Charlotte shut her eyes, drawing in a breath. “I don’t need to see her, Ade,” She snapped harshly.
“She can help you,” Adeline said. “You’ve never had a vision before.”
“And so she’ll know? How can we trust her?” Charlotte demanded.
“Please calm down,” Erik begged.
“I will NOT CALM DOWN!” She shouted, her voice reverberating through out the whole room.
Jeff having put the kids down to sleep popped his head into the room. “Babe, can you not yell? I just put Waverly to bed. What’s up?”
“I want to see Adele about this whole vision thing,” Adeline said. “I don’t like it. I get that Charlotte wants to be careful, but I haven’t sensed any ill will from Adele.”
“She’s usually a good judge of character,” Jeff said, glancing at his wife. “Please consider it?”
“But…” She bit her lip, looking into her fiance’s eyes. “I don’t want to.”
“Someone’s coming,” Leon said simply, turning the page of the comic book. He slid it in front of Graciela. “Your turn, read for Mr.Cage.”
She tilted her head. “What do you mean someone’s coming?” She looked towards the stairs. “I don’t hear a thing.”
He pointed to the front door. “They will ring any moment, give them a second.”
“How do you know that?” She asked.
He simply shrugged. “I’ll read for Veronica, you read for Mr.Cage, deal?”
“Wait, Leon,” She said. “Are these people bad people?” Her arms flew up to cover herself. She remembered the time she had spent in a cell, locked away with her best friend and Uncle Caleb. At least she had met him, but she didn’t want a repeat of that time. Fortitude had already made her very uncomfortable, with the exception of her new friend.
He looked up at her impatiently, wanting to get back to the book in front of him. “I don’t know, I just know that they’re there-” The bell rang silencing him for just a second. “There they are. Want to see them?”
“No,” She stated simply.
“I got it!” Her father called, rushing down the stairs. He let out a sigh of frustration. To say he was stressed with everything happening was an understatement.
“Where are you going?” Alistair grabbed onto the man’s arm, halting him. “You’re not going anywhere, Declan. I want to hear your explanation and so do our girls. You owe it to them.”
“I don’t owe them a thing,” Declan said. “Not a single thing.”
“You do,” Alistair said. “And more.”
Astra cradled the child in her arms. Quinn was right. Magic, and just like that, without any pain, the two kids existed. It was strange, seeing her daughter and having to pass her off to the man she had now despised. But deep down, she knew that Audric’s words were sincere. He had loved her, and would care for their daughter. She just couldn’t forgive someone who tried to use her dad against her, and her whole family. “I think I’ll name him, Knox,” She said, oblivious to their arguing. “I don’t know, I just like it.” She watched the way he twisted in her arms, the perfect innocent creature…
“I don’t,” Declan said harshly, ignoring Astra’s words. “You want to pretend like we’re some kind of happy family but we’re not. This whole thing is bullshit. I don’t belong here.”
“Enough,” Ethan said harshly. “Can’t you just be a man for once? Even Audric saw through your charade. Moonlight Falls is sealed shut. You can’t return, and here you aren’t king. You’re just some person in the crowd, so if I were you, I’d learn some humility. Because right now, the only two people who will give you the time of day are Alistair and Astra. You can’t rise to power without your puppet master, Altiere.”
“That power was power that I had earned on my own,” Declan said. “If you think Altiere was the one pulling the strings, you’re just as stupid as I thought you were. I brought you back from the dead, don’t forget how that would have killed your father if he did it.”
“I will ring the bell, this is their house right?” Astra asked, bouncing Knox in her arms. She was trying so hard to block out the fighting, that it was making her feel numb. This was her new reality. “Audric said that Char lives here right? It’s a good place to start. She’ll be happy to see us.”
A second later, Jeff opened the door, pushing a stray piece of hair back. “Hi, how can I help- Alistair?” He looked around the group. “Wow, okay. It’s not that I’m not glad to see you, but Astra has a baby now, you’re supposed to be guarding Moonlight Falls, and Declan is right there and Char is not in a good mood today. She will explode if this man comes in our house, with our kids.” He rubbed his temple. He could have been more couth with his answer, but words seemed to fail him in the face of shock.
“I really don’t want to be here,” Declan stated calmly. “Nor did I want to see your face.”
“Well, geez. Thanks. It’s nice to know I have your support.” Jeff lowered his eyes. “I’m going to need an explanation.”
“Declan has things to explain to all of us,” Alistair said. “About his involvement with Altiere, and we have new information about the war efforts in Moonlight Falls.”
“I…” Jeff shook his head. “This doesn’t seem off to you, Mr. Gray? The man who chased us out of our home and made our lives a living hell, yours especially, is standing here and you don’t even seem to care at all.”
“Because Alistair’s biggest flaw is his heart,” Declan said. “It’s going to get him killed one day.”
“What about yours, hmm?” Ethan crossed his arms over his chest. “You’re going to sit here and pretend like you don’t care, but you obviously do. I’ve been around longer than you, bud. You’re here. You’ve stopped your assault on our family….everything you do is an act. That’s what you do, right? You act to hide your true feelings, and when someone gets too close, you betray them? Or is that part of the act too? Because Astra seems to swear that you mean no harm.”
“He doesn’t, how could he?”
Adeline gently pushed Jeff out of the way. “I knew I sensed you, Declan.” Jeff shot her a look and she shrugged. “I had to see what was taking you so long, and I felt my dad’s presence. We have to discuss this vision.”
“We have to discuss a lot,” Alistair said. Adeline nodded and tossed her arms around him. The air was tense, and she was dreading what would happen when Charlotte saw the visitors. “We should call Millie and Zayne.” Then, she hugged Ethan. Astra took a step back from her sisters, holding on to Knox tightly. Adeline didn’t push the issue.
Jeff nodded. “Right, I’m on it.”
“Charlotte,” Alistair said again. “Give him a chance to explain.”
“Dad, he just told you to your face that he’s a bad guy!” She shouted.
Alistair sighed, sitting on the couch. “If he really was a bad guy, he’d have told me something else. Right?”
“There is no need for me to lie,” Declan stated. To Alistair’s insistence, and it was an intense insistence, Charlotte agreed to hear the man out. Not because she trusted him, because after her dad’s bombshell about who had commissioned Declan, she needed to hear everything. Though, she wanted to crush the traitor’s confidence. Every time she shouted at him, he didn’t flinch. It was like, he truly didn’t care.
“Just tell them the truth,” Adeline said, snapping her fingers. “Stop protecting me. I’m not a child. I know that when you lie there are consequences. So just tell daddy and everyone else about who the real monster is. You, Audric, or me.”
“Wait…” Astra began. Knox had awoken from his slumber and was crying out. “Oh no, Sweetie. No, don’t cry.” Charlotte could see the panic rising in Astra’s voice. “What do I do?” Alistair outstretched his hands and took the child from Astra’s arms. She wasn’t ready to be a mother. But he didn’t like the idea of repaying Dio for his help by tossing his child to Audric and whatever he had planned. In fact, Alistair didn’t like anything that was happening. Things had just gone in a downward spiral and he could do nothing to stop it. He couldn’t fight a dimension watcher. He couldn’t even defeat Declan.
“He feeds off of your energy, remain calm,” He told her, gently rocking Knox in his arms. “Now, Adeline tell me what you mean.” He gave her a forced smile. “Please don’t tell me another one of my family members is wrapped up in this nonsense.”
“I worked closely with Altiere, with your permission,” She stated. “You do remember that, correctly?”
“Yes, I do.” He nodded. “I was under the impression that you were feeding me the right information.”
“I was feeding you information that dad was feeding me,” She answered, glancing at Declan. “It was information that would keep us at a safe distance from Altiere without actually engaging.”
“He is not your dad,” Charlotte cut in. “He didn’t do anything for you. Besides, what do you mean without engaging? I almost died!”
“He did everything for me, and for you. Everything he could,” She stated. “But we all know that everything is not always good enough.”
“It’s never good enough,” Alistair muttered. “Just spell this out for me, please. I’ve had enough of these confessions to last a whole eternal lifetime.”
“You think we had to stay with Altiere early on because dad was trying to help out Altiere, but that wasn’t the case. He was really trying to help me. He didn’t know about what Altiere was that early on. We found that out later. Both of us worked behind the scenes to get information from Altiere. We told you what you needed to hear to keep the morale of the people up, but we didn’t want you to get too close to defeating Altiere, because we don’t know who or what he is. We were simply there for information. ”
“Damn it, Ade,” Charlotte cried. “You mean we could have beat Altiere? We were close?”
“You might have angered him. I noticed early on, that he identified as purebreed, but he wasn’t. He had the power, but I could feel that he wasn’t who he said he was. I was protecting you all, by finding out as much as I could and filtering it to you in safe amounts. The people of Moonlight Falls needed a leader. Dad,” She looked at Alistair, “The mages, the vampires, even some of the werewolves look up to you. You are needed in Moonlight Falls to keep the hope going. I couldn’t let you potentially get hurt. And Char, I didn’t know Altiere would capture you! I….” She bit her lip. “I wasn’t working with him then. He had barred me out. I think he knew what we were doing.”
“Charlotte,” Jeff whispered. But, he could see in her eyes that she was lost to him. “Hey.”
“You mean to tell me that you told dad you were helping us, but you weren’t? You could have exploited Altiere’s weakness!”
“I don’t think he has one!” Adeline shouted back to her sister. “That’s why I didn’t say anything. Because you’re too brash. You jump into things! You have children, they need their mother.”
“I didn’t back then. And what about those ten years?” She focused her glare on Declan. “What about those ten years of absolute agony? The witch hunt for the Gray family? We’re going to pretend that didn’t happen? How do you fit into all that, after you pulled away from working with Altiere?”
“That’s the only thing that doesn’t make sense,” Ethan muttered. “Those ten years keep biting us in the ass. What happened?”
“We didn’t live with you guys,” Erik muttered. “We got married and lived on our own.”
“We lived on our own too,” Zayne said. “What does that mean?”
“Adeline was always safe, those ten years,” Astra recalled. “You were never afraid, and you were Altiere’s target for the longest time. You should have been the most frightened of all of us. We couldn’t even go out alone. Moonlight Falls went to total shit.”
“The witch hunt was a show.” Adeline looked to Declan, but he didn’t respond. “It needed to happen. Because if dad didn’t assume the power and control that he did of Moonlight Falls, Altiere would know that everything was a lie. Declan was supposed to stay inside until he found out what Altiere’s weakness was. Over ten years, and we’re at square one.”
Alistair stood up on shaky legs. Ethan took the sleeping baby from him. “Adeline…what were you doing for those ten years?”
“Communicating secretly with dad. I told him where you were, when you guys were doing things. But he didn’t hurt you, right? It was just a scare tactic.”
“A fucking scare tactic? To you maybe, you entitled princess.” Tears welled up in Charlotte’s eyes, she was so angry. She fiddled with the diamond ring on her finger. “This ring, do you see it? I was supposed to get married over ten years ago, and I couldn’t because of this little ‘show.’ You are my sister, my twin sister. You got to live threat free with your husband, because you were working with Declan, and we literally had to walk on eggshells. Your intentions could have been the purest in the fucking world, but you didn’t live the life that we did for ten years. Jeff and Millie and Astra and Zayne, they don’t get to live as long as us. Those are years they’ll never get back. My kids have a horrible childhood to remember.”
“I…” Alistair held his head in his heads. “I don’t know, if this is what you really did, Declan. Because I don’t think you’ll ever tell me the truth, but Charlotte is absolutely right. The end does not justify the means. You may have never found out the truth about Altiere, yet you’d still be ruling Moonlight Falls this very second, causing people to fight and beg and steal, because you wanted information. Was it really information that you wanted and not power?”
“Daddy,” Adeline whispered.
“Don’t,” He snapped. “You’re an adult. But of all of my children, I never for a second thought that you would be the one to betray my trust.”
“I did this for our family,” She cried.
“You lied. You had tools and access to things we could have used, but that is the least of my worried. You willingly gave information about us to Declan and Altiere because you needed to solve some mystery. No discovery is more important than your family. We had kids with us. You crossed the line.”
“Daddy, wait,” She tried again.
“I don’t know why I was expecting some kind of heroic answer from Declan that would sweep me off my feet. Instead, I got punched in the gut twice. This is not the man I married, and you are not the daughter I raised.”