Embracing the Dark @rubberduckiez
Keeping Secrets

Seth glanced over at Niall, who seemed lost in thought. They had been at the Crow's Nest for a good hour or so and he hadn't said much. While he had been quiet more often than not lately with everything going on, this was a bit extreme for him. Even his shadows seemed on edge, flinting all around him.

"The car accident that Maeve was in, do you know how it happened?" Niall finally asked, looking over at him. Seth's eyebrows rose. He hadn't expected him to ask about that. Maybe he was strong enough to see through Maeve's charm and knew the truth about her.

"No. Not really," Seth said. "Just that her fiancé was driving…" Niall nodded and looked back at his drink.

"I followed her today… I didn't mean to, just she walked by and…"

"Really?" Seth asked, curious about why Niall would follow Maeve.

"Yea, I… I saw her scars," he replied.

"What? How?" Seth asked, feeling slightly protective. But at the same time, if Niall had seen them, she likely knew that he was there. Had wanted him to see them. But it didn't change the fact that Niall was currently under the impression that she couldn't see him and had violated her privacy. Niall grimaced, seeing the look that Seth was giving him.

"I know, I shouldn't have. But… she was at the dance studio and I didn't know she was going to pull off her shirt," he said, not meeting Seth's eyes.

He could tell that Niall felt embarrassed, but at the same time he was a bit confused. The Dark King had only ever been enthralled with humans. Or Irial. It was unlike him to be fixated on another faery. Granted, Maeve was only half. Perhaps it was her human side that drew him in.

Not to mention, he thought that Niall was still hopelessly in love with Leslie. Now that he thought about it, she hadn't come up once since Maeve's arrival.

"I think… you should talk to her," Seth said. He knew that Maeve would need to tell Niall the truth eventually and that she would likely be part of his court. Though he supposed she could also choose the Summer Court, if she wanted. Or no court at all. But for some reason, Seth couldn't help but think she would choose Dark. Niall looked over at him, his expression unreadable.

"Why?" he asked. Seth took a deep breath, thinking over his words carefully. He wanted to keep his promise to Maeve, but knew that if Niall asked him directly, he couldn't lie. So he needed to choose what to say wisely.

"Just… there are some things that you should hear… from her," Seth said. Niall nodded slowly, though a curious look came over his face. Seth was sure that he knew he was keeping something from him but hoped that their friendship was enough that Niall would trust him on this.

For his part, Niall didn't push it, turning to lift his glass to his lips. Seth then cleared his throat.

"You wouldn't by chance know of any others in your court that have half human kids besides Gabe, would you?" Seth then asked. Niall looked over at him.

"Not that I'm aware of, though it's not like I kept track while I was away from them. Why?" he asked, leaning closer to his friend.

"Just… curious," Seth said nonchalantly. Niall frowned.

"We tend to keep our halflings close. Otherwise Sorcha might take them," he continued. Seth nodded again, thinking it over. Most of the others would have likely brought their children in or kept them close. Which was why it was so curious that Maeve's father - whoever he was - had done everything he could to keep her hidden. The other courts he could understand, but why from his own court that could provide more protection for her?

Why would he - whoever her father was - do that? Did he not want her to embrace her faery side? Was it because of who he was? Did he want her to live a human life? Most of the faeries he encountered only seemed to care about their own interests. Hence the confusion. If Maeve's father had kept her hidden away, it was for a reason. And one that likely wasn't completely wrapped up in solely her well-being.

There was always a reason when it came to faeries - Dark, Summer or otherwise.

Sighing, Seth pushed it aside for the time being. As long as Maeve kept who she was from Niall and the others, Seth couldn't ask too many questions about her father. It would lead to other questions from Niall that Seth didn't want to answer.

So, for now, it was best to just… let it be.

~~~

Maeve had just poured herself a glass of wine when the knock sounded on the door. She froze for a moment, unsure of who would be coming by to see her at that time of night. Seth or Aislinn would have called or texted first. She didn't really know anyone else in town.

Sighing, she walked over and opened the door, surprised and yet not completely surprised to see Niall standing there. She couldn't help as a spike of irritation ran through her. Had Seth gone back on his word and told him?

"Hey," she said, trying to cover up her surprise and annoyance.

"Hi… may I come in?" he asked, seeming a bit nervous. Part of Maeve wanted to laugh, finding it slightly funny that the great and strong Dark King would be nervously shifting on his feet at her doorstep. If it weren't for his constant companions, she might almost think he was a normal guy.

"Sure," she said, stepping back to let him in, now surprised that she was letting him into her apartment. "So… what brings you here?"

She walked over to grab another wine glass and shot a look towards him. She was nervous, that was clear, but it didn't seem to be because of him - who he was - though Niall knew there was no way that she could know, other than the usual fear that mortals got from him. She placed the glass down and pulled her cardigan tighter around her, while pulling her hair out of the bun she had it in, covering the puckered skin that was just visible on the side of her neck. He could see the same patch on her chest just before she covered it with the cardigan.

It didn't bother him - he had already seen her scars. But he couldn't help as a protectiveness coursed through him. Who had hurt her like this? Where were they so he could hurt them in turn? Sure it was an accident, but even accidents had someone to blame for them.

He then shook his head, pushing the thought away. He didn't even know this woman, other than the fact that she was Aislinn's cousin and a dancer. No. Had been a dancer.

For her part, even though Maeve knew that he had seen her scars, it was habit to hide them. One that she couldn't seem to break. And she still wasn't completely sure if he knew what she was or why he was here.

"I…" he stopped speaking as she paused in pouring the wine into the glass, her eyebrows raised. Niall wasn't sure why he was there. Why he had allowed her to see him? What Seth said about talking to her stuck in his head and he found that he couldn't ignore it. There was an urgency coursing through him that had directed him to her apartment rather than to his own home.

He couldn't deny that there was something that pulled him to her. And he wanted to find out what it was in case it ended up being a weakness. A threat. He had already let one human away from him because of weakness.

"Just in the neighborhood," he finished weakly with a smile. It was the best he could do without revealing the full truth. Maeve appeared a bit dubious, but turned to finish filling his glass regardless, not voicing it. She then held it out to him and walked back to the living room, settling on the sofa and picking up her own half empty glass.

He followed her, glancing around the large room and noting that there wasn't any metal anywhere. It was odd considering the building was a converted factory. Granted, it's not like it would have any effect on him now. He settled on the sofa, though keeping a bit of distance from her, as she watched him cautiously. His shadows settled around him.

"You make a habit of showing up unannounced?" she then asked.

"You make a habit of letting strange men into your flat?" he responded. There was a faint flicker of a smile on her face.

"Not usually. But you aren't what I would call strange. We've met," she said. "Seth says you're good people. So, you must be."

Niall sipped at the wine, wondering what Seth would say about him being here right now. He glanced at Maeve, seeing her pulling the cardigan tighter around her body yet again, further attempting to hide her scars. He then looked away from her, seeing the large black and white photographs on the wall.

"Is that you?" he asked, studying them.

"Yea… well, before," she said, shifting on the sofa. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and then stood, moving closer to study them. There were a few of her alone, but most of them were with a man about the same age. Though they were in various costumes and such, it was clear how they felt about each other. He didn't have to ask who it was. "My dance partner… and fiancé…"

He looked back over, seeing her stare down into her glass. It was obvious that the accident had left her with pain. Both physical and emotional. What surprised him was that she willingly surrounded herself with memories of what she had lost. He turned back to the photographs.

"I heard about what happened. I'm… sorry," he said, feeling his words were completely inadequate. A soft laugh drew him to look back over at her.

"It's okay. You don't have to say that," she said, meeting his eyes. "Everyone does, but…" He stepped over to her, feeling himself begin to fall into their dark depths for a moment. There was so much hidden in them. Things she didn't say not just to him, but to anyone. What was she trying to hide? "I know that it's awkward. But yea, you don't have to apologize. It's not like it was your fault or anything."

"Whose fault was it?" he found himself asking, moving closer to the sofa. He wanted to know. He wanted to punish them. Just as suddenly as the thought entered his mind, he balked at it. Where had such an intense feeling come from? He barely knew her. But he couldn't help the need to protect as the images of her burned flesh floated around in his head. Maeve shifted slightly under the intensity of his gaze.

"No one," she said, looking away from him. "It was an accident." That was a lie. He could sense it. He moved to sit down on the sofa.

"Seriously, Maeve… who did this?" he pushed, sitting next to her as his eyes were drawn to her neck. Maeve's eyes widened as she looked at him, her cheeks turning slightly pink. She swallowed.

"It was a car accident," she said, though it appeared as though she was fighting something. Perhaps telling the truth. "Why are you here really?"

Niall sat back from her, not realizing that he had been leaning towards her. Where she had been hesitant and nervous before, now she was suddenly staring at him intently, her eyes moving over his face as though she were studying something, though not his scar.

It was almost as though she could really see him.

But that was impossible. She didn't know about the faery courts. Or that his kind even existed. Did she?

"I just… wanted to check up on you - since you're sort of new to town," he said. "You seem to be close with Seth. He's one of my best friends, so…" It was the truth. Not the full truth, of course, but as much as he could say. A look of confusion came over Maeve's face. But just as quickly, it disappeared as she reached for her wine glass that she had put on the coffee table.

His gaze drifted to the scar on her chest without thinking. The cardigan had fallen open slightly as she leaned over and he wondered how much more of her body was covered in them. His thoughts then drifted to his own body covered in scars.

As if feeling his gaze, she reached down and pulled the cardigan closed again.

"You don't have to hide them," he said, unsure of where it came from. Maeve looked over at him, her eyes wide. "Your scars. They don't… bother me."

She knew he had seen most of them before. Christ, this was getting awkward. She wasn't sure just how long she could keep up the ruse. She still wasn't completely sure just why she was keeping it up. It was now obvious that Seth had kept his promise. If he had told Niall about who she truly was, he would have said something by now. Asked her about it from the beginning. But instead, they were both playing some sort of awkward dance around each other.

He was obviously unsettled about something. Though she couldn't imagine just what. His shadows moved closer to her, reaching out as though they wanted to comfort her.

"Guess you're used to people staring," she said ruefully, turning her eyes to the glass in her hands, finding it easier to talk without looking into his eyes. She glanced up at him and dragged her finger lightly across her cheek. "Can't really hide that."

"No, I can't," he said, relieved that she hadn't asked how he got it. "I have more." Maeve looked up at him fully, her eyes wide. Then a soft smile appeared as she seemed to relax slightly.

"Suppose I understand now why Seth thought we'd get along," she replied, bringing the glass to her lips. "Scar buddies and all." Niall found himself relaxing as well. "You going to give me some sort of talk about inner beauty or acceptance and all that shit?"

"No," he said simply. And really, he couldn't. He was the Dark King. What did he know about inner beauty as the King of Nightmares? Though he did know a thing or two about self-acceptance.

Maeve studied him a moment before putting her glass down and straightening up. She reached up to the cardigan, though hesitated. He could see the struggle in her eyes as she gripped the wool material. But before he could say anything, she pulled it open, revealing the scarred flesh that ran down the right side of her neck across her chest and disappeared under the tank top she was wearing. Despite the earlier hesitation, she stared at him, waiting for some sort of response. Almost as though she were daring him with her eyes to say something.

Niall supposed others looked away, finding it difficult. Not so much that they found the skin distasteful, but more so because they knew how painful it must have been. But he kept his face neutral as he studied her skin, determined that he wouldn't be like the others. He wouldn't pity her or look away. If anything, he felt as though he found a kindred spirit. Someone who could understand pain that left marks.

Just as he was about to reach out to touch her, she pulled the cardigan back closed and reached for her glass, the spell she held over him broken. But he didn't look away from her.

"I've never shown anyone… not willingly," she said softly, though her cheeks were turning pink again. Niall's eyebrows rose at the admission. Maeve couldn't meet his eyes. Part of him wanted to reach out to her and guide her to look at him. Look into his eyes. If anything, to prove that he wasn't just anyone. That he understood. And he still found her beautiful no matter how much of her body was covered in the painful scars.

But he didn't. He didn't even understand why he was here. Why he was feeling this way. And that worried him. He looked around the room, suddenly feeling that he should leave. He shouldn't be here. Aislinn - and then Keenan - would be angry if they found out. And the last thing he needed was a war with the Summer Court. They were barely on good terms as it was.

But just as strongly, he wanted to stay.

"Actually… it's good that you're here. There's something I want to talk to you about," Maeve started, still not looking at him, though she had reached up and was clasping a necklace he just now noticed.

"Yes?" he asked, silently begging her to look at him. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth, but before she could speak, his phone went off. Glancing at her, he pulled it out of his pocket, seeing that it was from Gabriel.

Relief and annoyance ran through him in equal parts. He wanted to hear what she had to say. It seemed important, but at the same time it worried him. Maeve was mortal. And the last time he had gotten tangled up with a mortal it hadn't gone so well. It never went well. The familiar pain filled his chest at the thought of Leslie. But she was far away. Safe. Happy.

He looked up at Maeve, smiling sheepishly.

"Sorry. I, ah, need to get going," he said, lifting the phone. "Emergency." She nodded as he put his glass down and stood. The two walked over to the door in silence. Maeve opened it, with Niall stepping out. Neither really knew what to say - the whole exchange had been odd. "If it's okay… I can come by tomorrow. Or we could meet at the Crow's Nest. Talk about whatever it is you want to talk about."

Maeve's eyes widened slightly, but she nodded.

"I'll… think about it," she replied, smiling slightly. He returned the smile and then turned, leaving.

Once he was out of sight, Maeve let out the breath she had been holding and shut the door. She had thought for sure his sudden appearance meant that Seth had told him about her. Why else would he have shown up? Then she realized he hadn't. But at the same time, part of her was relieved that she was off the hook for at least the time being. It had been a rather emotional day as it was.

She walked back into the living room and sat on the sofa, reaching for the remote and turning on the TV. Dancing hadn't cleared her head like she wanted, though she blamed that on the fact that Niall had followed her to the studio. Perhaps some mindless TV would help.

Just as she settled in, her phone went off. Reaching for it as she frowned, Maeve wondered if she'd get a few minutes to herself today.

Can we meet tomorrow?

It was from Ash. Sighing, Maeve shook her head then looked towards the windows. She wasn't sure just why she was constantly drawn to look out them. So instead she looked back down at the phone in her hands. Aislinn was yet someone else that she couldn't avoid forever.

Sure.

Maeve then put down the phone on the table and settled back into the sofa, hoping that she would finally get some peace and quiet.

1. Going Home 4116 0 0 2. To Be Safe 3573 0 0 3. To Tell the Truth 3007 0 0 4. Keeping Secrets 3341 0 0 5. Misunderstandings 3373 0 0 6. The Truth Shall Set You Free 3343 0 0 7. Another Day 3958 0 0 8. Dark Confusion 3579 0 0 9. Confronting the Past 3735 0 0 10. The Truth About Love 3309 0 0 11. Conflicted Feelings 3417 0 0 12. Wooing Maeve 3239 0 0 13. Finding Acceptance 3450 0 0 14. Daddy Dearest 3203 0 0 15. To Have a Choice 3144 0 0 16. Letting Go & Moving Forward 3208 0 0 17. Letting Go and Moving Forward 3256 0 0 18. To Become a Queen 3208 0 0