“I just want him to wake up!” Alistair sobbed. “Leave me alone!”
“I want him to wake up too,” Pandora said, holding the little boy. “Don’t worry. He will be okay. He’s just tired. He used a lot of energy on that blast.”
“He had to! That man was trying to hurt us!” Alistair exclaimed. “We had no choice! I need him to wake up now!”
“Hey,” She said softly. “Do you know who I am?” Alistair shook his head, no. “My name is Pandora Gray. I’m Alistair’s older sister.”
“You’re mom’s sister too?” Alistair’s eyes widened. “You’re my aunt?”
“Yes sweetheart, I am. So I need you to trust me when I tell you that your uncle will wake up.” Pandora stroked his hair. “Don’t be worried. He is strong.”
“You better be right!” Alistair exclaimed. “We need to save my parents.”
“We’re on your side,” Pandora confirmed.
“That guy too?” He pointed to the man seated by Alistair’s lifeless body.
Pandora let out a sigh. “It’s complicated.”
I groaned. My head was pounding. All I could remember was launching a spell at that imaginary friend…”Alistair!” I exclaimed, jumping up. Where was he? Was he alright?
“The boy is fine.” I looked up to see a man. One I had never met but knew so much about. “You’re not. You need to rest.”
“You need to buzz off!” I said angrily. “Where the hell is my nephew?”
“He’s fine. You’re lucky that I intervened when I did, otherwise you’d be dead and that boy would have been all alone.”
“You’ve been screwing with my family for so damn long. Funny that you’re here, right when things get serious.” I scowled at him.
“Well, of course I am. How can I destroy you, if you’re already dead?” Mason smirked. “What? I’m kidding. Can’t you take a joke?”
“You’re not joking,” I spat. “You’re being an insufferable ass. I know all about you-”
“You know all about me?” Mason spat. “No, you know nothing of me. What you know, is what I want you to know. Mark my words, Gray. I am in control.”
“You torture my family and expect me to stand down? You’re launching this entire attack on my family, and for what? For a future that’ll never happen? All you’re doing is destroying Oasis Landing! My great grandmother didn’t choose you. Move on!”
He stepped forward and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t flinch. “Is that what your father told you? This has nothing to do with Athena, and everything to do with the guardians. My interference is only because of their interference. Am I really the bad guy that you all think I am? What do you know of me outside of your family’s lore? You know what the guardians have told you, and of course they’d paint a terribly gaudy picture of me.” He took another step forward and I stepped back involuntarily. “Xerxes brought you to Moonlight Falls and just left you there. You were promised to him, just as your father was promised to Frost Bite and your grandfather before him was promised to Emit’s guardianship. You are human beings. Excuse me for thinking that you should lead your own lives.”
“You think I’m going to trust what you say?” I seethed. “Shut up.”
“I can see it in your eyes. You agree with me. The guardians have to be rid of their control. Damian has to be rid of his control. I guess, Altiere now has to be rid of his control.”
“Let me guess.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “You can help me with that? You help me obliterate Damian, the Guardians and Altiere, and then you assume ultimate control?”
“It doesn’t have to be like that,” Mason began. “You could stop me before I take control. It’s entirely possible. You’d have six generations to do so. My gripe doesn’t happen until the tenth generation of Grays are around. Think of the army you could build.”
“You must think I’m an idiot,” I said.
“I’m only joking. I would never assume control. World domination isn’t my thing, really. I don’t care about what happens to the rest of the world, I just want what’s rightfully mine. For you to never exist.”
“Why would I agree to that!?” I exclaimed.
“You’d have already lived your life fully, and your kids would have as well, and so would their kids after that. I’m going to see to it that the explosion at Lunar Lakes that is supposed to happen several hundred years from now doesn’t get stopped. Lunar Lakes will be destroyed and the Grays will die out completely, whether you want to help me or not. I’m giving you a pity resolution. I’ll get rid of those pesky interferences in your life so you can live normally. For your daughters, don’t you want that?”
“Don’t bring them into this,” I growled. “I won’t accept your help. You’re not going to get away with any of this. You’re stupid if you think the Grays will just stop. We won’t ever give up, and we won’t help you either.”
“I have a son,” Mason said carefully. “And I’ve done everything in my power to protect him. I’ve even made sure that Emit would give him another chance so he could experience the love story he deserves. I assume you’d want the best for your children’s futures.”
“If it’s up to you, they’d have no future. You want us to cease to exist, or stop existing, whatever it is! Why? Didn’t you loved my great grandmother?”
“I want to exterminate the Grays from ever expanding. I will keep trying every generation to do this, unless you agree to align yourself with me. If you make a deal with me, you’re guaranteeing your family another 6 generations before the end. I won’t bother you anymore.” He took a few steps back and held his chin. “If the Grays are destroyed, the future will change drastically, which will then force Emit to alter the past to destroy any discrepencies. Your great grandmother caused one of those descrepencies. She stepped into the portal and entred the future. That gave me the perfect opening to enact my plan. I wanted to destory the future, yes. But my resolve has changed drastically since then. So, Emit was forced to use her and her family as a weapon against me, it’s what started this whole mess. We then got together and had a child, your grandfather’s brother, Caleb. That shouldn’t have happened because in her time, I wasn’t born, yet I was living an anomaly. And then, my brother got involved and they got married and had more kids and those kids had kids and the cycle kept repeating, and here you are. I need to eradicate the Grays to balance time. To fix the mistakes I’ve made…that my family has made. You’re not supposed to exist, and it expands even past the time imbalance within yourself.”
I took a deep breath as I watched the man pace. “You’re telling me that you’re really the good guy in this entire situation? That you’re trying to destroy my family’s life, for the greater good?” I let out a bitter laugh. “This is some sick joke.”
“The world is crumbling down around you. Don’t you see it?” Mason asked. “Damian’s unending rule? He’s not even supposed to be in power! Moonlight Falls had always been run by the keeper from each major suppernatural occult. Declan’s father isn’t supposed to die, Hayden, Robin, Miles, Patrick…none of them are supposed to even know each other. Your great uncle’s girlfriend died because of this entire discrepancy. There is no doubt that more will die. More wunrest will arise because of the hole that is open in the timeline. We have to stop it. You’re mistaken if you think that I won’t be losing just as much as you.”
“Why?” I muttered, watching him. “Why tell me all this? Why now?”
“You know better than anyone how it feels to be a stranger in your own world. Part of me wishes that I could hold onto her, onto our family…what could have been but it was never really a good fit was it? It was what I created, what I manipulated. It’s why she chose him when she was free…” Mason stared into the distance, deep in thought. “I’m tired of seeing those memories, things that could have happened that never should have been in the first place. The Grays as we know them should never exist…it’s only a matter of time until the world collapses entirely because of things never meant to meet interweaving into each other. They say, be careful what you wish for, right?” He began to rub his eyes, and despite his young features I could see years of wear and stress eating away at him. “It’s nothing personal. You seem like a upstanding gentleman. But, those time distortions affecting you? Imagine that happening to your kids, and their kids after that until finally, time is blurred and nothing exists. It’s because I love your great grandmother that I can’t let any of this happen.” He motioned around him. “SHe deserves a future for her kids that is stable. And, I’ve finally resolved to giving that to her. Once the Grays are gone, the past will be forced to change and Athena will never have gone to the future to begin with and she’d live a normal life and have kids of her own…with someone else. Someone from her time.”
I stood there, mouth open wide in surprise. What just happened? Was any of that true? Could I dedicate my life to helping end my own family’s? I rubbed my temple as I tried to make sens of it all. My life had not ever been easy, and neither had my father’s or my grandfather’s before that. We have all suffered unimaginable loss. I lost something so precious, my time, my family… my father lost his childhood when he was forced to grow up and take on Damian. My grandfather before him lost out on raising his sons. We were all living, breathing people but we stood for something so hopeless and impossible. It explaiend why I always felt so out of place. It’s because everything was out of place. Yet, the thought of wiping out my family to rewrite the past made me sick to my stomach. I’d never exist, my family wouldn’t exist…but neither would the pain. “I can’t make this decision.”
“You need time, which even the best of us don’t have.” Mason sighed.
The pulsating of my thoughts stopped when I saw familiar purple hair bouncing towards me. “Big Al! You’re okay!” He glared at Mason. “Don’t hurt him.”
“We’re just talking.” Mason lifted his arms up in surrender. Watching Alistair, I wondered how Mason could expect me to be okay with the little monster never existing.
“You better be,” Alistair snarled, and then clinged to my leg. “Why did you use so much magic!? Lution is a tool, you could have taken him out with a simple blast.”
“I’m sorry,” I laughed nervously. “I was angry, so I kind of took it out on him.”
“You almost killed yourself! Mom would have been so mad!”
“You mean you weren’t worried?” I teased.
He looked away for a moment. “Well, yeah of course, but don’t get any ideas. We’re not friends or anything!”
“Mhmm, that’s not what you were saying a few minutes ago,” Pandora said, coming into the picture.
“Pandora!?” I exclaimed, rushing toward her. “What the hell happened to you?”
“I’ve been with Mason, we’ve been working together…” Her voice trailed off as she saw me frown. “He told you about his plan?”
“It’s reckless, stupid and-”
“You feel it, don’t you?” She frowned. “The sense of loss, as if you don’t belong anywhere. Even amongst the smiling faces and happy chatter of familiarity, all you see are strangers and foreign places. It’s not always, but sometimes I’m just so uncomfortable in my life. The time discrepancies are affecting me, I get so sick and I just feel a whole bunch of things, like theres a weight being pushed down on my chest. It’s only going to get worse. The others don’t feel it because they weren’t part of the future like us.”
I pulled her into a tight hug. “Is this what you want to do?”
“I can’t let the future be destroyed. I love you all so much Al, and this is a huge decision, but I can’t sit back and let it go to hell. Mason raised me, I’ve seen the change in him. It’s real. He found these documents that belonged to his parents. He wouldn’t tell me what they said but they made him change his mind completely. He’s been working towards fixing his mistakes for years. I’ve been here the entire time.”
“I have so many things on my plate right now,” I cried. “Damian is trying to kill me and my husband. Altiere took my children-”
“Rickie is trying to kidnap dad,” Pandora added. “What? I’ve been watching you all. I can…well I can time travel. MAson has been teaching me, so I can watch everyone’s timelines. You’ve beendealth a pretty shitty hand.a
“Rickie is trying to kidnap dad? Damn it, we have to get to them!” I exclaimed.
“Time doesn’t run there like it does here,” Pandora explained. “So we’re going to cause a time distortion, and hopefully with the safeguards Mason and I placed up, you’ll enter Moonlight Falls significantly after Altiere has returned your girls. I will deal with dad and the triplets.”
“No,” I stated coldly. “I will not go through that again. How many years are going to be shaved off my life?” I demanded. “I’ve barely lived because of these time distortions! Everytime it happens, I lose a part of myself. I cam here to stop them.”
“Alistair, it’s for the greater good,” Pandora tried to explain.
“I’m so sick and tired of the greater good!” I shouted. “I’ve fone so much for the greater good apparently. I was forced to have vampire children with some psychotic vampiress! My boyfriend lost all of his magic! Our grandfather Lucas died! What more can I give to the greater good? I have nothing else to give!”
“Alistair…” Pandora held her hands out to me. “Please, listen to me. Getting your girls back from Altiere was an excruciating process. We cannot guarantee that when you return as time stands that they won’t be corrupt by Altiere. The future we’ve set up guarantees their safety. Of course there are some hiccups but that’s a given with anything.”
“Hiccups?” I held my breath. “Of course. What are they?”
“You have a deal with Altiere. Well, Declan does actually. Because you know, someone has to raise those girls while you’re here. Anyway, every summer they go to stay with Altiere because mages don’t know how to raise vampires or nurture their powers. Before you freak out, Patrick is there to mediate everything and watch the girls. Altiere isn’t really evil, he’s just jealous that he can’t have Declan and he’s a bit overdramatic. Damian is who you really have to worry about.”
“You’re freaking kidding me!” I exclaimed. “First of all, Patrick is dead.”
“No he’s not. Patrick never died,” Mason said, approaching us. “It just looked that way. Patrick was forced to work for Damian. Altiere freed him from that servitude. Patrick works for him now, and he stays low because he’s ashamed to face Sienna.”
“She loves him,” I said. “That wouldn’t change. She’d be happy to see him.”
“As he does her,” Mason answered. “But it’s not so easy. I suggest you talk to him yourself to find out more. Also, you have nothing to worry about with Altiere. His only goal all along was to get a purebred vampire heir to help him dethrone Damian. You have that heir, and she won’t go against you, so neither shall he.”
“What about Alistair?” I clutched the boy’s red shirt as he stood in front of me. He looked startled, trying to take in all the new information. “He has to go back to his parents.”
“He can’t,” Mason said. “It’s too dangerous to go back there. Besides, we can’t. We have no imaginary friend to connect us there.”
“Then how will Pandora go back to confront them?” I asked. “Can’t she take Alistair back?”
“I’m the one connected to Rickie,” She stated simply.
“I’m not leaving you,” Alistair said. “I want to continue our adventure.”
“It’s dangerous,” I told him. “There’s no way. You’ll lose some years off of your life.”
“We don’t age passed young adult,” Alistair confessed. “Once we turn 18, we always look 18. We don’t get wrinkles or anything like you. I’m an imaginary friend still, not a human. Dad is always going to look younger than mom, even when she’s really old.”
“Can they die?” I asked, instantly covering my mouth.
“Not by old age,” Alistair said. “But they can get killed by other things. One being killed by losing the person they’re connected to.”
“Who are you connected to?” I ask. “Since you were born an imaginary friend.”
“Thats whats so interesting about him in particular,” Mason said. “He is an imaginary friend, born and not created by the toy maker. He has no connection to another human, at least not one a regular imaginary friend would have. it’s why they want him so bad. They’re trying to run tests on him, specifically to check his anatomy and see if they can reprodsuce imaginary friends that do not depend ona connection to thrive.”
“I don’t want to go back,” Alistair said. “I am not an experiment.”
“I can’t take you,” I said sadly. “And I haven’t even agreed to go myself.”
“You’re going,” Mason said. “You have to.”
“What? No. I didn’t agree to anything,” I said.
“I’m not giving you a choice,” Mason said. “Not this time at least. I’m launching you into your regular life and then I won’t bother you until I come to harass your kids. By then, if you haven’t told your kids about my plans I’ll assume that you don’t plan on working with me, so I’ll go back to ‘motivating’ you to change your mind.”
“Are you sure he’s not a villain?” I asked Pandora.
“No, he isn’t,” She answered. “His tendencies are less than conventional, but his intent is good. He wants to save the future.”
“I don’t think wiping us out and starting over is going to do us any good,” I said finally. “There has to be another way to do this and I don’t think that Mason, or the guardians have the solution.”
“You’ll thank me for this later,” Mason said suddenly, placing his hand on the small of my back.
“What are you doing!?” I exclaimed, dropping to the floor. A vision? No, a time distortion. “You’re an ass, Mason!” I shouted through clenched teeth. “I will not be your play toy! Pandora, wake up!” I dropped to my knees and tried to steady myself as I watched the world around me change.