Author's note: So, Grant is gone. Now they're back on the road again. But first, I'm not quite done with the repercussions of Grant. This chapter may just have a bigger shock than the last one, and certainly more long-term consequences. Please remember to review. Let me know I'm not wasting my time with this story. All feedback is appreciated. hotwing: You should know by now that letting characters be happy is something I'm incapable of doing. More seriously, I actually had no clue, going into the Grant arc, where it was going. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me, too, when the town turned out to be false.
March 11, 2013
Lisa and Eric had slept for over a day before finally waking up in a hotel room in Charlotte, North Carolina. The first thing they did was order room service. They each asked for a big breakfast, since they were both starving. They put off any explanations of what happened while they ate.
"Enjoy your breakfast?" Raven asked them as they finished.
"That was great," Lisa said. "Should tide me over until lunch."
"Feeling better? Well-rested?"
"Getting there," Eric said.
"Good, good. I'm glad. So. What the hell?"
"I think what Raven means to say," Ashleigh said, "is that we'd like an explanation of what happened in Grant."
"Exactly," Raven said. "What the hell?"
"It was a trap," Lisa explained. "The whole town was created just to keep us there."
"Yeah, that's what the robot told us," Taylor said.
"But that really doesn't explain what the hell," Raven added.
"OK," Lisa let out a deep breath. "So, you remember how you and Eric felt something weird about Grant? That got me concerned. I needed to investigate, using my full magical senses. So I went into a meditative state, and let my mind wander the town. I picked up traces of the Albino's presence. Then I explored further, and realized the whole town was created with magic. When I tried to get close to the source, it lashed out at me, and put me in a coma for a few days."
"Did you learn anything about the source?" Jacob asked.
"No. Only that it's really, really strong. It would have to be, to do what it did. But I don't know if it was some evil being trying to stop us, some benign being tricked by the Albino, maybe some, like, weird collection of magical energy that the Albino just changed into the form of Grant, or what."
"It felt pretty sinister to me," Eric said.
"You must've caught something I missed, then," Lisa told him.
"So what happened to Grant?" Ashleigh asked.
"Yeah," Raven said. "Get to the hell."
"I think you've taken that joke as far as it'll go," Eric said.
"When I woke up," Lisa continued, "I joined my magical energy to Eric's in order to get enough power to dispel the town. Unfortunately, that included everyone in the town."
"So the people were basically just illusions?" Jacob asked. "That's pretty crazy."
"Illusion isn't the right word," Lisa said sadly. "They had substance. They had hopes, dreams, fear, loves . . . they were real in every way that counted. And I killed them."
"Then why'd you do it?" Jacob asked. "Why not let everything be? We could've just walked out of town or something."
"No, we couldn't have," Eric said. "Did any of you want to leave Grant?" They all looked at each other. "Exactly. If we'd tried to leave town, something would've delayed us. We would've decided to put it off for a few days, and then a few more. We would've been there forever, exactly as the Albino planned it."
"And would that have been so bad?" Lisa wondered.
"Yes," Eric said firmly. "It would've been nice, but it would've been false. Geoff was right; we had to get rid of Grant."
"I'm sure you did the right thing," Raven shrugged.
"Yeah," Jacob nodded. "I'm not sure I understand, but I trust you."
"You didn't trust me in Grant," Lisa said pointedly.
"And I was wrong."
"Besides, none of us trusted you in Grant," Eric said. "We all thought you were crazy."
"But only one of you was dating me," Lisa sulked.
"Well, whatever," Ashleigh said. "I'm still not sure I understand. You said the town was fake, but that they were real? What does that even mean?"
"It means the whole town, including the people, was created using magic," Lisa explained. "But they were created to be as convincing as possible, and even they had no way of knowing they weren't just like anyone else. They were impossible to tell apart from normal people without the close examination my senses let me do."
"I'm honestly not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this," Ashleigh shook her head in confusion. "I mean, I was friends with some of them. I'm still mourning them. Should I be mourning them? Should I just forget about them?"
"I'm not going to forget them," Eric said.
"Neither am I," Lisa said. "I feel awful about doing it. I never want to forget about Grant."
"So I guess my magic's gone now, huh?" Eric said. "After you used my reserves, I'm burned out, right?"
"No," Lisa said. "The power's inside you. It can't be permanently burned out. It'll take some time to get back to its normal level, but even that should only be a few days."
"Oh. Cool, I guess. So, then, can you start teaching me magic?"
"No, because you're going back home," Lisa said.
"What?!" everyone asked at once.
"What the Hell are you talking about?" Eric asked in shock.
"When I was exploring the town, I went into your head. I know how you feel. I know how unhappy you've been, always on the road, missing your family. I don't want you feeling that way. Go home. Go back to your family. Find a nice boyfriend. Be happy."
"How am I supposed to be happy," Eric asked, "when I don't get to be with my friends? When I don't even know if you guys are OK? Yeah, I want to go home. I want to go back with the rest of you. And I'm not going home without you."
"But what about finding a boyfriend?" she asked.
"I'm 16. I've got plenty of time to find a guy. Hell, any relationship I have right now isn't going to last anyway."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Nothing's making me leave you guys."
"Well, you won't be single alone any more," Lisa told him.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Eric asked.
Lisa turned to Jacob. "We need to talk."
"Huh?" Jacob was stunned. "But . . . what? You're breaking up with me? Why?"
"Like I told Eric, I was in your head," Lisa said. "And your heart. I know you think I'm weird, and wish I was more normal. And you should've been able to trust me in Grant. But you didn't. You actually regretted not doing more to convince me how wrong I was."
"And I was wrong to doubt you," Jacob said. "I'm sorry. But that's no reason to break up with me."
"I'm not really what you want," Lisa turned away sadly. "You want a girl who isn't crazy."
"I don't think you're crazy," Jacob said.
"Yes. You do. Deep down, you think I'm crazy. Deep down, you're not happy with me. So I'm letting you be happy."
"But . . . that's not what I want. I want to be with you."
"You don't. You only think you do. Please, don't make this any harder. I know it hurts, but it's for the best."
"You seem to be deciding what's best for everyone lately," Eric told her. "Maybe you should try to let people decide for themselves what's best."
"Well, hey," Taylor said. "We're dealing with a lot right now. Emotions are running high. Maybe we should just relax for a couple more days before making any decisions."
"There is one thing I'm wondering about," Ashleigh said.
"What's that?" Lisa asked.
"Well, Grant was made to be, like, our perfect town, right? So why did Melanie have such an obvious crush on me? It's not like I was attracted to her."
"Might've been part of my ideal," Taylor said. Ashleigh slapped his arm.
"Or you're just incredibly vain," Raven suggested.
"I think she was just curious," Lisa told Ashleigh. "She'd never kissed a girl, and you seemed like a good chance to try it."
"Oh," Ashleigh said with obvious relief. "That's good."
"Now that we've helped Patch suppress her bicurious side," Raven said, "I think it's about time we left. Princess and Magic Girl need to rest up so we can get the hell out of Charlotte. Unless this is another trap."