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.
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."