Alistair looked at the empty spot. The bed was made perfectly. Alistair had done that himself. He didn’t have a real reason. He just…needed to do something. Anything, so he didn’t feel so numb. Burke was gone. The merman had took their unborn son and left. Alistair didn’t even try to stop him. What would he say? There was no going back from what he had said. His heart was in another place, and no matter what happened, how many kids Audric gave them, he couldn’t pretend any longer. He didn’t love Burke. He thought with enough patience, he could learn. But the moans and intimate contact did nothing but make him feel emptier inside. Burke wasn’t Declan.
In a way, he was glad to finally be rid of the man. Not because he had despised him. No, Burke had made things easy for him. Alistair would often awake to a warm bed, a nice meal, a funny joke…things that made him feel less alone. Those were nice. What he was really happy about was that now Burke could live a happy life that he deserved to have. He could find someone that loved him. Truly loved him. And their son.
“Vice.” That was Burke’s last kind deed, naming their son what Alistair had suggested on a whim. It sounded like a strong name. He wanted his family to be strong. Burke took it to heart, and even leaving him, declared their son…yes, their son, would be called Vice Gray. Unless he chose to change his last name when he was old enough to. “Vice,” Alistair mumbled. The name flew right off of his tongue. He wasn’t ready to raise another child. Normal people would have been staggering with walkers, smiling and laughing with their grandchildren. Now? He finally understood Lucas. This keeper job was a burden, not a blessing. Immortality was worthless. Everyone around him aged, while he stayed up, planning, researching, scouting. Day and night.
“Are you ready to go?” His dad leaned against the door frame. When had the man gotten so tired? Deep haggard wrinkles bore into his skin. Years and years of stress, piled onto the man who only held on for his son and his home.
Alistair shrugged. “It’s now or never. These peace talks have to happen sooner or later.”
Ethan placed his hand on his son’s shoulder. “You know what I really mean.”
“Declan will be there.” Alistair drew in a sharp breath. “After years and years of trying to run the Grays out of town. Our family having to hide…now, he’s just going to be there in front of me.”
“If you’d like me to go in your place today, I will be more than happy to, son.”
Alistair shook his head. “I have to be there. For my people. For my family who’ve been wronged. I need to kick him out of power once and for all.”
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Ethan resolved. “If I can’t get you to stay back.”
“I can’t promise that, dad.” Alistair shut his eyes, thinking of Declan’s soft skin against his own. His lips against his neck. The way he smelled when he just came out of the shower. “If I have to…I don’t know.”
“You call me if things get out of hand.” But Ethan knew his son could handle himself. He had been Keeper of Magic long enough. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Alistair leaned up and kissed his father on the cheek.
Alistair stared at the castle. For all he knew, he was walking into a trap. And, he didn’t doubt it. He had potions with him, and a new spell he had perfected. The past two years, things had settled down immeasurably. Alistair knew not to trust that as safety. After his children left, Declan withdrew all warrants and bounties for the Grays, declaring anyone who harmed the family, an enemy of Moonlight Falls. It was strange. Until Alistair realized there was a plan. There was always a plan. And as much as he wanted to bail out on today’s meeting, he wouldn’t make his people look bad, and he wouldn’t let Declan think he couldn’t do something as simple as sitting in the same room as him. And if things went bad? Well, Alistair would just have to fight his way out. He steeled himself and walked into the massive foyer.
“What I’m saying is that we need more resources allocated to the werewolves!” The fiery red head slammed her fist against the desk. “With all due respect, your highness, we’re struggling.”
Declan held his hand up, silencing the girl. “We’ll discuss that in a moment.” His eyes wandered to the brunette, hovering by the doorway. “Welcome to the party Alistair. You’re late.” There was a hint of amusement in his eyes, like firecrackers dancing.
Seeing the pink haired male perched upon his throne caused a fire in the pit of Alistair’s stomach. But, he would be strong. “Carry on. Miss Xepher has some good points she’s bringing up. The werewolves need more resources.”
Lizbeth looked at Alistair and nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Gray. My people are starving out there.”
“Let me get this straight, you misfits,” Declan’s gaze made it’s way across the whole room. “Want my help after you openly tried to declare war on me, and remove me from my throne?”
Brandon North, the fairy of the hour, raised his arm. “Sir, that was the keeper of magic. It had nothing to do with the fae. We stayed out of the war efforts when the elves and mages were planning your destruction.”
The Elven leader spoke up. “Mind your words, Brandon. The former leader may have sided with Alistair, but we have not. We stay loyal to our king.”
Lizbeth sent a sad look towards Alistair, but agreed with the men who spoke before her. “The werewolves swear our allegiance to you, your highness.”
Zander was quiet, not looking up from the papers in front of him. “And you Ogyron? Where does your loyalty lie?”
“It’s clear it’s with you,” Tristan, the Elven man spoke up, looking at Declan. “We’re all aware of what happened between him and Alistair’s daughter.”
“Our daughter,” Alistair snapped, locking eyes with an uncaring Declan. Millie’s bright pink hair and skin constantly reminded him of the man. It was a surprise to him that the man didn’t constantly think of his own flesh and blood as much as Alistair did.
“Mr. Gray,” Zander began. “I love your daughter, and my daughter.”
“Now is not the time, Zander,” Alistair said through gritted teeth. In theory, they could talk later, but this wasn’t a conversation he ever wanted to have with the man who broke his daughter’s heart.
“Sir, I made a mistake-”
“That’s what Moonlight Falls is, isn’t it?” Alistair demanded, looking at the faces in front of him. All of them…”A whole bunch of damn mistakes, where no one gives a damn about who they hurt. Where people will literally sell out their partners and children for some damn power.” He balled his hand into a fist. “You five?” He looked at the faces around him. “You’re the biggest mistakes this damn town has to offer! Lizbeth and Zander, your fathers gave up everything to help my cause. And Dionysus was instrumental with the elves. The fairies? At least they were neutral. You have a duty to protect your people and fight for what’s the best for them, not settle on meager scraps!”
Declan stared at Alistair with an expectant look on his face. “Well? You said us five. I’m waiting to hear what you have to say.” The room grew deathly silent, and even Alistair gulped. Had he gone too far? No. This needed to be said, no matter what the consequences.
“You’re the biggest fucking mistake. Of my life. Of my children’s lives. My grandchildren. You are a sorry excuse for a person.”
“Sir!” Brandon shrieked. “This man speaks ill of not only you, but all of Moonlight Falls.”
Declan chuckled. “And he will be punished for it. The taxes for the mages have just increased. Any other words, Alistair?”
“Why do you have to take it out on my people? It’s not them insulting you, it’s me.” He was livid. Taxes had become increasingly high already in town. People just couldn’t afford anymore.
His eyes seemed to say, because I know that’s what will hurt you the most. “The werewolves will need to get their resources somehow. Xepher, you can thank Alistair here for the kind donation. Now, what were the other issues up for debate in this peace treaty?” The room was silent. “Anyone? What do the fairies want? I’m a giving man. I’m sure I can help you.”
“We just want our land back from the elves. They’re always hunting on our sacred grounds. How many bloody deer do we have to find in our gardens?”
“It’s the forest, you can’t lay claim to it!” Tristan argued back. “Besides, the elves have been here longer than the fae.”
Declan nodded. “He is correct. The elven people have resided there for an eternity. I will not kick them out.” He dismissed the fairy. “Zander, what can I do for your loyal subjects?”
Zander looked at Alistair, nervously. His whole life, Alistair had taught him about the resistance and how to be strong. It wouldn’t help his people to side with Alistair, but it wouldn’t be right not to. It’s what his father had given his life up for. It would be what he gave his up for as well. “Our people want to shoulder half the taxes that you’ve imposed on the mages just now.”
Declan played with the hem of his pants. “Is that so? You make bold claims for your people.”
“We support each other,” Zander answered. “As citizens of Moonlight Falls, we don’t feel as if we should be differentiating between groups. All for one, and one for all.”
“Very well. Consider it done.” Alisitair’s eyes widened. No, that had been easy. Too easy. The menacing man who had been chasing him down all this time, was simply dismissing his own law, and allowing the vampires to take on heavier taxes? Declan’s eyes bore into Alistair. “What do the mages want?”
“Your highness!” Brandon cried out. “You can’t seriously be considering helping out a man who called you scum.”
“I rather like Zander’s speech. All for one, was it? If there is something in my power, I will grant it.”
“We don’t need your resources,” Alistair practically growled. “We’re doing fine.”
“You’re going to let your pride stand in the way of your people’s happiness?” Declan asked. “Is that what Lucas taught you to do?”
Alistair felt that numbing feeling once again in his chest. Had he just brought up Lucas? Lucas wouldn’t give into Damian. So, he wouldn’t do the same with Declan. “My people don’t need favors that we have to pay for.”
“You grovel,” Declan growled angrily. “For your people. You grovel so that they get the chance they need to survive. The others in front of you are sucking in their pride to help their people.”
“No.” Alistair shook his head. “They’re giving up. I won’t. I’m supposed to just forget that my daughters are gone because of you? That I’ll probably never see my grand kids again? I don’t give a shit what you offer me. I will never give in to you again.”
Declan smirked. “Alistair, I’m impressed. But your people will die with a leader like you. Sometimes, begging isn’t week. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive.” But, survival wasn’t everything. Sometimes, you just had to sacrifice it all.