Saturday, August 31, 2013

Chapter Forty-One- Defining Moments

September 27th, 2022


Annabelle always liked fall weather, much cooler than summer but not as cold as winter. The trees changed color and people spent as much time inside with family as they did outside playing in the leaves. 

Well this was how it was in other towns, anyway. Not in Starlight Shores. Being a southern California town, relatively close to the border between the United States and Mexico, there was always a lot of hot air rising from the south, enough to keep the town in what seemed like an eternal summer with a few minor changes every once in a while. Occasionally they would get snow, but for the most part they would see rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. 

Today it was raining. Yesterday it was raining. Tomorrow was looking good on the forecast but Annie didn't want to risk it. The news said it was going to slow down and stop by the end of the day, but at the moment you couldn't tell as Starlight Shores was close to flooding and people all across the city were wiping their feet and hanging their coat as they walked inside. The forecasters said repeatedly that the rain would stop, and if they wanted to live without severe damage to their internal organs they had better be right.

The next day, September 30th of 2022, was the day John and Scarlett planned to be wed. Having delayed the wedding until after the eclipse, the two wanted to have the ceremony as soon as humanly possible especially now that the family members from out of town were there. Seeing as they set the date so quickly, the whole family had been working feverishly for the past few days to put together the best possible wedding that anyone could ask for, having already had the boost of preparing before the eclipse. They already had the decorations, gowns, and all the minor things ready, they just needed a place to have it at.

A nice wedding ceremony would be a pleasant end to a horrible month, which started with a horrible argument between Tom and Annabelle which was resolved in a manner that was rather pleasant for both of them. It also had a horrible encounter between Keera and the man responsible for her scarring, which admittedly had become more amicable just before the latter's horrible death. Annabelle's kidnapping was also a horrible event, which eventually culminated in a series horrible battle between a group of people and an army of robotic drones.

Yes, the word "Horrible" could best describe the first twenty days of September 2022.

Not wanting to continue the horrible trend, John and Scarlett wanted a luxurious outdoor ceremony, perhaps even on a boat in the ocean overlooking the town. Of course it was up to Annabelle who had to book one because everyone else was busy with the rest of the ceremony plans, and she had to drive halfway to Sunset Valley to find someone who would actually be there in advance for everyone to set the wedding up the day before the event. 

Not to mention that she had to find someone with a red boat, or there would have been hell to pay.

Just when Annabelle was about to run outside in old-style garb and do an Anti-rain dance to make the sky clear, the rain stopped. It was still cloudy, but at least there was no drops of water falling from the sky which would have messed up the decorations, cake, dresses, and everything else. Off in the distance, Annabelle looked out the window and saw a large red platform heading down the bay, silently cheering and quickly leaving to meet the owner of the boat down by the pier. 

Annabelle used this wedding plan event to get her mind cleared, especially after the craziness that her family was going through. Just a few days before, she found out that she had a son she never knew she had, as he was a clone much like the daughter she found out she had just four years before. A bit of investigating on the part of Kelly revealed that there was a laboratory in Appaloosa Plains, Colorado, and that one experiment was to mix the blood of two people. A similar, successful experiment was held with Annabelle's blood sample in Bridgeport, so the Appaloosa Plains scientists decided to try it out with the same sample and a different one than used before. Tom's blood was sent to the same lab accidentally so they decided to use his as the experiment which created Gabriel.  

One night, a few months after Gabe's "birth", an experiment at the facility went wrong. Two scientists were testing on a new type of meteorite that had hit nearby, and when they brought a metal cutter to it, the contact shot out sparks which caught fire to the valuable-yet-vulnerable lab equipment that filled the building. Most of the scientists made it out, as did Gabriel, whose name then was apparently G-4B3. Rather than stick with the people who almost accidentally got him killed, Gabe left the scientists behind and went into an orphanage, and pretty much the rest was known to the family.

What WASN'T figured out, however, was the simple question of how Gabriel and Annabelle had the same dream, on the same night, at nearly the same time. Apparently Annabelle had dreamed it first, with what her family was telling her as fuel to the fire regarding what the dream was about, while Gabe had the same dream afterwards in his own perspective.

While Annabelle had met an alien who displayed telepathic powers to her on Torra Sev, she specifically mentioned that hybrids such as Annabelle and Isobelle didn't have the psychic powers of their alien ancestors. Annabelle wondered if she herself was special, or at the very least if there was someone else in the house that had the powers that the alien, who said she was Annabelle's alien birth-mother, had.

Deciding to focus more on her brother's happiness than her own twisted form of a family history, Annabelle took a walk down the beach near her house. She was there to meet with the owner of the barge at a small dock which had been inexplicably built there recently.

The owner was a sea-faring man named "Pete" who, as he described himself, was a "rough and tough sea dog with a love for the ladies." As such, he put the moves on Annabelle who, in a way of turning him down, hid her left ring finger and politely told a little lie that she was married.

"Ahh. Well ye' be a fine lass! Man's gotta be luck'eh to have ye'." Pete said while making sure the boat was safely docked.

Annabelle smiled and took that as a compliment, then when Pete went back to the boat controls she scowled. "Yeah, he would be lucky.", she quietly whispered to herself. This short conversation made her think back to one she had with Tom from a few days before, just after Annie had talked to Gabriel in her bedroom.


Four Days Ago

 Tom was walking away from Annabelle after having watched the newly united brother and sister hug, getting ready to put together a party. Just as he did so, Annie walked after him.

"Hey, did you know that my dream was about you and Gabriel?" She asked, directly. "In fact aside from some creepy women in identical hair and clothes and some bully I obviously based off of Jack, you two were pretty much the only people."

"That's... that's interesting." Tom replied. "Very interesting." With those words, he left down the stairs. He didn't want to pursue the subject out of worry that it would make the current situation awkward, especially considering they had just found out not four hours before that they had a son together (technically).

Annabelle frustratingly sighed, then imagined Tom as though he was standing right in front of her. "Yeah. 'Interesting'. You know sometimes I think you're either dumb as a rock or acting as dumb as one." She then thought to herself, and amended the statement. 

"And the talking intelligent rock from those comic books doesn't count!" 

Suddenly, the real Tom from downstairs yelled up. "Did you say something?"



Back in the present, Annabelle was scowling as much as she did when Tom left her upstairs back then. After a few seconds, she boarded the craft and started measuring the space for tables and chairs as well as a wedding arch. There was going to be a little less space than she originally believed, but she decided to try anyway. Annie departed the boat and called everyone down, telling them to bring their part of the plans.

A short time later, Tom and Kelly came walking down the hill carrying tables and chairs along with Mirabelle who was carefully driving a moving truck down the beach. Annabelle hated moving stuff, and wished some giant glowing hand would grab the stuff from the truck and place it gently on the boat. Unfortunately, she realized, things didn't work out like that, and started to grab things from the now-open moving truck. Pete also took the initiative to carry things from the truck to the boat.

A couple hours had passed and everything was set up. It was tough work, and Annabelle wished the genie was there to help do it quickly with her magic, but Anika suddenly vanished from the house after saying she "had to stop the Abyss". No one knew what she was talking about, and as they didn't want to keep her in one place after freeing her they didn't worry too much about it.

Through the day, Gabriel and Keera showed up to help while Scarlett was also there, directing exactly where she wanted to move things, and Annabelle was surprised that she wasn't getting angry if anything was put in the wrong place. In fact, it surprised Annabelle so much she was wondering if the red-haired girl wasn't replaced by some tranquil robotic version of herself. When everything was said and done, Pete carefully tested out driving the boat away with all the stuff on it to make sure it didn't all come crashing down. He then called Annabelle's phone to tell her that he wasn't going to return to shore until the morning to make sure no one would mess with the decorated platform, which everyone agreed was a good idea.


That evening, everyone was in relatively formal attire to have a nice dinner at a restaurant near the home. John and Scarlett decided not to have a bachelor or bachelorette party because having only been with each other through their entire lives, John didn't "feel" like a "bachelor" and Scarlett didn't feel like a "bachelorette". As such they didn't want to label themselves in that way.

During the dance after dinner, Elliot gathered everyone around and got their attention.

"I'd like to say something. When I found out John and Scarlett were getting married, my first reaction was 'weren't they already?" Everyone laughed, giving Elliot the boost to proceed. "Then I realized, if they were, it would have been a great, wonderful moment in time. To that end, your marriage tomorrow will be the one that shows what the two of you truly are capable of, much like my marriage did for me and my beautiful wife. Tomorrow, it will be your defining moment. We've all had them, and when I see my niece, a red-haired angel, marry the love of her life, it will add to the wonderful memories that I will always hold dear."

Scarlett smiled when Elliot did this. Maria added some words and made her own speech to congratulate the couple, saying she knew they would have a great life together as they already had shared a good one for twenty-one years now. Scarlett was flattered, and smiled some more.

However she then stopped smiling and closed her eyes before going back to the party. Tom, standing across from her next to Annabelle, noticed these small inflections in her face. He'd seen these minor expressions on multiple people in the past. He realized that Scarlett was going to marry John the next day, but she wasn't exactly happy about something.

Tom knew why, because he shared the same feeling.

After a short time, the dance was done and everyone returned to the house in a convoy of cars, retreating into different parts of the building when they got inside. Thinking over things, Scarlett walked upstairs and found herself on the roof, looking out to the ocean at night, watching the stars reflect off the surface of the water giving a literal name to the town of "Starlight Shores".

Tom walked up the stairs as well and strolled over to her, silently sharing the open view with his cousin. Both of them had something in common, and he knew that's why Scarlett looked upset at dinner after Elliot and Maria gave their toasts.

"When I eventually get married myself, I'll know what you're going through." Tom said. "There will be an exorbitant amount of happiness but something will be missing. Something will always be missing. I know you want your parents to be there tomorrow on that boat, your father walking you down the aisle as your mother holds her heart in joy. I wish I could see them there too."

"Your parents, you mean?" Scarlett finally said after a few moments.

Tom shook his head. "I know my parents are watching over me. I know yours are watching over you, but I would give anything to have yours there, standing in flesh and blood, for you tomorrow."

Scarlett smiled as tears ran down her face. "You really think they're watching down on me? You think they know how much I miss them? You think they'll watch me get married tomorrow?"

Tom reached over and hugged his cousin. "I know. They'll have the best seats in the house."    

Elliot, standing outside as well, could hear the conversation on the roof on this windless autumn night. Hearing this talk about Tom and Scarlett's parents brought back some memories regarding them.

When Tom and Scarlett both lost their mothers, Elliot lost his sisters. When they lost their fathers, Elliot lost his best friends.

He thought back to a day years before, one that he felt was the most important moment in his life...

April 8th, 2002
Pleasant Rest Graveyard
Sunset Valley, California

Elliot sat in the graveyard in the town of Sunset Valley, quietly looking at four graves. One name was Katherine Scarlet Keene, one was Michael Paul Keene, another was Tina Abigail Jameson and the last was Thomas Richard Jameson. Elliot cried for a week when he found out Tina was killed in Egypt along with Thomas, and when he found out that Michael and Kathy were killed in a fire, he had a mental breakdown and woke up outside a bar the next morning where his wife Mei had found him.

As he sat there, mourning the lost lives of his sisters and their respective husbands, he suddenly felt a small vibration in his pocket. It was his cell phone, something he had made sure to keep on his person as Mei was very pregnant and was ready to go into labor at any time now.

Elliot stood up and looked at the most recent message. It read "Baby. Hospital.", two words of clear indication that their daughter was on the way. Saying goodbye to the graves of his family members, he immediately turned and ran down the street.

It was a long run to the hospital, but by the time he got there Elliot saw Maria and Mei walking towards the lobby. "Where's the rest of the tots?" He asked, referring to Annabelle, Tom, Scarlett, and John.

"The babysitter's." Maria responded. "The Cambridge kids are watching them. When all is settled, I'm gonna run back and check on things."

Elliot nodded and followed the two ladies into the hospital. The head receptionist asked what the problem was and Maria, gesturing towards the very-swollen Mei, said "Broken toe." Elliot and Mei laughed, then signed in after they told her what they were there for.

Seventeen long hours passed, all the while Elliot was pacing the hall waiting for word on Mei and the child. Suddenly, he was called into the delivery room, put on a set of medical scrubs, and held Mei's hand as she gave birth.

Not too long afterwards, their daughter was brought into the world. Elliot and Mei quickly settled on a name: Kelly Jane Coen, and the former held the child in his hands. "Kelly. Kelly! Mei... I'm a dad! I'm a daddy and this is my greatest daughter in the history of daughters!"

Mei smiled, and Elliot continued to hold on to their daughter, looking into her eyes. He began this night in mourning, distraught over the loss of his sisters, but as he looked into the new eyes of this young child, that pain eased a bit. It never actually went away, but he knew that his siblings were, wherever they were at the moment, looking down and smiling at the arrival of their new niece.



When everyone got back from dinner, Kelly decided to get some early sleep. Tomorrow was her cousin's big day, and she wanted to wake up as soon as she could for it. Soon enough, the blue-haired lady would have a day much like it, perhaps back in Hidden Springs during the winter. She preferred a fall wedding on a hill top, as she had told Annabelle the night she confessed her love for the green-skinned woman.

As Kelly drifted off to sleep, she had remembered things that happened to her in the past. Perhaps most importantly, she thought back to a night when she was a teenager, in Bridgeport, and realized that this memory was probably the most important one in her life.


March 17th, 2018 
B. Goth Memorial Hospital
Bridgeport, New York

Kelly walked calmly into the hospital room where Annabelle was staying in. She looked over at her bruised and beaten friend and worried about her. She had been worried about Annabelle and Tom every second, every minute, every nanosecond since the two fell three stories out of an exploding library on the 5th of the month.

Maria, dozing away in a sleeping bag next to Annabelle's bed, was gently awakened by the younger girl who gestured her to go take a break. Maria stretched, and walked out of the room, looking back towards Annabelle with a saddened expression on her face. Kelly looked right at her face and practically read her mind: Annabelle was far too injured by the explosion, and Maria wasn't sure if she would make it.

Kelly pushed this worry past her. She knew Annie was a fighter, and was stronger than any person on this planet. After scratching part of her arm where she had blood drawn as well as a tetanus shot a few days before, Kelly sat down on a chair, took a book out of her backpack, and started to read it. Maria wouldn't be back for an hour or so, so Kelly had plenty of time to get into the book and, at the same time, continue to worry about Annie.

About ten minutes had passed since she started to read the book when Kelly lowered it. Something was nagging her, getting into her thoughts. She tried to push it away and yet it kept coming back every time she read the words to the book. Eventually she put the book away and stood up, trying to clear her mind. And then, suddenly, her gaze caught Annabelle. She couldn't think of anyone else than Annabelle. There was no one else.

As Kelly watched Annabelle sleep, soundly away in the hospital bed, a flood of emotions came running to her. She felt afraid for a moment, and let that pass. She felt anxious, and let that slip through the wringer. The feeling of pain hit her, not physical but emotional, and she bottled that up and threw it away. Suddenly all three came back and hit her mind, and when she opened her eyes, and focused on Annabelle, everything felt clear. It was all.... perfectly clear.

Then, three words left her mouth before she even realized she was saying them. Three words that were pure and sincere, built upon a foundation of worry for her future and joy for her past.

"I love her."  

They were quiet, quieter than a whisper. In fact Kelly herself didn't hear them until she realized she actually said the words. There was this girl, lying in a hospital bed, that Kelly had fallen in love with. She realized that she had always loved her, it was just now that she truly realized it. Rather than run out of the room, Kelly instead approached the object of her affection and gently knelt down beside her. She whispered into the green girl's ear something that she never regretted saying, then stood back up and walked over to the chair, reading her book.


"Hey Kell!"

Kelly opened her eyes and realized it was the next morning. It was the voice of her friend that woke her up, pleasantly surprising the young teen. Annabelle was standing up near by, trying to smile but failing as the pain wracking her body was more apparent than the joy she had of seeing her friend.

Kelly stood up and, despite wanting to hug her, stayed back in case Annabelle was too injured to receive the gesture. Maria, who was outside talking with the doctors, walked in and said a small cheer. Here she was looking at her daughter who, the night before, was in all respects close to dying, and now she was standing up as best she could. Kelly instead hugged Maria, letting all her happiness go as she was reduced to tears of joy. She then looked over at Annabelle and smiled as bright as she could as the green girl, this time, was happily able to smile back.


Kelly slept soundly in the bed as Mirabelle walked into the room. She quickly changed into her sleepwear and gently crept into the bed beside her. After a short time of being unable to sleep, she felt Kelly toss and turn in the bed, and saw her smiling as she dreamed away.

"What are you smiling about?" Mirabelle asked with a laugh, quietly, as mainly a rhetorical question. Kelly usually smiled in her sleep, which was a good signification of her having wonderful dreams, and she rarely ever actually replied when talked to. However, this time was different.

"Two of you.", she said before turning over, continuing to smile.

Mirabelle heard those words, and remembered the strong significance they had on her life, not only as Mirabelle but as Annabelle as well. In fact, hearing those words led her to remember back to the first time she heard them, before she herself was even "born", on a technical sense...


August 10th, 2022
Kethrin Manor
Hidden Springs, Alaska 


That was really the only word Annabelle could say. Not twenty seconds earlier, she had felt Kelly's lips lock with hers. Kelly had declared her love and kissed her right there in the bedroom as they were trying on dresses for Scarlett's forthcoming nuptials.

For an hour she stood there, trying to comprehend the feelings that were welling up inside her. Here she was, torn between the love she had for Tom and Kelly's admission of love for her. It would be enough to make any normal person go crazy, yet Annabelle wasn't exactly a "normal" person by any stretch of the imagination.

As Annie thought things over, she thought of all the things Kelly had done for her in the past. All the good, fun things they did, how she comforted her when Keera was injured in that explosion, how she stuck up for Annabelle when she saw the unicorn despite Tom saying she didn't. Annabelle remembered all the good things regarding her best friend in blue.

However, one thing was brought to her mind. Annabelle remembered hearing Kelly's faint voice in the hospital when she was injured, and how those words, whatever they were, made Annabelle stronger when she was at her most weak.

Even if she didn't remember them, those words kept Annabelle alive.

Wanting to make up to Kelly for all she'd done in the past, Annabelle realized she had to go and talk to her. She had to say something, anything, to make Kelly feel better. After an hour of contemplating, she put on her summer dress and walked into the hallway separating Kelly's and her own rooms, moving ever so slightly across the hall towards the blue door.

Finally she reached the door, wondering if Kelly was even in there.,Annie knocked on the door and, after a few seconds, opened it. Kelly was lying on the bed, presumably herself wondering what she was going to do, and when she saw Annabelle standing there she smiled and stood up.

Just as she did so, the light above started to dim, bathing Annabelle in an orange light and giving her stark amethyst coloring a more reasonable magenta hue. While thinking that she had to get it fixed and was meaning to, Kelly humorously thought she looked good like this. However, she pushed that thought away with the happiness that came along with Annabelle actually being in her bedroom.

Ignoring the lighting situation, Annabelle approached Kelly and looked her in the eyes. "Can I ask you something?"

Kelly stepped away and nodded. "Whatever you need."

Annie took a deep sigh. "What did you say to me, that night I was in the hospital after the library? It was the night I before I woke up out of that coma. I remembered hearing your voice, and it helped me."

Kelly leaned in, smiled, and whispered quietly in her ear, having the same quiet tone she had when first speaking to her.

"I said... 'I know you love Tom, but I love you. I wish there were two of you.'"

Annabelle pulled back and smiled. It was the same smile she had the morning after Kelly told her this a long time ago, when she was in the hospital. After a few short moments of contemplation, Annabelle closed her eyes. "Honestly, I wish the same. But tonight..."

Kelly was worried about the next words that would come out of Annabelle's lips. To her delight, Annie continued.

"...Just... be with the one of me there is."

Kelly smiled brightly, and Annabelle leaned in for a kiss. This was not something she expected to do, it just felt like the right thing to do at the time. Kelly returned the kiss, then the two motioned towards the bed.


The next morning Annabelle walked out of Kelly's room. She was visibly blushing, and smiling, while thinking of what happened just a few hours before. She'd never done anything like that with another woman, much less her best friend of twenty years, but she soon realized it was a night that she didn't want to end.

Something felt "right" between her and Kelly, just as something felt right between her and Tom. She had feelings, conflicted ones, for the both of them, which made her feel torn apart through her emotions for the two. After thinking things over Annabelle realized that, if things between herself and Tom didn't work out, she would pursue Kelly in a romantic relationship.

She just wished there were two of herself.


Mirabelle sat in the bed and looked at the sleeping Kelly, quietly echoing words that she heard Keera say a few days before. "Dreams do come true... sometimes." After thinking things over, Mira's eyes went heavy and she fell asleep, happily doing so next to the true love of her life.


 "He didn't have to die."


Keera and Annabelle were sitting in the living room, watching something on televison. It was some kind of cooking show, one that Annie had humorously thought that Kelly and Tom needed to watch over and over again, but they weren't really "watching" it as much as they were "using it as background noise".

"Collin." Keera replied, sadly. "I've been thinking this whole week about how his last few months were the worst of his life, and then he died, all because I wouldn't forgive him at first."

"Keeki, it's not your fault. You didn't even know he was responsible for the accident until you two met at that bar." Annabelle replied. "If he had approached you on the street and apologized when it happened, would you have forgiven him then?"

"Probably." Keera replied. "I don't know."

Annabelle shrugged. "Things happen, Keera. I know that more than anyone. I'm not saying you shouldn't feel bad for what happened to Collin, nor am I saying you should, just think of the possibilities. Guilt can destroy someone."

Keera nodded, then stood up and walked outside. "Things do happen." She said to herself as she looked around. As she did so, her eyes fixed on the pool beside her. "Accidents happen."  She said this as she looked at her reflection, and watched as her reflection molded itself with the waves of the water until she looked like she didn't have the scar at all.


May 3rd, 2020
Kethrin Manor
Hidden Springs, Alaska

"Good morning! It is currently 75 degrees, and highs are topping 80 today so it's gonna be warmer than any other day this week, so get outside and enjoy yourselves!" 

Keera clapped at the radio and ran into her bedroom. Today was the first day since the last summer that it was warm enough to go for a swim, and she wanted to spend all of it outside, mainly in the pool area of the house. After getting together a black and blue two-piece, she quickly ran downstairs and outside, passing everyone who seemed to be spending their time indoors today.

As she walked outside, she began to feel a cramp in her leg, which she attributed to growing pains as she had felt them before recently as she had been quickly gaining height at such a young age, but a few seconds later the pain subsided. She didn't let these deter her, however, and she continued on towards her destination.

Keera, confident while wearing her new swimsuit, headed out towards the pool. After making sure the pool was clear of bugs and well-kept, she climbed down the ladder and swam towards the center of the pool, enjoying the relaxing waters. Though she had spent time in an indoor pool during the winter months, she didn't enjoy it as much as swimming with the warm sun beaming down on her bright green skin.

A few minutes passed, and Keera suddenly began to feel more severe cramps in her legs, which was strange as she usually felt at night. Because of this, they began to feel too heavy to use, and she was having trouble staying afloat even as she was trying to swim towards the ladder.

 After a few minutes of splashing and struggling, Keera drifted to the bottom of the pool. She began to close her eyes as water began to fill her lungs, and everything went black. Just as she passed out, she looked up and saw a shape taking form above her...

...She opened her eyes a few moments later and found herself outside of the pool. Tom was standing over her, he himself covered head-to-toe in water. She was trying to get words out but was too weak to, and Tom could see what she was trying to say.

"I saw you struggling and ran outside." Tom said, extremely worried for his young friend. "Annie's calling the ambulance."

The young girl stood up and coughed out some extra water, then stumbled squarely into Tom, hugging him. "Thank you." She said, crying. "I could have died if you hadn't been there!""

Tom stood there, comforting her. "Don't think about it, Keera. Just don't think about it. You're safe, that's all that matters. That's all that matters."

They continued to hug for a few more moments until Annabelle came running outside. After seeing Keera up, walking around, and able to comprehend things she called and cancelled the ambulance, but decided to take Keeki to the hospital herself anyway, just to be sure.

A short time later the two left the hospital and returned home. Thankfully there was no long-term damaged to her lungs from inhaling the chlorinated water, as she was able to cough much of it out when Tom pulled her out of the pool. Annabelle hugged Tom when they got back, thanking him profusely for saving her daughter's life, and Keera walked upstairs afterwards and went to sleep on her bed.

The next morning, Keera walked downstairs and outside. Rain was coming down, hitting the earth and making the brick path slippery, but Keera didn't care. She instead walked towards the pool and looked down at it, seeing her reflection in the surface of the water which continued to ripple and sway at the wind and rain pushing against it. For a short time, though, Keera could have sworn she saw her face change due to the ripples, giving her the appearance of a scarred young girl.


Keera stared at her reflection in the water, looking down at her scarred self. Ever since almost drowning, she would be terrified to climb into the pool, and it been a long time since then that she would even think of getting back into the water.

Only recently, about a week before, was she feeling confident enough to even get back into a pool. She felt she needed this confidence as John and Scarlett's wedding was going to take place on a boat, and tonight felt like it would be a good time as any for a "therapy" session.

Having taken off her formal dress so it didn't get soaked, Keera climbed into the pool and started to swim around. She was uneasy for a few moments, but afterwards started to loosen up and splash around, going under a newly-installed pool fountain to play with the waterfall. In fact, she was actually beginning to have fun swimming for the first time in a couple years.


Tom, who was walking by upstairs, saw Keera in the pool through the exterior window and stayed in place for a few moments, just in case she needed his help again. Seeing her in the pool reminded him of having to rescue her, and other things in his past. While he had many "defining moments" in his life, he couldn't think of one in particular.

That was, however, until he saw his aunt Mei walking past him upstairs, heading towards the upstairs guest rooms. When he saw her, he suddenly remembered a conversation they had from a long time before.


October 17th, 2013
Bridgeport Acres Park
Bridgeport, New York

"Tom, come on down from there!"


Mei sighed. She had been searching all over town for her nephew ever since he ran away from home, saying he didn't belong there. She finally found him in a small lookout in Bridgeport's most well-known park She felt it had to do with her, as she got rather mad at the kid when she heard he punched another square in the nose at the playground after school, earning him a detention and the other child a bruised face for a couple days at the very least.

"Tommy, please."

"I'm not coming down, Aunt Mei!" Tom said, angrily. "Please go."

Mei sighed again. "I'm sorry, but I'm one of your legal guardians. I had to tell you what you did was wrong. I heard John's side too, but violence doesn't solve problems. However, I didn't take the time to hear what you had to say, and for that I apologize." Hoping he would come down, she stood there in the rain, but he wouldn't budge. After a short while of waiting, she walked up and climbed up the ladder to the lookout where she saw Tom sitting on a bench. Without any more words, Mei walked over and sat down next to him.

"So what happened?"

"He called Annabelle odd!" Tom said, angrily. "And pushed Johnny to the ground. I had to do it, Aunt Mei! He's a snobby little brat!"

"Who?" Mei replied.

"This kid named Deacon Jones. He's in our class. I hate him! He's so mean to all of us!" Tom vented, wanting to get all of his anger out in one fell swoop. "He thinks he's better!"

Mei shrugged. "Well this Deacon does sound like a brat, but that doesn't mean you should have punched him. You shouldn't hurt people-"

"He called Annabelle odd!" Tom replied. "He did that after pushing John. She told him not to do that, and he said she should keep her odd self out of things. It filled me with rage, and I had to deck him!"

Mei smirked. "So what did you hit him for? For pushing Johnny or hurting Annie's feelings?" Tom knew what she meant by that, and avoided the question by beginning to talk about the weather. Mei, however, looked into his eyes. "Why did you hit Deacon?"

"Annabelle's not odd." Tom finally said. "She's green but he doesn't see her like that right? Why would he call her that? Why would he hurt her feelings? He looked her straight in the face and called her that, so I punched him straight in the face!"

Mei shrugged again. "I don't know, but I do know why you were ready to protect her. You like her, you do and there's no problem with that. Why don't you tell her? I'm pretty sure she already knows."

Tom shook his head. "No. I was trying to tell her back in March, and that day we almost died. What if I do admit my feelings? What if I do and something bad happens? To me or her? I can't put anyone through that. Until I know we're safe, when I know the proper time, I'll tell her, but now isn't that."

Mei sighed again. This seemed to be a new habit when talking to Tom lately. "Well in any case you can't go around punching kids because they hurt her feelings, or yours. Even at your age, you're too strong Tommy. You have a lot of your dad's strength built up inside you just waiting to get out. And whether strength is emotional or physical, it will help you achieve your dreams but only, but only if you use it for the greater good. You're too good of a person, Tommy, you know that as well as I."

"So does this mean I'm not grounded? If I promise not to use this anger for bad again?"

Mei chuckled. "I'll have to talk to your uncle. I'll put in a good case for you."


As Tom remembered the conversation, he also thought back to when he had revealed his true feelings for Annabelle before. This was while she asleep after being caught in that meteor shock-wave. He remembered how he poured his soul out to her, saying how much he loved her.

Ever since that night, Tom spent quite some time wondering if what he said during her sleep had actually gone through to her mind, and quietly hoped it did...


Annabelle walked outside and saw Keera swimming in the pool, finally having fun while doing so. Admittedly she was worried about the teen swimming in deep water after what happened when she was twelve, but didn't want to bring up that bad memory of hers or Keeki's if she could help it. In any case, she wanted to remember the good times she had with the young lady, as well as the rest of the family.

As she did this, Annabelle thought back to when she was injured in that explosion a few weeks before, the night she had the same dream Gabriel had, and how all her family members came into her bedroom and told her how important she was to her, and how what they said influenced the dream.

She remembered the recording.

When Annabelle moved into the house in Starlight Shores, she set up a recording device on a lithium battery that lasted for weeks. She did this because of her worry regarding these villainous people who were, at the same time, looking for something that would end up being a key to a Genie Lamp. After being caught in that blast, she listened to the recording because she wanted to see if anyone said anything to her while she was out.

She had heard some of the most important things in her life from that recording, but what stuck out in her memory the most was what Tom had to say.


September 4th, 2022
Kethrin Home Base
Starlight Shores, California    

Annabelle stood where she was, listening to the recording from earlier that day while she had slept. She heard her own voice saying "No covers... too hot....", which she clearly remembered from the dream, then everyone started whispering about Annabelle, with Tom deciding he was going to watch after her as she slept.

Annabelle stood and waited for the recording to continue, for Tom to talk. After what seemed like hours, his voice suddenly came in, soft and kind, through the recording device.

"I remember the last time you were injured in an explosion like this. I was too, if you recall. You blamed yourself for taking me to the library but I told you it wasn't your fault, just like the meteor shower wasn't your fault." 

Annie nodded. She remembered him telling her that, when they were both injured. That felt like a lifetime ago.

"Right then and there, as we stood in the paved out lot that was the destroyed library, as we held each other in our arms, I wanted to kiss you... hoping the pain would go away for both of us, even just for one split-second of pure happiness. But I didn't, and I regret every single day that has transpired since then. I never got a real chance to tell you this, but... "

She had to stop the recording for a moment to get her bearings. She looked at the play button for what seemed like hours, knowing what he was going to say next when she pressed it. Finally, she sat in the chair, closed her eyes, and pressed the button. "Say it... Please."

"...I love you. I've always loved you. I always will."

If she hadn't been asleep for twelve hours, Annabelle would have fainted. She stood by the computer and skipped the recording back, pressing the play button again.

"I love you. I've always loved you. I always will."


"I love you. I've always loved you. I always will."


"I love you. I've always loved you. I always will."

And again.

"I love you. I've always loved you. I always will."

Her hands were cold and clammy as she finally, finally heard his admission of love for her. Sure it was from a recording, and she was asleep at the time, but he still said it, and she couldn't possibly be happier.

 "That was why I pushed you away in Hidden Springs. Because I didn't want to bear the thought of losing the love of my life after seeing that other version of you lying on the ground in the alternate universe. And I'm so sorry for that, for everything that's happened. I'm not asking you to wake up right now and kiss me, tell me everything's going to be okay, tell me I'm being silly and that you love me too. I'm asking you to know how I feel."

Annabelle briefly stopped the recording and put her hands on the screen. She brought up a picture of Tom from a few days before and brushed his cheek, then returned to the recording to listen to the rest of it.


Keera splashing broke Annabelle's concentration as she looked up and saw Tom standing in the window. She quietly mouthed three words back to him, yet knew he couldn't see what she was saying at this distance. When Tom left the view of the window, Annabelle turned around and sat down on a lawn chair, watching over Keera as she had fun in the pool.

A short time later, her mother Maria sat down next to her, the both of them watching their relative splash around while talking about John and Scarlett's wedding. When they were done talking, Annabelle was about to stand up and walk away before Maria's voice stopped her.

"You know, when Keera here came into the house, it was quite the unexpected surprise. Remember? I think you were the first one to meet her."

Annabelle nodded. "Sometimes the best things are the most unexpected. I see Keeki as my daughter, and I see Gabe as my son. They need me, and I shouldn't let them down."

Maria nodded back. "Sometimes the best things are the most unexpected."


October 1st, 2001
Maria Kethrin's Home
Sunset Valley, California

It was a warm October night in Northern California, warmer than usual, and Maria Kethrin had just put her son Johnny to bed, ready to head off to sleep herself but not before standing just outside her front door to get some air.

She returned to the house and walked into her bedroom. Just as the woman climbed into bed, she thought of her situation, where she was pretty much alone with a child. Sure, Maria had her friends: Kathy, Elliot, Michael, and Mei, all of whom she'd met on her first day in the town. but they were busy with their own things and she didn't want to worry them with her own issues.

Maria was just getting ready to doze off, so she could get up and get ready for the next day, when she heard this strange whirring sound. The sound grew, and grew, and at first she thought that it was a noise inside her head. To her shock, however, Johnny was crying in the next room. Just after standing up, Maria a heard a massive explosion outside her house. She quickly ran over to make sure John was okay first, then carried him outside to see a huge crater near her home, the explosion of which surprisingly didn't smash her windows or, even more luckily, kill her.

While watching the backyard continue it's blaze, she remembered hearing a news story regarding falling satellites all over the planet. The panicking woman thought to herself that she was unlucky enough to have witnessed this first hand, and ran back inside to get a fire extinguisher.

However, when she got back outside with the extinguisher, the fire had begun to die down, and she could clearly see some kind of object within the blaze, an object which started to hover away and flew off at a hundred feet per second to the point she couldn't even see it after a very short time.

Using the extinguisher to put out the rest of the fire, and wondering where she'd seen that particular object before, Maria sat down next to her son and watched the fire finish itself off, moving into embers.

Maria was surprised that there were no fire trucks or ambulances heading up the mountain, and soon realized that she was near a blasting site for construction. People around here were probably used to hearing explosions, even at night.

Relieved that it was over, she looked at her son, who was smiling and waving towards something off in the distance. Maria, puzzled, stood up and walked towards the location Johnny was pointing to. At first she didn't see anything, but then something was rustling in the bushes.

"Hello?" Maria said, worried. Perhaps that ship, whatever it was, left something behind before it took off. Still scared, Maria again spoke into the bushes. "Whatever you are... I got... I got... attitude! And I'm not afraid to use it!" Slowly, surely, something emerged from the plants, and yet was the same color, so to speak, as them. It looked like a small toddler, but Maria had never seen a toddler with green skin.

Her first instinct was to run, and her feet held more instinctive ability than her brain apparently as she found herself ten feet away from the child, but she then came to the realization that this child was probably alone, perhaps on the entire planet.

"Okay. Okay. What should I do? I can report her to the authorities? No... she's an alien, they'd probably lock her up in a facility for her entire life. Or worse." Maria paced while thinking, and was startled to see that the child was doing the same, following her. Eventually she walked over to John, and the little girl did the same, sitting in front of him.

John laughed, and so did the toddler, which sparked an interest in Maria's curiosity. Watching them interact, she noticed how normal the situation looked.

"Oh dear."


"Yeah, it's kinda hard to explain." Maria said on the phone in her house, listening as the two children were playing with each other. She was talking to Elliot Coen, her friend, about the close encounter she was currently experiencing.

"What are you going to do?" Elliot asked, seemingly glossing over the fact that Maria just told him that there was a green-skinned space toddler who fell from the sky in a glowing ship who was now in her living room playing peek-a-boo with her son.

"I don't know." Maria replied. "I don't know anything right now. I just... I can't just leave her alone, she's too young. All I know is I can't stay here right now. There's too much damage to my backyard and my power is going off and on since the explosion. I can't be here with two children without power!"

Elliot sighed. "I can't let you stay there. We have a few extra rooms here at the house, you can stay here until we figure things out. I'll be up there in a bit to pick you all up."

Maria nodded. "Thanks, Elliot. I can always count on you and Mei." She hung up the phone and walked over to the kids. "Hello... you.... green kid. Almost like a jade emerald?" The toddler laughed, then Maria continued. "I'll call you Emerald Jade! No... no that won't work. Emerald... Emeral... Em... Emmy? Amy? An... Anna... Belle. Annabelle? How's 'Annabelle' sound?"

The young kid smiled, and so did Maria. "Okay Annabelle. Annabelle Jade. You know you're a cute little kid, Annabelle. Green, but cute!"

The little Annie laughed as Maria, knowing that this girl needed her, snuggled up with her while they stood there in the house.


Maria handed Keera a robe from a nearby outdoor locker as the latter emerged from the pool, happy to have finally broken her fear of swimming after two years. As Keeki put the clothes on, she looked over at her grandmother, who looked about as young as her own mother Annabelle. "So, young again potion?" she asked. "Is it permanent?"

"Yeah." Maria responded. "John said it was and I trust him."

Keera smiled. "You look good! I hope I look as good as that when I'm your age. Well obviously... you know."

Maria picked up on her words. "I'm sorry for what happened to you. Back in Alaska. I heard about it when I was on the set at Monte Vista."

The teenager shook her head. "Honestly, I'm getting kinda over it. My eye is back, and I told myself that my scar is there as a reminder I should always be careful. Always. The next time I slip up, I may not be around to brood about it. Accidents do happen, right?"

Maria nodded. "Yeah." She wasn't there for any of the accidents regarding her family, but worried about them immensely. When she heard about Keera's injury from an explosion, it brought back so many nightmares of Annabelle being in a similar situation when that girl was seventeen.

When the conversation was over, Keera grabbed her formal dress and carried it away. She smiled while bidding Maria a good night and left to change out of her wet swim clothes.  On the way to her bedroom, she passed by Deacon, who was standing near the wall upstairs while holding his sides.

"You okay?" Keera asked, stopping for a few moments to check up on him. "You need something?"

"Nah." he said with a whimper in his voice, "Every once in a while my back acts up. I get used to it but sometimes it's worse than usual. I let it happen when it gets like that, no point trying to change it. Besides, I deserve the pain."

"You don't deserve pain." Keera said.

"I'm in this pain all the time because of my own mistakes. If anything, I do deserve it." Deacon walked away, holding his back the whole time, and Keera watched him leave. Before he got to the stairs, however, she called out to him.

"I heard what happened in Bridgeport, how you were knocked forty feet off the roof by Tom. I also heard you were practically brainwashed by Jack and, when you fell, got some sense knocked into you. Losing your parents, growing up under... that man's rule... not knowing your sister was alive this whole time... I don't blame you for what you did."

"All in all, it wasn't your fault."

She then walked into her room, leaving Deacon to his thoughts.


Cassie was down in the rec room, playing an arcade game alongside Gabriel, when Deacon walked in. He tapped on her shoulder and silently asked her to meet him out in the hall. After pausing her game, she did so but not before telling Gabe that she would be back in a few.

Gabriel nodded, not even looking over at her, and she smiled. 'This is the best week of his life so far', she thought, and headed out the door.

"What's up, Deacon?"

"Nothing much. I was talking with Keera, and I was wondering: Am I a bad person?"

Cassie almost chuckled, then looked her brother square in the eyes to see he was legitimately asking the question. "No!" She said, finally. "You've done bad things, yes, but we all have. Why do you ask this?"

"I don't know. I'm just in pain, and I wonder if I deserve it."

Cassie nodded. "You don't. I don't see it in your eyes. I would have seen it years ago, when we met again... remember?"


March 4th, 2019
A. Gentry Memorial Hospital
45 miles outside of Hidden Springs, Alaska

"I must say, Ms. Jones, I was quite surprised when I heard you were coming. Deacon said he didn't have any family."

"He does. He just doesn't know it."

Cassie was walking alongside a doctor in a small medical facility. Having heard of Deacon's recent connection to Jack Toomes, she spent nearly a year tracking him down, and finally found him in this clinic up in the state of Alaska.

"How bad are his injuries?" Cassie asked.

"We repaired the best we can with surgery, and so did others before us, but he's still hurt. He'll have pain for the rest of his life but that can be controlled. If you want to see him, he's right through this door."

Cassie nodded, and the doctor walked away. She didn't know why he chose one of the most out-of-the-way hospitals in one of the most remote locations, but she wasn't going to question it. At this current moment in time, she just wanted to see her brother.

Deacon, sitting in a back massage chair, kept his eyes closed as he heard the door open. "Doc. You got another treatment for me?"

"It's not the doctor." Cassie said, quietly. Deacon stood up stayed by the chair, looking the teen right in the eyes.

"Who are you?"

"Someone. Someone you knew a long time ago. Do you remember me?" Deacon nodded, but he wasn't sure why. Cassie took this as a sign, and continued. "What do you remember about me?"

"I don't know." he said, quietly. "You just look so familiar."

"I'm here to take you home, Deacon." Cassie said. "Your home."

Deacon shook his head while looking at the girl. "This hospital is my home. I deserve the isolation, I really do. I'm sorry, but I lied. One more terrible thing I've done... I don't recognize you at all. Please go."

Cassie stood her ground, despite him telling her to leave.. "Please look closer. Please. You remember me." Deacon closed his eyes, trying to dig up repressed memories that he lost when Jack took him in, raising him up and breaking him down at the same time. He then heard her voice again.

"Remember me as I was."

When he opened them again, the teen was standing there still, but somehow had regressed into the appearance of a ten-year-old, with the same hair color and the same colored clothes.

His sister, as she looked the last time he saw her.


Deacon shook the image of this younger Cassie away and ran over best he could to hug her. "Cassie! You're alive! You're alive!"

"I'm here, brother. Don't worry. I'm here to take you home."


Deacon shed a tear as he remembered back to when he and his sister were reunited, pulling her into the same hug they shared then.

"I love you, sis."

Cassie smiled and pulled away. "I love you too, bro. You don't deserve all the bad things that have happened to you. No one should."

Deacon broke the hug and smiled, then turned around to see Isobelle standing in the living room. Looking back to Cassie, he quietly whispered in her ear. "You're right." He then left her to go speak to Izzy, allowing Cassie to return to the rec room with Gabe, where he was still playing video games.

Deacon walked up to Isobelle, who hugged him. "Hey!" she said, happily. "I've been looking all over for you!"

"Yeah I was pacing the house, mulling things over." Deacon walked over to the couch in the living room and sat down, where Isobelle joined him. "The man that took you in, and helped you see the good in things when you were a teenager, what do you think your life would be like if he hadn't done that? If the two of you hadn't met?"

Isobelle shook her head as she looked off in the distance. "I don't know. I've done bad things, out of necessity, before I met him. Maybe I wouldn't be here, with you, and I don't like that prospect." She then chuckled. "Neither would Jack."


June 18th, 2018 
Plasma 501 Basement
Bridgeport, New York

Jack Toomes had just suffered a crippling, insulting blow by Tom and Annabelle. Covered in soot and ash from the fire trap Tom knocked him into, the man teleported into the basement of his lair and moved into a prototype "regeneration chamber" to heal his burn wounds. When they were healed, he stayed in the chamber for a few moments to think things over.

"Stupid kids! Who do they think they are?! I'll get them. I'll make them pay! When I return to form, Tom and Annabelle are going to pay for insulting me like this! NO ONE humiliates the Benefactor! I'll kill them both!"

"That's not going to happen. No one touches the green girl."

Jack was startled by this voice, who sounded close to Annabelle with a darker tone to it. "Who just said that?!"

"Take a guess."

Jack quickly turned around and saw this green girl who looked practically identical to Annabelle in white clothes and hair standing behind him. He cowered in fear and stepped backwards as the girl angrily walked towards him. "If you ever try to harm Annabelle Kethrin again, I will not only kill you, I'll make you suffer for years..."

"...before you ASK me to kill you."

Jack backed up against a wall. Though he was healed due to the red light, this girl took him by surprise, and did not look to be in a joyful mood. The last thing he wanted to do after losing a fight to Tom and Annabelle was get into another fight with someone similar.

Knowing she had him where she wanted, the green girl continued. "If you go near their family, I'll give you a scar. If you enter their house, I'll throw you off it's roof. If you get within three feet of Annabelle Kethrin, I'll break every bone you have below the waist. Do you understand me?"

Jack nodded profusely as the girl looked around the room. "Now. Turn yourself in. Admit. Everything. If you do not, just remember I know where you live."

With that, she teleported away, leaving Jack in fear for his own future.


"That could have been one of the reasons he got plastic surgery." Isobelle said with a laugh, "I scared him bad enough!"

"Why didn't you tell me about this before?" Deacon asked. He didn't really worry much about this kind of stuff, but hearing a story about Jack Toomes cowering in fear as the girl who would grow up to be his girlfriend scared the hell out of him... that made him feel happy.

"I don't like talking much about my past. But I am willing to make exceptions." The two stood up, and Deacon caressed her cheek. She held his hand as he did so, smiled, and started to walk away.

"I'm going upstairs to sleep. Maybe you can join me."

Deacon smiled, and nodded at her. Isobelle smiled back and kept walking, finding herself past the rec room door just as Gabriel was walking out.

"Hey there!" Gabe said, looking at her. "You're... Isobelle, right?"

Izzy nodded. "Yeah, Gabe. Sorry we haven't talked much since you got here. I've been busy with helping to plan the wedding and everything."

"Don't worry yourself over it." the teen replied. "Though I have heard of your exploits from Annab-... erm... Mom. I heard she was the one who gave you your name, 'Isobelle'. That's one thing we have in common, actually."

"I know. I think the two of us have a lot in common."

"How do you figure?"

"Well, we're both loners who found a new family." Isobelle said. "A warm, loving family. And I really would not have it any other way."

"Yeah. Tom did something the other night that proved how much he cares about people he's never even met before.", Gabe said.

Three days ago

 Gabriel stood in the living room, ready to get to sleep on the couch for another night. Tom, seeing an opportunity to help the wayward teen out in any possible way, walked up to him.

"You know I got a sleeping bag upstairs. These couches can be rather uncomfortable to sit on, much less sleep."

"Thanks... Tom." Gabriel didn't know what to call him. He was his father in the dream he had, but in the real world he didn't know how Tom would react to something like that. In the end he decided to call him "Tom."

Tom was about to walk away, ready to get the sleeping bag, but stopped himself. "You know, Cassie said you don't have a last name."

"Yeah. Had one in the dream. Don't have one in real life."

"Well... what about a sense of balance?" Gabriel looked confused as Tom kept talking. "If you're gonna be here for a while, you should have a name that balances out with the rest. Most of these family members; Coen, Kethrin, Keene, they all have last names that start with a 'cuh' sound. Counting myself, there's only three whose names start with 'J'. Maybe you should be named.... Jameson? Like me? I mean, it will give me someone to talk to better knowing that you have the same last name. You also have similar mannerisms so it works out well."

"Gabriel Jameson. It works for me. That's what it was in my dream."

Tom walked away, proud that his genetic descendant took his last name. Before he could, Gabe's voice stopped him. "Hey, thank you."

Tom, without looking, replied quietly. "You're welcome, son."

When Gabe was done talking to Isobelle, he walked away to the living room and set up Tom's sleeping bag, using it for a good night's sleep.

As the night went on, everyone periodically went to sleep, ready for the next day.


The next morning, September 30th, had Starlight Shores covered in fog which had rolled off the ocean into the coastal city. MIKE, who was busy all night with working on some secret project in the basement, hovered up the stairs to the roof.

Having a clock placed into his systems, MIKE knew what time it was and decided to show off what could best be described as a "sense of humor". He quickly looked through recordings that he had downloaded off the internet and found one called "". When he turned his own speakers up and played the morning call, the sound of a rooster crowing at the sunrise permeated throughout the air, waking up nearly everyone in the house with the exception of the heaviest of sleepers.

Incidentally, Annabelle kept snoring away.

A few hours later and everyone was up and getting ready for the big event. Mirabelle and Kelly wore red dresses, the same ones they were trying on the night their lives changed. Since Mirabelle wanted to stand alongside Kelly, she chose to wear the dress as opposed to Annabelle who decided to wear the formal attire she had on the night before.

Cassie, Gabe, Tom, Deacon, Isobelle, Elliot, Mei, and Maria also decided to wear their formal clothes from the party the night before, while John wore an entirely different tux and Scarlett put on a white wedding dress, an entirely different change of pace from her normal wardrobe.  

Keera, being the maid of honor, wore her own fancy dress that Scarlett said she could wear, not wanting to restrict the teen's choice of clothes.

When all were ready, everyone headed down the beach and walked towards the docked ship, with the exception of John. Scarlett looked around wondering where her husband-to-be went off to, but realized that he was presumably working off the old suspicion that it was bad luck to see the bride in the dress before the  wedding.

Scarlett walked aboard the boat first, followed by everyone else in a regular line. When most of the family was on board, Annabelle and Mirabelle brought the wedding cake, telling everyone to be extraordinarily careful with it because if Scarlett's cake got destroyed, the entire barge would be under the ocean in less than a minute.

Pete, talking on the phone, put it away and walked towards the controls, telling everyone to board now or get left behind. Mei was the last one to step onto the gangway, then looked around at the people on board, her growing family that began a long time ago.

Mei loved weddings, being a fan of romance. She also knew that John and Red would get together, seeing as they instantly fell in love when they were old enough to know what love even was.

That was something Mei was tremendously a fan of, "love at first sight", How could she not be? Why wouldn't she believe that chance encounters could happen, and that the two involved would become so enamored with one another enough to stay married for years?

She had no reason to disbelieve it, as it happened to her a long time before.

October 5th, 1996
Shangri-La, China

Nestled in the western mountains of China was the ancient town of Shangri-La, a village which was called "legendary" by travelers across the world.

To Mei Li it was a place she did not like. It wasn't because she hated where she lived, or her family, it's simply because she had only left the city she called home roughly five times since she was born in a small hospital there sixteen years before.

Today was no exception. Mei walked around her father's small shop in the town, browsing books she'd read over a hundred times each and admiring the little things that she had admired many times before. Her mother Biyu approached her and began talking about the shop itself, and when she was done Mei quietly made her way outside of the shop so she didn't have to hear more about the lovely place for a few hours.

Just as Mei was leaving, she turned tail and ran down towards the corner, but saw a blue blur out of the corner of her eye just as she turned. Seconds later she slammed right into another person who was rushing down the other side of the corner to get to the store to buy things.

Both of them hit the ground hard, and the other person was the first to stand. "Are you okay?" he asked as she struggled to get back onto her feet.

Mei stood back up and held her head as the other teen, an American, kept asking if she was alright. When her cognitive abilities returned, she looked at him and smiled. "Yes, yes I am alright."

The other teen smiled back as he looked at her. He wasn't sure if it was a concussion or something else, but he couldn't take his eyes off this girl. "Can I help you with something? You need something for your head?"

Mei was dumbstruck. "No, it's fine. I just fell." As Mei said this, smitten while looking into the teen's blue eyes, she herself was wondering if she used the phrase "fell" to mean more than one thing in this case. Having studied English for three years, she knew quite a bit regarding certain meanings of different words.

"I fell too." the teen said. "My name's Elliot. Elliot Coen."

"Mei Li."

"Can I walk you to the shop?", Elliot asked, "I was heading there just now."

Ignoring the fact that she was leaving to get away from the store, Mei nodded and the two walked back there. When Elliot was sure she was alright, he left to buy some things and walked out the door, but not before taking a long glance back at Mei.

"If you need anything from me," Elliot said, "I'll be up at that hotel on the hill." He didn't know why he said this, and left before he made himself look even more awkward. Mei smiled and laughed, then stood back up and walked towards the door, watching him leave.


A couple hours later, Elliot was standing in the hotel looking down at the city, specifically the shop that he met Mei at. His sisters, Tina and Kathy, walked into the room and started goofing around with him.

"We've only been on vacation here for a day and look what's happened already! Look at those flushed cheeks, feel the fluttered heartbeat of our dearest younger brother!" Kathy said while making romantic poses. "Someone's in loooooooooooooove!"

"Uh...n-no I'm not why do you say that I'm not in love who are you please leave a message after the beep *beep*." Elliot, flustered, started to walk away before Tina stopped him.

"Yeah. I saw the same look on Tommy's face when he first laid eyes on me. It's love at first sight! Did you meet someone here? You have a new friend?"

"I just met her at the store not three hours ago, guys." Elliot said. "She's a local, and a... a beautiful one at that. Her name's Mei."

Mei, who was walking through the hotel to find Elliot, found an open arch and waited outside it after hearing Elliot's voice, wanting to hear what he thought of her after speaking her name.

Unbeknownst to her eavesdropping on the conversation, Elliot continued as he returned to look out the window. "I only saw her for a moment, but I felt like a year. Though I was just so amazed at her beauty... that I wanted it to feel like a decade. I wish I could know more about her, but I don't know what to say."


Kathy and Tina both made "awwww" sounds when Elliot mentioned this. And then they quietly gasped when they turned around to see Mei. Elliot, still looking out the window, didn't see her but heard his sisters leave the room. He was happy to be alone to his thoughts but wanted to see Mei again, and secretly wished it. As he turned around to walk out of the room, he suddenly felt his lips connect with someone else's. This sudden kiss shocked him, but when the person who planted it stepped back he was happy as all could be.

"I heard what you said." Mei smiled, and then they kissed again.

September 8th, 1998
Sunset Valley, California

Over the next two years, Elliot and Mei sent messages back and forth through the mail and eventually through the internet, writing little love notes. On what was her eighteenth birthday, Elliot wrote a typical note saying how much he missed her and to wish her a happy birthday, despite not having received any messages for a week.

Upset, he stood up and went through his day-to-day, carrying trash out to the curb. When he carried it out the door, however, he dropped the bag on the ground and ran off the patio, seeing the love of his life standing on the sidewalk with a suitcase nearby. Elliot, stunned, walked over and hugged her amorously.

"I wanted to give myself a little birthday present."

After talking outside for what seemed like hours, she leaped into his arms and smiled as he carried her into the house, where they truly began their lives together.


This fond memory filled Mei's heart as she stepped onto the boat, the last one aboard. She looked over at Kelly, standing next to the love of her own life, and over at Tom and Annabelle who might as well have been in a relationship. Pete, driving the vessel, told everyone to hang on as the red barge drove off into the ocean, parking not too far from the beach but giving everyone a perfect view of the sunset.

Annabelle grew worried when she realized John wasn't below deck. She expected him to be on the boat before it took off, but there was nothing but Pete's living quarters down there. She then ran upstairs and tried to figure out where the groom, before Pete approached her.

"Aye, ye not need be worryin' about ye groom too much Miss Purpley-Black." he said. "He'll be along shortleh'. He called to tell ma' to take the boat off port."

"Why?" Annabelle asked. "What's he planning?"

"Aye, this old salt just drives the boat young lade'h. He doesn't worry too much about the fancy things people do when they pay him so well."

As Pete walked away, he walked past Keera, who looked at his face and smiled genuinely, noticing the scar across his eye. "Nice eye patch."

"Aye, it's pretty comfe'h." Pete replied. "Many people be wearin' them soon I tell ya. You should try it out."

Keera shook her head, then spoke with a rather sarcastic tone. "In nautical terms, I think the best way to respond to that is 'that ship has sailed."

Everyone started to take their seats as Annabelle played some random music to pass the time, wishing she had a watch on so she could look at it repeatedly while getting worried about John's arrival. She didn't need to worry though. No way, in the realm of humanity, would John leave Scarlett at the altar. Mostly because he would have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his few remaining days.

Just as she was planning John's obituary, her cell phone rang. She answered it and heard John's voice on the other end.

"Tell everyone to get back. I'm gonna give them a show."   

Annabelle walked toward  the center of the boat, telling everyone to get back. Just as she did so, the center of the vessel lit up brightly, with John emerging from a veritable light show. He finally got all the kinks fixed out of the teleporter, and stood with his arms crossed as he teleported to the ship from the house, his hair slicked back and wearing a new fine tux.

Scarlett, chuckling, walked up to her groom-to-be and hugged him. "You're not supposed to see me in my wedding dress yet."

"I figured I'd take the chance."

When John arrived, everyone took their seats as he himself walked up to the wedding arch. With this being their personal family ceremony they did not have anyone on board who would issue the marriage license, but would obtain it after the ceremony on land. As such, this was merely a formality, one that Scarlett wanted ever since she was a child.

The clock struck 5:00 PM, and the time came. John stood at the arch while Elliot walked alongside Scarlett down the aisle. Just after them, MIKE, who was now covered in gold paint, hovered down the aisle after them.

Pete, being captain of the ship, also stood up to the arch and gave a bit of a "speech", in his case. John was about to tell him that normally sea captains couldn't preside over marriages officially but he decided to anyway. All he cared about now was looking into Scarlett's emerald-colored eyes.

"Aye, dearly beloved, we're gathere'd here ta give witness ta these two lovebirds joining their hands on the great blue for the rest of their lives. If anyone has any reason these two shouldn't be wed, you bette'h have a damn good reason."

Everyone laughed, then MIKE hovered over next to arch, dropping two gold rings out of his eye's center chamber into John's hands. Pete walked away, leaving the two to deliver their vows while placing the rings on each others' fingers, with John going first.

"Scarlett Ruby Keene. You are everything to me. Without you, I could not exist. Without you, my life would be empty, a void as black as the coloring of my clothes. It is destiny that red as vivid as the color of blood is your favorite color, how you wear it on your clothes and on your hair, because you are the blood that keeps my heart going. Wherever my life goes, I don't care. This is because I know, when you are there beside me, I shouldn't have to worry at all. I love you, Red. I vow to always be there for you as well. I vow to exist, always, for you. I vow to devote my time to our unborn children, and I vow to be a better person than the one who fathered me/"

Scarlett teared up, then spoke her own vows. "When I was asked to write these, I really couldn't think of anything but one. 'I vow to not get angry much'. I have to tell you when I wrote that I was really shooting for the moon." everyone laughed, and she continued, "I then realized, that I don't really need to vow to do anything. Neither should you. Since we've spent so much time with each other, we practically already told each other our vows. I already told you I would stay with you when you were sick, and be with you when you needed me. I told you I would always love you, and I will. Right now, in front of all our friends and family, all I want to say is... with this ring, I be wed. Through sickness and in health, I will stay. Through richer or poorer, I will always be with you. As long as we both shall live."

The newlyweds didn't even need to be told to kiss as they wrapped their arms around each other. Members of the family stood up and threw rice in the air and began cheering as the happy couple began their lives anew.

John and Scarlett cut the wedding cake and went to the table to eat it. Occasionally they would come back for more as the rest of the family also had a piece. During the reception, John stood up next to Scarlett.

"Everyone, please. I'd like to say something. Last night, my new Uncle-in-Law Elliot mentioned that we all have moments in our lives that define who we are. These are moments that we look back on, after all these years, and say to ourselves 'I wouldn't have it any other way'."

"Sometimes these moments are sad, but give us hope for the future."

"Sometimes, they are bleak, but give us strength."

"And sometimes, these moments reveal the truth about ourselves, no matter how much we try to hide it."

John smiled, and continued. "For me, this moment in my life will be the one that holds a special place in my heart and my mind, forever. It will be my defining moment, and I am happy to share it with Scarlett, the greatest person, no... the scientist in me wants to say, the greatest collection of molecules!... on this planet. And I thank every single person on this boat who made this a defining moment for the both of us."

"To the lovely couple!" Annabelle yelled.

The rest of the family clapped and cheered as the wedding continued. Annabelle grabbed the mike and started singing, while John and Scarlett slow danced on the deck of the ship. Nearby, everyone grouped up and were discussing random things, while Isobelle stood and laughed at a joke Deacon said.

Over time, the party began to wind down. Pete brought the ship back to the pier and docked it, and everyone left the vessel to return home with the exception of John and Scarlett, who spent the rest of the evening dancing the night away as Mr. and Mrs. Kethrin.

And all, for the first time in a long time, was perfect.