Casey did not feel any better when he left Grandpa's room. He went back through the door that took him to the house he had created to find that Kim had a sleeping Mitch in her lap. He also noticed that she had fallen asleep while running her fingers through his hair. He stood for a moment looking at the current two most important people in his life. He couldn't really count a boyfriend/future husband that he hadn't even met yet. They both looked so peaceful and happy as they slept that he decided to leave them where they were, but changed the sofa they were on into a bed so that they were both more comfortable. He then turned around and went back through the door to the tower again.
He had planned to go to his room and spend the rest of the night but found that sleep was the last thing on his mind. Instead, he wandered, finding himself in the gallery at the top of the tower once again. He climbed up and looked out at the landscape for a bit, only turning away when things started to irritate his mind. "Grandpa, you said you couldn't tell me any more about what we are facing, but if I ask you questions, will you answer them?" he called out.
"Ask me and see," came the answer.
"When Mitch mentioned seeing the Time Wizard that you hate the most, my father's picture appeared, but he was a boy in the image. That means he has not been here, right?"
"It means he has not served as the official Time Wizard," Grandpa answered.
"Oh good, I thought for a bit there that my father was involved in this somehow," Casey said with relief. "I know he isn't a nice guy sometimes, but I really didn't want to know that he was part of this mess." Feeling much better about the situation now, Casey finally went to his room in the tower and fell asleep quickly. He awoke early in the morning though and rejoined his best friend and their son at the house in the forest.
"Your son is a bed hog," Kim was grouching when he stepped into the kitchen to find her staring at the coffee maker on the counter. "And you are going to die painfully the next time you don't leave me coffee when you disappear."
"Mitch could have given you coffee."
"I didn't want to wake him, ok," she said suddenly sounding very different. "I don't know how that amazing kid does it. Not knowing from one minute to the next if you will actually stop existing any second would scare the crap out of me. He just takes every minute he can get to grab all the love from us that he can."
"I think part of that would be because he never got it from us before, and part of it is just that he is, as you just said, an amazing kid. How could he not be amazing with you as his mother, though?"
"Ok, I must still be asleep after all because that sounded like a sincere compliment."
"Yeah, how many kids get to have Xena's ugly little sister as their mom?"
"Insulting me before you give me coffee is unwise," Kim growled.
"I think it has perfect timing," he told her as he handed her the steaming cup. "I insult you, and then I distract you with your drink of death, so you forgive me for whatever I said, no matter what it was."
"Forgiving does not always include forgetting," Kim warned him but she smiled as she sipped her coffee.
"Morning, Dad. Hi, Mom." Kim and Casey turned to see Mitch stumbling sleepily into the kitchen. They both hid their smiles and snickers at the fact that the boy was wearing a fuzzy one-piece pajama with a hood that made him look like a living teddy bear complete with the little ears on the hood. He made his way over to his mother and grabbed her coffee taking a sip and then making a horrible face. "Yuck! You don't put all the yummy stuff in yours that Dad does."
"I don't drink coffee, Mitch," Casey pointed out.
"Yes, you do, Dad," Mitch corrected. "You love coffee, but you like it flavored. Papa says you drink syrup with a little coffee flavoring. You always drink it the same way for breakfast though. You won't let me steal more than a sip or two from your cup, but I know just how you make it." A couple of moments later a steaming mug was in front of Casey as well. "Here you go, Dad; one breakfast special, just the way you like it."
Casey took a tentative sip of the drink and his eyes shot open wide. "Oh my God, this is awesome! What did you put in here?"
"You fill the cup almost two thirds full with your special kind of coffee, then you squirt a big blob of caramel syrup into it, and then fill it the rest of the way up with real milk, not the creamer stuff," Mitch answered. "Did I make it right, Dad?"
"I don't know if you did or not, since I never had it before, but you sure made it good," Casey told him, pulling the boy into a tight hug. "You, my little teddy bear, are one really awesome kid. Thank you."
"I don't know why my pajamas turned into this," Mitch blushed. "I had a pair like this when I was a baby I know. There's a picture of me wearing them and being held by Mom with you and Papa standing beside her on each side. You keep it on the wall in your bedroom, though, not out here with the other pictures. It's one of my favorite pictures, though, because we're all in it, the whole family."
"Well, hopefully when you go back to your regular home, there will be lots of those instead of just one," Casey told him, before swatting his little rump playfully. "Now head back to work at the tower, little wiz, so we can get back to traveling."
"EEEWW Dad do NOT call me that," Mitch pouted. "That's what you used to tell me when you were teaching me to use the toilet. 'Let's go take a little wiz.' I'm fully potty trained now, Dad. Flashbacks are not appreciated." His tirade met with underwhelming success as both his mother and father were now giggling and repeating the phrase. "UGH, grownups have disturbed senses of humor. I'm outta here." With that' he and his cute adorable teddy bear pajamas stomped over to the door to the tower, but he did not slam it shut as much as he obviously wanted to do it.
"Do you think he knows how much ammunition he is giving me to work with when we go back home and I am raising him?"
"Excuse me, that is ammo he's giving US, and WE will be raising him," Kim corrected.
"Point taken," Casey agreed. "But remind me to somehow find him some Grumpy Care Bear pajamas someday."
"Done deal, bro," Kim grinned. "In the meantime, coffee time is over. Let's hit the road, or path in this case. WAIT!" she yelled suddenly. She made an exaggerated show of draining the last of her coffee and then standing up off the bar stool she was on. "OK, now you can disappear the house, Merlin."
"Thank you for your permission, milady," Casey bowed with a grin. The house disappeared just as it had the previous morning and was replaced with their two bicycles. "Your noble steed awaits."
"Mitch is right, you have a twisted sense of humor," Kim teased as she mounted her bicycle. "Oh don't forget to trade in your skirt for the gay boy spandex. I am going to have to ask Mitch next time I see him if you become a fashion designer."
"I do seem to have a flair for it," Casey mused as he watched his lower robe shift into the tight supportive riding outfit he had the previous day. "It might be kind of fun. My dad would go ape, though. He wants me to be a lawyer. UGH, boring."
"Really? See, I think being a lawyer would be awesome," Kim confessed. "Well, depending on the type of law you go into, I guess. Prosecutors aren't that different from being the barbarian or knight defending the realm from evil forces."
"Ok, Sir Biker Dyke, you be a lawyer, and I will design clothes for people with style."
"Watch it," Kim growled but she had a smile. "Besides, a female knight is called a Dame."
"A Dame? Seriously?" Casey snorted.
"What's so funny about that?"
"Nothing, I just think of this old musical I saw on tv once about people fighting in the Second World War and there was this one song that stuck in my head because one of the army guys dresses up like a girl for it." He thought for a minute, then hummed a little, and finally broke into song.
There is nothin' like a dame
Nothin' in the world
There is nothin' you can name
That is anythin' like a dame!
©Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers, South Pacific
"Casey, I really do love you like an extra brother, so I am saying this with love. Stick to being a fashion designer," Kim told him with a grin. "No more singing."
"How rude!" Casey pouted, but then grinned. "Actually, I know I'm bad at singing. I really like music, but I am crap at making it. I can't sing, I can't play any instruments. I can't dance either."
"Well, none of that will be a problem for you with my brother," Kim assured him. "He can't do any of that either. I've been telling him for a couple of years now that if he went into show business they would pay him to NOT sing or dance."
"Aww, that's mean of you," Casey scolded lightly. "Not that I'm surprised since it is you. Maybe once we get together he and I can take dancing lessons together or something."
"Oh that would never work," Kim scoffed. "You would wind up fighting over who had to lead."
"Hey, I can lead stuff," Casey pouted.
"This from the boy in a dress," Kim pointed out.
"I think I'm leading this rescue pretty well," Casey defended himself.
"If that's so, why have we gone past the same three trees six times today?"
"What do you mean? We haven't....." At that moment, Casey realized that they had indeed gone past those same three trees a number of times already. He also suddenly became aware of a presence in the air around them, a magical presence. "Something strange is going on here, Kim. I suggest we turn around and go back a bit and see if we can retrace where we first started to go off course."
"We can't backtrack now," Kim demanded. "We have to be getting close."
"Kim, we are so far off track now, we are never going to find the stronghold at this point," Casey told her a little louder than necessary.
"Oh, well, you are the leader of the mission," Kim agreed suddenly. "If you think we need to go back, then that's what we do, Boss." Casey knew she had gotten his unspoken message at that point. Once they had backtracked for about an hour, she saw Casey visibly relax then start giggling and laughing. "I only said it because you were spazzing out about something and I knew we had to get out of there if you said so. Do NOT let that go to your head, Princess."
"You called me Boss!" Casey squealed and then started laughing more. "YES! I can die happy now."
"I don't know about the happy part, but you are about to die now if you don't drop this whole subject and tell me what the heck creeped you out so bad."
Casey instantly settled down. "Your uncle is not alone in that fortress, Kim. There is a Time Wizard there. I recognize the feel of the magic, but it's twisted somehow, it's like being in the tower only it's all dark and cold and evil. I think we may be in over our heads, here. I don't know if we can do this just the two of us."
"Can Mitch help fight it?"
"No!" Casey snapped. "Mitch must not face that again. That's where I know that magic from. Whoever is in there with your uncle is the one that made Mitch forget stuff already. I won't let him face that again." He thought for a moment, and then added quietly, "That power was really strong. Whoever he is, he is much, much more powerful now than when he messed with Mitch's memories. He is stronger than even Tarien, I think. We may need an army to get to your brother at this point." Kim grabbed a sword from each of her shoulders, taking a defensive stance as Casey held his staff as if it were a shotgun at his hip when a large number of children suddenly appeared around them. They were all dressed strangely as well. They were wearing all matching outfits that looked like it was part robe similar to Casey's own wizards' robe, part uniform, and battle armor. Casey could feel the power from them all, but mostly from one in particular. He had wavy shoulder length dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and was holding hands with another kid who had silver-blond hair. One of the other kids had purple hair, and another had hair that was every color of the rainbow. They all had grim serious expressions on their faces. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" Casey asked.
"We're your army," the kid with the long brown hair announced simply. "You didn't think we would let the two most powerful Time Wizards since Tarien himself battle it out without backup, did you? All of the high races are invested in what is about to happen here, because if you don't shut him down, it will get messy for all of us. Galli has already fought one Time War, nobody wants another one."
"You are right, Casey," the blond who had been holding hands with the first kid announced suddenly. "He is far more powerful than when he first arrived here. While he was in the tower, he found a way to go to all of the former Time Wizards in your family history and drain their powers from them. He is the reason none of them were ever able to return to the tower after their turn. There is an evil inside him that has not been seen in a very long time. This will not be an easy battle for any of us, but it is going to be the hardest of all on you."
"You and your family will always have friends in us and our family, Casey. You have my solemn oath on that," the dark-haired kid told him. Even if Casey hadn't felt the incredible power in those words, he would have known that the kid meant business just from the look on his face.
"Well, let's get planning then, since something tells me that just walking up to the door won't work any better a second time than it did the first," Kim said sternly. She returned her swords to their sheaths, and then pouted a little. "Why is it always boys though? Aren't there any super powerful girls around anywhere?"
"We'll take that under advisement," one of the new kids giggled, but she couldn't tell which one it was.