Maeve stood at the large windows in her living room staring down at the street in front of the old building where she now lived. It was bigger than her old place in the larger city where she had spent the last several years, though she chalked that up to the continuing decline of Huntsdale. Even though she now lived in an area that was undergoing so-called gentrification, she could still see the vestiges of its previous life in certain corners and alleys.
Much like everywhere she looked, she saw the shadows of her old life lingering in her periphery. She wasn't that far off from the small one-bedroom apartment that she had grown up in with her mother.
Shoving those thoughts aside - Maeve really didn't want to think about her mother right now - she mentally went over how much money she had left in her account and when she would receive her first paycheck. She should be okay, though she sorely missed the savings she had carefully built up over years and then completely decimated in just several months.
Maeve still couldn't bring herself to touch the money that Christopher, her former fiance, had left her, too guilty to use it, though she might have to eventually. Her new job as an instructor at one of the higher end dance studios in town was a step down in terms of the salary she had been used to once upon a time as a professional dancer, though it did manage to cover her rent and most of her necessities. And then there was the issue of paying for her mother's latest stint in an inpatient treatment program.
Sighing, Maeve realized she was going to have to once again get multiple jobs if she was going to take care of herself and her mother. She didn't want to use Christopher's money for that. Well, her money, she supposed.
A shudder went through her lithe frame as she closed her eyes for a moment and his face appeared in her mind, smiling down at her. She could almost feel his arms around her, lifting her up into the air. It was a phantom pain - she knew this. Just like those who had lost an arm or a leg and still felt them, she could feel his presence around her though he had been gone two years now.
Maeve's eyes flew open as she quickly wiped away the few tears that had leaked out though there was no one around to see. She had been back in Huntsdale - a place that she had sworn to leave in her rearview mirror - just a week, but still had yet to actually speak with anyone other than her boss at the studio and the movers who brought in all her things. At some point she would reach out to her cousin Aislinn and perhaps her old friends. But not yet.
No, for the moment, she was more intrigued by the other changes that had taken over Huntsdale since she left. Namely the scores of faeries she had seen as soon as she entered the city limits. She wasn't sure if there truly were more or if it was just a side effect of there not being many where she had lived. The large number of steel buildings and skyscrapers likely kept most of them away.
Maeve had always seen them. Her mother made her swear never to tell anyone or to let them know that she saw them. And she was never to tell anyone who she was or what her father was. Not that anyone would believe her. No, Maeve figured if she told someone that her father was a faery they'd probably lock her up with her mother.
Gripping the small charm necklace that her so-called father had left her as a baby - that she had been ordered to never take off when around others - Maeve frowned as she saw a group of girls dance down the sidewalk, vines twisting around their bodies. She then looked over and saw more - these darker and more sinister, though for some reason she wasn't afraid. No, the dark faeries didn't scare her. If anyone understood pain and darkness, she figured it would be her.
Sighing, she turned away from the window and looked around the large, open room that comprised her living room, dining area, and kitchen. Her eyes traveled up to the loft-like balcony where her bedroom, closet and bathroom were located. With no work that week, she had thrown herself into unpacking and decorating, finishing it up in record time. Though pain pricked her heart as she looked over to the large black and white photos on the wall. Some might find her crazy for putting them up, for surrounding herself with memories of the life that was no longer hers. The one that had brought her joy and purpose and taken her away from the nightmare that had been her previous life. But she found it soothing in a way, even though it brought with it just as much pain as happiness.
She walked across the room to the kitchen, contemplating what to make for dinner. She had nowhere to be for a few more days so thought about enjoying a night in with a movie, food and a bottle (or two) of wine. As she had done the past few nights. But the fridge was empty. Frowning, she shut the door, swearing she had just been to the store.
Must have been longer, further proving that all her days were blurring together as they had for the last two years. At least nowadays she was without the constant visits to the hospital or physical rehabilitation clinic. And the physical pain only came now and again rather than constantly following her.
She walked to the small stand next to the front door where she kept a collection of scarves and pulled one off, carefully wrapping it around her neck before reaching for her purse, cloth shopping bag and keys. Thankfully autumn was finally starting to come, making the mornings and nights a bit chillier and her choice to constantly wear scarves, high collars and long sleeves less strange. But Maeve preferred the discomfort of being too warm to the stares that she got otherwise. That she still hadn't learned to live with over the last two years.
Taking a moment to stare in the mirror as she situated her long, dark hair around her shoulders, further covering what small parts of skin that might be exposed, she then walked out, locking the door behind her and headed out of the building.
She was careful not to actually look at any of the faeries that she passed on the sidewalk. At 23, she had a lot of experience in ignoring them, though sometimes she wished that she couldn't see them - that she wasn't what she was. Her mother couldn't see them, though Maeve knew that her cousin Aislinn along with her grandmother did. When she was younger, it was hard not to talk about it with them. Especially during the periods when she had lived with them sporadically. But it was a secret that her mother insisted she keep to fanatical degree.
Seeing the frolicking faeries around her, Maeve wondered just why it would have been so bad to tell her cousin. It would have been nice to have someone else to talk about it with and she figured Ash and Aunt Elena were far better than her mother had been.
Her mother had vacillated between crazed rants and completely shutting down with a few lucid days or weeks scattered here and there. The more Maeve thought about it, the more she wondered why anyone - the state included - had ever thought Marianne Byrne was capable of taking care of a child. She should have been put in foster care or sent to live full time with her Aunt Elena from the start.
Maeve supposed it didn't matter now. She had dropped her mother off at yet another inpatient program, buying her at least a few months of respite until she had to figure out what to do with her next. She hadn't even told her mother that she moved back to Huntsdale yet, not wanting her to break out and unexpectedly show up on her doorstep one day. Maeve had long grown weary of constantly looking after the woman who was supposed to have cared for her.
You've been looking out for her for years, Maeve. You don't need to do this anymore. At some point you have to let her go on her own. She won't get better as long as she knows she has you to fall back on…
But she's my mom. I can't just… toss her out on the street like garbage…
Once again, the tears pricked at her eyes as Christopher's voice floated through her mind. It was a conversation they had had many times. She wondered what he would say about her moving back here. Probably would have tried to talk her out of it. Tell her that the world was a large place and there were many other - better - places she could go to start over. But for some reason, Huntsdale had called to her. Like it or not, it was home.
She stopped on the sidewalk and turned around, her eyes widening as she saw Seth Morgan standing there, a surprised smile appearing on his face. She hadn't realized that she walked by him, though one look at him told her everything she needed to know.
A lot certainly had changed while she was gone. During that time he had somehow become one of them.
One of us, she mentally corrected herself. Though she had never really thought of herself as part of the faery world.
"Seth," she said, walking back towards him as her heart raced slightly. She wasn't sure why. He had been a good friend back in the day and they had kept in touch until she had cut off contact with most people after the accident. There was no reason to be afraid of him now that he was apparently a faery, she told herself. Though just as soon as her heart had started racing, a sense of calm came over her.
It was odd. Especially as it seemed to be accompanying a brown-haired faery with a cautious look on his face - and a long scar down his cheek - that was crossing the street towards them. She kept her eyes and focus on Seth though, telling that the other one hadn't made himself visible to humans.
Though it was hard with the two shadow figures constantly moving around him. One stopped for a moment, seeming to be curious about her as it moved closer.
"I didn't know you were visiting," he said, pulling her in for a hug.
"Moved back, actually. And I haven't really told anyone just yet," she said as she stepped back from him. "Though should probably go visit Aunt Elena and Ash at some point… How you been?"
"Good," Seth said, exuding a sense of calm that she was happy to see. While she had always liked him, he had been a bit wild back in the day. It was good to see him settled. "God, it's been… years. You look great."
Maeve subconsciously reached for the scarf, making sure that it was still in place though she mentally chided herself. This was Seth. He would never say anything to make her feel uncomfortable. Still, she didn't let anyone outside of her doctors see her scars if she could help it.
"Thanks," she said, still keeping her smile in place though she looked to the ground for a moment, seeing the other faery's feet now. This one was different. She could tell that he wasn't just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill faery. Beside his shadowy companions, there was a power that seemed to emanate from him that she had yet to feel with any others she had encountered over the years.
Seth seemed to have made friends in high places.
"You look really good too. Finally grew up, I see," she said, looking back up at Seth.
"Yea… lot's changed," he said, though she sensed something in his eyes. Perhaps not all the changes were good. "Since you're back, you should come by the Crow's Nest. See everyone."
Maeve's eyes widened slightly as she thought about the possibility of seeing all her old friends. She wasn't sure that was something she wanted to do. While she had a bit of a wild streak to her in high school, she wasn't nearly as daring anymore. It didn't help that she felt as though she had failed. She was supposed to be the one that got out of Huntsdale. Went on to do great things, be a world-famous dancer. She hadn't made it and now she was back here with the rest of them.
"I… maybe," she said a bit reluctantly. Sensing her hesitance, Seth just smiled and nodded.
"We're there just about every night. Feel free to stop by whenever," he replied easily. She smiled gratefully at him and nodded. "Though let me give you my number just in case." Maeve reached into her purse and pulled out her phone, handing it over. He quickly typed in his number and saved it, then handed the phone back. "Really, it's good to see you, Maeve. Don't be a stranger now that you're back."
"I won't," she replied as she started backing from him and the other fairy. She offered a small wave and then turned, continuing on her way and resisting the urge to look back over her shoulder.
For some inexplicable reason, she found herself wanting to go meet Seth that night. While she told herself it was because she was in dire need of friends and time out of her apartment, and Seth would be a good one to reconnect with, part of her felt it had something to do with the faery that had stood at his side.
"Who is she?" Niall asked, watching as the woman made her way down the sidewalk, nervously gripping the purse and empty shopping bag on her shoulder.
"Maeve Byrne. She's Ash's cousin. A couple years older than me," Seth said, also watching her, though he had faded into invisibility. His smile vanished as a look of concern came over his features.
"I was unaware her mother had any siblings," Niall said, glancing at him.
"She didn't. Their grandmothers were sisters," Seth replied. "Though considering they practically grew up together, I'm surprised Ash hasn't mentioned her." Niall glanced over at Seth. "Maeve's mom has always been… high-strung… and an alcoholic, so sometimes Maeve would stay with Ash and her grandmother. Then she got a scholarship to a prestigious dance company on the East Coast. Moved over there in high school and became a professional ballerina. She used to come visit more often, but I haven't seen her in at least two years...
Niall turned to continue watching the woman. He had sensed a sadness in her eyes, noticed how she was covered up though it was still unseasonably warm. From what Seth said, it sounded as though she had had a bright future. So why was she back living here?
"She was in a car accident," Seth said, looking over at Niall and correctly guessing where his thoughts were going. "Couldn't dance professionally anymore. At least that's what I heard. Though I thought she had taken up a position teaching at her old company." Niall nodded slowly, his dark eyes still fixed on Maeve as she turned a corner, nearly colliding with one of Keenan's fey that stepped out of the way just in time.
He took a step in that direction and then stopped, unsure of why his feet were leading him to follow her, though his shadows ventured a bit further before coming a halt. He then sighed and turned back to Seth.
"Let's go," he said, offering his friend a smile. Seth nodded.
Maeve wasn't sure just what had possessed her, but there she was, standing just outside the Crow's Nest later that night. She had a lot of fun memories from the bar. The nights spent dancing non-stop, occasionally talking someone older into buying her a drink. Getting away from her mother's constant rollercoaster of emotions at home.
But everything had changed. She wasn't the person she was back then. And she figured that everyone else had changed as well.
Regardless, there she was. After she had dinner, she found herself upstairs in her closet, changing into a lightweight, black knit sweater that hopefully wouldn't be too hot and a nicer pair of jeans. A lightweight gray scarf was around her neck and her hair was still down in loose waves - the way she always wore it when out in public. She had even put on a bit of eye shadow, gloss and mascara. It was the most dressed up she had been in over two years.
"This is stupid," she muttered to herself.
She wasn't ready for this. To face more of her past. But there was no going back now. The bouncer had already made eye contact and was watching her, no doubt waiting for her to finally walk up.
Swallowing whatever fears she had, she squared her shoulders and made her way to him, showing him her ID and then getting a stamp. There must not be a band playing as he asked for no cover.
Stepping into the bar, she was suddenly assaulted by loud music and people already on the dance floor, though it was a Thursday night. Her eyes widened as she realized there were faeries there as well. There had always been some here and there in the past, but for the most part, they seemed to stay away. Now there seemed to be an abundance of them.
"Christ, have they taken over?" she murmured to herself as she looked around, searching for any familiar face. She smiled in relief when Seth stood from a table and waved her over. Sitting next to him was the faery from earlier, this time allowing himself to be visible to the surrounding humans. Though his shadow friends lingered just behind him.
"Didn't think you'd come," Seth said as he hugged her when she reached the table.
"Decided I needed a night out," she replied lightly. She then looked over at the other man, who was on his feet.
"This is my friend Niall. Niall, this is Maeve," Seth said. She held her hand out, offering him a friendly smile as her eyes slid over his scar and settled on his dark eyes. Even in the low light of the bar, she could see something in them. For a moment, she forgot herself and where she was as he took her hand, a jolt running through her.
But just as quickly, she pulled herself together, still smiling as she shook his hand. Fucking hell, he must be powerful.
"Nice to meet you," she said.
"You as well," Niall replied, offering her a smile in return. Maeve couldn't help but think he was extremely handsome in a dangerous sort of way as she sat and looked around the bar, feeling herself begin to relax. It was a curious feeling, considering how anxious she had been just moments before, but as she took in the few faeries around them that were obviously Dark Court, she figured that must be it.
She had always felt a sort of comfort whenever she happened to cross one or more of them, likely because of the little her mother had told her about her father - namely that he was part of the Dark Court. Being near them made her feel somewhat more connected to him, though she didn't even know his name. Unconsciously, she reached for the charm just under her sweater, wondering what would happen if she dared to take it off right then. But she didn't. It was a risk she didn't want to take just at the moment.
She then turned back to Seth.
"Still seems to be the same," she said.
"Yea… a bit," he replied, his eyes scanning the room.
"So, what exactly have you been up to the last couple of years?" Maeve asked. She located a server and quickly ordered a beer before turning back to him expectantly.
"Well… a lot, I guess," he said.
"Still making the rounds?" Maeve then asked, a small smile on her face. While she had never hooked up with him, she certainly knew his reputation. If it hadn't been for Christopher, she probably would have eventually. Even with all his piercings - which weren't Maeve's sort of thing - Seth had that something that attracted women to him like flies to honey. Seth chuckled, looking slightly embarrassed.
"Eh, not so much anymore," he said, not meeting her eyes. "Actually… I was in a pretty serious relationship for a while." Maeve's eyebrows rose as the server dropped her beer off in front of her and lingered a bit, smiling at Niall. Neither man seemed to notice her, so she finally walked off. Out of the corner of her eye, Maeve saw the shadows chase after her a ways before coming back to settle next to Niall.
"Is that so? Wow… who is this woman who got you to settle down? Anyone I know?" Maeve asked.
"It was… well, it was Ash," Seth said, looking up at her. Maeve choked slightly on her beer as she sat up in her chair. He had been dating her cousin? Little Ash? Though Maeve supposed she wasn't so little anymore. If her memory served her correct, Ash was about 19 now.
"My Ash?" she asked. Seth nodded. "Damn, I have missed a lot… Wait, you said was..."
"We broke up. It was… complicated," Seth replied. Niall snorted next to him, drawing both of their attention.
"Complicated is a bit of an understatement," he offered, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it. Maeve turned her attention back to Seth.
"What happened?" she asked, suddenly slightly worried about her cousin. Knowing that Ash had the Sight as well and that Seth was now a faery, she could only imagine that had something to do with it.
"You should probably talk to Ash about that," Seth said, reaching for his beer. "It's better if she explains." Maeve nodded slowly, looking down at her own beer. That statement pretty much confirmed to her that it had something to do with faeries. Seth didn't know she knew about their existence and probably thought it better that she hear it from Ash herself.
"Well… so… how's everyone else?" she asked, attempting to turn the conversation to a lighter topic. Seth perked up at that and they launched into a conversation about their old friends. Who was still around. Who had gotten married or pregnant. Who had gone off to college. Occasionally Niall would say something, though he spent most of the time studying Maeve. She supposed she should find it odd or disconcerting, but she didn't.
For the few hours she sat there talking and drinking, Maeve started to feel lighter. The feeling that she had made the right decision by coming back to Huntsdale growing. She even grew comfortable with Niall's shadows. They had grown bolder throughout the night, settling near or around her. She had found it oddly comforting.
Maybe… this wasn't such a bad idea, she thought to herself.
But the night finally came to an end, with Seth calling her a cab.
"Not safe to be walking around by yourself," he said as they stood outside waiting on it.
"Eh… Huntsdale doesn't scare me," Maeve said lightly, looking around. "Not after living in a big city." A brief flash of pain came over her face, though she quickly shook her head and brushed it aside. She then turned to Niall and Seth, smiling. "We should do this more often."
"Now that you're back, I don't see why not," Seth replied, returning the smile, though he glanced at Niall. Maeve nodded, seeing her cab pull up. "Get home safe."
"I will," she called out as she walked over. She waved and then got in, leaning back in the backseat as it drove off. She couldn't help herself as she looked out of the window, seeing Seth and Niall both watching her. A small smile came over her face.
Yes, maybe this wasn't a bad idea at all.