Jason talked with his sister several more times the next day, trying to get her to remember any of the things he remembered, but she acted at first like he was still talking about his dream, then she got annoyed with him for not giving up about it. Finally, she was concerned that he was sick and had been hallucinating or something. This was when their parents got involved and Mom and Dad started in on him asking him about things he had shared with Kim. He didn't catch on quite quickly enough that he should stop talking and start acting as if it had just been a dream, and soon found himself at the doctor's office.
"Now young man, your parents are a little worried about your mental state, so we are going to take some blood and run a few other tests to make sure that nothing is going on up here in your noggin that shouldn't be, alright?" the doctor told him with an obviously fake smile.
What followed was a stay in the hospital where the doctor ordered that Jason have X-rays of his head, and something pretty new called an MRI. Jason didn't know what the letters meant, but he knew he had one humdinger of a headache after he got out of the big donut looking machine. It had been really noisy and the bed thing was very uncomfortable. Not surprising to Jason none of the tests showed anything wrong with him, as he knew there wasn't. Unfortunately, he overheard his parents and the doctors talking while he was faking being asleep in the hospital. The doctor said that as they could find nothing wrong physically with Jason that the problem had to be a mental illness and he was recommending a stay in the psychiatric ward. He would move Jason there first thing in the morning.
That was all Jason had to hear. He was NOT crazy. He knew that he had lived a different life than everyone around him wanted to believe. He faked taking the medication that the nurse brought into his room later that day and once she left, he got out of the bed, put his clothes on and walked out of the hospital. He had his birthday money that he had been saving up in his wallet, and knew from overhearing Uncle Clyde and the Magic Man talk that this kid Casey he was looking for lived in Branson, Missouri. He made it to the bus station in town with no trouble. Luckily for him, there was a bus leaving five minutes after he got there, which would take him to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he would need to get off the first bus, wait two hours, and then get onto another bus that would take him to Branson. He hopped on the bus excitedly, believing that he was going to solve this crazy mystery in his life.
He knew at some point, someone would start looking for him, so he kept to himself and didn't interact with the other passengers any more than necessary. He also spent the last of his cash on a t-shirt and some cheap sunglasses at the first bus station where he was allowed to get off and stretch his legs. He went into the men's room, switched to the new shirt, and tied the old one around his waist like a belt. He thought about throwing it away, but decided he might want to be able to change shirts while he washed one. The shades and the shirt came in handy as when he came out of the restroom, there were policemen in the bus station looking all around. With a heavy dose of guilt, he stole a baseball cap and hooded sweatshirt from the same little stand where he had gotten the t shirt and shades while the attendant was distracted by the commotion the police were making. He walked back out of the building and got on the bus, and hid in the bathroom until he felt the bus start moving again.
When he got to Little Rock, he got off the bus and making sure he had his ticket for the next bus in his pocket, he sat in the station to wait as patiently as a thirteen-year- old boy could for the two hours before the next bus would get to him. He couldn't help his stomach growling a bit though. He had spent all his money on the ticket and the clothes though, so he couldn't even buy a candy bar from the vending machine.
"Hey little man, your tummy sounds like a grizzly bear," he heard a voice speak softly as he stood staring at the candy in the machine. "What are you going to get?" the man beside him asked pointing at the device.
"Oh, I'm not getting nothing, I was just looking," Jason answered as he stepped out of the man's way.
"You sure about that Jason? You sound awful hungry to me and it's probably been a while since you had breakfast in the hospital yesterday morning." Jason whirled around to look and discover that the man was wearing a police uniform.
"I...umm...I'm not Jason, my name is.... Casey," the boy lied.
"Now don't go wasting your time trying to fib to me, boy," the officer told him. "We've got a full description of you with pictures back at the station. I know you're Jason Tremaine, and you're coming with me, kid."
"Yes, sir," Jason agreed sadly. "I'm not crazy like that doctor thinks. I just got umm confused by a really bad dream."
"Well, why don't we go discuss this a bit more on that bench over there, Jason," the man suggested kindly. "You know I have two sons about your age and I would be really worried if they ran off like you've done, but I would mostly want to know why they did it. What made you think this was the answer, buddy?" They sat on the bench and Jason explained that he had had a very wild dream where he had an uncle named Clyde who took him to someplace far away and his sister and her best friend came and found him so that he could go home, only it wasn't the home he remembered. "Well it sounds to me like you must really like this uncle to go to this much trouble to figure out what happened to him," the officer said finally.
"OH no sir, he was awful. He ra... did bad... he didn't treat me nice at all," Jason blurted and then tried to correct himself to not give away too much personal information.
"So you dreamed he did things to you, this uncle of yours?"
"Umm well, yes sir," Jason agreed thinking that he could continue to play it off as a dream and he would be ok.
"Well, I think I've heard all I need to, buddy. Let's go. I'm sorry about this, but the rules say I have to put these cuffs on you to take out to my car. I'm sorry about that, Jason."
"It's ok, I'm used.... I mean I'll be fine."
"Yeah, you will be, you will be real fine, little buddy," the man mumbled as he snapped the cuffs on the young teen and led him outside to the patrol car. Once Jason was secured in the back of his car, the officer came back into the building and spoke to the ticket agent who had been watching them the entire time they spoke. "Well, it looks like that wasn't the kid we were looking for after all. He was just waiting for his cousin to pick him up here. I just saw them off. It makes me feel real good seeing a boy where he needs to be."
"Yeah, I love seeing the families reunite in here, but I'm just an old softie," the woman smiled. "Can I get you a cup of coffee, officer? On the house."
"No thanks, ma'am. I have to go report in that the runaway kid is still missing," he replied with a smile. "You have a wonderful day now, you hear?" He walked outside and got into his car and smiled into the rearview mirror. "Time to take you home, Jason."
"I guess I'm in a lot of trouble now, huh?" Jason asked softly.
"Well, let's just say, you're about to learn why running away from home is a bad idea for sexy little sluts like you."
"What?" Jason asked in confusion. "Ummm wasn't that the police station we just drove past?"
"I've got a different cell for you, Jason," the officer answered still smiling. "Me and my boys are going to have a lot of fun with you."
"Were you guys prisoners at the dark castle, too?" Mitch asked the two boys who had just appeared beside him in the Time Tower. "I can get you home in just a second." He waved his staff at the wall of the tower where the portal had just been but nothing happened. "Ummm... maybe a couple of seconds," he said with a bit of a blush, waving his staff again, and then again. "Tower, why can't I open the portal?" he asked aloud, and then shook his head. "DUH! Like I'm going to get an answer."
"Well, normally I prefer if you say please when you ask me things, but because I feel even you deserve to be told what is happening face to face, here I am," Tarien spoke as he appeared in the room beside the three boys.
"Who are you?" Mitch demanded. "I'm warning you, I won't let you hurt these boys," he added as he jumped in front of Marty and Maxie, holding his staff in front of him defensively.
"I am not your grandfather, brave one," Tarien said with a sad smile. "I am your 28th great grandfather, and the spirit of this tower. I am most proud of the boy you have become since you made things right with your father."
"You're the one that made me walk into walls and stuff?" Mitch griped. "Thanks a lot, Gramps. I can see now that I better not ever have kids since mean old men seem to run in the family. I swear if puberty does this to guys I'm related to, I refuse to grow up again and be an as...er... mean guy." He corrected himself when he remembered the tiny little boy behind him.
"My apologies for sometimes using, I believe tough love is the correct term, to teach you a few manners that your idiot of a father didn't manage," Tarien told him.
"Hey! My dad isn't an idiot, well not anymore."
"I would have agreed with you up until a few moments ago," Tarien corrected. "It is why I came to you in person. I wanted to tell you how very sorry I am for what has happened, and to promise you that you can stay with me until your father gets his mind working again. Had you already gone back to your home, I would have been unable to spare you the consequences of his actions. However, since you were here inside the tower, your spirit is preserved until such a time as you can be returned to where you belong." He turned to the other two boys and smiled softly. "I can however open the portal for you two to return whenever you wish."
"What are you talking about? What did my dad do?" Mitch blurted.
"Casey, using far more power than even I thought he had, destroyed his father, who had used you to get into this realm so that he could gain his powers."
"That's a good thing, though, right?"
"Was this Casey's father the Magic Man that brought us here and hurt us?" Marty asked.
"Yes, brave soul, that evil man is gone and the others that he harmed have no memory of what happened to them here, as it has now never taken place."
"If it didn't happen, how come we're still here, and I still remember?" Maxie piped up.
"Your memories of this place and what transpired here will be erased once you step through the portal back to your home," Tarien explained.
"So why can't I go home, too?" Mitch prodded.
"Your father didn't just end his father here and now, he caused the man to die immediately after his own conception," came the answer.
"Oh that's bad," Mitch moaned.
"He also eliminated Clyde from existence completely."
"Oh, that's real bad," Mitch moaned louder.
"So the good guy with the barbarian lady stopped the bad guys," Marty repeated for clarification. "What's so bad about that?"
"Without my grandfather and Clyde in their lives, my dads will live very different lives," Mitch whispered as he sank to the ground. "It might even change things so much..... That's why I can't leave, isn't it?"
"As I said, at least you were here when he did it, so you weren't completely erased from existence along with Clyde."
"THAT LYING JERK!" Mitch yelled. "I should have known not to believe him when he promised things would be better and told me that he loved me. He never has liked me, and now he never will because I won't be there. I thought he finally wanted me." At this point, Mitch collapsed to the floor sobbing.
Maxie ran over to the crying older boy and dropped to the floor beside him, hugging him tightly. "It's ok to cry," he whispered. "I know how much it hurts when your parents tell you they never wanted you. Our mom told us to get out because we were in her way."
Marty joined the two of them, embracing Mitch from the other side. "Yeah, dude, sometimes parents really suck, but at least you got a place to stay and it's warm and dry here. When our mom threw us out because a customer told her he wouldn't do her with us in the apartment, we didn't have anywhere to go."
"You boys were not taken from your home?” Tarien asked the little ones.
"We was living in a cardboard box in an alley when Mr. Clyde and the bad Magic Man found me and tried to take me away. Marty wouldn't let them take me without him coming along, too," Maxie said as he looked proudly up at his big brother.
"I thought I could protect you, little bro," Marty sniffled. "I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to do that."
"You protected me best you could, Marty. It's not your fault they were really bad men."
“I cannot let you return to an unsafe environment," Tarien said as he studied the two younger boys. "Max, Martin, would you like to stay here with Mitch? I think he would benefit from having two little brothers around for a while."
"I can't ask them to do that," Mitch sniffled. "They probably hate my guts because I'm the reason they got hurt by my family."
"You didn't hurt us, though," Maxie pointed out as he kept hugging Mitch.
"You didn't even know about it, did you?" Marty asked.
"No, I thought they just had my Papa," Mitch assured them. "At least I don't think I knew about you guys. Gramps made me forget that he was involved, so he might have made me forget about other stuff, too."
"I don't think you knew about us, and if you did, him making you forget proves that you would have tried to help us if he hadn't," Marty told him. He glanced over at Maxie who grinned and nodded. "Looks like you just got yourself two younger brothers."
"Thank you guys so much," Mitch sniffled. "It's good to have some family that really likes me for a change."
"Mitchell, I will have you know that I am quite fond of you as well," Tarien announced. "It's just that you are quite fun to prank when you are being an opinionated, obstinate little whelp."
“If Mitchy is my new big brother, does that mean you're my Gramps, too?” Maxie asked looking up at Tarien.
“It does indeed, little man,” Tarien smiled. “It has been many generations since I have interacted so directly with any of my descendants. I think I shall truly enjoy making the exception for you three. In fact, something my own children seemed to enjoy when they were young....” Right in front of the three boys' eyes, he shifted into his animal form which was an almost blindingly white griffin. “Hop on boys, we shall go for a romp. Maxwell in front, then Martin, then Mitchell, and hold on tight to one another.”
All three children squealed with delight as their ride alternately ran, pounced, and flew through the tower landing at a doorway that was quite familiar to Mitch. “Gramps, this is the door to the dragon fruit forest. Why are we here?”
“I have an old friend in the forest who wishes to speak to you, Mitchell,” Tarien told him as he shifted back to human form and the three boys tumbled from his back into a pile on the floor.
“HEY! I'm getting squished,” Mitch called out from the bottom of the stack of boys.
“Well it wasn't our fault,” Marty told him as he pushed his little brother off to the floor and stood up.
“I'm sorry I squished you, Mitchy,” Maxie apologized as he kissed Mitch on the cheek.
“Well, maybe getting a little squished wasn't that bad,” Mitch confessed, then grinned and started tickling his new little brother.
“EEEP!!” the tiny boy squealed and squirmed. “Marty help!” he called out between giggles.
“Ok, I'll help,” Marty grinned then started giving instructions to Mitch. “He's really ticklish behind his knees. Yeah, right there.”
“Ohoh? Turning on your little brother, eh?” Tarien smirked. He snatched Marty up and began tickling him all over as well. Both he and Mitch gave their victims the chance to retaliate as well for a few moments before they all tired out. “Well, now that we are all in a good mood, I think we should go meet my old friend,” the old man smiled.
“We aren't tiring you out, are we?” Marty asked him shyly.
“Goodness no, Martin,” Tarien smiled as he ruffled the boy's hair. “I will spare you the details for now, but know that being what I am now, I am no longer able to get tired. It is most kind of you to be concerned for me, however. It is greatly appreciated as well.”
“Wow!” Maxie and Marty both exclaimed as they realized that they were not in a room in the tower, but in the middle of a forest. There was not even a wall of the tower behind them, only a large rock with a hole in it.
“What happened to the doorway?” Mitch asked. “There's supposed to be a door there so we can get back into the tower.”
“Ah, but that is what the doors all look like to me now. When you and the others of my family have come here to get your staves, the door was there to separate you from your powers so that you would have to make the staff your own, on your own powers, not the family magic imbued to us by my grandfather,” Tarien explained. “I cannot be separated from the tower, as I am a part of it.”
“What do you mean you are a part of the tower?” Marty asked. “People can't be part of a house.”
“Of a house, no, but aren't families what makes a house a home?”
“That's why I didn't complain about the cardboard box,” little Maxie announced. “As long as it was where Marty was, it was home.”
“An apt, if unsettling analogy, my boy,” Tarien smiled sadly. His smile brightened however as he added, “You will never suffer such conditions again, either of you.” He pulled both younger boys into an embrace. “I had forgotten how good it feels to hold ones you love in your arms. I will miss this even more now that I have been reminded.”
“Gramps is right. You guys will always have a home with me, whether my father is part of it or not,” Mitch said he joined hugging his new brothers. He gave Tarien a look that said he would ask what the man had meant with his last statement later on.
“It is time you met my friend,” Tarien announced cheerfully as he released the boys and walked further into the forest. “Candavega! Come see who I have brought you,” he called out as he looked all around the trees of dragonfruit.
“I don't remember anyone being here before,” Mitch said as he followed his ancestor. “I thought the whole point of being here to get our staff was the fact that we were alone and on our own.”
“Now what sort of father would send his sons into a forest without knowing they would be safe?” Tarien asked with a smirk. “As you well know, the current Time Wizard would be able to monitor what happens to his pupil, but I had my very best friend here to watch over you all as well. No, not a human, or even a member of either of my fathers' races, as neither were human, and both were the last of their kind. What better friend can a boy have than his very first pet?”
“You have a pet that is still alive?” Marty blurted then blushed.
“I will overlook that reference to my advanced age as it is both true that I have lived, or existed for a very long time, and because you are not yet accustomed to what the family magic is capable of in the blood descendants of my line.” He laughed as both Mitch and Marty quickly placed their hands over little Maxie's ears. “I said line, not loins, and besides, sad as it is to say, I have the impression that your younger brother Maxwell knows more of the carnal side of life than you do, Mitchell. Martin, I apologize if my choice of words caused you or Maxwell any distress.”
“I don't know what carnal means for sure, but if you're talking about sex stuff, then I know lots of stuff thanks to Mr. Clyde and the Magic Man,” Maxie pointed out. “Thanks for thinking you needed to keep me from hearing it, though, bro. You didn't undress me, Gramps. I still got all my clothes on.”
“He said distress, not undress, Max,” Marty said rolling his eyes. “I got a good feeling about Gramps. He wouldn't ever do anything that hurts us or makes feel bad like Mr. Clyde and the Magic Man did.”
“I most certainly would not,” Tarien agreed. He looked around and sighed. “Now where can that rascal be? I know it's been a few centuries since I came to see him in person, but one would think he wouldn't....” His words were cut off by a crashing noise to their right and suddenly the old man was on the ground under a real live honest to goodness dragon that was about the size of a Great Dane dog, that correlation being most appropriate as the dragon was licking him all over much like a happy dog would.
“Candy is a dragon! You gots a dragon for a pet!” Max squealed and jumped around excitedly. This of course brought the attention of said dragon, who quickly pounced the small boy as he had the old man. More licking and considerably more laughter ensued as each of the boys were treated to dragon kisses.
“EEEWWW I thought dogs had bad breath,” Mitch protested but he was giggling happily as he did it.
“Well, what did you expect from a being that eats these fruits like they were candy?” Tarien asked. “No, I was not calling you, you great brute. Go chase the little ones, you horrible monster you,” he added with a chuckle when the dragon bounded up to him eagerly. He and Mitch both laughed as Marty and Max squealed in delight and darted into the trees away from the slobber monster as they called him.
“What did you mean when you said that you would miss getting hugged?” Mitch asked his ancestor pointedly. “And don't tell me that it's about you going back into hiding in the walls of the tower, either.”
“What your father has set in motion will have a tremendous impact on all of our family, myself included,” Tarien said cryptically. “It is not unwelcome, but at the same time, having this reminder of what I will be giving up makes an old man emotional. Ignore my maudlin ramblings and go have fun with your brothers. I am entrusting Candavega to the three of you to watch over for me from now on.”
“See there, you went all creepy cryptic again,” Mitch pointed out. At the look he got from the old man, he shrugged. “Fine, keep your secrets. It's not like I am part of your real family now anyway, seeing as my own father prevented me from being born.”
“Much will be revealed when the time is right, my impatient grandson,” Tarien told him. “In the meantime, go enjoy being a boy again. I might have been mistaken earlier about not being able to be tired,” he added with a yawn as he stretched out under a tree. “I haven't enjoyed a good nap in about 800 years.”
Mitch shook his head fondly at the old man starting to snore, and raced into the trees after his brothers and their new pet dragon.