When Ethan was finally able to get up, he turned to Declan. “I’m going to need you to muster up as much strength as possible. I know that you’re limited with what you can do now, but I’ve got to check on my dad. Take care of Alistair.” Declan nodded as he struggled to get up. Ethan rushed out only to see his dad curled up on the floor. “Dad!?” There was no response. He jumped over the sofa and kneel by his father’s motionless figure. He began to shake him. “Dad, please wake up. They need you here!”
“Don’t yell, you’re giving me a headache, I can’t concentrate when you do that,” Lucas mumbled, turning to face his son. Blood ran down his face and he struggled to speak. “Is Alistair okay?” Ethan nodded. “And the girls?”
“He took them,” Ethan said sadly. “I tried to stop him, but he’s much more powerful than I remember.” When Lucas tried ot sit up, Ethan began to panic. “Don’t! You’ll exert yourself, just rest.”
“There’s no time,” Lucas grunted. “You need to take my powers, and you need to do it now.”
“No,” Ethan refused. “I’m not taking your powers. If you give me your powers, you’ll die!”
“But you’ll live,” Lucas said. “You’re my son, I was going to do this for you anyway. But now, I don’t really have time to argue with you. Declan gave up his powers, because Altiere was revived. He can’t help Alistair in the magic department, but you can. Train him to be the keeper of magic. He needs you.”
“No,” Ethan said. “I gave up my life, that was my choice. You don’t get to give me a second chance. Keep yours.”
“Ethan, I’m dying,” Lucas said as he straightened up. “It has nothing to do with what Altiere did to me. You know that immortality isn’t a plausible thing for anyone but a vampire. Well, my time has finally begun to run out and I’m feeling the effects. My outer appearance is that of a young man, but on the inside, I’m at least 60 years old in human years. It’s only going to increase from there until one day, I perish. The longer I go on, the more magic I lose. It’s awaste when I can just give it to you to. You take over, or let Alistair take over here. It’s your choice, but I’m giving you my powers.”
Ethan looked down and saw his hands glowing. “Dad, stop this right now!” He tried to focus and block out his father’s powers.
“Don’t try to fight this,” Lucas said, concentrating. “I’ll be wasting my power anyway, at least let it go to good use.”
“I love you so much dad,” Ethan panicked. “I just found you, why does it have to be like this?”
“THink of Alistair, he’s the future and he needs his dad more than he needs his grandfather.” Ethan hunched over in pain. “My power is almost gone.”
“I’m watching my dad die, like i watched my brother die, this is unreal,” Ethan muttered to himself. “I can’t handle this.”
“I’ll say hi to your brother for you, I’m sure he’ll be happy to know how you’re doing.” He clutched Ethan’s hand tightly. “One more thing before I go. Tell Alistair and Declan that I’m so proud of them, and that they passed their group project. I love you son, and I was never mad at you.”
“I’ve wanted to hear that for so long,” Ethan whispered. “So damn long. I shouldn’t have run. I should have stayed with you.” He looked down at his father who was now motionless. Just as soon as he had resurfaced in Ethan’s life, he had disappeared. And Ethan didn’t even get the chance to thank him for always having his back in Moonlight Falls even if Ethan had betrayed him. He was truly lucky, but he didn’t know if he’d ever recover from this devastating setback.
My eyelids were heavy. I wanted to move, but something was pushing down against me. I needed to get up. Where was everyone? Why was it so dark? “Urghh.”
“Alistair?” That voice. Declan. Where was he? Was he okay? I felt something soft on my hand and with a tight squeeze, I came to my senses. Slowly opening my eyes, I squinted to adjust to the darkness. “Thank the Watcher you’re alright. I thought we might have lost you.”
“Declan?” I whispered. “Ouch, I feel like crap. What happened?”
I didn’t like the frown that had instantly replaced his gorgeous smile. “A lot. Are you alright? We can talk about that later.”
“What happened?” I asked again, much more stern. “I can’t remember anything but my dad’s face. The rest is a blur. Did you bring him to life? And your magic, is it gone? Weren’t you staying in Sunlit Tides?”
“Easy tiger.” Declan tried to crack a smile but I could tell that it was fake. I had grown to love his real smile, it was comforting to me, because when he smiled it meant that he had everything under control and nothing would go wrong. “Your dad is alive, but he’s in the next room. He’s uh…not himself right now.”
“What does that mean?” Alistair asked. “Oh god, is he a zombie or something?”
“No,” Declan whispered. “Something haappened while you were knocked out that wasn’t so good for him. Or any of us, actually.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling my anxiety rise. “Is everyone alright?”
“No,” Declan said slowly. “Let me tell you all of this in one shot. Don’t interrupt me, alright?” When I nodded he continued. “I brought Ethan back to life and I got to meet your dad, Apollo, who was a really awesome dude. The problem was that when I gave up my power, it wasn’t Altiere’s but mine. So, I lost my magic and Altiere’s manifested itself and when I was weak he took advantage and broke free from both of us. We tried to stop him but he-”
“Took my daughters didn’t he?” I asked, hoping desperately that I was wrong.
“How did you know?” Declan frowned.
“He wouldn’t shut the hell up about it,” I grumbled. “But I never thought for once that he’s be able to beat you. What the hell do we do? He has the girls!”
“You need to relax,” Declan said. “There’s worse news. Pepper took the girls and -”
I felt my head spin. I had heard enough. “Declan please don’t say that she turned on us.”
“Where’s my dad?” I demanded, getting up despite his protests.
“In the kitchen,” Declan said weakly.
I marched into the kitchen and hovered over my dad’s slouched body. “Dad? It’s really you?”
“Alistair?” He muttered, looking up. “Oh thank the watcher!” He squeezed me tightly. “I couldn’t lose you too.”
Looking around the empty room, I frowned. “Pepper really took my children? I was hoping that was some kind of sick joke.”
“You heard, huh?” He titled his head to the side. “I’m sorry about that. We all tried so hard to stop them from leaving but Altiere is much more powerful than I gave him credit for.”
Then it dawned on me. He had been acting strangely. The energetic, always ready attitude was replaced by a sad smile and a montone. “What’s wrong? Something else happened, didn’t it?”
He took a deep breath and looked at me. “Your grandfather is dead.”
“No,” I whispered. “Not Lucas? What happened?” I tried to focus my vision. No, I didn’t want any more casualties!
“He gave up his life to make mine permanent,” My father said. “You have to understand that he was already losing his power. So, it was the logical thing for him.”
“But it still hurts,” I whispered. “He took care of me while I was here. This can’t be happening. This needs to be a joke.”
“I know,” He murmured and stood up. I could see the pain on his face and I could just about feel how much it took out of him to pretend that he was okay. “I didn’t want him to do it.”
“Dad,” I whispered. “He lost you once, he didn’t want to lose you again.”
“He cares about you so much, he didn’t want you to go through it either,” Ethan said.
“Oh shit, Declan!” I nearly shouted, remembering how close the two had been. “How did he take the news?”
“You just saw him, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, he didn’t even tell me. He just seemed happy that I was awake. Now that you mention it though, he did seem a bit off.”
“He stayed by your bed since you passed out,” Ethan said. “He wouldn’t even come eat. For dinner last night, Sienna and I had to bring the food to him and we eat in that room by your bed.”
“He did?” I frowned.
“He blames himself for everything. It’s because he loves you that it’s affecting him so much more. He feels like he could have prevented everything somehow. But nobody knew what Altiere had up his sleeve. That poor guy has been beating himself up ever since he came back here.”
“It’s not his fault,” I said. “Right?”
“Now seems like a better time than ever to say something,” My dad began. He seemed on edge about something. “You have two daughters now, and you realize how important that is right?”
“Yes!” I cried out. “I love those girls more than anything in the entire world, and I need to get them back!”
“You need to start thinking about their futures. Once you get them back, what happens? Will you be able to step up and handle the stress? You need someone by your side to help you through all of this, and I don’t mean a caretaker. Your father had Scarlett and his brother to raise the triplets, but he always told me that he felt alone. He felt like he wasn’t allowed to mess up because there was no one he could truly split the responsibilities with. Yes, he had their mother, but what good is that at the end of the day when he’s curled up in bed all alone? What I’m saying is, is that there’s someone s obviously in love with you and who cares about your girls.”
“You mean Declan?” I gulped. “He told me that he loved me and then stormed out. I actually thought so much about this, but I’m afraid.”
“Of what?” Ethan demanded. I had never seen my dad so serious before.
“I’m afraid because I’ve never had feelings for a guy before!” I nearly shouted back. “I have so much on the line, I don’t have time to experiment with things. None of this was supposed to happen, I was supposed to date Madelynn and live a normal life. Now I have kids and I’m so damn confused, and I feel powerless because the two people I depended on the most to bail me out can’t!”
“Get a hold of yourself,” Ethan said. He clutched my shoulders tightly. His voice was much more calm. “I was afraid when I fell in love with your father. He had so much more baggage than I thought. I found out that he had kids and I almost bailed on him. When he left, I realized what I was missing, and I had to go back and find him. I couldn’t live without him. Think about this from Declan’s point of view. He’s just as terrified as you are, but he gave up his magic for you. He hasn’t left your side for a minute and he already loves the girls. I promise you that he’s worth the risk.”
I collapsed into my father’s eyes and began to cry. “I don’t want to break his heart. I’m just going to cause more trouble for him.”
“That’s not for you to decide,” he stroked my hair. “Declan has seen the risks first hand. Let him decide what he wants to do on his own. He’s a grown man, you can’t tell him what to do.”
“But he’s going to make the wrong choice,” I said.
“You are not the wrong choice.” He kissed my forehead. “Now, go talk to him. He deserves something, whether it’s what he wants to hear or not.”
I stood outside in the rain. I didn’t want to talk to Declan. I knew what I would say and how I would say it, but it gave me such anxiety just thinking about it. It didn’t make sense, because he had already confessed his love to me. I felt like he’d think I was settling or that I was only returning his feelings because he was taking care of me. But the truth was that the feeling was always there, I just never wanted to admit it. At first, I hated him. I really did. But when the time distortions began to happen, he took charge and I started to see him in a different light. There was something about a person who commanded attention that made my heart beat faster. I felt myself wanting to protect him and that day when he first told me that he was going to bring my father to life, I knew I loved him. I had never felt more strongly about giving someone up than that. I got angry when I saw that image of Declan and Altiere together and when Declan kissed me…I felt things I had never felt before. Things that not even Madelyn could make me feel. The truth of the matter is, Declan knows about all of my circumstances. He understnad me, and he knows the dangers that my life brings and he still hasn’t left me. What did I have to fear? “Penny for your thoughts?” I jumped at the sound of his voice. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you, your dad said that you wanted to talk to me.”
“Yeah.” I could feel my heart beating faster. “I..uh.. how are you holding up? I heard about Lucas.”
“How are you holding up? He’s your grandfather?”
“As good as I possibly could, I guess?” I frowned. “I’m not holding up well at all. My life is a mess.”
“It’s tough, life keeps throwing things in your face, and I’m sorry,” Declan said. “I don’t want you to have to face this. But seems like I’mmaking things worse.”
“It’s not your intention.” I stare across the porch into the vast meadow ahead of me. I watch as the rain comes pleting down, washing away my fears. Apparently, Declan felt the same way. He threw his arms around me and hugged me tightly.
“I’m sorry if this is weird, it’s the only way I know how to comfort someone,” He mumbled, loosening his grip a bit.
“Don’t,” I murmured. “Hold me tightly, please.”
He seemed confused for a minute and so was I at my unsusual brashness. “Alright.”
“I have some things to get off my chest okay? So I’d appreciate it if you listened to me before saying anything.” I waited for his utterance of a simple ok before continuing. “When I was growing up, I knew I was different. Not only because I could use magic, but because of the house I grew up in. My parents are gay. When I went to school, I didn’t have a take your mother to school day or anything, I was so embarassed when I brought my dad along and everyone else had their mothers with them. They’d stare, and I became accustomed to the idea that I’d always be the odd one out. At home, I was an outsider too. I have four siblings, three were triplets, so they already had that close bond. My other sister, Pandora, came to our family when she was already a teenager. There’s a huge age gap between us. They were always talking about prom, and friends and I don’t know, whatever teenagers talk about. They were so tight knit. Then there was me, the extra kid. I had no kids my age to play with other than the kids at school and I hadn’t even really had real friends until high school when I met Madelyn and Emil.” I could feel Declan lean his chin on my shoulder and comfortbaly place his nose on the nape of my neck. It was oddly comforting. “On top of all of that, my parents chose me as the heir of the family because I had magic and they thought I would be strong enough to handle it. When I got here, it was against my will and you did not make it any easier for me. I felt like I didn’t belong here. I felt like the black sheep of the group no matter how hard Miles and Sienna tried to include me. You made it so damn difficult for me and I hated you for it. IThene there was that group project and I still hated you but you were tolerable. I didn’t realize that you meant so much to me until the time distortions started to happen and you stepped up to the plate. You put all of our hostility aside and helped me. Even when you found out that I had kids, you didn’t abandon me. I got to see a side of you that I never expected. I saw a passionate, caring and kind man. You actually have feelings, and you smile and you care about things other than being the best mage. You have a past that made you an incredible human being. I could sit here all day and tell you how great you are but-”
“But what?” I felt his lips turn up into a smile on my skin. My breath quickened. “You can talk about how great I am for as long as you want. I won’t stop you.”
“You’re an ass.” I elbowed him in the gut and he just laughed. “I don’t have enough time in the world to express my love for you.”
“Did you just say that you love me?” Declan asked in complete shock. His genuine surprise brought a smile to my face. I wanted to surprise him for the rest of my life.
“Yeah, I guess I did.”
I turned to face him. I wanted to see his smile. “I love you too.”
“I already knew that though. You told me when you assaulted me in my room last week, remember?” I smirked.
“Assaulted? Woah woah woah, if you liked it, it doesn’t count as assualt.” He laughed.
“You don’t know if I liked it!” I rolled my eyes.
“Then let’s see. Maybe you need a refresher.” He pressed his lips against mine. This time, it wasn’t full of desperation, but love. I was elated. Why hadn’t we done this sooner?
Pulling away, I put my head against his chest. “Now that we got that out of the way, I want you to now that I’m going to save my girls.”
“No,” Declan said. “I’ll save the girls, you save your siblings.”
“No,” I said firmly. “I don’t want you getting hurt. You have no magic now. My dad is here permanently, so we have time.”
“The longer you wait, the more danger your siblings are in. I can handle Altiere. I have Sienna. At least let us scope it out while you go to Imaginationland. I love them just as much as you do.”
“I know,” I mumbled. “But I’m just worried about you.”
“Alistair,” Declan said seriously. “I want you to call me your boyfriend from now on. If you accept, that means I’m officially part of your life, and those girls are a part of mine. If you love me, you’ll at least think about all of this.”
Leaning into him, I sighed. “I’ll think about it. The whole leaving a human to deal with two powerful vampires and an imaginary friend gone bad, I mean. As for the other thing, yeah. I’ll be your boyfriend.” I leaned up and captured his lips with my own. “You’re stuck with me now.”
“One more thing,” He said, holding my waist tightly. “Lucas’ last words, he said that he was proud of us and for that doubles project that we were assigned, we passed.”
“We passed, huh?” I turned to him. “What did we do?”
“We’re finally working together and realizing that as a team, we’re better than we are alone.”
“I wish he told me that from the beginning, would have saved me a lot of trouble,” I said.
“The chase is half the fun, right?” He smirked.
“The chase?” I laughed. “You chased, I came crawling to the predator. The very handsome predator.”
“Enough flirting you guys!” Sienna called out. “Family meeting in here! Yes, I said family! You’re dating my brother, and your dad is here so, somehow we’re a family!”
“We’ve always been a family!” I called back. “A family is where you know you belong.”