. And you'll call Jack to tell him that your brother has a great opportunity for him."

"As a mercenary?" Peridot asks.

"Global security," Geoffrey corrects her, "Tell him he'll be helping to keep the world safe. That's a real job he can be proud of. And when he's recruited into Bluewater, we'll own him outright."

"You are brilliant," Peridot purrs, climbing on top of him.

Fergus becomes a toddler that night, without celebration.

Shadow feared that the transition might bring some change, show some sign of what his grandmother's ghost had warned him of, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. Fergus has no more than the same abilities as Ryan has, what Shadow himself had at that age.

Iola is expecting again. At least this child will be born closer to the solstice of winter, a day of good auspice.

Arawn shares Shadow's worries, and consults with the spirit of Mist, who was this family's familiar before him.

Iola wakes with a feeling of foreboding. Not a premonition, not a vision, just an uneasiness. For reasons she cannot work out, the words 'blue' and 'water' keep coming up in her mind, but no image attaches to them, no concept she can get her head around.

She goes into the bathroom to take a shower, only to find the plumbing oddly possessed. And though she's the type to quake at the thought of clown and faint at the sight of the grim reaper, she is somehow unperturbed as she watches the shower dance in the air. She just wants to know what it means, she just wants to protect her children.

Fergus' first words are disturbingly violent in nature. Is this the sign Shadow was looking for, or is he over interpreting?

"What are you doing, Shadow?" Delaney asks with a laugh. She had come into the nursery to tell her cousin she was going to the grocery store and ask if he needed anything, but before she could get a word out, he was rubbing her stomach.

"I'm just happy for you," Shadow says, "You're having a girl this time. I'd like a girl, for once. Not that I don't love my boys."

"Shadow, I'm not pregnant," Delaney chuckles, "I swear, you've got baby on the brain."

"I'm sorry, you didn't know yet," Shadow says, "I probably shouldn't have said anything. But, you are pregnant, Laney. I can feel her spirit; you're having a little girl."

"Well, thanks. I guess," Delaney mutters, forgetting that she meant to go shopping as she wanders out of the nursery. Pregnant? She doesn't doubt Shadow, he has a sense for that kind of thing. And she did get pretty lax about taking her pills when she and Jack had broken up. Because what was the point? Of course, she didn't think about that when they made love again. And now she's pregnant.

Jack calls her later that afternoon to tell her he's been recruited to work for a global security company called Bluewater. "It's still like being muscle for hire," he laughs, "But it's legal, and muscle is what I do best. I'll have to be in training for awhile, they call it boot camp, just like the military. But I'l be home soon, I promise. I haven't talked to Cole yet, though, since he's out of tow or whatever."

He's so happy, Delaney thinks, he's found the purpose he was looking for. "Well, Cole put me in charge while he's off doing whatever," she says. Cole hadn't even told her what made him take off all of a sudden, just that he needed her to handle things whil he was gone, "So, I'll officially let you go."

"I love you, Laney," Jack says, "Tell Jace, I love him too. And I'll be home soon. A new man."

"We'll be waiting for you," Delaney answers, "I love you, too." She ends the call without telling him her own news. He'd be thrilled about another baby, she knows it, but he'd also be sad that he'd signed up for some kind of boot camp at the same time, and she doesn't want to spoil that for him.

Kirsten Foster grew up just as pretty as Jace had imagined she would.

And she's just as pleased with Jace's teen self as he is with hers.

"So, um, prom," Jace stutters.

"Yes, prom," Kirsten encourages, "I'd be really bummed if I didn't have a date."

"Me too," Jace agrees.


Jace takes the hint.

Fergus has already developed a sophisticated vocabulary, and informs his older brother of his plans for world domination through corporate leadership.

And of the wage slaves minions he will command.

First, Delaney tells Jace his father's news about his job. Then, she tells him her own news, about her pregnancy. "You've been an only child most of your life," she says, "Just know that I'll still love you just as much-"

"Mom, this is so awesome!" Jace interrupts her, not needing to be reassured, "I'll be a big help with the baby, I promise! And when Dad gets home, we'll be a real family."

"Is something troubling you, son?" Farrell asks. Shadow has been a strangely gloomy mood for days, nervous and distracted, reminding Farrll of himself during the time when MorcuCorp held Aouregan prisoner, when he didn't know where she was or how to find her, and feared they'd be coming for his children.

"I'm afraid, Dad," Shadow admits, "Something I can't name, something I don't understand, wants my son. And I don't know what to do, or how to protect him."

"I brought you here to protect you, all of us, from MorcuCorp," Farrell says.

"It's not MorcuCorp I'm afraid of," Shadow answers.

Delaney pays a visit to Enrique now that he's gotten himself settled in Drake's Hollow. She's got a criminal empire to run on Cole's behalf, and she has no intention of taking maternity leave.

Shadow is doing his best to not break down, to try to pretend everything is normal.

"Are you coming to bed?" Iola asks as he finishes massaging her sore back, "I'm really tired."

"You go ahead, sweetheart," Shadow says, "I have some work to do."

"Don't stay up too late," she ays as she climbs into bed.

"Don't worry," Shadow says, turning the lights off as he leaves the room and heads up to the attic. Tonight, he's taking a spirit walk, to confront the demon that stalks his son.

He'd been working with Kvornan on directing his spirit journeys, so that he doesn't just wind up wherever his unconscious mind takes him. Tonight, Shadow sends his spirit to visit the past, to see for himself this grandfather his grandmother had warned him about.

Anger emanates from the man in dark waves; Shadow could feel it without seeing it. But even someone  without Shadow's sensitivity would be able feel this man's rage.

A woman steps quietly into the room, stands deferentially as she speaks, "Will you come to bed, my lord?" she asks. She's frightened and worried.

"No," the man says gruffly, "Be off."

"Reinier, my husband," the woman pleads, attempting to break through the barrier the man has erected around himself, "You have been in this state since you won the battle at Avendale. It's been months, and you don't sleep, you barely eat. I fear--"

The woman recoils as her husband backhands her across the face, "I said leave me be, Agneta!" he growls, "Go! Get out."

Shadow is not the only one watching this scene in horror. A boy around Jace's age has come in.

As the woman flees in tears, the boy storms forward. "You'll never lay hand to my mother again!" he challenges.

"You do not tell me what to do!" the man shouts, raising his fists to strike his son. The boy raises his hands to defend himself, but the blow never comes. "Out, get out," the man growls, managing to hold his fists in check, "Or I swear, by the Watcher, I will tear you apart."

The boy heeds the threat and runs, fleeing his father's barely controlled rage.

"It's not easy to watch, is it?" Kvornan asks, appearing at Shadow's side, "Knowing you can do nothing about what you see."

"I've never witnessed this kind of ugliness," Shadow says. His voice is emotionless, cold. Because he's not really here, because it's too hard to feel anything of his own when the very air vibrates with the emotions of these people, so long dead and yet here in the realm of memory, they are the only ones who are truly alive.

The man, his grandfather, collapses to his knees, sobbing in his despair and anger. Shadow feels a strange desire to comfort he man, despite what he'd just witnessed.

"You pity him," Kvornan says. "He's broken, and you have the healer's urge to fix him."

"But I can't," Shadow says, "I'm not really here."

"Sterren," his grandfather sobs, the only coherent word in a raging howl, "Sterren."

"You couldn't heal him even if you were here," Kvornan says, "Some things can never be fixed."

"What does he want with my son?" Shadow asks.

Kvornan shakes his head, "A spirit like his...they are difficult to predict. Absolution, perhaps. If he's wise. A second chance. Revenge. Be careful, Shadow. He'll use your pity if he can."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chapter 46: Dreaming Only of Her

"Whenever I've had dinner with a man, I've always been playing a role," Perido says, breaking the long silence she and Geoffrey have shared as they ate the trip tip steak he prepared, "I've always had a script prepared, and arsenal of small talk I could deploy to keep him interested. But, being just myself, I'm finding I'm not very good at this, after all." Her lips curl into the slightest smile, self-depreciating, as she finishes.

"We don't have to make small talk, Peridot," Geoffrey says, "Says what's on your mind, or don't talk at all if you prefer."

"I was wondering..." she says, hesitates, then continues, "I studied your personal history. You were a media darling once, a playboy, dating models and actresses, always in the spotlight. And then you just stopped suddenly. No more articles about you and your lifestyle, no more charity balls or public appearances. I think I know you well enough to guess that that billionaire playboy was an act, and I was wondering if you just got tired of maintaining that pretense, or if your current reclusive lifestyle is also just another cover."

"You prepared for this like you would any assignment," Geoffrey observes.

"The information I got was a matte of public record. I looked it up when I was firt assigned to you," Peridot explains.

"And you've been wondering about me all this time?"

Peridot nods. "I think about you a lot, Geoffrey."

"Well, let me tell you some things that aren't in the public record," Geoffrey offers, "You're one of the very few people that know I'm a clone. The man the world thought was my father, the Geoffrey Landgraab that came before me, wanted to end the cloning projects. He intended to father his children naturally and continue the family dynasty the old-fashioned way. But then he discovered he couldn't. He was supposedly a physically perfect replication of Harris Landgraab, but he was also sterile. So, when he wanted a son, my father had to make do with a clone. I was trained and educated the way my father was, the way you were, to be physically and mentally superior. And when I came of age, I had nothing to do. My father ruled MorcuCorp, Landgraab Industries, everything, and had no use for me. I think it disturbed him, just having me around, a reminder of his failure. So I did what most young men in their early twenties with enormous wealth and nothing to occupy him would do. I don't know that I would call it all a pretense, Peridot. I wasn't putting that much thought or effort into it. There was no 'real me' to provide cover for."

"So what happened to change all that?" Peridot asks.

"I may share that story with you someday," Geoffrey says, "But right now, I think I'd like to dance with you."

She's an excellent dancer, of course, trained in all the social graces exactly as he had been. Her body moves with his, effortlessly. Her mind is busy with something else, he can tell by the glimmer in her eye as she looks out over the water. "Go ahead," he encourages, "Ask me."

Peridot takes a deep breath, "Are you immortal?"

"Not exactly," he answers, "I won't age, and I won't die, as long as certain conditions are met."

"That sounds a lot like immortality," she says.

"Maybe," he says, "But the price for it has been rather steep."

"You won't tell me what these conditions you have to meet are," she says, not a question.

"No," he says, then stops the dance to pull her in for a kiss, the first he's had in a very, very long time, so he savors it, the softness of her lips, the sweetness of her tongue. Then, he pulls back sharply, gasping, fearing what falling in love with her would mean.

"You know what I was created for, what I was trained for," Peridot says gently, her fingers brushing lightly over his face, "I understand why you'd be hesitant to trust me. But you've already given me everything a gold digger would come after you for, more wealth than I can ever spend, the finest of everything in my reach. And all I ever really wanted is you, Geoffrey. I'd give up everything else, jut to love you, and be loved by you."

She says the words easily enough, maybe because she knows no real sacrifice will be asked of her, Geoffrey thinks. But she feels too good in his arms to let her go, even if he has to lose everything just to love her. 

Geoffrey did a lot of very foolish things in his youth, and has suffered under the fairy's curse for more than a lifetime. But if it hadn't been for that fateful night and curse of an spurned fairy, he wouldn't be alive now to experience the pleasure of Peridot giving herself to him, and to really understand what it means to fall in love.

"I want you with me every night," he says decisively, before they fall asleep, "We'll have your things brought here tomorrow."

"I don't have things," she murmurs sleepily, "Everything important to me is right here."'

Shadow didn't want to worry his mother, so he kept the dire warning out of his explanation when he told Aouregan bout seeing her mother's spirit in a dream.

"She mentioned something about my grandfather, your father," he finishes, "Can you tell me anything about him?"

"My father was a farmer," Aouregan tells him, smiling fondly as she remembers her childhood, "He was truly the best of men. Kind and understanding. And he was so devoted to my mother."

"Your mother's spirit said something about a loss he'd experienced?" Shadow prods, unable to reconcile the spirit's warning of a raging, unsettled spirit with his mother's description of her father.

"He was married once before he married my mother. His first wife died of the sweating sickness. It devastated a lot of families in my day."

Iola sat in uncomfortable silence until she could take it no more, and stood to gaze out the window, brooding, while Shadow continued with his questions, dancing around the issue, trying to get answers that she knows he won't find from his mother.

"It just feels wrong," Shadow confides to his wife while they tend their sons in the nursery, "I know the spirit meant my mother's father, but I can't reconcile my mother's story with what my grandmother said about him. The loss of his first wife...that just doesn't seem enough."

"Shadow, we need to talk," Iola sighs.

Their bed is the best place for sharing confidences. "What is it?" Shadow asks, laying his had across her lap.

"When I was very young, my father explained to me how devastating the kind of knowledge we have of the pst could be to people, and he taught me to keep private details of people's histories to myself," she begins.

"You've been keeping something from me," Shadow surmises, "To protect me."

Iola nods, "My father made me swear to never tell any of you. And I didn't think it mattered, it was so long ago. But now...this vision you had, and Fergus..." her voice trembles and Shadow squeezes her hand comfortingly.

"Tell me," he encourages her.

"The man your mother believes is her father, isn't," she says, getting it out in a rush of words. "Her real father was a dangerous man, a warrior."

"The kind of man who would take his rage with him beyond the grave," Shadow says.

Iola's eyes tear up as she nods, "I'm afraid for our son," she whispers, "Your grandfather...he would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, or to get revenge."

"We can protect Fergus," Shadow says with a confidence he wishes he felt, as frightened as his wife but wanting to appear strong, for her sake.

Guests for Jace's birthday party start arriving before his school bus drops him off. Cassidy is among the first; she and Jesse have just had a baby girl they named Laurie, shortly after Shadow and Iola brought Fergus home.

Claire never minded the difference in age between herself and Elliot, but now that he's gray and elderly, fears of his mortality have begun to worry her.

"Our son is becoming a teen," Jack says, "I can't believe how much time has passed."

"When we were his age..."Delaney starts but Jack raises a hand to stop her.

"I don't even want to think about that," he laughs, "Jace is a good kid. Smart. He won't be like either of us."

Life has been easier for his brother, Jack thinks, watching Jesse dance with Cassidy. He got his dream girl, his dream job, and started his family at an appropriate age. Jack might be jealous, if he weren't aware of how hard Jesse worked for what he has, while Jack just let life happen to him, and took whatever fell in his lap. He doesn't want what Jesse has, exactly, but he knows he wants something more than what he's got, and Jack decides it's time for him to put in that effort,and make life happen for him.

All the family and guests gather around as Jace blows out the candles on his cake.

Jace becomes a teen.

Cassidy spends some time getting to know her young half-sister, Corrine. Kyle is once again absent from the family party because of his game, but his pregnant wife Wren is on maternity leave, and so came without him.

Jace enjoys sometime with his grandfather over cake, but his attention keeps straying out to the living room, where his one birthday wish is maybe, possibly starting to come true.

His parents are making steps toward reuniting.

Farrell of course couldn't let the day go by without a gift for his great-nephew and biggest fan. Jace is thrilled to receive one of Farrell's own inventions, a Localized Static Tester.

As the party winds down and guests start trickling out,  Jack takes Delaney upstairs to talk in private. "The job hasn't been the same without you," he tells her, "To be honest, it was never what I wanted to do. I got into business with Cole because I thought it was the only way I could provide for you and Jace. It's time for me to get out, and find something better."

Delaney nods, "Cole will understand. Luckily, he's not your average crime boss. I haven't quite figured out why he stays in the business, but it's obviously a secondary concern for him. He'll let you go." 

"I'll have to be in the city," Jack says, "No one here would give me a chance. Are you- are we- going to be okay with this? I'll come home every weekend..."

"We both have things we need to do for ourselves, Jack," Delaney says, "Things that will make us stronger. Wherever you have to go, whatever you have to do, I'll always have your back, and I'll always, always be your girl."

"I miss you, Laney," he says, his voice husky with desire. She wraps her arms around his neck and presses close to him, kissing him.

"I miss you, Jack," she whispers, her lips still close to his.

He'd meant to wait for this, to make a clean break with Heather before starting up with Laney again, but tonight his need comes out ahead of his good intentions, and he spends the night making love to the only girl he ever wanted, the only girl he will ever truly love.

He falls asleep holding her tight, dreaming only of her.


And there was much rejoicing at the reunion of Jack and Delaney.