A/N: At least it wasn't 8 years this time, right? Can I get some credit for that at least? hehe

I now present to you the very last chapter of my epic tale. I've worked hard on it during the last two years, I hope it lives up to the wait.

Thank you.

Posted: October 6, 2020

Chapter Forty: REAL

Jake sat on the cold stone floor next to the door inside his quarters across the hall from Trixie's room. The sun had been down for a few hours now and she had not returned. He was starting to worry as he wondered how long her meeting with Spud was going to take. He debated using the Ear of the Dragon, but hesitated, not sure if he was ready to hear what they were discussing or what else he might pick up.

His thoughts then turned to the dragons that resided nearby. When they were with them, he felt the atmosphere change at the mention of Arthur and looking to find him. Apparently, there were several races in this dimension, the issenocks being one of them. They had been trying to push everyone under one flag. Which meant war. At one point, centuries ago, from what Jake understood, this entire planet was ruled by several dragon families. Now only two main families existed, with survivors of the other families being absorbed into the two stronger clans.

Jake and Haley, though they didn't look issenock, thought it safer not to drop their dragon form, until they were well on their way towards Spud's Kingdom. Once they had arrived at the den, Ashley had explained that Trixie wasn't issenock to the two leaders, but something called an ooman, as he had put it. No one had questioned it, since she didn't look like any issenock they had ever seen.

They had learned a bit of the culture while they were there once Ashley had referred to Jake as Haley's ankar. Haley had heard him use the term before and asked him what it meant. She learned that it was basically a term of bondage, that they were paired. Haley had giggled at the thought as she explained that Jake was her brother, not her pair.

Ashley looked confused before explaining only leaders of a clan kept up with bloodlines. He explained that children were raised by the entire clan, that only the children of the leaders, were raised by their parents. He explained, as an example, if a female was born to the head of the clan, the first male to hatch, from the nest, was her ankar and the first female was to stand beside her as a champion.

He explained because only one heir was needed, siblings only occurred when the firstborn was seen as weak. It was understood, if a second heir was born, they were to lead. "Your brother is older than you, yes?" he asked as his eyes lingered on Jake for a moment. His all black eyes gave the red dragon a cold feeling. "He does not appear weak," he observed.

"He isn't," Haley stood up for her brother. "He is still fairly young, but he is one of the strongest where we come from," she explained. "We live in small familial units, where you and your ankar raise your own young. I am no heir, per se, but my brother is a protector, a guardian of our homeland. There are usually only seven, a few more if territories are split and they usually are," she shrugged. "There are different territories, not all protected by dragons, but those marked called Te Xuan Ze. I don't really keep up with that line of protectors. But with us, it is understood if Jake should fall or lose his way," she looked to her brother sadly, and he turned his head in shame, "I am to take his place."

"Fascinating," Ashley breathed as he seemed to lean into Haley as she spoke. "I always assumed, if dragons beyond our dimension existed, they followed the same structure as we did. If you don't mind, I would love to discuss the matter further. Maybe-" he hesitated, a bit unsure. "Maybe we could take a walk together as we do."

Jake looked at his sister oddly as she giggled nervously before following Ashley so they could finish their conversation. It then occurred to Jake that Haley had a crush. He then realized he couldn't remember her ever having one before. The discovery surprised him.

Jake sighed as he came back to the moment, thinking about when he discovered Spud's crush on Trixie when they were younger. He had been happy for them, even if Trixie was a little stubborn about her feelings for Spud, but they were there.

The dark haired man looked out the window, another hour had passed and still Trixie had not returned to her quarters. An image flashed in his mind at what they could be doing at such a late hour. He couldn't help but chuckle, as his hand came to his chest and his fingers squeezed the material of his shirt. His chuckling soon turned into a sob as tears fell from his cheeks without abandon. The image of Trixie and Spud together, was too much.

He deserved this, he realized. The love he had for Trixie, wasn't healthy. His love for her was selfish and obsessive. For a while, it had been directed towards someone else, but it always came back to her. She had been trying to escape it. He thought of Alex and then his own cousin. He had bound her hands and cut off all exits. He had forced her into marriage, then forced himself back into her life, when she had found happiness. He had taken away her choice. He had convinced himself, it wasn't for him, that it was for another, a promise he had made to protect her.

So what was his excuse now?

What did one do, when they realized they were the villain in their own story?

It hurt loving Trixie. It had always hurt. Because when she was given a choice... it was never him.

"Ear of the Dragon," he whispered in defeat.


"Move up the timeline," Spud instructed. "The coronation will be the day after tomorrow."

"My king," concern lined his adviser's words. "The lower court has already compromised with you, going through a coronation without following any traditions. Pushing the coronation up by a week, may not go over well."

"I don't care what parliament thinks," irritation could be heard in Spud's tone. "Just make it happen," he demanded softly.

His adviser stood there a moment. "Things might go smoother, if you didn't insist on hiding the identity of the child's mother." He took a step forward. "She has been seen and rumors are abound of her being from a land far from our own."

Spud fell down into a chair. He looked tired and defeated, "I don't know what to do, Henrock," he looked to his adviser.

"You must announce her to the people properly. She must stand beside you at the coronation, as you announce a legitimate heir."

"She doesn't want me," he admitted. "She doesn't want any of this." He made a small gesture of his surroundings as Henrock sat down in a chair across from him. "I waited years for her and in that time she found another," he chuckled sadly. "As angry as I am, I can't blame her. For all she knew, I was never coming back."

"Speak with her. I'm sure if you explain, she will understand," Henrock suggested.

"I locked her in my study," the words rushed from Spud's mouth.

Henrock paused and then blinked. "You what?"

"I don't know." Now that he had said the words out loud, he realized how foolish it sounded. He began to squirm in his seat. "She was just so angry and not seeing it my way. She wanted to take Jerry back, she didn't care about the curse. I didn't know what to do," he admitted. His eyes fell to Henrock. "What do I do?"

Henrock closed his eyes and sighed slowly. "First, you will apologize," he instructed. "Then we will take her to her son."

"But-" Spud went to interrupt, but stopped when Henrock rose from his seat and made a jester for him to stop.

"You will make this right," he advised. "You separated a mother from her child and then expected her to be reasonable. The damage you have already done, may not be salvageable, but you will try."

Spud nodded to himself then rose from his seat. "I will make it right," he echoed.

"Good," Henrock nodded in approval as Spud made his way towards the door.

Spud then turned into the hallway before making his way up a set up stairs that made up a short tower. He came to a room at the end of the hall and greeted the guard outside the door. "You may retire for the evening," he gave his command.

The guard looked to Henrock, who discreetly shook his head from side to side."I speak with no disrespect, but considering where we are, I will stay a little longer."

Spud's hand came down on the guard's shoulder. "Of course. I understand."

The taller man then knocked on the door and entered the room as Henrock stayed with the guard. Spud found Jerry sitting at the desk with an older woman, who had him looking over a book. "Very good, young one," she encouraged him. She turned and smiled warmly as Spud came into her view.

"How is it going?" he asked.

"Remarkably well, considering it has only been a few days." she rose from her seat and Spud rushed to help her. "Stop fussing over me." She shooed him away. She tucked in her chair and made her way to the hallway, Spud following her before she closed the door. "I must admit, I don't like any of this," she paused for a moment, "but he is a smart child. He is picking up our history very quickly." Her hand came up to touch Spud's cheek. "It reminds me of when you first came to us." She made a face. "Except he's not as odd as you were."

"Grandmother," his shoulders dropped as she chuckled.

"He will make a fine heir," she approved. "If you speak with him, do not make it long." She looked around and the guard stood straighter as he realized he was noticed. "Good. If you speak to him alone make sure Julian is nearby. We don't want any incidence this close to the coronation."

"Lady Helena," Henrock gave a small bow as he greeted her. She only gave him a sour look before turning back to her grandson.

"Yes, that is what I've come to speak to you about. I want to move up the coronation," he admitted. He didn't miss the frown that came across the older woman's face. "I know a lot of things aren't going as planned, but I believe the faster we do this, the more at ease we will all be. I can't keep tiptoeing around my own son, afraid of what I might do," he confessed. "I have already missed so much of his life. It seems cruel that I can only talk to him for minutes a day under supervision."

"It has been a long day," Helena stated tiredly. "We'll discuss it in the morning." Her tone left no room from the former queen as she began to make her way down the hall towards her own quarters.

Spud watched her until she disappeared around the corner. He then opened the door to the bedroom. "Come with me," he instructed.

"It's late and I'm tired." Jerry fell onto his bed. "I've been studying all day."

"Your mother is here."

Jerry hopped up quickly, his face bright. "What? How?" he stood up and began to follow Spud. "I thought you said she wouldn't be able to come here."

"You know your mother is a resilient woman. I should have known nothing I did would have kept her from you. Jake and Haley are here as well," he confessed, "but we will see Trixie first. Don't be surprised at her anger." Jerry looked at him oddly, but said nothing as Henrock and Julian the guard followed behind them.


Trixie laid exhausted on the floor of the small room. She had ransacked the room, in a fevered matter, desperate to find something that would help her escape, but found nothing that could be of use. Now there were many items that laid broken and in pieces on the floor around her. She let out a cry of frustration. How did she get here, how did she become this damsel in distress? That had never been her game. And as she took a calming breath and rose to all four, she realized she wasn't done trying.

She grabbed the sharp piece of a vase she had broken off the floor and crawled her way to the door. It was made of wood. She took the piece of the vase and began to scratch the wood away from the locking mechanism, wondering if Spud had chosen this room to speak in because the door wasn't controlled by a crystal. This would take hours, but she couldn't let Spud get away with this. At the thought, her hand stilled. She realized she had just thought of Spud as the enemy. Tears slipped from her eyes as she began again. "Jake, Haley, where are you?" she wondered.


Haley woke up with a start, for a moment, she had forgotten where she was and suddenly the memories came flooding back to her. She sat up, wondering how long she had slept as she realized the sun had already gone down. She stretched as she got out of bed. Her quarters were small, a simple room of 12x12 with standard furnishings. She opened the main door that led to Trixie's part of the room and immediately frowned when she noticed Trixie had not made it back to the room.

For some reason, her first thought was to wake Tsukki, but thought better of it. "Ear of the Dragon," she immediately called upon her ability as she rushed to the door that led to the hall. Something wasn't right, she could feel it to the very core of her. As the door swung open, she gasped a bit in surprise to see her brother swinging his door open as well.

"Left." she pointed towards herself. Jake nodded and then the two siblings headed off in opposite directions.

It was late, the castle quiet, Haley's dragon ears twitched back and forth like a cat as she tried to pick up any sounds at all. She could here, the sound of snoring and a few shuffled steps as other people prepared to retire for the night. Her ears then perked forward as the sound Jerry's footsteps registered. Haley couldn't help the smile that came across her face as she picked up her speed and ran towards the sound.

Spud and Jerry had just made it to the bottom of the staircase, when Jerry gasped and started running. Spud looked up and saw Haley running towards them. "Auntie!" Jerry yelled out, Spud hearing the smile in his voice, realized he hadn't actually seen Jerry smile since he arrived. His shoulders fell at the realization.

"Jerry!" Haley took him in her arms and held him close as she tried not to cry. "We've all been so worried."

"I'm okay," he confirmed. He then slightly pulled away, "He said he was taking me to mom."

Haley pulled him back to her, her eyes turned fierce as she looked to Spud. "There are so many different ways you could have gone about this. You kidnapped him!" she couldn't help the anger in her words. "If you weren't our friend…" she let the threat linger.

Spud closed his eyes and sighed. He knew no words to still her anger and he wasn't sure he wanted to. "I'll take you to Trixie," was all he could say.

Blood dripped from Trixie's hand as she continued her work on the lock. She hadn't gotten far, and it was starting to look hopeless, but that didn't stop her from her task, not until she heard sounds coming from the other side of the door.

Trixie's mind started to race. How long had she been here, how long had she been working at the door? Was it already morning? Was someone coming to alter her memories? Trixie quickly stood up, gripping the broken vase piece even harder as she realized she would have to attack the person who came through the door. She heard the keys in the lock, she could hear her heart in her ears. "Mom!" came the sound she feared she would never hear again. The vase dropped to the ground and broke into 3 pieces as Jerry wrapped his arms around her followed by Haley and the three slowly fell to the floor.

"I'm sorry," camed the whispered apology from her childhood friend. "I was upset and I was angry. I wasn't thinking straight when I locked you in here. I just needed-"

"You locked her in here?!" Haley screamed. "What is wrong with you?" She couldn't understand. "What has this place done to you?"

"Haley!" Haley heard the voice of her brother call to her. She answered his call and a moment later he had pushed himself past Spud and the other two men to hold his family.

Spud whispered another apology, which fell on death's ear. "We are taking him home." Jake told immediately.

The next words spoken, hurt Trixie in a way she hadn't felt since she lost her daughter, Frankie. "No," came the reply from her son. "I won't leave."


"You're a fucking fuck-wit," Trixie made no attempt to hid her angry as she, Jake, Haley, Spud, and Jerry sat at a large conference table as several guards and Henrock stood by.

It had been a long night as the morning now stretched across the horizon. "I don't know what to say to make you understand," Spud revealed. "What I did was completely and utterly unforgivable, but we need to work this out. We need to do what is best for the kingdom."

"I don't know if you have noticed, but I don't give a damn about your kingdom or your status. If you wanted to talk about this we could have calmly talked about this without having to chase you across the universe," Trixie explained. "I waited so long to have you back with us, and the first thing you did was betray us," her voice cracked but expression did not falter. "How did you expect us to forgive you?"

Spud said nothing as he realized he didn't know. How could he tell her, his jealousy was the reason for his rash behavior. What kind of excuse was that, he wondered.

Jake took Spud's silence as an opportunity to turn to Jerry. "You said you didn't want to leave, why?" he asked.

Jerry looked around the table and realized that everyone's eyes had fallen on him. "I've been studying the history of this place. It comes easy to me," he admitted, "The words transformed in front of me into English. Things have been coming to me, memories that aren't mine. I feel a strange power, something I now realize, has been with me my entire life." As he spoke, Spud's movement caught Trixie's eye.

Spud held out his hands, his palms facing her as he flipped them to show they were empty. He then ran them passed each other and when they parted a red, thornless rose appeared in his right hand. He placed the rose in front of her. He watched anxiously as he waited for her response. His eye perked open as he saw her reach for it, but then hesitate, her fingertips only millimeters away from the flower. A small part of him broke as he watched her pull her hand away and rest it back on her lap, the rose untouched.

"But what I feel now," Jerry had continued, not noticing the scene that had occurred between his parents, "it's not just mine. I can feel her…Ariel." He stood, his words firm, he knew he was only a child, but he would make them all understand. "I will take the throne. I end the curse, I will bring peace."

"Jerry," Jake took his arm. "Just come home with us," he begged. "You don't have to do this, this is not your job."

"No, it is my obligation," he looked to Jake. "If we go now, I can never be alone with you. I'll always have to be on guard. I'll grow up, have a child of my own someday and fear what I might do." He shook his head from side to side. "No," came the simple word. "That is not the way I will live my life."

Jake let go of Jerry's arm, as he saw himself within him, a child with far too much responsibility on his shoulders. "I understand," he whispered before he watched him visibly relax a little.

Jerry looked to Henrock. "Prepare the coronation for tomorrow," he commanded. "To make the Lower Court happy, my mother will be properly introduced to the people and I will take the throne as the new King."

"I can't," Trixie shook her head. "I don't want to leave you here. I don't want to go home without you or without my memories of you." Haley reached over and squeezed her hand.

Jerry took his seat beside his mother and he took her other hand. "What I have planned will not work, if you aren't there. This will be one of the biggest days of my life, I don't want to do it without my mom." At his words, Trixie thought back to her own parents and how they had cut her out of their life because she did not fit in the box they had made for her. How Jake and Johnathan didn't speak for years because of their different point of views. She concluded she wouldn't be like that. She wouldn't walk away when her child asked her for her help.


Trixie stood on a large balcony dressed in the fanciest dress she had ever seen as she stood close to Spud, but refused to touch him. She smiled and waved and played the part her son had asked her to play. Spud stood tall as she was announced to the people below, who cheered in celebration. The cheers did not last long as murmurs of disbelief and confusion followed as it was announced King Arthur would be stepping down from his role of King and his son would take up the mantle.

The crowd fell silent as Spud dropped to one knee as a member of the Lower Court removed the crown from his head then turned to a kneeling Jerry to place the crown upon him. "Long live the king. King Jeremy!" Cheers for the young king were then heard among the people.

Jerry smiled, the first part of his plan had been completed. Now for part two. He had not wanted to scare his mother, but taking the throne had been a risk. As the words of the curse filled his mind, Jerry discovered what it meant. Ariel had tortured her sister's bloodline by making them kill their first born child as a reminder of the betrayal she had felt from Leela, but what no one seemed to realize was if they somehow kept that first born child alive, on their thirteen year of life, they would become Ariel themselves. Their mind, their body, their soul, would no longer exist, they would be Ariel.

Jerry rose back to his feet and took a few steps forward to be better seen by the people. He raised his hand and the crowd once again grew silent. No one could question his legitimacy, his authority, not now that his mother had been announced and with his father denouncing his placement. "For thousands of years my family has ruled this land," he began his speech with a gravitas that seemed odd on such a small boy. "In my short time here, I have learned that this kingdom holds a proud people, loyal people. For generations, we have protected our way of life," as he spoke a darkness began to fill the air. "But that way of life has brought death and destruction where there sound not have been."

He heard a woman scream, as the darkness was revealed to be the shadows of hundreds of dragons overhead. "War has raged off and on for as far back as I could read, only to discover this is not our land. It was stolen from its rightful owners."

The leaders of the dragon clan and their Champions flew down into the courtyard along with two other dragons that were familiar to the new King. People scrambled to get out of the way as they landed. Suddenly Jerry transported from the balcony to the courtyard and with his head held high he walked towards the dragons.

"My first and last act as your King," his voice rose to be heard by all those around him. "Is to surrender my crown and this kingdom, to the strongest dragon clan. The Clan of Ventos," with those words, Jerry brought his hands up to the crown and removed it from his head. He kneeled before the dragon leaders and placed the crown on the ground. He then reached for the white handkerchief, Lady Helena had folded so lovingly for his big day. He could feel her murderous gaze on the back of his head from her place on the balcony as he covered the crown. Jerry looked up and met the eyes of the dragon before him. "Long live the king."

And as he said the words he could feel the influence of Ariel leave his body. The curse finally broken. He wobbled as he rose back up to his feet, but before he could fall over Jake and Haley were by his side to hold him up.

In their dragon form, Jake and Haley had returned to the dragons they had befriended and told them of Jerry's plan to return the land to them. They were naturally suspicious at first, until Ashley stepped forward and vouched for them, putting his life on the line in doing so.

Needless to say, the dragons were surprised to see two of their fellows turn into another form, as it was an ability they had lost so long ago they thought it to be myth.

"Are you ready?" Jake asked Haley and Jerry. Jerry nodded, but Haley's eyes did not leave the sky as she searched for Ashley among the array of dragons. "Haley?"

"Yes!" her eyes growing wild and answering quickly as she realized she had been distracted.

With those words, the three of them each took out four leaf clovers. Jake looked up to the balcony and nodded to Trixie, who nodded back. The three on the ground then ate the clovers and disappeared from everyone's sight.

"What is going on?" Lady Helena was furious. "He can't do that? Why would he surrender our kingdom?"

She went most ignored by Spud as he realized Trixie had taken his hand. She said nothing as she reached into her pocket and pulled out the rose he had presented to her yesterday. Around the stem, three chains were wrapped around them and the pendants sparkled before she closed the items in the palm of his hands.

Spud's expression was blank, but that did not stop the tears that fell down his cheeks. Trixie knew she was breaking him and she couldn't decide at this moment if she cared.

"Goodbye, Arthur," were her final words before he saw the green clover disappear behind her lips and she was gone.


The transition back was a smoother ride then the one before. Trixie found herself on her back as she opened her eyes and saw the familiar blue skies of home. A moment later, Jake's face came into her view, the back of his fingers caressed her cheek lovingly. "Hey there," he whispered. "Welcome home," he whispered softly.

Suddenly Trixie's ears perked as she heard laughter. She knew that sound and couldn't help the beat of her heart speeding up. She sat up quickly and no more than twenty feet away she saw Jerry hugging a man. "I was so worried," the man spoke, his focus on his son.

"I can see him," the words slipped from her lips. "Gregory," she hadn't said the word in years, the vibration as the sound left her mouth felt strange.

Then as if on queue, when he heard his name, Gregory looked over and saw Trixie sitting in the grass. "I don't understand," his face looked concerned for a moment as he took a glance at his cousin and then back at Trixie.

"Gregory!" Trixie cried out happily as she scrambled to her feet and ran to him. Gregory hesitated not one more moment as he took several steps forward and greeted her with open arms. She buried her head in his shoulder as she cried. "I thought I'd never see you again."

Jake smiled sadly at their reunion. His sister took his arm in a form of comfort. "What happened to the GL ban?" She let her curiosity get the best of her.

"I thought you would have known that," he seemed surprised. "Dragon magic and Leprechaun magic isn't always compatible. On occasion they cancel each other out."

"What are you going to do?" Haley asked as she watched Trixie and Gregory pull Jerry into their hug.

Jake sighed. "Nothing." He then looked down at his sister and smiled. "So…" he drew out. "You and Ashley?" he asked, wanting to change the subject.

Haley's face grew red at the mention of the other dragon. "Shut up!" Jake couldn't help but laugh at her reaction.


It was one in the morning as Trixie climbed back into bed after checking on Jerry for what had to be the fourth time that night. "Oh," she said in surprise as Jake had turned towards her as she pulled the covers over herself. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

Jake yawned. "It's okay," he said sleepily.

"Hey, since you're up, can we talk?" she asked. Suddenly Jake felt a bit nervous, wondering what was so important she didn't want to wait until morning. "Since I saw Gregory, something has been weighing on my mind."

"Okay," Jake found himself fully awake now, not knowing what to expect.

"If things had gone the other way, if you had gotten the GL ban, what would you have done?" Trixie asked.

Jake looked surprised at the question. "Uh," he pulled his thoughts together. "I had prepared for it. Because there was a good chance, even though I had Sun Park's permission, the rest of the Dragon Council would not have seen it like that. In hindsight, it was just an awful idea. So I didn't seek them out right away when I returned, and I had pulled some favors," he explained. "I had dirt on all of them." As he said the words, shame filled his eyes. "I would have blackmailed my way back to you," he admitted. "How pathetic is that?" he wondered out loud as he realized those were not the actions of a good guy.

"That's not the way I see it," she spoke as she reached out and found his hand. "I see it as you always fighting for me. Things haven't always been perfect."

"That's an understatement," Jake scoffed.

"I've loved other men," she admitted. "Loved them with everything that I had. I gave them all of me."

"And like a jealous fool, I sabotaged every one of those relationships," he said truthfully. "I left you with no choice. I trapped you," he stated sadly.

"Do you think I'm weak, Jake?" Her tone became serious.

"No," he confirmed. "Never."

"If I didn't want to be with you, I would have never taken you back. Especially after Gregory. What you did to us," she shook her head, "that was cold and calculated, damn near psychotic," she observed. "And I must be just as crazy, because after everything, I still forgave you."

"I always loved your ability to forgive, but after four years of begging, knowing how much I fucked up," he paused a moment, "I still couldn't let go. I don't deserve the love you have given me."

"Did you ever notice anything in those four years?" she asked of him. Her husband only looked at her before he indicated he had not. "I never asked you to go away. I gave you a hard time, yes. I was angry, but I knew if I asked you to stop, you would have respected that. I surrendered to your love long ago," she admitted. "I surrendered to it, even before you realized you loved me."

"I'm sorry," the man before her apologized. "If I had been honest with myself from the beginning."

Trixie shrugged. "It was a more peaceful life, yes," she shared. "My alternate life, my alternate memories, there are a lot more happy times with us, and I can't help but to compare the two," she said. "But it's this path, the true path, where you showed me, that through any trial, you always come back to me."

"I chose you over Rose," he blurted out. The mention of the other woman's name made Trixie instantly tense. Jake made a point to squeeze her hand just a little bit tighter. He had always made it a point to never mention her name, because he feared where the conversation would take them. "I know, in the back of your head, you probably think you were my default choice, because of her death and I may have led you to believe that."

"What is your point?" Trixie wondered a bit irritated.

"She wanted me to leave you, to give you up," he voiced. "To stand beside her when it came to the Huntsclan, but I realized I couldn't." Trixie remained silent, wishing him to continue. "In that moment, I realized she was a substitute. I had poured everything into loving her, into finding her because at that point I had convinced myself, even after you made it clear that I was wrong, that I couldn't have you. And I had thought that for so long, that I couldn't let go of a woman that I had directed everything towards." He then let go of her hand before wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her close. He then rested his forehead against hers. "I'm sorry for not always showing it... I love you," he breathed.

Trixie smiled softly, hidden in the darkness of the night, before her long lashes touched her cheeks as she tilted her head up and their lips met in a loving kiss.

Life isn't always what we wish for it to be. Life doesn't always fit perfectly like the cogs of a clock, constant in their rhythm, in their path, unchanging. Sometimes life takes unexpected turns, where you fall lower than you ever thought you would, or go so high, you would swear the stars were within reach. Sometimes life is about taking difficult moments, and doing the best you can with them. In other words, life may not always be pretty, life may not always be perfect, but with family, with friends, with love, you can always count on it. . . to be real.