It’s Christmas night and the red-brick fireplace of the Watson family living room crackles with a warm glow.
Upstairs, a little boy rests peacefully in his bed. With purple hair ruffled on his pillow, he thinks of the new gifts he’s received. Mainly, a drawing tablet from his mama, a personal Detective's Log from his mom, as well as a brand-new purple bicycle and an ancient artifact from Atlantis, where the boy wishes to explore one day. Both of the latter gifts come courtesy of his "aunts". The boy wears half of his silver, heart-shaped locket from his best friend.
A small yellow hunting terrier trots his way through the crack of the boy’s bedroom door. Wagging his tail happily, the dog’s stomach is full of kibble and Christmas treats.
“Come on, Bubba. Up here, boy.” The child mutters sleepily, sky-blue eyes narrowed tiredly, patting the silky texture of his plaid comforter. Hopping on top of the bed, the giggling boy’s pet licks his nose before curling up on his lap. Reaching a hand forward, the boy gently strokes the dog’s soft fur as the two end up falling asleep together.
Downstairs, a blonde woman snickers with glee.
“Walt’s in bed, we’ve got fuzzy blankets, hot drinks, snacks, and a dumb movie? Tonight’s going to be a good night, Ina!”
“Shh. Please be quiet, Ame. I’m trying to watch!”
Playing on the downstairs television is a cheesy Christmas rom-com, the kind that makes Ina emotional at the end every time. A coffee table in front of the married couple displays Ina’s home-baked Christmas cookies and steaming mugs of hot cocoa. The Watson parents sit comfortably on their cushy couch.
Taking a sip from her punny mug, Ina’nis Watson enjoys the simple pleasures of life. Namely, her beverage which consists of dark cocoa mix and hot milk. Intently watching the film through wire-rimmed glasses, Ina can’t help but notice the vast difference in her wife’s drink. Amelia’s sugary concoction consists of a light cocoa mix, water, marshmallows, whipped cream, and peppermint candy.
“I’ll never understand how you can enjoy this…” Amelia snuggles closer to her wife’s lavender scent under the warm blanket, accidentally jabbing herself on a pointy ear as she better covers her yellow onesie pajamas.
“Ame, it’s a Hallmark of the season,” Ina warns, fighting for more blankets to cover her violet nightgown.
“I’m serious! These movies all have the same plot, a businesswoman is too important for love. Suddenly, she meets a young, handsome, small-town guy who teaches her about the spirit of Christmas! It snows, they kiss. The end.”
“Why can’t you let me enjoy things?” Ina pouts as her wife giggles, nudging herself closer to Ina before pecking her on the cheek.
“I love you, even if you enjoy trashy rom-coms.”
“Well, I love you even if you’re a cocoa blasphemer,” Ina teases, returning the kiss.
“Oi! Marshmallows are good, Ina,” Amelia retorts, snickering as Ina messes up her hair.
“Humu humu. Last I checked, it’s called hot chocolate, not hot sug-”
Abruptly, the screen cuts to black as an eerie silence cuts through the pair’s banter. The fireplace flickers out, the lights dim. A frigid cold sweeps through the room as if the brisk winter weather has found its way through the home’s closed windows. Blackness permeates over the coffee table, emanating in the form of a swirling vortex as the couple hugs each other closely.
A figure descends, crashing on top of the furniture, smashing the table under her weight. Mugs of cocoa shatter on the floor. Plates of cookies fall, crumbling on the carpet.
In the blur of it all, Ina can’t distinguish many features of the intruder. A formal pantsuit billows out over the table, her short dark hair bobs as her sapphire-blue eyes pierce through Ina’s soul. An odor of parchment wafts through the air.
“Amelia Watson, you are under arrest for crimes against the timeline, and subject to quarantine from this universe,” The shadow booms, gruffly snatching Amelia up by the collar.
“Ame!” Ina’s grey-blue eyes widen with fright. Rising to her feet, purple-orange hair bobbing as she desperately clings to her beloved’s hand. It’s no use, the stronger force wrenches Amelia from her grip.
“Ina, I–” Amelia looks pleadingly with sky-blue eyes at the Priestess, desperate to speak. Dragged through the portal, the singularity collapses in on itself, leaving Ina completely and utterly alone.
Blackness envelops the once lively room, bitter cold penetrating the air. The television blares with loud static, wisps of smoke rising from the dying fireplace. Shards of ceramic coat the floor alongside shattered wooden boards as cocoa seeps into the carpet and crumbs.
Animals outside flee from the barren, deciduous forest as a frightened shriek echoes its way from the Watson house. Ina crumples to her knees, sobbing.
Little footsteps barrel their way downstairs as young Walter Watson rushes to see what’s wrong, purple hair swishing in the air, sky-blue eyes widened with concern. Following closely behind him comes a barking hunting terrier.
“Mama? W-where’s Mom…?” The boy’s breaths go frantic, shaking in terror. Instantly, Ina’s maternal instincts kick in, prioritizing her son’s needs over her own.
He’s your son, Ina. He deserves to know.
“Walter, baby, I’m so, so sorry. Someone took Mom–-I should’ve stopped them. I failed her and I failed you,” Ina takes deep, steady breaths, neatly folding her hands behind her back to steady her trembling.
“Mom’s gone? Why… how… I don’t underst–” Walter’s eyes well with tears, his bottom lip quivering, as he struggles to understand his mother’s absence.
Without a second more hesitation, Ina runs up to her son, wrapping him in a comforting hug, slowly rubbing his back, her hand tracing the softness of his purple takodachi pajamas. Walter bawls into his mama’s nightgown, overwhelmed by the enormity of his mother’s disappearance.
“Shh, it’s okay, baby. Let it out. Mama’s here, mama’s here…” Ina’s voice grows shaky, overcome by loneliness and fear as hot streaks of water make their way down her cheeks.
Bubba sniffs around the room, whining as he looks for any trace of his owner. Dismayed, the dog sits glumly at the feet of the other Watsons.
Kronii’s realm is an alien place, overwhelming the senses. Sights and colors bombard the eyes beyond recognition as scenes from multiple timelines play out in full view. Smells and sounds range from the smoke of a forest fire to the laughter of young children. The entire area is crammed with busyness, the only constant is the faint ticking of a clock through the packed space.
Ouro Kronii trembles, running shaky hands through her short, navy-blue hair. Heaving with short breaths, her pantsuit feels as if it’s constricting itself around her body. With infrequent spurts of hot breath, her sapphire-blue eyes wince shut remembering her most recent journey.
The scared look in the wife’s eyes, the whimpering of the family dog. Above all, Kronii remembers the frightful look of their young child, cowering upstairs as his sky-blue eyes locked helplessly on his family.
Most perplexingly of all, however, is her captive’s demeanor. The sensations of her realm affect mortals differently. Some are overwhelmed, hiding away from the noise and commotion. Others lash out angrily, driven mad by the overload of information. Amelia Watson, however, stands mesmerized as she is drawn to the sight of her wife consoling her weeping son.
“Mrs. Watson, I know you are my prisoner. But, if I can get anything for you, a glass of water, for example, please let me know.”
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Amelia smiles mournfully, her sky-blue eyes contently observing, as her hand rests on the scene which ripples at her touch.
“I just wish that I could tell them ‘I love you,’ one last time.”
Ina groggily slumps out of bed the next morning, startled awake by a loud knocking on her front door. Slouching her way down the stairs, Ina notices Bubba excitedly barking by the entrance. Gently opening the door, Ina gives an exhausted look up only to find herself wrapped in a cozy hug.
“We came as soon as we heard, Ina. I’m so sorry.” Carefully removing her grey winter coat, the Nephilim takes care not to graze the sharp horn jutting from her head. Discarding the jacket, the girl’s pretty black dress flows in the cool breeze.
In the grip of her embrace, Ina is comforted by the toasty warmth of her tan skin and the friendly smell of licorice. All Ina can think of at that moment is her messy hair and filthy, tear-stained nightgown.
“How are you feeling?” Despite the noticeable difference in IRyS’ pink and blue eyes, both display compassionate empathy as well as a sense of sorrow.
Ina’s expression remains blank. She knows she should be sad, crying, and mourning the tragedy of her missing wife. All she feels inside is underwhelmingly hollow and emotionally drained.
“Thank you, IRyS, I needed that–”
Ina scarcely has time to thank her friend before she is nearly crushed by the tight embrace of a new girl, being tangled in the fine fabric of her red dress. Brushing locks of the girl’s orange-cyan hair away from her face, Ina finds herself surrounded by the inescapable scent of autumnal spices.
“Ina, you look terrible! Have you been sleeping, drinking plenty of water? Here, I brought you enough KFP to last a few days. I left instructions to reheat it. If you need anything at all, don’t be afraid to–”
“Easy there, Mama Bird.” A husky voice reels Kiara back, resting a black-nailed hand on her shoulder. Pink hair smelling of Old Spice sways in the wind under her baseball cap.
“I’m sorry, Calli. I should be strong, it’s just… I’m so worried about her,” Kiara sniffles, clinging to her wife’s baggy sweatshirt.
“Shh, Kiara. It’s okay, we all are,” Calli smoothly runs a hand through her wife’s hair, as Kiara’s kind pink eyes fill with tears.
Stepping out from between her parents, a little girl struggles to edge her way through, her pretty white dress caught in the small gap between both of her mothers.
“Auntie Ina, are you okay? You look sad,” The little girl’s pink eyes look up at Ina curiously, as Calli’s strong hand gently pats her on the head, tousling her short, pink-cyan hair.
“Clar-Bear, Auntie Ina just lost Aunt Ame, someone she loves an awful lot,” Calli explains.
“Don’t worry too much, Auntie Ina, I’m sure you’ll find Aunt Ame again soon!” Ina can’t help but give a half-smile at the girl’s optimism, as Calli shushes Clara while chastising her for being rude.
“Auntie Ina? Is Wally home? I don’t want him to be sad.”
“That’s very sweet of you, dear. Walter’s up in his room resting right now, but I’m sure he’d love to see you!”
An awkward silence shrouds the families outside as Bubba circles the group, sniffing around curiously and seeking affection. Clara thunders up the stairs to Walter’s room, fidgeting her half of the locket, before slowly creaking open the door. Faint sniffling can be heard from inside.
“Oh, Wally. Don’t cry! I’m sure Aunt Ame will be back soon.”
“No, she won’t, Clara! It’s my fault, Mom left because of me,” Walter sobs.
“How do you know that, Wally?”
“I was there when she got taken away. I froze and did nothing like an idiot!”
“Wally, she’s probably happy you didn’t get yourself hurt. Besides, I know she loves you!”
“You… you do?
“Of course! She never shut up about you. I’m sure wherever she is, she misses you as much as you miss her.”
“R-really? Thanks, Clara.”
“Any time. C’mere, dorkus, you look like you need a hug!”
Outside, an angry stomping sounds out on the stone patio as a shark girl crosses her arms tightly, sea-blue eyes locked firmly on the ground, tail wagging madly.
“It’s not fair! Why did she have to get taken? Why Ame? I swear if I ever find out who did this to my best pal…” Gura growls with gritted, sharp teeth, her white-blue hair shaking with rage. Gura shouts, slamming her fist into a sturdy column, denting it slightly. Falling back, the shark girl hisses with pain, rubbing her split knuckles. Hurt, she sinks into her comfortable blue hoodie, hiding in the scent of saltwater taffy.
“No…” Ina gasps, her face scrunching in denial.
“No, it didn’t happen like that! It can’t–it couldn’t have!” Ina begins to twitch, her breath growing faint, as she falls back into IRyS’ arms before gently being set on the ground as Ina buries her face in her hands, shaking her head profusely.
“It’s just her work… another case is all. She’ll be back–she has to come back.”
Each of the girls looks at Ina sadly, trying to find the proper thing to say. Calli steps forward, scratching her head nervously. The reaper has always struggled with expressing her feelings but has a strong desire to help Ina in her time of need.
“Everyone, could Ina and I have a moment alone, please?”
The other girls gather up to wait near the home’s sidewalk. A sniveling Gura clutches onto Kiara firmly, as the phoenix wraps the shark girl in a gentle side-hug, providing the first-aid kid for her injured hand.
“Ina, you deserve to know the truth,” Digging around in her sweatpants pocket, Calli pulls out a worn photograph. Ina stares at the picture intently, locking on to the sapphire-blue eyes of Amelia’s abductor from the night before.
“My half-sister Bae knows her. The name’s Ouro Kronii, she’s also known as the Warden of Time. Ina, beings like Kronii are too powerful to be trifled with. I’ve reaped countless souls who lost everything for revenge. I don’t want you to be one of them.” Calli begs.
“But… she is my everything,” Ina mutters, her grip tightening on the image.
“Calli, please, I just… I need some time to process all of this,”
“I understand completely. Just, call us if you need anything, okay?”
Ina nods curtly, not even bothering to glance up from the picture. Calli motions wordlessly to the others, a sign that it is time to leave.
“Clara, hon, it’s time to go!” Kiara calls.
Clara and Walter descend the stairs, hand in hand, their necklaces connecting to form a single heart. Hugging Walter one last time, Clara detaches the necklace, giving a friendly wave to Ina before she skips happily with her family away from the house.
Slamming the door shut behind her, Ina’s eyes lower to those of her son as her hands rest on her hips.
“Walter Watson, I heard the things you were saying upstairs.”
“Mama, I’m sorry–”
“No. Don’t you dare apologize, none of this is your fault. Understand? None of it.”
“It’s my job to protect this family, and I failed. You should never have to worry about things like that. Never! I’m the worst mother in the world, you deserve far better than me,” Ina’s voice wavers, her face grave.
“No, you’re not, Mama! Please, let me help–”
“Go to your room.”
“Mama, please...” Walter pleads.
“No, I don’t want to hurt you any more than I already have. Please, just go to your room.”
Walter sighs, a fang poking over his frown, pointy ears drooped low. Slowly slinking his way up the stairs, the door to his bedroom creaks behind him as it clicks shut.
Bubba looks up at Ina sadly, ears floppily pressed against his head, tail between his legs. The poor little dog slowly limps his way up the stairs, sitting just outside of Walter’s room. Hurrying after the two of them and wracked with guilt, Ina finds herself pausing outside of the door.
Resting her hand on the cool brass doorknob, Ina leaves the door just ajar enough for Bubba to enter and give Walter some comfort. Desperately, Ina wants to remind her son of how much she loves him and misses Amelia.
Words are useless, take action. A voice booms in her head, rattling against Ina’s skull. Racing back to her room, Ina fishes around in her nightgown as her eyes find their way back to the photograph. Ina’s gaze only grows more intensely. If she finds this Kronii, she will find Amelia, and all of this will be over.
Ina’nis Watson doesn’t sleep, she is consumed by the need to find her wife and bring her home. Food has no taste, she barely drinks water, and days have passed since she last showered. Nothing else matters anymore.
Ina is so proud of Walter. He packs his lunches, does his homework, takes good care of Bubba, and manages himself so, so well. Ina hopelessly wants to be there for her son, but just doesn’t know how to anymore. After all, if she couldn’t protect Amelia, what use is she to Walter?
Bubba has also been in low spirits ever since Amelia’s disappearance. Most days he mopes on the couch, or Amelia’s side of the bed. Occasionally he waits excitedly by the front door, tail wagging as if his owner will come home from work just like any other day. Most times he follows Walter everywhere, inseparable from the young boy.
Ina ignores any phone calls, they’re all the same in her eyes. Friends check in constantly, wanting to know how she is or if she needs anything. Her rock, the person she leans on for all things, is gone. All Ina needs is for Amelia to come home.
Far behind on her commissions, money no longer concerns her. Drawing has lost any of its meaning, anyway. Using tricks she learned from Amelia, Ina scours everything she can find. Reports from police, security camera footage, news articles, but she can’t find anything. Even with the identity of her wife’s kidnapper, knowledge surrounding Kronii remains lost or too primitive to properly translate.
In a moment of weakness after days of searching, Ina finds her slender hand gliding over the engraved cover of an old, dusty book. Bound in a thick purple cover, the text is marked with silver spirals, a yellow label, and a glaring red eye.
We contain knowledge, use us.
No! I promised her, never again…
She’s not here to tell you otherwise, is she? You failed miserably. Let us take over.
You don’t know what they’re doing to her, do you?
Shrill laughter pounds in Ina’s brain.
Torture, unimaginable agony. Slowly, her skin is peeled off in strips. She cries out, desperately, for her wife. Nobody comes.
Alright, alright! Just, please, help me bring her home. Ina begs, forcibly opening the book to a page of spidery Eldritch writing.
Dressed in her old Priestess robes, Ina stands in the hallway, summoning the same vortex from the night Amelia was taken away. Her eyes have gone completely black, empty, sunken in baggy sockets. It appears as if they have been gouged out.
“Let my mama go!”
Walter Watson bravely blocks his mother from the portal, daring her to try to move him out of the way. Despite the boy’s young age, he knows someone, or something is controlling his mother.
“Step aside, child. This matter does not concern you,” A symphony of voices strike from Ina’s lips in a unified distortion.
“No! I’ve already lost one mom and I’m not about to lose another,” Walter shakily resolves, tears beginning to well in his sky-blue eyes.
Ina kneels to her son’s level. For a fleeting moment, color returns to her face. Tenderly caressing his cheek, Ina lovingly plants a kiss on her son’s forehead, gently hugging him in one arm.
“I will get your mom back. I promise you, my baby boy,”
Ina’s eyes blacken once again. Stiffening her posture, the possessed Priestess shoves Walter to the side, shouldering her way through the portal. Walter’s mind buzzes with questions, confusion, and self-doubt. Above all, the little boy wonders what he did to chase both of his parents away.
Ina dimly registers breath coursing through her, her input relegated to her subconscious. A surge of power courses through her. It feels so familiar, so natural. Effortlessly ripping open another vortex, a new figure falls through, hitting the realm’s surface with a thud. Groaning and rubbing her sore backside, she glances around the realm curiously.
A curious creature, the being has tawny feathers dancing upon her soft, brown hair. Her amber eyes look up at Ina, curiously, dusting off the old brown tunic she finds herself dressed in. She smells like berries.
“Hi! How can I help you?” the little owl girl beams with a bright, sweet smile.
“Guardian of Civilization, you shall be our bargaining chip.” A wide smile creeps across Ina’s face, the Ancient Ones recognizing the primordial entity.
Ouro Kronii senses an anciently sinister presence. Turning around, she feels her mouth go agape. The woman she loves most is currently trapped as a hostage to her captive’s wife, ensnared in a litany of tentacles.
“Warden of Time, do you know this girl?”
Frantically, Kronii’s sapphire-blue eyes dart from Ina to the terrified girl trapped in her clutches.
“N-no. No, I don’t,” the Warden bluffs.
“Hmph, so you don’t mind if we do this?”
Nanashi Mumei lets out muffled screams as the thick purple tendrils barrel their way through her ears, nostrils, and throat in a frenzied assault. Yet more of the slimy, cold tendrils find their way to Mumei’s eyes, threatening to follow suit. Tears of pain drip their way down her cheeks.
“This process will continue until any remaining air is squeezed from the simpleton’s lungs. Suffocation is a slow, painful way to die, Warden. All of this can be avoided with the release of Amelia Watson.”
Kronii does her best to hold firm, her eyes begin to grow wet, her bottom lip trembling as she begins to tear up. Falling to her knees, the upset woman begins to wail, desperately pleading for her darling one’s life.
“What else can I do, instead? I can give you a longer life, fix any past mistake. Please, I’ll give you anything else, just don’t hurt her!”
“Release Amelia Watson.”
“I can’t… Take me instead, just let her go.”
“We were hoping you would say that.” Ina’s face twists into a maniacal grin, the tendrils’ grip growing tighter. Mumei’s face grows sickly pale, her amber eyes bulging slightly. Horrible choking begins to sound from her broken, tortured body.
Dimly, Ina can perceive what is happening. She should feel satisfied, seeing Kronii suffer the same burden she cast on to Ina herself. All Ina can feel is a great sense of unease combined with an overwhelming weight of guilt. Feeling the owl girl’s small frame in her grip, she feels a compulsion to end her suffering quickly.
“Any last words?” A tentacle is ripped from Mumei’s throat, the girl giving raspy breaths as she struggles to speak.
“K-Kronii… I love you.”
“Amelia Watson, I love you,” Ina sighed, resting her head on Amelia’s shoulder.
It was a lovely spring day in a pristinely green park. The two sat together on a picnic blanket, enjoying a pre-packaged KFP meal. Colorful banners and balloons filled the air, the stunning colors popping from the clear blue sky. Birds chirped, the bright sun lit up the world.
After all the stress of work and the rush of everyday life, quiet moments like these allowed both of them some room to breathe.
“Thanks for not parading me around like that,” Ina teased, nodding toward the boisterous marching band and an assortment of large floats that had barreled down the small town’s busy streets.
Amelia Watson took a deep breath.
“Ina, for so long, I’ve never had anywhere to call home. I’ve always been on the move, from place to place, time to time. But now, I’ve found someone worth staying for.”
Getting down on one skirted knee, Amelia opened a small black box. Inside, a stunning gold ring was embedded with a luminous violet gemstone.
“Ninomae Ina’nis, I love you, too. Will you marry me?”
“Yes, oh yes! Nothing would make me happier,” Ina answered without hesitation, having the ring placed on her finger before embracing her now-fiance with a tender kiss. At that moment, all Ina could think about is how she was going to spend her life with the woman she loves.
“Fine! I’ve done as you asked, now let her go,” Kronii demands as she nods toward a distant Amelia Watson.
Mumei falls to the ground with a breathy shudder, as she struggles to collect herself.
Looking down at the heavily breathing owl girl, Ina realizes she has become everything she once hated. What promises had Mumei given to Kronii, what life was she nearly robbed of to spend with the one she loves?
Burying her face in her hands, Ina sobs terribly. It’s all coming back to her now. The friends she’s pushed away, the family she’s neglected, and the gravity of what she was prepared to do. Above all, now believing the one she loves most likely despises her. Ina wraps herself in a cocoon of tentacles, desperate to hide from the world. Color returns to her eyes, as the voices of the Ancient Ones are replaced with a deafening silence.
Amelia rushes to comfort her wife as thin black cords erupt from the floor beneath her. Tying around her wrists and ankles, she squirms and writhes, desperate to escape the trap she’s stepped in.
Kronii leaps into action, seizing a sharp, rotating blade from above her head. She pounces, ready and willing to strike. Stopping her momentum, Kronii falls to the ground as Mumei blocks her target.
“Get out of the way, Mumei!”
“No, Kronii. She’s hurt.”
“She hardly has a scratch. She tried to kill you, Mumei!”
“Not hurt on the outside, Kronii. In here,” Mumei rests a hand on her chest, gesturing toward her heart.
“She’s too dangerous to be kept alive, Mumei,”
“It was dangerous to bring Amelia here, and you did. It’s dangerous for me to be here now, and you won’t hurt me!”
Kronii finds herself in stunned silence.
“I say we act dangerously, and try to make things right,” Cautiously stepping toward Ina, Mumei shakes with nerve, terrified to confront the girl who had nearly caused her death.
“G-get back!” Ina warns, Mumei recoiling from her shouting.
“Ina, isn’t it? There’s nothing to be scared of.”
“Scared? It’s you who should be scared of me! Get back before you get hurt!”
Taking a deep breath, Mumei’s amber eyes soften. Growing more confident in her stride, she continues to advance toward Ina. There’s a person in there after all, behind the anger, behind the guilt, and past the sadness. Mumei just wants to talk to her.
“You’re not going to hurt me, Ina. She wouldn’t want you to,” Mumei smiles as she nods toward Amelia.
Ina’s tentacles begin to unravel around her, revealing her tired, grey-blue eyes for Mumei to see for the first time.
“Amelia Watson. I tend to be forgetful, but hers is a name I made sure to remember. I’ve been around since civilization was first established. Did you know people used to fear her? A bandit of time, impossible to catch. That is until she met you! Instead, I began to hear stories of how she protected people, using her abilities for good. So it makes me sad to see you so upset, and I think you have a right to speak with her again.”
Mumei’s eyes glance knowing to Kronii. The Warden opens her mouth to object, before she grows silent, trusting Mumei’s judgment. With a gesture of her hands, the cords unravel themselves around Amelia as she starts up toward her wife.
“Ina, you’re here!” Amelia advances toward her wife. Ina’s tentacles are now retracted, the once-powerful Priestess now pathetically curled up into a ball on the ground.
“Don’t look at me… You hate me, I know it!”
Guiding Ina’s chin upward with her thumb, Amelia gently caresses Ina’s face before tenderly placing a kiss on her lips.
“How could I ever hate you?”
“All the friends I rejected, the family I’ve ignored, that poor girl I almost killed. I’m a monster, and I deserve nothing but hatred from you, Ame.”
"I saw what happened. You underestimate my powers of deduction, and it's hard not to know what goes on in this place."
"...you know, and you're still not angry?"
“I was never angry, Ina. I’m sad at how much you hurt yourself, just for me. Promise you’ll reach out to them, to all of them. Okay?”
“We can do it together. Come home with me, Ame, let’s be a family again!”
“W-what do you mean? We can take on these two. The portal’s right there. Please, Ame!” Ina pleads, her face holding an expression of incredible confusion.
“I won’t. I’m tired of running, tired of fighting, and especially tired of putting the ones I love in danger.”
Amelia gives a pleading look to Kronii, who nods simply.
Originally born in Victorian England, a young Amelia Watson received her watch as an heirloom from her late grandmother. Hopelessly lost in time, Amelia turned to the life of a scavenger, raiding from the days of old to survive.
“Each time she traveled to the past, Amelia caused a different break in the timeline. To save Walter and Ina from the imminent collapse of their universe, Amelia must be removed from the equation.” Kronii states bluntly.
“I-is this true, Ame? Why did you never tell me?”
“I’m ashamed of who I was then, a coward and a thief. My only concern was living to see another day. I wanted you to think of me differently.”
Taking her wife’s hand, Ina looks lovingly into her wife’s sky-blue eyes.
“That was who you were then. Now, you’re a wonderful mother, amazing wife, and a celebrated hero, my hero! There has to be another way…” Ina begs, giving a distressed look to Kronii. The Warden sadly shakes her head.
“W-well, he needs to see her one last time!”
Kronii opens her mouth to object, but a glare from Mumei has her bite her tongue.
“Very well, you have five minutes.”
Ina tiptoes her way back through the portal, cradling Walter in her arms. Treading carefully, her trembling legs knock against each other, stepping as if carrying something very fragile. Her son’s sky-blue eyes flutter open underneath his messy purple hair.
“...Mama? W-where are we?” Walter mutters sleepily.
“Nowhere, sweetie. Just a dream is all,” Ina soothes, taking great care to guard the emotion creeping into her voice.
“P-please, no more… I can’t–”
“No more nightmares. Only pleasant dreams, love,” Ina coos.
Stepping forward, Ina stops close to Amelia. Walter squints his eyes in confusion.
“Mom? You’re here? We can go home!”
“Afraid not, champ,” Amelia responds drily.
“I-I don’t understand…”
“Walt, listen to me. I need you to be brave for me, okay? Someone’s going to have to look after your mama while I’m gone.
“I can’t,” Walter sighs.
“What do you mean, Walt?”
“She hates me! Why wouldn’t she? You got taken away and I didn’t do anything…” Walter huffs before all three family members wrap each other in a tearful group hug.
“Walt, your mama and I love you more than you will ever know. All I care about is that you two are safe.”
“I just… I just wish I could be there for her.”
“You’ll be there for her, and she’ll always be there for you. Alright, Walt?”
Amelia hands her son the famed golden pocket watch, now removed of its time-traveling properties, as well as her treasured deerstalker cap.
“Walt, my son, you’re gonna live a great life. You’ll find someone you love more than anything and have an awesome family to live the rest of your life with! But, when life sucks and you need help, never forget that you’re a Watson."
“I know this is only a dream, but can it last just a little while longer?” Walter asks, clutching his family tighter. Kronii gives an approving nod.
Bounding through the portal, Bubba jumps and barks happily, licking all of the Watson family before pinning Amelia to the ground, showering her with love.
“Sorry, boy. You’ll have to keep guarding the house for me, alright?”
Bubba’s ears droop, his eyes growing big and sad. Giving Amelia one last lick on the face, the dog circles around Amelia and Walter, leading them back home after Amelia gives him one last pat on the head.
So mother and son step through the portal, glancing back at Amelia one final time. All the while, the two will never forget that they are Watsons.