They had only been settled in Moonlight for a few days. While Graciela wasn’t expecting anything easy, she surely didn’t foresee the familiar lilac haired elf, Audric, waiting for her family with yet another proposition. They were to take in some strangers meant to help with the darkness and in return he provided the big house with magic that kept them safe from any outdoor forces, including Altiere. To her parents, that was an offer they couldn’t refuse. “Today is the day,” Jeffrey clapped his hands together. “Audric doesn’t want to be seen so he left our guests in a safe location and they’re walking here.”
“Do they have to come?” Pax asked, groaning. “Mom says I have to share my room and there’s like 6 beds in there.”
“We have extra beds too,” Camilla said. “It’s fine, don’t be such a baby.”
“Uhm, actually mom said I can have my own room,” Graciela replied, lifting a finger in the air. “She doesn’t want me or the guests to feel uncomfortable with the way I sleep. You know, lights on and checking underneath the bed…” Graciela looked down in embarrassment. “They’re going to think I’m a freak.”
“Gregg will just turn into a wolf and eat them,” Waverly said, patting his sister’s back with a mischievous smile. “Right, double G?”
Gregg nodded, bearing his teeth for the group to see. “Settle down, Alistair and Ethan will be staying with us as well. So, even if it feels a bit crowded, there will be plenty of familiar faces. This is much better than what we had the last time we were here. We can’t really complain about this huge place. Anyway, Charlotte is doing some last minute preparations. I need you all to be on your best behavior and welcome our guests. They’re here to help your sister. This is for Graciela, so please.”
The kids exchanged looks with Graciela, all wearing a reassuring smile. “Of course,” Camilla said. “The only one who would have been nasty is where she belongs. So, all is good.”
“Jeff!” Charlotte shouted from the top of the stairs. “Will you please come up here for a moment?” She waited patiently for her husband as she picked at the old comforter on Graciela’s new bed. She hated tossing her daughter in a spare bedroom that looked like it was untouched for years, but there were six new people coming into their house. She was used to having a lot of people around but…this felt like she was running a hotel. The house was huge, a towering 3 feet with ample room for everyone but she was hoping it wouldn’t feel too impersonal. Especially not for her own children.
“What is it, my love?” Jeffrey asked, peeking his head into the nearly barren room. “Ah, the guest guest room.”
“It’s Gracie’s room now,” Charlotte said with an ever present frown. “The others have really spunky and cool bed sheets, with computers and couches. All Gracie has is a wardrobe and a drab bed.”
Jeffrey looked around the room. “We can buy new furniture. Besides, I think Graciela will love the bed with draws on the button. there’s no darkness. We can use some more night lights, but otherwise I don’t think she’ll mind finally being able to have a room to herself that she can retreat to when things get bad.”
“I know, I just want her to be happy,” Charlotte mumbled. “I figured a nicer room would help with that.”
“You’re a wonderful mother.” He kissed her forehead, sitting beside her. “The kids are lucky to have you. And me, even luckier.” He intertwined his fingers with hers and shut his eyes. “Do we have to go downstairs or can we sit like this for a bit?”
“The kids are old enough to handle themselves,” Charlotte mumbled, leaning against her husband with a smile.
The doorbell rang, causing Graciela to jump up and place a hand on her heart. “Is that them? Are they here?” She covered her face. “I’m so nervous! I don’t know what to do.”
“Answer the door, duh,” Camila said, jumping to her feet. She opened the door with little ease, and poked her head out. It seemed like an eternity but Gracie knew it was just a few seconds until the six strangers shuffled in. “Welcome to Casa A La Gray, Bennett, and uh everything else in between I guess. We’re a big family. My name is Camila, I was…adopted, by the Bennett-Grays along with that handsome little Wolf, Gregg.” Gregg lifted his hand and waved.
“I’m Pax,” the pink haired male lifted his hand to wave. “The annoying kid on the ground is Waverly,” Pax said, ruffling his hair with a wink. “And the girl of the hour, Graciela.” He motioned to his sister with his head. “Welcome.”
“I guess I’ll introduce us then,” The man on the far right said, lifting a hand up to wave. “My name is Tommy. The girl next to me is Mandi, the girls next to her are Winter and Adriana, and then there’s Owen and Jared. Owen, Adriana, Winter, and I are related.”
“We might be related,” Mandi mumbled, eyes falling onto the group of kids. “You said Grays? Why didn’t that elf tell me that I’d be staying with you guys? My dad is a Gray, I think. Mom never told me what he looked like or what his name was, but I know he was a Gray because I found this envelope once with the name scratched out, but I could just barely read the surname if I squinted my eyes.”
“We have a lot of human family,” Graciela finally piped in, finding her voice. “Uhm…we don’t really know them but we know they exist. Oh, I mean our dad is human and we have two toddler sisters that are human too. But outside of them, we just really know supernaturals.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Winter said with a giggle. “I always said that supernaturals have more fun.” She sent a playful look in Tommy’s direction.
“You’re telling me. I’m human, but boy do I know how a supernatural gets down.” He winked, letting out his own laugh.
“There are kids here,” Owen said. “Control yourself.”
“They didn’t know I was talking about my time with Velvet,” Tommy argued. “Besides, it was just a joke.She and I aren’t exactly on the best terms anyway.”
“Stop being so uptight,” Mandi told Owen, rolling her eyes. “You’re the one who said that to me back in…wherever we were.”
“It’s not a matter of being uptight. It’s a matter of respect for the people who are opening their home to us,” Owen challenged, lowering his eyes at the girl. “But someone as close minded as you wouldn’t get that.”
“I would appreciate if everyone got along in this household,” Jeffrey said, breaking the group from their discussion. He stood at the bottom of the stairs, an arm around his wife’s waist. “We won’t tolerate any fighting.”
“The last girl that did that is dead!” Waverly exclaimed, jumping up and down, waving his arms wildly. “Seriously, it’s true! So you better follow the rules.”
“Nerissa is dead?” Gregg asked, eyes widening. “Is that true?” He looked to Jeffrey and Charlotte who seemed to have their gaze trained on one of their guests.
Charlotte snapped her gaze away for a moment to look at the little werewolf. “No one is dead. She lives with her parents now,” Charlotte said. “Don’t worry about Nerissa. She’s happy and we’re happy.” She looked back to the six new faces. “Why don’t you guys introduce yourselves to us? I’m Charlotte and this is my husband, Jeffrey.”
Winter was first to speak up, not recognizing the tension that had formed in the room. “I’m Winter,” The vampire said with a smile and short wave. “Tommy, Adriana and Owen are my cousins. Thank you for letting us stay here. It really means a lot. We’re going to do our best to help in the fight against the darkness.”
“Thank you,” Charlotte said. “Both me and my family appreciate that with everything we’ve got. And how about you?” Her eyes fell onto the brown haired girl who wore a scowl on her face. “I get a strong vibe from you. I…I can sort of smell, your blood. You’re part of my family, aren’t you?”
“My dad is a Gray,” Mandi clarified. “I just don’t know which one…” She pushed her hair behind her ear nervously, showing her pointed ear. Then realizing, she gasped and pushed her hair back in front of it.
“You have ears like that and you still think you’re full human?” Owen asked, rolling his eyes. “Absolutely not.”
“You don’t know my life!” Mandi cried defiantly, crossing her arms over her chest. She looked over to Charlotte. “Someone told me I was part imaginary friend. I…I don’t know what that means.”
“I do,” Charlotte said with a nod. “Your father is my cousin Alistair Gray, er…Jr. Alistair Sr. will be teaching you all, but do not call him senior he’ll flip.” She smiled warmly at the girl. “Alistair is the only one who could have imaginary friend blood besides his sister Cadence, but I believe she got more of the human blood in her gene pool than Alistair. He was brimming with IF power. And had the pointy ears to boot. I’ll be happy to tell you more about him when everyone gets settled in.”
“Thank you,” Mandi muttered, looking down to the floor. “I’d appreciate that.”
“Of course, you’re family.” Charlotte nodded with a confidence Mandi wished she’d be able to have one day. “And you?” Charlotte’s eyes fell onto the orange skinned boy who said nothing but looked at her with eyes that read wonder.
“Oh, that’s Jared,” Adriana said. “He doesn’t speak, I don’t think.” She frowned but looked away when she caught the boy’s curious gaze.
“Well, that’s okay too,” Charlotte said. “Welcome to our home. Now, Tommy please say hello to your father before he bursts at the seams. I can feel his nervousness from here.” She took a step back from her husband who had been frozen in place, a look of distrust on his face.
“You…you know who I am?” Tommy asked incredulously. “That’s amazing.”
“I can’t smell your blood like I can Mandi’s, but Jeff is never quiet. Yet, he’s been frozen in this spot from the minute he’s seen your face. He talks a lot about his kids from the other dimension, so I just put two and two together. You’re Tommy, the one who he thinks I’d get along with.” She winked and patted her husband’s back, slightly pushing him forward.
Jeff was finding it hard to speak. He took in a deep breath and let one out. “You’re a different version of Tommy aren’t you? Not my son…a doppleganger?” Charlotte could hear the disappointment that laced his words. She really hoped that wasn’t the case. Jeffrey had stayed quiet in an attempt to block out an impostor from his heart.
“No,” Tommy said. “It’s me. Really, me. Not some dimension copy or something. Quinn brought me over from our dimension. You might not remember her, because she said you split when you…when you…” Tommy could feel the tears brimming his eyes. “Daddy, I thought you were gone forever.”
Jeffrey had no more words, he pulled his son into a tight hug and let the tears drain from his eyes, soaking his son’s shirt. “Tommy. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I thought that old life was dead and gone.” He squeezed him harder, afraid that if he released the boy he’d lose him again. “Tell me this isn’t some sick joke.”
“No, this is real life I think.” Tommy laughed, trying to lighten the mood. He felt elated to be seeing his father alive and well. “Audric said so at least.”
“I’m crying like a big baby,” Jeff muttered. “Your big bad dad.”
“Who hasn’t seen his son in a really long time,” Charlotte pointed out from behind him. “You’re not a baby, you’re the strongest human I know.”
Tommy pulled away from his dad and reached up to wipe his tears away, ignoring the ones that stained his own pale cheeks. “I can see why you like her so much, dad.” He grinned up at Charlotte. “Thank you for taking care of him. His last wife, my mom…”
“I know,” Charlotte said quietly with an affirmative nod. “No need to rehash the bad parts of the past. What matters right now is that I’m not her. I won’t ever be her. Your father is my entire world and no matter how hard I try to convince myself that I don’t need him, that’s not true.” She walked over to her husband and put her arm around him. ” I know there’s so much you guys want to say to each other, but it really is getting late.”
“Hold on!” Pax cried. “We can’t just go to bed now. Do you understand what’s happening? Our brother from another dimension AND our cousin just got here! That’s huge news, mom.”
“It is,” Graciela agreed. “We didn’t even know you existed, Tommy. Dad doesn’t talk to us about you, I think he doesn’t want us to get jealous.” She scrunched up her nose. “Daddy, you could have told us that you had a son somewhere else.”
“Those are memories that hurt your father,” Charlotte explained. “Because he didn’t think he’d see his family again. So he didn’t tell you guys about them. It’s nothing personal.” She pushed her bangs out of her face. “Why don’t you show everyone to their rooms? We can all discuss this as a family in the morning.”
“Mom…” Pax began.
“Tommy is rooming with you. You can talk to him there. Everyone has classes early tomorrow morning. Your grandfather, Ethan and Callen have prepared a big lesson for you all.”
“It’s good to see all of you,” Jeffrey said with a big smile, finally regaining his composure. “You have no idea how full my heart is. I feel like it might explode. But, Charlotte is right. You must all be tired. It’s very late. We can all catch up tomorrow at breakfast. I want time to process this miracle.”
“Okay,” Tommy said with a smile just as large as his dad’s. “Goodnight dad.” He kissed his father’s cheek and shook Charlotte’s hand. “Thank you,” He whispered to her before following the teens up the stairs.