“Thank you for coming,” Alistair said softly, gazing at the red haired merman. “I don’t know how I’d fair alone right now.”
“Of course.” Burke nodded. “You know all you have to do is call and I’ll drop everything.”
“You shouldn’t do that,” Alistair said. “It’s dangerous. And-”
“And what?” Burke smiled. “If it was so dangerous, you wouldn’t have kept in contact with me all this time. You’re being as cautious as you can. I mean, not even your kids know that we’re seeing each other.”
“We’re not seeing each other,” Alistair mumbled.
“Oh, right. It’s just meeting up every once and a while after you tell your kids you’re getting alchemy supplies, and having sex.” Burke’s eyes danced with amusement. “I’m not a dumb-ass, if there wasn’t a spark, I wouldn’t be screwing around with the man who has got the biggest target on his back. This right here.” He motioned between the two of them. “Is seeing each other. You just don’t want to say what we’re both feeling. I’ve come to terms with the fact that you won’t admit it until Declan is finished. So, I’ll wait it out if I have to.”
“You need to stop,” Alistair said. “I invited you here to help me watch the kids. I have a lot on my mind. i don’t need this extra baggage.”
“Right, I’m the one with baggage. Me…not you.” Burke shook his head. He wasn’t offended, just annoyed that Alistair wouldn’t say those three words. No. Their meetings were more than hook ups. It was meaningful, but every time Burke uttered those words, Alistair froze up. Yet, he kept calling him back for more. So what did that mean?
“Just uh, give me Waverly.” Alistair took the toddler from his arms. “Go and play with Pax. I just need a minute to think, alright?”
“Oh thank goodness!” The woman, grabbed her husband’s arm. “Please tell me these are who we think they are.”
The man’s grip on the woman tightened. “If it is, we’re in some serious trouble.”
She shook her head. “Please tell me that you guys are part of the Gray family. Please.”
“We might be,” Jeff said. “It depends what you want with us.”
“We want your help in finding our daughter,” The woman cried out. “Please, just help us find our daughter!”
“Sabeana, get a hold of yourself!” The man’s voice was stern. “They’ll lead us right into trouble.”
“Trouble is where our daughter is!” Sabeana nearly shouted. Her outbursts had reminded Jeff of his wife. He looked over at her and tried to give her a small reassuring smile. The nerves didn’t leave her body.
“Is your daughter missing?” Jeff asked.
“Yes,” Sabeana answered. “We know that she has been hanging around with your uh…what is little Gracie to you?”
“She’s my daughter!” Charlotte exclaimed.
“Char, calm down,” Astra said. “Please?”
“I will not calm down. I want to know what the hell this woman involved my daughter in!”
“I understand that you’re worried, but I’m looking for my daughter too! Please, let me explain!” Sabeana shrunk back in fear. “I know Graciela only by name. I’ve never met her in person, Nerissa forbade it. She said that Graciela made her promise not to bring us there.”
“Just spit it out, we don’t have time for this!” Charlotte was now baring her fangs, and not even Jeff could stop her if she tried to bite down into the woman’s scaly flesh.
“Ok! Please, just listen. Your daughter wanted supplies. Things like blankets, dolls, clothes…Nerissa was going to give all of her stuff to Graciela, but we wanted to help. Your family is going out of the way to stop this disaster that’s happening in Moonlight Falls. My family usually stays in the deeper parts of the forest, but this time we had to step forward because this dictatorship is getting out of control.”
“Let me take over from here, Sabeana. I love you to death honey but the woman is right. You need to get to the point.” He looked at Charlotte. “We decided to purchase new supplies to give to your daughter. We sent it with Nerissa, earlier tonight.”
“You sent your daughter outside at night by herself?” Charlotte asked angrily.
“You don’t understand,” The man said. “Nerissa looks like a fairy, but she isn’t one. She is a nymph. Camoflaouge and agility is her specialty. She could have handled this.”
“But she didn’t, did she?” Jeff asked. “So now both of our daughters are gone ebcause you left this to two eight year olds instead of coming to us, the adults.”
“She made us promise,” Sabeana cried out. “She said that Graciela would be in danger.”
“We’re past danger,” Jeff said sternly. “Do you know who has our daughters? Altiere, Declan…I don’t know whoever runs this freaking place.”
“Why would he want two little girls?” Nerin asked.
“He doesn’t. He wants my wife,” Jeffrey said. “To get to her, they need something she cares about, and to get to Gracie they needed your daughter.”
“What are we waiting for then? Let’s go and rescue our daughters if you know where they are,” Nerin said.
“Absolutely not,” Charlotte said. “I cam here to see if you had anything to do with this whole fiasco. I’e come to the conclusion that you guys are terrible parents, but I don’t think you’d intentionally hurt your daughter. I don’t sense any malice. Charlotte looked to Astra who nodded in agreement.
“This is something that Astra and I have to do alone,” Charlotte said sharply.
“Char,” Jeff began. “Please, don’t…just don’t go alone.” She could hear the desperation in his voice.
“There won’t be a repeat of last time,” She said. “I was unprepared, but now they have my daughter.”
“She’s right, Jeff,” Astra said timidly. “They’re probably at the castle, in which case…our dad will be there.”
“I know that you don’t want to lose me, Jeff…but I have to do this. Okay? I just need to know why he did what he did. Why he left us.” She looked over at Jeff who was now standing in front of her. He knew he couldn’t get her to change her mind. She hugged him tightly. “I promise I will be okay. I love you.”
“He can stay with us,” Sabeana said. “If anyone comes, we can redirect them or something.”
Charlotte glared at the woman. “I will murder you if anything happens to my husband.”
“Char, you said husband again.” A smile grew on Astra’s face.
“Right..well, you know what I mean.” She shook her head. “If Jeff is harmed, I will kill everyone that is important to you…don’t you dare thing I wouldn’t.”
“Okay, babe?” Jeff rubbed her arm lovingly. “Maybe save that anger for Declan?”
Caleb looked around. The walls hadn’t changed. They were still the dark corroded brown color. The floors hadn’t either. They were colder perhaps, but he was still in some kind of cell. He thought about how long it had been since he had been imprisoned here. Only about a day or so. “Again,” He murmured to himself. “This feels familiar somehow.” He looked over to the two girls who had been placed in the cell with him. They were children, but he couldn’t tell how old they were. he one with wings sat up slowly and blinked her eyes. “What the…?” She looked around, but didn’t seem to find what she was looking for. “Mom? Dad?”
“They’re not here, sweetheart.” Caleb tried to sound as calming as he possibly could, but his voice was quivering. Something wasn’t right. He shouldn’t have been here. It was happening all over again. He was in…another life? “Do you know where you are?” She shook her head. “Can you tell me your name?” He could see the tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
“My name is Nerissa…” She had finally caught sight of the other girl. “Gracie!” She flung herself onto the girl. “Wake up! I am so sorry, this is all my fault!” Then, she realized what was happening after all.
“Please cam down.” He tried to soothe her, but her friend’s unresponsiveness seemed to only make her more anxious. He couldn’t blame her. “My name is Caleb. Maybe I can help.” He crawled over to the girl known as Gracie and placed his face near her chest. “There is a heart beat. She’s alive…just passed out.”
“Oh thank goodness, I thought…oh no.” She wiped her eyes with the bottom of her teal shirt. “I’m a bad friend.”
“Not a bad one, just one who needs to be more careful. Seriously…” The young girl was sanding ow, as if she hadn’t even been passed out at all. She felt his eyes on her and turned to face him. “There is a human here.”
“How can you tell” Nerissa whispered. “He could be a mage, you know.”
“My dad is a human, remember? Of course I know.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I need to know your name, where you’re fro, how old you are, where we are and what we’re doing here.” She looked at th man expectantly, and all he could do was laugh. “This is not funny.”
“No.” He wiped the corners of his eyes. “It’s not funny. Not at all. I’m sorry. y name is Caleb.”
“Caleb what?” Graciela demanded. She looked to Nerissa. “I’m going to see if I recognize his last name as one of the bad guys.”
“The bad guy wouldn’t be in the cell with us,” Nerissa said.
“He would if he was smart, you know?” Nerissa shook her head. “Whatever Nery. I still need to know.”
“My name is Caleb Gray.”
“So you and grandpa are like…” He tried to remember the word Camilla had tired to avoid using the last time he saw her. “Mad at each other but do things?”
“What are you trying to get at?” Burke asked, raising his brow.
“You can’t hide it from me. I’m really smart. You should just admit that you’re doing things that Camilla doesn’t want me to know about.”
“Who is Camilla?” Burke asked.
“Oh no, I’m asking the questions here, Burke. Especially since you and Grandpa think you are so sneaky!” He smirked at Burke. “Auntie Astra was mad at Dio and then they went upstairs for a long time and din’t come back down till morning. Camilla said they were being gross. You and grandpa were just fighting and now you’re going to do something gross.”
“Your Aunt did something gross with you there?” Burke asked in shock.
“I guess so, that’s what Camilla said!” He exclaimed. “She said it was like wrestling but like..with no clothes on. Please don’t naked wrestle my grandpa. That’s weird.”
“Pax!” The boy turned around to see his grandfather, bright red.
“I know that you’re in charge, but naked wrestling is so weird! Why do you have to take your clothes off?”
“We’re not naked wrestling.” Alistair rubbed his temple. “It’s time for you to go to bed now.”
“That’s what Astra said before she naked wrestled Dio-”
“Pax, bed…NOW,” Alistair demanded.
“Spell it again,” Graciela challenged.
“G-R-A-Y,” Caleb repeated slowly. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“I’m not five years old, okay? I’m a really smart vampire. You can’t fool me. You aren’t a Gray.”
“He could be, Gracie.” Nerissa motioned towards his hair. “Pink like Pax’s, yeah? You said it was weird because no one in your family had pink hair.”
Graciela’s eyes widened in shock. “No, impossible. He is a human!”
“What’s going on?” Caleb asked.
“Her last name is Gray too,” Nerissa said. “You’re probably related.”
“Us? Related?” Caleb asked. “She’s right. I’m a human. It doesn’t seem likely.” He thought for a minute. Where…rather, when was he exactly? “Who are your parents?”
“Who are yours?” She challenged.
He sighed. This one was a difficult one. “Athena and Levi Gray. We lived in Lunar Lakes for most of my life.”
She shrugged. “Never heard of them.”
“Her parents are none other than Charlotte Gray, your…well, let’s see. How can I break this down for you? Your nephew Apollo’s granddaughter. And her dad is your good friend, Jeffrey Bennett. You know, your wife’s brother? That one.” Declan smiled.
Caleb didn’t have time to answer because Graciela was already scowling at the guy. “Hey, idiot. Let me go!”
Declan shook his head. “No, I don’t think I will.”
“My mom will kill you,” She answered simply. “Like tear your head from your body.”
“She wouldn’t do that to her step father,” He said. “Because she wouldn’t put me in the position to kill my granddaughter.” He looked at her menacingly but she didn’t back down. She wasn’t afraid of him. He wasn’t the darkness.
“Grand daughter? Hold on here.” Caleb took a moment to sort out his thoughts. “”My nephew Apollo had a child, who had a child…that would be this Charlotte girl. And she had a child, who is your grand daughter?”
“It’s complicated,” Damian answered. “You’ve been gone a very long time.”
Caleb put a protective arm in front of Graciela. “Well that changes nothing. I was going to protect these girls regardless. I guess I have more of a vested interest that I know that she’s family.”
“You look like an idiot,” Declan said.
Caleb looked at Nerissa and Graciela. “I think he’s jealous that my pink hair actually looks good.”
“Cute,” Damian said. “He’s a charmer.” The vampire rolled his eyes. “When is Mason coming to pick him up? I’m looking forward to being rid of him.”
Declan shrugged. “HE should be here soon, I relayed the message.”
“Funny, a few generations ago it was him proposing the alliance,” Damian commented. “But that was when he had nothing but a hatred for the guardians to offer. Now, we might actually be in business.”
“All it took was this fool…can’t imagine what Mason would want with him though. He seems to be missing a few screws.”
“Ouch, hurtful,” Caleb mocked. “I can hear you guys.”
“Don’t worry, because when Mom gets here he is so dead.”
“I hope she comes soon,” Nerissa answered. “I want to go home.”
“I’m sorry for dragging you into this mess,” Graciela said.
“It’s okay. I’m sorry for getting caught,” She answered.
“It’s okay.” She shrugged. “Sorry for being mean to you, Uncle Caleb.”
“I don’t think I’m your uncle,” He said.
“Yeah but it’s too complicated to call you like mega ultra great uncle guy,” She replied.
“Well, yeah. I guess that’s true. You can just call me-”
“Enough!” Damian hit his arm against the cell, causing the three to jump back. “One more word out of any of you, and someone is going to get hurt.”