Mystery Girl (1)

Remembrances and Farewells

19. Remembrances and Farewells

Two Weeks Later...

Almost a month since he first met Sydney on that fateful warp to Boston, and Joe's memories of her were as vivid as ever. He couldn't shake the survivor's guilt that had plagued him since he had gotten back from Draylon. He had searched every page of The Book thoroughly to see if there was any way to reverse time. Nicole and Kayla had insisted that it was impossible, but he couldn't stop himself from looking.

Joe had shut himself away from the world. He had stayed in his room most of the time, trying and failing to sleep, and kept everyone else in his life at bay. He'd barely even talked to Sam and Fred over the past two weeks. They had tried in vain to get him to come out and play before school started, but Joe had turned them down every time. Today was the first day of school and even though he should have been looking forward for a distraction from Sydney's death, he found himself dreading the day.

His friends and family had noticed his depression, but none of them could say for sure what was causing it. They tried to find out what was happening, but Joe had remained silent. He hadn't been able to bring himself to talk about that life changing week yet. Maybe one day, but not now.

He checked his backpack one last time to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything before heading out the door. His mom was driving Anna to school and offered to take Joe as well, but he declined. He was hoping that a walk through the fresh air would help clear his head. At least the first day of school would be easy on him.

Luckily, his school was only a few blocks away from his house, and it would only take him about ten minutes to walk there. Part of Joe wished it was longer. The longer the walk, the more time he had to mentally prepare himself for the day. The side walk was mostly empty. The part of the neighbourhood he was walking through wasn't very busy and was relatively safe.

Without warning, the sound of feet pounding into the pavement filled Joe's ears. Just as he was starting to wonder who could be in such a hurry and why, he was tackled from behind. The stranger wrapped their arms securely around Joe's waist, nearly shoving him into the side walk.

Joe immediately started to struggle, assuming he was being pickpocketed or kidnapped. "Get off of me!" He thrashed around and tried to elbow his attacker off of him. Was there no one around to stop this? Why wasn't he getting any help?

"Calm down there, tiger. It's just me. If you want me to leave, I'll go, but I thought you'd be happier to see me. Guess I was wrong." The voice that spoke was confident and sarcastic. Joe would recognize that voice anywhere, but it couldn't be her. That wasn't possible.

Joe closed his eyes and carefully turned around. He couldn't get his hopes up. He couldn't take the heartbreak if it wasn't who he thought it was. Slowly, he peeled open one eye and studied the newcomer.

Joe's heart stopped. He opened both eyes and all he could do was stare. This couldn't be happening. He was dreaming. He had to be. Or maybe he hit his head and was having hallucinations. Joe didn't trust himself to speak, but he found the courage to say at least one word. "Sydney?"

Joe couldn't believe his eyes. Standing before him, with blue eyes with a green ring around the iris as bright as ever, was Sydney. She stood with one hand on her hip and a cocky smirk on her face. Joe tentatively reached out a hand to touch her arm. He had to feel that she was real and not some figment of his imagination. Her skin was soft under his cautious fingertips.

Once he knew she was real, he wasted no time in wrapping her up in a tight embrace. "How is this even possible? You're dead. I saw you die." Even though this was everything Joe wanted for the past two weeks, actually having it happen was astounding. Joe didn't know what to do.

Sydney happily returned the hug. "Your guess is as good as mine. I remember sacrificing myself to get rid of Mad Jack, and then I was floating through this dark nothingness. It felt like I was there for eternity, but eventually I had the sensation of being pulled back. I don't really know how to describe it. I was definitely dead, but the next thing I knew, I was waking up in the infirmary at Draylon." Reluctantly, Sydney and Joe ended their embrace and stepped away from each other. "Apparently, they found my body at the front gates and immediately rushed me to the infirmary for medical treatment. Everyone was as shocked as you are. I shouldn't be alive, yet here I am. No one has any explanation for it either."

Joe shook his head in disbelief. "I just can't believe you're back. I thought you were gone forever." A wide grin broke out over his face. "It's exhilarating to see you again. I missed you so much."

"I missed you too." Sydney winked at him. "I would have come to see you sooner, but they refused to let me out of their sights until they were sure I was alive and well. I'm only allowed to be away for a short time, but can you come back with me? There's something I want you to be there for."

"What is it?" Joe tilted his head at her and gave her a quizzical look.

"It's a surprise, but I could really use a friend to be there with me when it happens." Sydney grabbed Joe's hand. "Please?"

"Of course I'll go." Joe didn't hesitate with his answer. He forgot that he should be on his way to school, but being reunited with a friend he thought was gone forever because of him was much more important than school in Joe's opinion. "Think you can get us there without getting us in trouble this time?" Joe teased. He didn't realize until now how much he missed their little back-and-forths.

Sydney chuckled in response, and amused glint appearing in her eye. "Guess there's only one way to find out." Sydney snapped her fingers and they were sucked away by a familiar green mist.

They landed with ease in a hallway at Draylon. Joe couldn't help but be impressed the scene came into view. "Looks like you're finally getting the hang of this whole time goddess thing."

Sydney lifted her chin with pride. "Thanks. Nicole says I still have a long way to go before I master my skills, but she also said I'm far enough along to be considered a full-fledged goddess. In order to get the official title though, I have to present myself in front of the other time gods and goddesses and take a test to prove my worth."

"The other time gods and goddesses?" Joe paused as what she said sank in. "You mean the rest of your family? But you haven't even met them yet. Nicole can't expect you to introduce yourself to your entire family and take some goddess test all in one day."

Sydney shrugged. "I don't mind. I'd rather do it all at once anyway, like a Band-Aid. But there's one person in particular I have to meet before any of that happens."

"Who's that?" Joe noticed how Sydney's demeanour suddenly changed. She nervously stared at the ground and pushed her cuticles down.

"My father." Sydney bit her lip.

Joe never got the chance to ask one of the thousands of questions that popped up into his head because Nicole chose that moment to walk up to them. "Ah, there you are. I was starting to get worried. Perfect timing. Are you ready?" She patiently clasped her hands behind her back. "I've briefed him on the situation and his reaction was... interesting. He wants to see you right away."

Sydney gave her head a firm nod. "Let's do this."

Her arm brushed against Joe's as they walked up a familiar looking spiral staircase. They walked into the room they had first landed in when Kayla originally brought them to Draylon. The council room with no ceiling. When they entered the room this time, it was not empty. An older, yet powerful looking man with cropped salt and pepper hair stood before them. He studied them as they moved closer with striking sky blue eyes identical to Sydney's. Like every other time god they had met, he too had the lime green ring around his iris. He was tall and radiated strength and wisdom.

His eyes fell on Sydney and a tense moment of silence followed. He studied her intently for what seemed like forever. Finally, he smiled. "Hello, my daughter. I am Father Time. It is a pleasure to meet you."

Sydney, who was still holding onto Joe's hand, tensed. She dipped her head in a small bow. "Um, thank you, sir. Same to you."

Father Time chuckled. "Please, there is no need to be so formal. I'm your father, not your king. You may call me John... or dad if you prefer."

Sydney blinked and swallowed the large lump that had formed in her throat. Joe had never seen her so nervous before. "Okay. So, you're Father Time, like the Father Time. You're in charge around here?"

"Well, I am the head of the council and I represent us when I am among the other gods in the universe. I guess you could say that I am in charge, though there are several areas that are run by the others in our family. You see, there are twelve of us in total, including you. Each of us has an individual title. For example, your mother is the Goddess of Time Travel." John nodded to Nicole, who was still standing by Sydney and Joe's side. "She would rule over things in that area. We each have a job to fulfil, whether it is a diplomat or a treasurer. What I'm curious to know, is what job you think is best for you."

Sydney leaned back in surprise. "For me? I don't really know much about how things are run here yet. I don't even know what jobs there are for me to have."

"That may be, but if you want to become an official time goddess like the rest of your family, you will need a title. Tell me, what do you excel at?" John spoke patiently and waited for Sydney to respond.

When Sydney didn't say anything after a minute had passed, Nicole answered for her. "She is very skilled with time magic. I don't think I've ever seen someone grasp it so easily before. She controls time as if she's been doing it as long as you and I have. She'll need more training to fully master it, but she's off to a very good start."

It was the first time Joe had heard any genuine words of praise for Sydney come out of Nicole's mouth. It was refreshing to hear. Joe gave Sydney's hand a reassuring squeeze. He understood why she had wanted him for support now.

John tapped his chin thoughtfully. "I don't believe we have anyone in charge of time magic yet. There's definitely enough there for a full position. How would you like to become the official goddess of time magic?"

"I- I guess that would be cool," Sydney stammered, a slight blush coming to her cheeks.

John smiled at Sydney's bashfulness. "You'll have plenty of time to prepare yourself. I'll call for a meeting with the others tonight and you can take your test then."

John noted Joe for the first time. His gaze lingered and Joe felt like he was seeing into his soul or his future. Could he do that? He was Father Time. His eyes flicked to Sydney and Joe's joined hands, which quickly separated. "And who is this?"

"This is Joe," Sydney explained with a grin. "He's my friend, and he's been helping me and by my side through all of this. It was his uncle who were fighting."

"But there's not like a strong family connection or anything." Joe felt the need to defend himself. Just because Mad Jack was his uncle, it didn't mean it had to reflect negatively on Joe. "It's good that he's finally gone. He's been a problem for a while now."

John lowered his head in understanding. "I see. Well unfortunately, tonight will be a gods only meeting. It was nice to meet you, Joe." He turned and smiled approvingly at his daughter. "And I look forward to getting to know you, future goddess of time magic." Father Time's smile faded and a frown appeared in its place. "We will of course have to be cautious with your reveal. A few extra security measures wouldn't hurt. Once your brother finds out about you, he will not be happy."

"Brother?" Sydney's eyes narrowed. "I have a brother?"

John blinked and looked to Nicole. "I'm sorry. I thought you knew. You have an older brother named Kerk. He is... troublesome."

"He's the reason you were born in New York and not Draylon." Nicole sighed. "I suppose you should know the truth about your past. On the day you were born, your brother was dissatisfied with some changes and decisions that were made." She paused before continuing. It was obvious she was picking her words very carefully. "He retaliated in a violent manner and had you been born here, he would have killed you. We managed to contain him, but Kayla and I decided it was best that you be kept at a safe distance until you were ready to come back. We were the only ones who knew of your existence until today."

"And you think if you reveal me tonight, my brother will try to kill me again?" Sydney looked at her parents incredulously. "Are you sure this is a good idea? I haven't had that much self-defense training and I'd rather not die again."

"I promise you will be safe. We will have some extra security measures set up like I said. Nothing will happen to you." Father Time clasped his hands. "Your mother and I will make the necessary arrangements now. Until then, it's probably best if you continued your low profile. I will see you tonight." With a quick nod of his head, he and Nicole filed out of the room, leaving Sydney and Joe alone.

"That was pretty cool. I've never had a goddess as a friend before." Joe grinned at Sydney.

"I'm not a goddess yet, but it is kind of cool." Sydney chuckled. "So I found out that you can enter the Warp Academy as early as age ten, and I was thinking that you could enroll and live in the dorms here. We could hang out every day. When I'm not busy with goddess stuff, and you're not busy with school that is. Isn't that great though?"

Joe hesitated and his lips turned down in a frown. All of that did sound nice, and he would love the chance to hang out with Sydney more, but he knew he couldn't just switch schools like that so suddenly. He had a life back in New York that was waiting for him. Sydney was staring at him with expectant eyes, waiting for his reply. Joe didn't want to make her unhappy, but he couldn't do what she wanted. "I'm sorry, Sydney. I would love to stay so we could have more fun adventures, but I can't. But we can still visit each other."

Sydney's face fell, and Joe's heart clenched. "Oh, I understand. I was just hoping to have a friend with me up here. I mean, outside of Nicole and Kayla, I don't really know anyone or have anyone to talk to."

Joe bit his lip, trying to figure out a way to comfort her. He understood that she was going to feel lonely with him gone, and no matter how much he wanted to stay, he couldn't. "I'm sure you'll make tons of friends soon. And like I said, we can still visit each other. It won't be long before we're hanging out again."

Sydney exhaled and let her shoulders droop. "I guess you're right."

Joe seriously wanted to change the subject. His mind searched for new things to talk about. He remembered their final moment together before Sydney died and an idea came to him. "Can I ask you something?" He waited for Sydney to nod before he went on. He blushed as he realized exactly what he was about to bring up. "Right before you sacrificed yourself to save me, you kissed me."

Sydney's cheeks immediately turned red, and she focused on the ground. "Oh, that. It was really just a way to distract you so you wouldn't try to stop me from doing the explosione tempore. Nothing more, I swear."

"Right, I knew that." Joe forced himself to hide his disappointment. He knew it wouldn't have meant anything, didn't he? He pushed those thoughts away. "What I wanted to ask you was, what did you yell at me right afterwards? It was in Latin and I didn't exactly understand it."

Joe didn't think it was possible, but Sydney's face turned even redder. "Nothing important really. If you really want to know, you can always look it up. It's really not that big of a deal though. I wouldn't think too much about it if I were you."

"Oh, okay." They fell into an uncomfortable silence. The weight of Joe's backpack suddenly seemed heavier and he remembered he was supposed to be at school right now. "Well, I should probably get back to Brooklyn. It's my first day of school. Think you can help me get back?"

Sydney's face finally returned to its normal colour and she nodded, a grin slowly appearing across her mouth. "Yeah, no problem." Sydney lifted her hand to warp Joe away, but paused just before she snapped her fingers. "You promise you'll come visit me soon?"

Joe had never been surer of anything in his life. He grinned at Sydney. "Promise."

A/N - That's a wrap for Mystery Girl. How did Sydney come back to life? If she's back, what does this mean about Mad Jack? These questions and more will be in answered in the sequel, The Kidnapping. Go check it out now!

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