"I know this place," Allyn says softly, "I've dreamed of this place." Meri doesn't answer, his eyes fixed forward as he drives. She knows he heard her, she can see it in the twitch of his jaw. "You don't believe me. Or you think I'm crazy," she accuses.
"I believe you," he answers, still not looking at her.
Allyn laughs lightly, "You believe pretty easily, then. I'm not entirely sure I'm not crazy...how could I have such vivid dreams of a place I've never been?"
His hand drops from the wheel to rest on her thigh, "I think you belong here."
Allyn closes her eyes, grips his hand. "I'd like to believe that," she whispers, afraid to speak the words any louder.
"This is it," Meri shows her around his house with a gesture. Tiny as it is, it's still larger than her studio apartment in L.A. Not that any of that matters; Allyn may not exactly understand the impulse that led her to follow him back to his town, but she does know it wasn't for any practical purpose like money or security.
She's not even sure if they can have relationship beyond the intense physical attraction that brought them together. At the moment, it doesn't matter, what they do have is almost more than she can handle.
After they make love, they have lunch. "How do you manage to make a simple salad taste so incredible?" Allyn asks him.
"It's a gift," he laughs, "When we're done, I want to take you to meet my parents."
"Parents?" Allyn chokes. Of course he has parents, she chides herself, most people do. But still, being introduced to the family is moving a little faster than she expected, "Are you sure you want them to meet me?"
"By now, everyone in town knows I've brought a stranger into my house. If I don't bring you to meet my mother, it will look like I'm ashamed of you."
"What will your mother think of you shacking up with a girl you just met?" Allyn muses.
"Let's go find out," Meri answers, clearing their empty plates.
"Meri, we were so worried about you," Bricelle exclaims when her son enters the Dayspring house.
"I was only gone for one night," Meri answers, "Mother, I'd like you to meet Allyn Dale. She's moved in with me."
Allyn braces herself for whatever response is to come.
"It's such a pleasure to meet you," Bricelle says, taking her hand and looking into her eyes, searching for something. When she's found what she's looking for, she turns her attention back to her son, "Summerdream has been calling here, asking for you."
"Because just calling me isn't manipulative enough?" Meri says with a roll of the eyes.
Bricelle's brow knits in consternation, "You shouldn't make light..."
"I'll handle Summerdream," Meri says firmly, "Where's Father? And Melusine?" he asks, changing the subject.
His mother sighs heavily, "They are out for a walk. I'm worried about your sister, Meri. Erys has been calling here daily, but she won't speak with him. Maybe you should talk to him, do something to help?"
Meri just shakes his head, "They'll work it out. Or not," he says, "Let them figure it out for themselves."
Used to being an outsider, Allyn watches the family interaction with amusement and even a little envy. Though there's a freedom to not having a worried mother to answer to, there's also an emptiness to knowing that no one cares where you've been or what you're doing.
"Who is Summerdream?' Allyn asks as they leave the house.
"She's...well, she's," Meri fumbles around to explain, "The mayor? Edgewater doesn't have a normal government, exactly. But the Summerdreams are the head of it, whatever it is. And I have to go report back to her before she makes my mother miserable. Do you want to wait for me at home, or do you want hang out in town?"
"I'll check out the town," Allyn chooses, "But I'm going to want to hear why your town's sort-of-mayor expects you to report in to her at some point."
"Sit," Summerdream gestures at the couch across from her. So Meri sits. "Explain yourself," she demands once he's seated.
"I found Allyn and brought her in," Meri says, spinning his mission as a success, "What more explanation do you need?"
"Don't be coy," Summerdream answers, "You know the protocol. We don't bring them in, they come to us."
"Does it matter how she got here? She's one of us. She's had the visions, Moth tagged her as a child. She belongs here, and she's here," Meri says, repeating the excuses he's been feeding himself since he made his rash decision to go so far off plan.
"What does she know?" Summerdream demands.
"Nothing," Meri assures her.
"And when she finds out you were sent to feed her? That you tricked her and seduced her?"
"It's not like that, Nyx," Meri protests, "This thing between us is real. I wouldn't have brought her here myself if I wasn't sure of it, she belongs here, she belongs with me. I didn't have to feed her to make that happen."
"My name isn't yours to speak, Dayspring," Summerdream says with a cold stare, "If she was meant to be here, she would have come on her own. And now she's been brought here under false pretenses, before she was ready. You've jeopardized everything with your foolish romanticism."
"This isn't about Allyn, is it, Nyx?" Meri returns, deliberately provoking her by using her name now.
Nyx rises in anger, "It's about much more than her, or you," she says, "I have the town to think of. There are so many of them out there in the world, people with some trace of fae ancestry, some claim to a place in Edgewater. But not all of them belong here, not all of them would accept life here. That's why we tag the ones that hear the call and send emissaries to plant the seeds in their minds to lead them to us. By the time they arrive, they are ready to accept what they are. Do you think your Allyn is ready? How will she react when you tell her why you were sent to her? What if she wants to leave you when she learns that you've lied to her?"
She's clearly enjoying twisting the knife, Meri thinks, but he has no response. The worry has been nagging him since he first kissed Allyn, and he regrets not stopping himself before it went too far. He regrets not simply telling her everything that day on the beach.
"It's nice to see you two fighting again," Erys comments with a laugh, strolling into the parlor in his underwear.
Not caring that he's interrupting his sister's serious business, Erys has his own issues he wants to lay at Meri's feet. "You sister won't answer my calls," he says, "You have to talk to her for me, tell her I'm sorry."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing!" Erys protests.
"Then what are you sorry for?" Meri asks.
"I don't know," Erys groans, "I just...whatever she's mad at me for, I'm sorry. I just want her to talk to me."
"I'll do what I can, Erys," Meri promises weakly, and uses the interruption as an excuse to get away from Nyx.
While Meri is busy at the Summerdream estate, Allyn wanders around the town center. A butterfly lands on her had while she watches the fountain in the park. "Hey, fox, nice to see you again," the butterfly says before it flits off. It's not the first time she's spoken to a butterfly, but it hasn't happened since she was child, and sometimes she believed it had never really happened at all.
Meri meets up with Allyn again by the riverbank behind his house as the sun is setting.
"Is everything okay?" she asks, caressing his cheek in greeting.
I hope so, he thinks.
They sit together, the river behind them. "I get the feeling everything isn't okay," Allyn says gently, "You look worried about something."
"Nyx...Summerdream...likes pushing my buttons," Meri answers. He's going to have to tell her what he is, and what he did to her when he fed her that day on the beach. But Nyx was right, if she isn't ready to accept it, the blowback could destroy him. "Allyn, I love you," he says, "I just want you to know that. Whatever...whatever happens, I will fight for that. I won't let you go easily."
Allyn senses there's a reason for the drama, that there are things he isn't telling her. Sooner or later, she'll press him for information, make him open up and tell her everything, but tonight she's going to let it go, accept the love he offers without question.
The sooner he tells her, the better, so Meri begins the process by taking her to the old circle of stones he mentioned to her on the beach when they met.
"They say it used to be a portal to the fae realm," he tells her.
"Used to be?" Allyn muses, resting a hand against one if the stones. "You can feel the magic here, this place just about vibrates with it," she says, glad to be with someone who never tells her she's crazy when she says stuff like that. She's never been able to just be herself with anyone before Meri. "I wonder if it would still work. I mean, as a portal."
"It would if there were still a fae realm. Auberon collapsed it at the end of the great war," Meri says. It's as good a place to start telling the truth as any, after all.
Allyn's head tilts in curiosity, "Auberon, the king of the fae, collapsed the fae realm? Where did you read that? And what war are you talking about?" She's read just about every book of lore in the Los Aniegos pubblic library, and none ever mentioned anything about a war or the destruction of the fae realm.
"It's not in any book," Meri says, "My great grandfather was with Auberon when it happened, and he told my grandmother, who told my mother, who told me."
"You're saying your great-grandfather knew Auberon? The Auberon?" No wonder he never tells her she's crazy, he's got his own crazy to deal with, she thinks.
"Yes," Meri says, "I used to date Auberon's daughter."
"It's over. Long over," Meri assures her.
"Hey, I've got a few ex-boyfriends, too. But none of them are related to the king of the freaking fairies. You're seriously telling me Auberon's daughter lives in this town?"
"Two daughters, and his son, yes," Meri answers, "The Summerdreams. Tania and Auberon, and my great-grandparents founded this town."
"Look, I'm pretty open-minded, but this..." Allyn doesn't even know what to say at this point.
"I have something else to show you," Meri says.
"A junkyard?" Allyn asks when Meri drives her to the next location.
"You said you felt the residual magic in the stones at the circle," Meri says, "What do you feel here?"
The feeling she got from the ancient stones isn't something Allyn has experienced very often, but she has felt it before, and maybe if she knew the stories behind those places, she's know why they felt so special. This place has none of that glow, that energy. But it's not the regular kind of normal, something feels conspicuously absent here. "I feel nothing," Allyn says, "I mean, really, I feel nothing in a way I've never felt nothing before," she tries to explain.
He leads her down into the ruined remains of whatever used to be here.
"This looks like the kind of places I used to sneak off and get high in with my boyfriends," she quips, her levity forced as she tries to fight of the choking nothing that emanates from this place.
"I'm not sure I want to know about that." Meri tries to return her humor. This isn't an easy place to be, but he had to bring her here. "This used to be a laboratory," he explains, "MorcuCorp developed an alloy that could counteract fae powers. They had Tania and Auberon imprisoned on here, to experiment on them. That nothing you feel is the lack of magic. Your magic, taken away from you."
"Somewhere in your ancestry, you are fae. You have our gifts of deception and illusion. You are one of us. Edgewater calls to our kind, draws people like you to us."
"Yes, your dreams, that was Edgewater calling to you. And our meeting, that wasn't random chance, Allyn. I was sent to find you. I was sent to feed you, because that's where my magic lies. I fed you images of Edgewater that would help lead you to us. And then I was supposed to leave, and let you make your own way here."
Allyn remembers that day on the beach, the strong sensations she had when eating the food he offered, and tears come to her eyes, "It was all a lie. You used magic to make me love you."
"No," Meri answers gently, taking her hands, "It was all real. I fed you Edgewater, but I never bound you to me. What happened between us, it wasn't supposed to be like that, and I wasn't supposed to bring you here. But I regret nothing. At least, I won't regret it if you don't hate me for lying to you."
"How can I believe anything you say?"
"That's why I brought you here," Meri explains, "My magic won't work here. I can't deceive you, I can't bind you. Anything you feel here, it's just us. No magic, no illusion. Tell me what you feel."
Allyn takes a deep breath. She's spent all her life trying to push aside things she'd experienced but could never explain, the strange feelings she get from certain places and things, telling herself her core beliefs were just an interest in folklore. And in one afternoon, her lover reveals himself as a fae, and is telling her she's one of them, too. It's all a lot to take, and having to deal with her anger at being lied to on top of that is too much. "I'm so confused, Meri," she sobs, "I want to go home."
"Home with me?" Meri asks hopefully.
Allyn nods. However she came to be here, whatever lies or tricks were used to make it happen, she's found her home, and she's not going to give it up easily. "We do have something worth fighting for," she says, "There's still a lot you need to explain, but I'm not losing you over it."