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1935, New Canaan.

She padded down the dark corridor, barefoot. She could have walked just as silently in slippers; but somehow, bare feet felt right.

She paused at his bedroom door. Not hesitant, but stopping to reflect on how surprising it was that she wasn't hesitant. Now that she'd made her decision, she felt no awkwardness, no fear.

What if he's not alone?

The way things are now, he will be alone. But if he wasn't, it would be of no consequence. He'd still choose me.

She knocked - gently at first, then more loudly, to rouse him from sleep.

At last she heard him mumble, "Coming," and roll out of a creaking bed.

He was clutching a hastily-donned robe around him with one hand as he opened the door with the other. "Wh-what -?"

She smiled, as she saw there was just enough moonlight coming through the windows. She let her robe drop, displaying her nakedness, and said huskily, "I finally know what I want. To be with you."

He made a guttural, animal sound in his throat. Pulled her into the room, threw her on the bed...and they coupled wildly, brutally, till dawn.

They'd never even bothered to close the door.

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1939, Los Angeles.

Brother Justin Crowe, flanked by wife Sofie and sister Iris, scaled new heights of oratory before the packed stadium. When he finished, he was so exhausted that he could barely raise his arms to acknowledge the thunderous applause.

Three-year-old Vincent escaped from his nanny, ran onto the stage, and wrapped his arms around one of Justin's legs. "Daddy!"

The crowd liked that even more. So Justin somehow found the strength to scoop the boy up and hold him, while also pulling Sofie into an embrace. All three of them beamed at the photographers in the front row (though the one truly spontaneous smile was Vincent's).

Iris couldn't suppress a grimace. She knew the truth about this "wholesome" little family.

An hour later, Sofie caught Justin alone. She said uneasily, "I wish we could keep Vincent out of the limelight."

He was puzzled. "Why? It's the perfect image. We're happily married, both love our son -"

"Ben Hawkins is still out there, somewhere! It's bad enough that he probably knows we're married. I don't want him plotting to kidnap Vincent."

"Kidnap Vincent?" Justin shook his head, perplexed. "Hawkins won't sense Vincent as his Prince, so I can't see him having an interest in him."

"Not his Prince, no. But -" She bit her lip, then said ruefully, "He may think Vincent is his son."

"Oh!"

Justin didn't explode. If he was distressed, he managed not to show it - perhaps because he had such need of Sofie that he never risked angering her. After Varlyn Stroud had somehow been killed during that infamous night of "rioting," Sofie had become his most trusted aide. Only a few weeks later, they'd married.

Now, after a long silence, he merely asked, "Would the timing work?"

She'd already told him she and Ben had been intimate, on a single occasion. She'd claimed they'd both been virgins, and Ben had seduced her because he wanted to experience sex with someone as "pure" as himself. But it had been a bad experience for her, if only because of Ben's awkwardness.

"Yes, it'd be close enough."

Justin thought for a minute or so, then said, "I still don't see a problem. He'll know Vincent isn't his Prince. He'll be sure he's mine, and he won't want to raise a Dark Avatar. Won't be able to bring himself to murder him, either, if he thinks he may be his son. If anything, it makes Vincent safer."

Sofie had been thinking too, and now, she slowly nodded. "I'm still uncomfortable with this whole situation...but I suppose you're right."

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The next day, somewhere in the Midwest.

Ben Hawkins read the caption under the photo in the newspaper, and burst out, "Oh my God!"

Ruthie was at his side in an instant. "What's wrong?"

"Everything's wrong!" He shoved the paper at her.

She looked at it, and said, "You'd already found out they were married." He'd learned that six months ago.

"Yeah. But look at the rest o' what it says. That they have a three-year-old son...Vincent Crowe."

Ruthie winced. "You think, maybe, he's really your son?"

But Ben shook his head. "No," he said flatly. "I'm sure he ain't mine."

"Then I don't understand what you're upset about."

He sighed. "No, I ain't never told you 'bout this. Didn't see no point in worryin' you, 'bout someone I had no idea where to find - might not meet for years.

"But you do remember the stuff I told you 'bout Prophets an' their Princes?"

She nodded. "Yeah, sure."

If he'd been in good enough physical condition to have a normal sex life - which he wasn't - she would have felt guilty about keeping him from younger women. From someone who might bear him a son. A Prince.

"Almost three years ago," he told her now, "I had a revelation. In a 'dream,' sort of, but it warn't no ordinary dream. I learned that Vincent Crowe is my Prince."

Ruthie needed a few seconds to absorb that. Then she said slowly, "Sofie an' Justin's kid is a Light Avatar?"

Again, Ben surprised her by saying, "No."

He went on, "Remember how I figured out back in '35 that Justin must o' had a Dark Avatar son somewhere? 'Cause no one else coulda restored him to life after I killed him?"

"Y-yeah."

"It's possible Justin's never realized he was dead - don't know he had to be revived. But since he does have a Prince, he knows about him, same as I do mine. An' knows that Prince has to be a son o' his, whether or not he had a hand in raisin' him. In theory, it could be his son or mine - but I'm so much younger that Justin may o' known his Prince's name before I was even born.

"An Avatar can't have two Avatar sons. Not even if the first one's died, somehow."

Her eyes widened. "Now I get it. If this little kid is an Avatar, he can't be Justin's son.

"But...ain't you the only alternative? Did you ever have sex with Sofie?"

"Yeah, once. An' the timin' would probably work."

"Then -"

Ben gave a vehement shake of his head. "Justin knew Sofie had a past with Carnivale. An' I cared enough about her to say her name, show concern for her, when he was about to kill me.

"If he thought there was even a chance this kid could be mine, he woulda paid close attention to him, an' seen signs before now that he was an Avatar. A Light Avatar. My Prince! An' he wouldn't o' let him live this long.

"The only way to explain Vincent's bein' alive is that Justin's taken for granted he ain't an Avatar. But as time goes on, he'll be in more an' more danger."

Ruthie was perplexed. "If he ain't Justin's son, or yours..."

"I don't know who or what controls the birth of Avatars," Ben told her. "But we believe the first Light-Dark pair - however they came into existence - were mirror-image twins. They both left descendants. An' the general rule is that each o' the two Avatars in a 'generation' - meanin', the same number o' generations removed from when it all began, even if the men's ages are out o' whack - is given a good chance to father a son. If he don't do it, an Avatar son is born to someone else who's got Avataric blood o' the right generation.

"I'm only twenty-three. But I didn't make Sofie pregnant. An' since Justin sliced me open with that anointed blade, you know better'n anyone else that I ain't no good in bed. Any exertion reopens the wound an' starts it bleedin' again. Even if I wanted a woman younger than you - which I don't - I wouldn't be fatherin' no babies.

"So if we imagine a 'controller' out there handlin' things, he's already let someone else bring my Prince into the world.

"When the name 'Vincent Crowe' was revealed to me, I never thought he could be my son. Sofie was the only woman I'd ever had sex with, 'cept you. An' I couldn't imagine, then, her bein' married to Justin an' usin' the name Crowe. I knew she might still be loyal to him. But I thought a man who'd stayed single into his forties warn't likely to marry anyone. 'Specially since he'd already fathered his Prince, an' wouldn't have no concerns on that count.

"But it didn't take me long to guess who Vincent is. I've hoped he was bein' raised somewhere else, away from New Canaan. Not, for God's sake, as Justin an' Sofie's child! I'll have to get him outta there."

Ruthie was still stumped. "Whose child is he?"

Ben gave a wry smile. "His real mother named him - an' included a hint, in the first two letters of his name.

"Vincent Crowe is the child of Varlyn and Iris."

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The End

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Author's Afterword: Daniel Knauf has told fans that in Season 3, Justin and Sofie would have been married (he, still unaware she's his daughter), and a three-year-old boy would have been presented publicly as Justin's son. Ostensibly, his son by Sofie; but most of us have assumed the child would really be hers and Ben's.

This concept was suggested to me by something fans learned about an early draft of one of the last episodes of Season 2. At that stage of the script, it included a wild night of passion between Iris and Stroud!

We've been led to believe that was rejected, later, as a bad idea. But I've had the thought: What if we were being cleverly misled, and those characters' having sex was important - was indeed filmed (if Stroud wouldn't have returned), and would have been shown as a flashback in Season 3?

Just a far-out possibility, lest we jump to conclusions too quickly!