Hello! This is a new story and it is meant to stand alone, but there is a previous, completed story "After Dark" that technically comes before it. Certain characters from that story will be involved in this one and I will do my best to make it so that nothing is confusing for those who have not read my other story, but I'd recommend reading the other one, just to have an even better sense of the world that I'm creating. Plus, I'm really fond of the characters in my other story!

I have a degree in Celtic studies, which I am putting to use here by including some references to different Irish and Welsh material. Of course, I take great liberties and put my own twists on it. As far as pronunciation goes, I don't want to try to give you a complicated guide because it would be more frustrating than helpful, so just pronounce it any way you please. I did, however, provide a reference at the bottom of the chapter for translating terms, which I hope will be helpful.

The Irish name for this story is: Ní Shiúlfaidh mé Choíche i m'Aonar which means "You Will Never Walk Alone".

Thanks for reading, and please tell me what you think!

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Chapter One:

Glamour, Always

In the Otherworld, the Dark Fae were trying desperately to recreate their powerful ancestors, the Tuatha Dé Danaan, a people whose magic was strong enough to defeat their rivals, the Bright Fae. At a MagiTech lab in one of the Dark Fae nations, after countless failures, they had succeeded in using blood magic to blend three races – Bright Fae, Dark Fae, and Changeling – into a single creature. The resulting infant was not, as they had hoped, one of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, but instead a multi-breed, something new altogether. While he might not be a throwback to the powerful, ancient People of Danu, the Dark Fae saw potential in him to become something powerful, something useful in their battles against the Bright Fae in the ongoing struggle for supremacy. For nearly two years, they subjected the child to every test they could, and grew increasingly pleased with the results. He was immensely powerful.

Perhaps they would have succeeded in using the child; perhaps he would have become their new secret weapon. Except one night, a Dark Fae girl broke into the lab and stole the child. She was an apprentice at the lab and had come to hate the blood magic and everything her people were doing, especially to the small, helpless infant they had created. So she stole him, she ran, and she escaped across the invisible border between the Otherworld and the world of humanity.

That was fifteen years ago.

Present Day

Aria Gallagher was tired. In the last three hours, she had been assigned three new projects with overlapping deadlines, and she still wasn't done with the assignment she was already working on.

Some days, she hated being an office minion.

When Aria told people that she worked at the Library of Congress, they were nearly always impressed. They imagined her walking amongst tall, book-laden shelves wearing very intelligent looking spectacles and doing mysterious librarian things that would somehow affect the survival of the nation.

They were, of course, completely wrong. Aria was a minion and had been a minion since she started her job a year ago not long after she graduated from Princeton University with a double major in Library Science and International Relations. Everyone had thought she was crazy, but she didn't see a reason to choose between the two. Not that it had gotten her the most impressive job in the world, but she liked it.

Really, this was a dream job in many ways. She was working in the capital of the country at the beautiful Library and there was every chance that she would be promoted within the year. Still, at the moment, it was very close to being drudgery.

And it didn't help that she was getting another migraine. Aria rubbed her temples and stared at the calendar on her screen trying to plan out her week in a way that allowed her to complete all four of her assignments and somehow sleep and eat in between. There was also Sean's track meet this weekend…

She fished through a drawer to find aspirin and wondered if Sean would forgive her for missing his meet, as she had missed the last two. He acted like he didn't care, but she knew he did.

Several voices in the hallway caught her attention. It was normally quiet at this time of day as people began to finish their work and slip out. Plus, libraries just tended to be quiet places to work. It was an added bonus for someone who had a very sensitive head. A raised voice was bound to attract notice. Aria listened.

"This is a waste of time," the male voice was saying. An attractive sounding male voice, Aria couldn't help thinking. "What the hell will a librarian know?"

"You know," responded a female with strained patience, "librarians tend to read a lot. They do know things. She comes recommended by Liester. Let's just see what she has to say."

"But a librarian," complained the male voice in a way that was insultingly derogatory toward librarians in general. It sounded like a debate that had been going on for a little while. The voices were getting closer. Suddenly, there were two people standing beside Aria's desk.

Aria looked up, inspecting her visitors. Feds. Obviously. They both wore dark suits and she could see the man's gun holster under his jacket. They were looking at her, which apparently meant that she was the useless librarian that Harry Liester had recommended. Aria wondered what Harry, her boss's boss, thought she could help these two with.

"Aria Gallagher?" confirmed the woman in a very Fed-like voice.

Aria nodded. "And who are you?"

"I'm Agent Malley and this is Agent Portland."

Good Fed names, Aria thought. She maintained a calm expression, trying not to let the growing pain behind her eyes show. She hadn't taken the aspirin yet…

"Harry Liester recommended you as someone who might be able to advise us on a case," Malley said. She looked friendly enough, if a bit stiff. Her brown hair was tied severely back in a little bun and she wore very little makeup. Her smile was perfunctory. Agent Portland looked less thrilled at the prospect of talking to her. He was extremely good looking with curly blond hair and hazel eyes. Those eyes, however, looked anywhere but at Aria.

"Anything I can do to help," Aria said agreeably and offered them the two chairs that were near her desk. They sat. Agent Portland's hands laced together and he leaned forward restlessly, staring toward the door. He really didn't want to be there.

"What do you need?" Aria asked.

"Liester said you were a bit of an authority on Celtic lore," Agent Malley said.

Aria was surprised. That didn't seem like something special agents would care about. Of course she was a "bit of an authority" on Celtic studies. But no one, including Harry Liester, knew exactly why that was.

"I took some classes at my university," she answered slowly.

"Then perhaps you could answer a few questions for us," said Malley. Her eyes were gray and her gaze was direct. It would be very difficult to say no to this woman.

"About what?"

"There have been killings within the D.C. city limits over the past year," said Malley. "The ritual killings. You may remember."

Aria's eyes dropped to her hands. She knew about those killings. Everyone did. How could anyone forget something so horrible? The news had gone crazy about them for weeks before some new disaster had distracted them. There hadn't been any news about it lately. She said as much.

"That's because we have been trying to keep them quiet to keep people from panicking," said Portland. He snorted. "Mass hysteria is never helpful."

"What is it that you want to know?" Aria asked. She wanted aspirin. She wanted to go home. But… she was curious.

"We withheld most of the information about the killings from the media," Malley said, "but the fact is, they are following a very distinct pattern that looks like it is some sort of religious ceremony. The best we can figure is that it is some sort of druidic ritual, but we can't find anything definitive, just hints and vague similarities here and there. We wanted you to look at some pictures and see what you can make of them. At this point, it's the best lead we have."

"Druidic rituals?" Aria was openly skeptical. Anyone who knew anything about Celtic history knew that nearly everything about the druids of this world was lost to all but a few, and those few were part of a magical community that did not tend to share its secrets with mundane humans. What little was known by most people would not be enough to create any detailed rituals. Most of the "druids" today were just New Age folk who wanted to pretend they were tapping an ancient religion that was long forgotten.

"That seems a bit unlikely," she said at last.

"That's what I think," Portland said with feeling, meeting her eyes at last and looking frankly irritated and amused at the same time. "This is just a bunch of made up rituals, nothing specific. I don't know why Yvette thinks that knowing where they came from will help us find the killers."

Yvette Malley rolled her eyes at her partner. "We're not going to argue about that again here. Can you help us, Ms. Gallagher? Will you look at the pictures? I warn you, some of them are very graphic."

Aria nodded slowly. She had probably seen much worse things than anything these agents could possibly show her. She was not afraid of that. But she truly doubted these pictures would show her anything "authentic." Nevertheless,

"Anything I can do to help," she said. "I'll take a look, and if they are somehow related to identifiable practices – and there are precious few of those that we know of – I should be able to tell you fairly soon."

"Good," Malley said with satisfaction. She pulled a brown folder out of her briefcase and handed it to Aria. "I told you, James. No point in ignoring a possibility like this."

"A dead end is what this is," James Portland retorted. "No offense, ma'am. It would be a godsend if you actually come up with something, no mistake. There have been four groups of killings and we want to prevent a fifth."

"Four!" Aria exclaimed. Only two had been reported on the news.

"Please let us know as soon as you take a look at those," Malley said, rising and offering her hand, which Aria shook. Then, the agents left.

Aria looked at the envelope containing the photos. Tomorrow. She would look at them tomorrow.

...

Aspirin helped a little, but it wasn't until Aria arrived home that she could relax. Home meant more than comfortable clothes and quiet for Aria. It also meant that she could shed the glamour that she had to cast over her appearance every single day.

She could be herself.

Being a Dark Fae in the human world was extremely difficult and extremely dangerous, but Arianrhod uerch Niamha had been in this world for fifteen years and she was as used to it as she could possibly be.

Fifteen years ago at the age of eleven, she had stumbled through a cairn carrying a small, wailing burden and had entered this strange, terrifying world that did not recognize magic. It required constant wariness and constant shielding of her magic, but it offered anonymity. It offered safety from the Dark Fae pursuers whom she had betrayed.

And she had to protect Sean.

Aria dropped her bags in the foyer and set her keys on the counter in the kitchen. She took off her jacket and the blue blouse over her white lace camisole. She let the glamour slip away and breathed softly as her headache eased. Without the glamour in place, Aria's curling black hair gained an unnatural, dark gleam. Her soft brown eyes deepened to the inky black color that all Dark Fae shared. Charcoal gray markings, like a complex network of tattoos, appeared along the back of her right hand and halfway up her forearm, curling around her wrist, another signature of the Fae. Most strikingly of all, the large moth-like black wings that she kept hidden were able to relax comfortably behind her.

Aria loved being home. As soon as she stepped out her door, she had to wrap herself in that coating of humanity, the glamour, so that no one, not even other magical creatures, could see what she truly was. And it was exhausting.

She noticed the sound of music emanating from upstairs, a deep pulsing of a bass guitar and the wailing of a singer. Sean was home. She smiled and began exploring the pantry to figure out what to make for dinner.

...

Sean tapped his pen against his history book in time with the music as his eyes quickly scanned the page, searching for the one bit of information he needed to finish his essay. His memory was almost flawless, but he had skimmed this chapter too quickly and hadn't read everything, which meant that of course the one little fact that he needed was the one thing he hadn't read. Typical.

Aha! There it was. Sean typed it into his paper, referenced it, and slammed the book shut. Done! He might have time for that new Xbox game after all.

The sound of the front door opening and closing downstairs was drowned out by his music – or it should have been. Sean's hearing was excellent. Aria was home, finally. He wondered what was for dinner. He was starving. But at the age of nearly seventeen, he was always starving.

He slid off the bed and headed for the door. His music was still blaring. Aria would complain if he left it on. He turned, looked at the iPod set into the speaker deck by the window. Magic flickered through his awareness. He reached out with it toward the iPod. The music turned off.

He went downstairs and found Aria frowning at a box of Hamburger Helper, muttering something about boxed dinners and chemicals. She looked up as he came down.

"There you are!" she said. "How's your homework coming?"

"Done." He grinned, revealing razor-sharp canines that his friends at school never saw. Sean's glamour had to hide even more than Aria's.

"How are you already done? Didn't you have an essay to write for your history class?"

"Yep."

"And your Chemistry?"

"Done."

"You disgust me," she said, shaking her head.

He shrugged, still grinning, and slid onto the stool at the island in the kitchen, resting his head on his folded hands and watching her dump a package of ground beef into a large, cast iron skillet. Aria glanced at him and shook her head again.

Sean was, she had decided, both the easiest and the most difficult child to raise. Of course, she hadn't raised him alone, not at first, not as a child herself. Another Fae in hiding, a Bright Fae but one who sympathized with her desire to hide Sean from the Dark Fae, had taken them in and helped acclimatize Aria to the human world while also observing Sean grow from a precocious toddler into a beautiful, gifted child.

When Aria turned eighteen, Moira had simply disappeared without explanation, leaving Aria with a substantial amount of money in a bank account. And Sean. She had already been accepted into Princeton and somehow managed to attend classes and continue raising Sean. They had moved back to D.C. two years ago when she began interning at the Library. Moira had transferred this house to her name.

What made Sean an easy child, aside from his naturally bright disposition, was his aptitude for anything and everything he was taught. The boy just learned. He remembered everything he read or saw. His muscle memory was frighteningly perfect, which meant that he could play any instrument or learn any game or sport with very little effort.

This was also why he was so difficult. Having a prodigy would normally mean scholarships and accolades. For Aria, it meant being in a constant state of terror that Sean would slip up, just once, and someone would notice. Being smart was one thing. Being unnervingly – inhumanly – brilliant was entirely another.

And of course there was the whole thing about being a multi-breed. Sean wasn't a hybrid. Moira had figured that out fairly quickly.

"He isn't part Bright, part Dark, part Changeling," she had told young Aria. "He is all of these things all at once. That means he is extremely powerful, more powerful than we probably realize even now. It means that the Dark Fae won't want to give him up. They'll come looking for him."

When Sean cast a glamour over his appearance, he was an attractive young teen with curly black hair, much like hers (which helped lend support to their story of being brother and sister), and deep blue eyes. His strong, expressive face and wide, mischievous smile looked entirely human.

The boy who sat before her now, waiting impatiently for a plate of beef and pasta, was frighteningly inhuman, and would have been almost unrecognizable at first glance to his circle of friends. His hair wasn't so much black as midnight blue, that deep, dark color that looks black until it is touched by a hint of light. It gleamed blue in the bright fluorescent kitchen.

His eyes were no longer clear blue. Rather, his eyes reflected both the Bright and Dark Fae heritage he had been imbued with. His left eye was a brilliant, jewel-like blue, brighter and more intense than his glamoured eyes. His right eye, however, was as black as Aria's eyes, the color of the Dark Fae. The multi-colored eyes had unnerved Aria for years, but as she had grown to know and love the boy, she rarely noticed the strangeness of his eyes anymore.

All Fae had tattoo-like markings on one or both of their arms. Sean's marking was an intertwining of dark blue and black, and started on the left side of his face, curving around his temple and down his neck and shoulder, wrapping around his arm and curving all the way around to the palm of his hand.

And, like Aria, Sean had wings. His were feathered rather than the moth-like texture of Fae wings. Moira had said this was likely his Changeling heritage, although they weren't sure. The blue-black wings were large and would have seemed cumbersome, except Sean carried them so easily and moved so comfortably. His cheerful, sharp-toothed smile (another gift from his Changeling side) and bright sense of humor had won Aria's affection long ago.

"Are you coming on Saturday?" he asked as they ate. He shoveled food into his mouth as if he had never eaten before and would never eat again.

Aria sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Sean… I just got handed three new assignments and the FBI came and told me to research this… thing."

"The FBI? Cool. What about?"

"I don't think I should talk about it. Just one of their cases that needs my expertise."

"Oh, your expertise, huh? So you're not just making that up because you don't want to go to the meet, are you?" Sean was smiling, obviously not serious, but Aria knew he was a little disappointed. He had a lot of friends and it probably wasn't normal to be close to a sister who is nine years older than he was, but Aria and Sean were of necessity very close. They had always been close.

"I wish I could. Maybe I still can. I'm going to work very hard tomorrow and if I go in early on Friday, well, we'll see."

"It's okay if you can't. I get it," he said, meaning it. He pushed a piece of macaroni across his plate with his fork. Then, absently, he stopped using his fork and used his magic instead.

"Sean," Aria said, giving him a look.

"Sorry." He used his fork again.

Sean respected Aria more than anyone he had ever known. He trusted her with his life and he loved her. As far as he was concerned, she really was his sister, as well as his protector and his friend. However, he still got frustrated when she discouraged even the smallest bit of magic.

Sean was overflowing with the stuff. The magic of three races burned through his veins, and it felt unnatural not to use it, especially at home, the only place where he was able to be entirely himself.

But Aria was right. They were only safe because they were careful. Even the magical community of the city didn't know what he really was.

And it was absolutely imperative that they keep it that way.

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Word Guide:

Bean sidhe – banshee

Céadsearc - sweetheart

Cruinniú – literally "gathering" , the Council

Cwn Annwfn – Hounds of Annwfn or "Hellhounds"

Damnú air – Damn it

Deartháireacha – Brethren

Diabhal - demon

Eolaí – guide/trainer

Faolchú - wolf

Laghairt – lizard (reptile changelings other than serpent)

Marbh Daoine – dead ones (vampires)

Nathair - snake

Scáth Siúlóir – shadow walker

Sibhialtach - civilians

Solas Siúlóir – light walker

Síoraí Daoine – endless ones

Slán go fóill/ Slán leat – Goodbye for now / Goodbye (reply)

Taibhse - phantom

Tuatha Dé Danann – people of the goddess Danu

Ulchabhán – owl