The water below the pier rages, threatening to shake the whole thing apart.
"You and Mom never listen to me! But I guess you don't care about me, I'm such a disappointment!" Harcourt yells and screams, insults his parents, says something about how maybe they'd prefer it if he wasn't even around...
Typical teenager stuff, in Acheron's opinion, though this only goes halfway to explain why he's staring at his son impassively and not saying a word.
"You just don't give a shit, do you!" Harcourt sighs, frustrated with his father's silence. "The coven is dangerous. I don't want any more to do with it and you shouldn't either..." The wind whips around them, its howl drowning out most of Harcourt's words.
"We need to go inside," Acheron says, knowing full well Harcourt will ignore him.
The boy's eyes widen, full of youthful fury. He steps closer to the edge of the pier. "I'm not going back in there!"
A violent wave sweeps Harcourt off the pier. The teen yelps, then is lost in the dark waters.
"I love you," Acheron says. Maybe he should have said it sooner.
He doesn't move. He isn't certain how long he just stands there, before Claire finds him.
The panel. Acheron has lost track of how many times he's seen it. He runs his left hand across its cold surface. He knows the feel of it, he's more familiar with it than he is with his own body. Yet he has never set it to a combination that doesn't end his life.
He's seen events long past here, yet he's never entered the right code. Am I not supposed to be here? he wonders. Does this event connect to nothing but death? No future events necessarily connect with this one. Yet he is here, and he doesn't know how to get out.
He enters the wrong code.
"I was just going to let you kill me," he tells Claire, who gasps as his fingers sink in between her bracelets. "I've seen you take my soul. But that was before the universe knew I knew I couldn't die. It influenced that vision so I'd avoid getting killed. Now it has to get craftier."
"What trick is this..." Claire hisses.
"If I pretend I don't see you, and you cast your spell, you just botch it and end up in the hospital. Then your coven shows up and I have to deal with that, and they hurt my Mom."
Claire slaps him viciously. "Let go!"
"I can't let you go through with this," he warns.
"Go through with what?" she laughs.
"You know what."
"How long have you known about my spell?"
"Since I was a child," he admits, tearing up with embarrassment.
"Oh, Acheron," she says his name with deep affection, "All this time, and you never found a way to stop me. I'd say that means it's fate."
All this time. All this time. He needs more time. Acheron tries to move, but it's as if his feet are glued to the ground. "You've lost your mind. I don't know when you lost it but you've completely lost your mind."
"Remember me more kindly than that," she requests.
As long as he stays in her life, she manages to get herself killed... and yet he can never manage to leave her.
It's been generations since Claire's death, but the grief still runs hot. He never kept his promise to her, he never sought out their son, he never tried to cure their descendants of the curse that kept them mortal. It's possible, no, likely, he can't cure them anyway. "I'm looking for Cayenne La Mer."
"I'm sorry, but... well... maybe one of the other healers can help you," the doctor suggests.
"I need to find Cayenne so I can find Loki and stop him from ending the cycle that restarts time."
"Tell me how to find her. Then I can remember when I wake up, and we won't actually have to have this conversation."
Doctor Cora Wilson of Moonlight Falls can practically smell the crazy on this guy, and she begins to look frightened. "Alright... I'll tell you what I know..."
Kir stares past them, as if they are not important enough for his eyes to rest on. "Why do you try to unravel my works? What I've given you is immortality. What can be more comforting than knowing you can start all over again? Even your beloved Eris..." he addresses Acheron's companion directly, "...protected from my spell by my own brother's betrayal... only remains untouchable as long as my hold on this plane of existence remains absolute. Destroying me will make her as vulnerable as anyone else."
"What you've given us is lies, and with every cycle we become more twisted and corrupt," Loki scoffs.
"Your attack on my sanctum will fail. It always does." Kir smiles before he disappears.
"What are you doing here, Harcourt?"
"What am I doing here? What are you doing here? Where have you been?"
With those ears carefully pinned down under his hair, Loki almost looks normal. "Acheron? What are you doing here? Was there a problem?"
"You're supposed to be-"
"I know my role in the plan."
Loki lays there, staring wide-eyed at the sky. When he tries to talk, his voice is a weird, liquid sputter. "Acheron..."
Acheron knows he should kill Loki, not only to put him out of his misery to but stop the other mage from pulling any last minute tricks. Yet as he studies the dying man's face, he sees deep sadness, the sort of heartbreak that only a loved one can inflict, and an unsettling thought occurs to Acheron.
"I'm told this happened before," Acheron muses. "I'm told I'm clever enough to prevent you from remembering it. But I think... you just don't want to remember."
Loki's fingers twitch, pressing down on the rough stonework and the growing puddle of his own blood. He doesn't attempt to answer. Maybe some fondness for an earlier version of his grand-nephew clouds his judgement, or maybe not. It's hard to know for sure. As Loki's consciousness fades, Acheron tries to count the number of stab wounds in his body. He doesn't quite recall making that many, but he must have, because there they are.
The scheme to stop Kir will fail without Loki. The universe cycle will begin again. Things will be different next time. Nobody has to stay dead. None of this mattered. Acheron feels his lips twitch into a smile for a second. Nothing mattered.
Grim arrives, but has nothing to say to Acheron. He never does.
"Boy meets girl... boy and girl fall in love... girl dies... boy kills some people and turns back time," Acheron mumbles to himself, rocking back and forth in the hour before dawn. "Boy meets girl again."