“Everyone is here?” Ethan asked. “Ok, good. Hopefully both Alistairs will know where to find us.”
“I hope my son is okay,” Scarlett said. “Please, let him be okay.”
“You know your brother would not let anything happen to him,” Ethan said. “He’s a very powerful mage.”
“Man, what I’d give to see the little bugger again,” Ken said. “How much time has passed? I’ve been locked up for a really long time.”
“This is my fault, isn’t it?” Bailey asked. “I shouldn’t have followed Amelia.”
“We should have all listened to dad and not brought our imaginary friends to life,” Ken said. “It’s all our faults.”
“Why couldn’t we get lucky and have someone like Night be our imaginary friend?” Bailey asked.
“Guys, don’t dwell on the past,” Ethan said sternly. “Right now we have to focus on saving our family and getting out of here.”
“Where will we go?” Bailey asked.
“First, we’re going back to see your father, and then what you do from there is your choice. I’ll be moving to Moonlight Falls with Alistair.”
What about dad!?” Bailey asked.
“He’s more than welcome to come with me if he wants to,” Ethan said. “Though I prefer he stays safe in SUnlit Tides, I don’t think I could live without him.”
“What more do you want from me?” Pandora asked. “I did everything that you told me to. I brought my brother and nephew here, I let you spew your lied without interruption. Please, just free him. Please.”
“Oh, your little boyfriend Allen?” Mason asked. “Absolutely NOT. You didn’t do as you were told. I said to kill your father. Do you remember that? He’s alive again, and until he’s gone and cannot teach his ways to his bratty son, we’ll have a deal. Until then, Allen will rot in my cell.”
“Please,” Pandora begged. “You made me shoot my father! I allowed you to speed up time for my brother and nephew! What more do you freaking want from me you monster!”
“I’m not a monster. No, I’m your father, and that’s why you’re as manipulative as you are now. Because I raised you, and I know just as well how your twisted mind works. You had the choice to kill your father or have your love destroyed by me. Obviously, we can both see how you really feel about Ethan.”
“Shut up!” Pandora shouted. “Just be quite! He was more of a father to me than you ever were!”
“Than why would you kill him to save some boy? or, he isn’t a boy anymore. He wasted his whole life in a cage when you could have let me kill him myself.”
“Stop!” Pandora yelled.
“Go to your pathetic family, but just know that if they leave Imaginationland alive. I will kill Allen. Goodbye sweetheart.”
Ethan had excused himself from the group once he noticed a familiar speck of purple hair in the window. “Rickie.”
“Ethan. Why are you running?” Rickie asked. “We belong together.”
“You realize that I’m an adult, Rickie. I’m much older than you. I will age and eventually you will die once again. Just break your connection with me and you can stay here on your own without me,” Ethan said.
“Without you? How can I live without you?” Rickie asked. “The last time I was without you was torcherous. I spent my whole life trying to get you back. I love you Ethan!”
“If you love me, you’ll let me go back to my family,” Ethan said. “I have grandchildren now. I need to go and find my son.”
“Your son is gone,” Rickie said. “I can’t sense his presence here anymore. There’s someone else, Mason actually. And a girl.”
Ethan felt dread wash over him. “No. Damn it, no. Rickie. You need to move out of my way now. I have to leave and stop this from happening. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.”
“You know that hitting me with a spell won’t actually kill me, right?” Rickie asked. “Just like Lution isn’t dead from your son’s blast.”
“Yeah, I’m aware of that,” Ethan said. “But it’ll hurt like hell and you’ll have to leave for a while, won’t you?”
“What gives you that idea?” Rickie smirked, absorbing the fire Ethan shot at him. “You can’t hurt me here. But, tell ya what. I’m not a complete meanie, you know. Mason doesn’t want you to go to your son. Something about the bigger picture. He told em that you were mine to do with as I please. As much as I want to torture you, it’d be much more satisfying to crush that little bug. So, go back to your son but you need to promise me that you’ll come back to me. Or else, those children of his? They’ll get tainted imaginary friends like your triplets.”
Ethan clenched his teeth. “Are you threatening me? I’ll come back, as long as you let me go now. I need to find my son and get my family back. If you promise to target me and only me, I’ll come back to you.”
Rickie smirked. “I trust you, babe. I’ll be back for you, okay? And, that Apollo guy better not get in my way either, because trouble will follow.”
Ethan stopped walking and clutched the hem of Rickie’s shirt tightly. “Apollo is the most important person in my life. If you so much as look at him, you will have hell to pay, I promise you that.” Ethan dropped the man and turned to leave. “I promise I’m coming back.”
“Pandora?” Ethan asked in shock. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh daddy!” She threw her arms around him. “I made a mistake. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t mean it!” She began to sob violently.
Ethan pulled his daughter close to him and began to rub her back soothingly. “You do stupid things for those you love. I’d do anything for your father, so I can completely understand.”
“No,” Pandora said angrily. “I turned on you when you were the one who took care of me when nobody else was there. I had no right to do that.”
“Pandora,” Ethan said softly. “Don’t you remember what happened? I was the one who told you to shoot me.” He whispered the last part so only she would hear. “We can have this discussion later, but I am not angry at you. I don’t want to alarm your siblings. Right now, we have other things to worry about, like Alistair.”
“Why the whispering?” Ken asked. “I really think we need to stick together now more than ever.”
“You’re right.” Pandora nodded. “We need to go save Alistair.” She but her lip, trying to hold back the tears. Mason would kill Allen after she tried so hard to protect him. But, she couldn’t let her family down again. Not this time. She clinged to her dad’s arm. “He’s back at Moonlight Falls, with your son, Scarlett.”
“Oh thank the watcher, they’re alright, aren’t they?” Scarlett asked.
“Yes, and no,” Pandora said. “Yes, they’re both safe. But I had to force Alistair into a time distortion. I convinced Mason that it was the smart thing to do, but honestly, it’s the safest bet for him. I convinced Mason that it was a time distortion, but honestly…he’s failed to realize that time moves much slower here in imaginationland. Mason doesn’t age naturally because he jumps timelines. So, he hasn’t noticed the time difference yet. There is no doubt that he will soon enough, but for now, I had to tell him and the boys that it was a time distortion. In a sense it was, because I manipulated the timeline so that when Alistair returned he aged the same amount as he would have before this trip. Both boys aged properly, so when you see your son Scarlett, he’ll be much older. The rest of you guys will stay the same age because it’s dangerous to chanage too much.”
“Are you saying I lost out on my son’s childhood?” Scarlett cried out.
“Don’t complain,” Pandora said sharply. “Alistair returned to find out that his two infant daughters were raised by his boyfriend. Do you know how hard its going to be to raise those kids to treat him like their father? They’ll never forgive him for not being there. It was different for you guys, even though Ethan came late into your life, you always had Apollo. These girls didn’t know their birth dad and even worse, he has two more daugthers he didn’t know about. He’s lost out on so much time.”
“This sucks,” Bailey mumbled. “Why did it have to be like this?”
“We’re Geays,” She said firmly. “We’re not supposed to exist. Our great grandmother changed the timeline so our lives are a bit more difficult. Things are trying to realign themselves, but people like Mason and the guardians are causing rifts. None of what is happening should be happening. We’re literally writing our own time lines as we do things.”
“Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?” Night asked. “We make our own lives.”
“Yes and no,” Pandora said. “Yes, we do make our own decisons that can change the life already planned out for us. We have a set structure, beginning, middle and end that changes with each action that we do. Our timelines are constantly changing but at the same time it is controlled by the time keeper so that one decision doesn’t change the world as we know it.”
“What does this mean for us?” Scarlett asked.
“I need to take you guys back home to dad,” Pandora said. “He’s alone and he probably missed us.”
Ethan frowned. “He’s going to be much older than I am. He aged considerably from when I died and now after all this time…” He rubbed his eyes. “I don’t want to think about it. Aging puts you closer to death and I don’t want to lose him.”
“Dad,” Bailey said softly.
Ethan shook his head. “Don’t worry about me. I have a lot of things to keep my mind busy. I’ll be going back to Moonlight Falls to teach Alistair how to be the keeper of magic. He has to take over and lead the mages to prosperity. No one else can. But, it’s dangerous there for the rest of you to follow me. There is a harsh dictator and some serious underlying political unrest that Alistair doesn’t know about. I will get your son back to you Scarlett.” Ethan couldn’t push back the promise he made to Rickie. He needed to return to protect his family, but he also had a duty to Alistair and all of Moonlight Falls.
“You guys!” Alistair complained. “Seriously?”
“What?” Declan smirked. “We’ve already established that I can’t keep my hands off of him.”
“Al,” I began, rolling my eyes at Declan. “What is it that you needed to speak about?”
“The book,” Alistair said. “The ending of the story. Doesn’t it bother you? We don’t have the book anymore!”
“Alistair,” I said. “I told you that was just a story. It was a coincidence.”
“No it wasn’t,” He shook his head. “The main character’s name was Alistair and he was fighting two evil vampires.”
“Well only one of them is eveil,” Declan said.
“I don’t fully trust Altiere, considering he took my daughters in the first place,” I said.
“He did it because he needed to ensure an heir to lead the vampires here. Just like one day you’ll be the keeper,” Declan explained.
“How did everyone get through without a keeper for this long?” I asked. “Do we really need one?”
“Sienna and I have been taking care of things. My leadership, her powers,” Declan explained. “The mages just need someone to look up to. That will be you soon enough. The same thing with the vampires and the werewolves. Things have changed, but I promise everything is table.”
I frowned at Declan. “You really think Altiere won’t turn on us? It doesn’t make any sense to me, if Damian is the headmaster, why does Altiere get to choose the heir? Why not another vampire?”
“Altiere is choosing someone to go against Damian. Altiere is a lot of things, but honestly, he hates Damian> He’s been trying to take him out for years. He needs to rally the vampires together and a strong and relatable leader is necessary. The girls are his blood, so they vampires will get his expertise without having to see his face.”
“Because he can’t be trusted,” I finished.
“He’s made some mistakes in the past, but Altiere would not have stopped until the girls were his. He gave them back to me, but…they started to experience things. These intense thirsts for blood and plasma juice wasn’t satisfying them. I didn’t know what to do, I was so scared and when I found out I was pregnant, it became too much for me. I wanted them to be safe and Altiere had the answers for me,” Declan sighed. “I monitor them, and Miles watches them from the shadows. I would not put your girls in danger, Alistair.”
“Yawn you guys,” Alistair said. “I get it, a lot has changed but, what about me?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “You stay here with us.”
“I don’t want to,” Alistair said. “I’m all for staying with you, but…nevermind.”
“Yeah, it is,” Alistair said. “I don’t like you. You’re just assuming that Alistair is going to mend into the world that you created for him. He doesn’t need you to do anything for him. He’s really strong-”
I put my arm on Alistair’s shoulder to silence him. “Al, I don’t feel like Declan is making me depend on him. He’s held fort until I returned. That doesn’t mean anything.”
“Don’t you see it?” Alistair asked. “You have to save everyone. You can’t play house. We have to find the last few pages of the book!”
“Playing house?” Declan asked. “He’s an adult. He has a family to take care of, kid. You may not understand that but-”
“But what?” Alistair asked angrily. “What about grandpa? He managed to keep his family together and still save us. You can do that. Big Al, you are all I have. I trust in you, and there are people who need you. A story whose ending needs to be finished.”
I looked at Declan and I could tell that he was biting his tongue. I rubbed his leg and gave him a reassuring smile. “I’m not choosing sides. Declan is my rock. He keeps me stable and calm. You’re my nephwe Alistair, and you’re someone I really want to get to know and see grow. I promised your mom that I would protect you, and your comfort is my top priority. If you don’t feel comfortable, I want to fix that.”
Alistair stood up. “Forget I said anything. It isn’t my place to talk.”
Alistair stormed out of the room and was stopped by a small, cold hand. “You’re my cousin?”
“Huh?” Alistair looked down to see Charlotte. It was weird, he was just her age a few hours ago. “Oh yeah, I guess I am. My mom is your dad’s sister.”
“Is she nice? Your mom, I mean. We have Aunt Sienna here, but it would probably be nice to know that there’s more out there,” Charlotte said.
Alistair watched the small girl in amazement. He had felt the very same way when he found out that he had uncles, aunts and grandparents. Yet, here he was, alone again. Did he make the wrong decision in coming here? He thought him and his uncle would go on a crazy adventure to save the world, from whatever or whoever the villain was. But, he was still just a kid, without his mother. He wasn’t as brave as he thought he was. “She’s the best.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Can I ask you about my dad? Is he a good guy? Adeline is happy to see him, but I just don’t know him, so it’s weird.” Charlotte bit her lip, afraid of what Alistair would say.
“Uncle Alistair is a great person. He’s been nothing but supportive of me and he’s saved my life more than once. You’re lucky to have a guy like him as your dad. Declan likes him a lot too.”
“I know,” Charlotte nodded. “I just hope everything stays this happy. SOmetimes I feel like things are too good to be true.”
“Yeah,” Alistair nodded. “I can totally relate.”
“Astra sweetie, this is your other daddy, Alistair,” Declan cooed, picking up the dark haired toddler. “It amazes me that this little girl came out of me.”
“Lucas is just full of surprises,” i mumble, watching my boyfriend and daughter with pain written across my face. I couldn’t be a good dad when there was so many things being thrown my way. When would things quiet down so that I could be with my family without worrying about their safety? But, at the same time I was also upset about what had just transpired. There was an obvious discourse between my boyfriend and nephew.
“You’re upset about what just happened?” Declan asked.
I nodded. “He’s my nephew and I dragged him into this. Just a few hours ago he was a child and now he’s a teenager. He followed me because he thinks I’m some sort of hero, when I’m not.”
“You are,” Declan said. “You saved your siblings I presume? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You said you weren’t coming back until you rescued them. He looks up to you for an obvious reason. You’re amazing and everyone but yourself sees it.”
“I’m not, I’m a mess,” I said. “I don’t even know if I can take care of my children, since I failed to be here the first time.”
“They don’t blame you. I made sure that they knew just how special you are and just how much you were helping other people,” Declan said.
Declan held his hand up as my frown deepened. “Here, hold her.”
“I…” I shook my head. “I can’t. I don’t want to attach myself when I don’t know if everything has settled. They don’t need an unreliable father.”
“Since when did you second guess yourself?” Declan asked. “Stop it. You know damn well that you’re an amazing father. You’re even showing it with Alistair. Your patience astounds me. I’m being unreasonable and I’ll apologize to the kid for being a jerk. This must be a lot for him to take in.”
I nodded, taking Astra from his arms. “It’d mean a lot to him if you did that. I also need to talk to him. I’m all he has right now.” Astra made a sound, causing me to jump. “Ah, she’s so precious!”
“She has your eyes.” Declan smiled proudly. “She’s going to be stunning when she’s older.”
“Millie looks just like Sienna,” I laughed. “She has her pink skin and your brilliant hair.”
“You think my hair is brilliant?” Declan smirked.
“My great grandmother’s hair was pink and she started all of this Gray legacy nonsense, so I’m really fond of it.” Astra leaned her head against my chest and I listened to her small breaths. Children still amazed me. She had my genes…but then, I thought about what Mason had said and I wondered if putting more Grays into this world was actually a good thing, especially now that I knew the threats that were against my family. My children would have to face terror for something that had little to do with them other than their last name.
“What’s wrong this time?” Declan asked.
“Nothing.” I mustered up a smile and snuggled Astra close to me.
“I know you’re lying.”
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” I said.
“Last time you didn’t talk about it, do you remember what happened?”
“All hell broke loose.” I looked up at him. “I promise we’ll talk, just not now. This is all a lot to take in.”
Declan nodded and kissed my forehead. “I love you, alright? I’m here for you.”