AN: Hey guys. I can't believe it's been 5 years. Five whole years. Cinq ans. Cinco anos. Five effing years. Awesome readers have PMed me over the years to ask if I was alive, and I kept thinking 'Of course I am, I'm working on it.' Then I look at my calendar and realise I've been saying that for a really, really long time. So basically this chapter has been on my hard-drive, unfinished, for half a decade. In that time I moved three times, graduated university, wrote a thesis (about Japanese monsters and capitalism! Take that stuffy EAS department!), finished grad school, got my hopes and dreams crushed by minimum wage jobs despite having two degrees, moved to Japan, started teaching English to junior high school students, lived through the Tohoku Earthquake (my town shook the hardest!), started new hobbies, and met new friends. A lot has changed in my life, as I'm sure all of yours have too. I'm not interested in anime all that much anymore, but my desire to write and finish my stories hasn't gone away!

I don't know how many of you guys are still interested in this fic… I had to reread it myself to make sure I don't forget to tie up all the loose ends, and I cringe at my bad writing. A lot of us get pickier about our fic selections with age, and so I'm terribly sorry for those who reread this and think it's awful!

That being said, I hate to leave this fic unfinished, especially since I know how it's going to end! Chapter 13 and the Epilogue have been in my head for the last 7 years, but this chapter has been my Achilles Heel. I'm not happy with it, but I figured it's necessary to post it in order to get to the ending. So please forgive me, I know this chapter wasn't worth the wait! I hope there's still interest for Shades of the Past, and I will try my best to have the last chapters up at regular intervals.

Chapter 12 – The Devil You Know

New York State 1929

"Chrono, would you like some tea?" Pandemonium smiled from the office doorway, carrying a tray weighed down with tea things. Chrono looked up from his paperwork, startled by the nearly silent intrusion.

"Ah, thank you Pandemonium," Chrono murmured. At this, Pandemonium swooped in to place the tray on the corner of his desk. She fussed with it for a while before looking at him. As soon as their eyes locked, Chrono felt a slight pressure at the back of his mind.

"Chrono, really, that's much too formal for family. Haven't we been together long enough for you to consider calling me 'mother'?"

Chrono nodded but said nothing and quickly broke their eye contact. This wasn't a new discussion. He'd brushed her off before, but she was becoming more forceful. He didn't know how much longer he could refuse her. He always left such confrontations with a headache.

Two years ago, soon after Mrs Lilith Black had passed away, his debt-laden father and his mistress had returned to the countryside. Aion had mused that they wouldn't be able to hide from their New York creditors for long, and unfortunately, as usual, he was right. Rough-looking men managed to find them at Black Manor, and the demands for payment were never pleasant.

Chrono knew that his father and Pandemonium had planned to marry as soon as possible, but despite his new status as a widower Mr Black couldn't convince any of the nearby pastors to perform the ceremony. All the neighbouring parishes knew that Mr Black had abandoned his pregnant wife barely a year into their marriage to travel alone in Europe. They also knew that he had found himself a mistress and fathered another son with her only two years after Chrono's birth. But by far the biggest scandal the region had ever seen was when Mr. Black finally came home in 1920, only to leave his bastard son to be raised by his lawful wife.

And there was no chance that the old village pastor would perform the ceremony. The old pastor took this gossip very personally as a sign of his own inability to lead his flock. After all, Mr Black had lived in the village since he was a child. The old pastor had baptized him, and watched him grow up. There had been no sign of this evilness until the man's trip to Europe. Like most Americans, the sudden wealth and exposure to alcohol must have corrupted him, the pastor thought. It was his own fault for not preparing the man's soul for such temptations.

So when Mr. Black approached him with his mistress to get married again, the old man feigned deafness, illness, or made some other outrageous excuse to avoid marrying them. Although Mrs Black had recently passed away in 1927, and the old pastor had no real excuse to avoid marrying them, he stubbornly refused. Mr Black eventually got tired of being turned away and settled for hoping the old man would die soon.

Unfortunately for Mr Black, the old pastor out-lived him.

Mr Black must have caught a disease while on his travels, because he died in 1928, barely a year after his wife. Everyone was surprised by the suddenness of the death, but no one was particularly upset about it. Not even Pandemonium, who had spent thirteen years as the man's mistress.

Aion was convinced that Pandemonium was somehow responsible for their father's death. He often told Chrono that their father's soul, while initially strong, had gradually gotten weaker and more fragmented. Pandemonium somehow had eaten away at his soul to the point that he couldn't go on living. Chrono wasn't sure if Aion was being poetic, or if his half-brother had really looked into their father's soul and seen parts of it missing.

Either way, Chrono agreed with Aion that there was something frighteningly powerful about Pandemonium. She was strangely charismatic and instantly likable to those with no demonic ancestry. Two years ago the village matrons had hated her, now they worshipped her like a queen. Almost the whole village called her Mrs Black, even though they all knew that she was unmarried and had lived in sin.

Chrono took Aion's warning very seriously and did his best to avoid Pandemonium.

Unfortunately, now that Chrono was old enough to control the family finances, she often came looking for him

"Ever since your dear father passed away I don't know what to do with myself. Perhaps we could go on a trip to the coast?" Pandemonium smiled sweetly and added sugar to Chrono's tea.

Pandemonium tried her best to befriend Chrono and Aion, presumably to solidify her already precarious position in the Black household, but never really succeeded. Aion hated her with a fierceness that surprised Chrono, considering how loving his brother had been with Chrono's own mother. But Chrono knew that Aion's powers made him a good judge of character. There was something overly sweet in Pandemonium's smile, and it didn't quite reach her eyes.

"How are the accounts dear? It's such a shame that my darling husband left you with so much work to do. He tried so hard to turn this family's fortunes around before he died." Pandemonium smoothed away an invisible wrinkle in her sequined dress as she said this.

Chrono suppressed the urge to sigh. Why was it that he always felt like an employee rather than the Black family heir? Their monstrous debt and whatever money was left after he took care of it was his, not hers. And why was she so interested in the accounts? He wouldn't turn her out of the house if that were what she was worried about.

Chrono resisted the impulse to remind her that their uncertain financial situation was thanks to both her and her 'darling husband'. Aion would have told her flat out that they were broke, and to shut the hell up. He also would have added words starting with 'F' and 'B' to that sentence. Chrono sometimes wished he could express himself as clearly as his younger brother, but maybe without the vulgarity.

"There are no more creditors that need to be paid, if that's what you're worried about." Chrono put his pen down and leaned back into the leather chair, his spine cracking as he did so. He had sold off almost all their assets to do it, but there were no more shopkeepers from New York City driving into the countryside to harass them. Chrono had sold off most of their businesses and real estate. They would have to live modestly, with very few servants and nothing extravagant, but in a few years maybe they would be able to buy back some of their businesses and build back their fortune. This was of course assuming that the rumours of the market crash were untrue. The Black family didn't have any stock market investments left, but Chrono wasn't sure how well their finances could recover during a recession.

"That's wonderful dear. Maybe we can go to the summerhouse in the Hamptons then. Wouldn't that be lovely?" Pandemonium smiled sweetly and leaned over to look at Chrono's paperwork.

"The property in the Hamptons was sold. Along with all the other properties. We can't afford summer homes anymore," Chrono shuffled the financial papers and placed them in a neat pile on the corner of his desk, away from his father's former mistress.

Pandemonium blinked, clearly taken aback. "What do you mean? Of course we can afford it."

Chrono suppressed his irritation of the word 'we'. There was no reason to get upset at Pandemonium. She just didn't understand how dire their situation was.

"During your ten year stay in Europe and then your four year stay in New York City, you and Father accumulated more debt than the estate could afford. I had to sell everything of value, including the summer homes. All we have left is the house, and a small property in San Francisco. We will be living modestly from now on." Chrono tried to smile and sound reassuring, but he was too exhausted to care about offending Pandemonium. There was no way she could continue to spend their money as though there were an unending supply of it. This was the end.

Pandemonium stepped away from his desk and locked eyes with Chrono. "But surely you wouldn't deny my a few luxuries."

Chrono held her steady gaze. There was a sharp pain in his head, and Chrono felt the beginning of a headache manifesting itself, but that was probably because of all the paperwork. "I'm sorry Pandemonium, we really do need to live within our means from now on."

The blond-haired woman clearly didn't like the resolution she saw in Chrono's eyes, because her smile dropped and her gaze became harder than usual. "But once you marry Magdalene there will be money again. We will be able to afford a car, like the neighbours have."

"We don't need a god-damn car. It would be almost as much of a money pit as you are," Aion was leaning against the doorway, covered in mud. He had probably been helping the gardener cover the shrubs for winter. "We don't need fur coats, we don't need more paintings, we don't need a Parisian chef to cook for us, and we don't need you. You aren't wanted or needed here. Why don't you go find another rich stupid husband to drain dry?"

Chrono suppressed a groan. Just what he needed after a long day of looking at crippling debt: a family fight.

"And Magdalene isn't some cash cow. We wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for you. You're nothing but a parasite, it's thanks to your that we're trapped in this hell," Aion continued, icy violet eyes focused on his mother. "You get no more say in how the Black money is spent. We'll be determining our own future from now on."

Pandemonium's eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched. Chrono had never seen her look so dangerous. The fake smile and genteel varnish was momentarily stripped away, and all that remained was a woman who was used to getting her way. A woman who would tolerate no real opposition.

"I am your mother and you are fourteen years old. You are not out of my influence yet." Pandemonium said simply and looked coldly at both Chrono and Aion. Without another word, she strode out of the room. Chrono and Aion watched her leave silently. Chrono was used to Aion smirking or laughing after a particularly nasty confrontation with his mother, but this time Aion was dead serious, his frown making him look older than fourteen.

"Don't eat or drink anything she gives you from now on," Aion said as he advanced towards Chrono's desk. He threw the scone and jam in the wastebasket and tossed the tea out the open window into the rose bushes. Chrono was bewildered by his half-brother's actions but didn't protest. "Don't think for one minute that she wont try to get rid of us to take back the 'Black Fortune'. She's used to getting what she wants, and we're in her way."

"She's your mother," Chrono protested, "And there is no 'Black Fortune'. It's gone!"

"Don't be naïve. She's capable of anything, and she won't stop until she's drained us completely dry. And your Mama was also my mother, don't you dare think otherwise," Aion growled out.

The fourteen year old set down the teapot with a clatter and launched himself into the chair facing Chrono's desk. He propped his muddy boots on the smooth and shiny surface, and Chrono had to scramble to pull the financial documents out of the way. "You should have kicked Pandemonium out as soon as our hack of a father died."

"I couldn't do that," Chrono murmured as he tried to clean some dirt off an invoice for something ridiculously expensive and unnecessary that Pandemonium had needed. "That would have been unkind."

"If we don't get rid of her she will control us until we die," Aion glared at his older brother. "And if she can't control you, she'll get rid of you. If I were you, I'd use your powers to go back to the day our Father died and toss her out of the house. Hell, I'd go back in time to make sure he never met her!"

"It doesn't work that way. And you're talking as though she was some gangster that could make people 'disappear'," Chrono ran his fingers through his black hair, and looked at the now empty plates with a sigh. "Besides, let's consider this for a moment. What would she do if we weren't here? Even if we did have money, she doesn't have the legal standing to take it."

"That wouldn't stop her. She has the whole town bowing and scraping. They all call her Mrs Black even though they know she never married our father. I don't think it would be impossible for her to gain control of the family finances. Who would really be able to stop her? Especially if she plays her 'concerned parent' card." Aion dropped his feet to the ground and planted both hands on Chrono's desk. He stared down his nose at his brother. "I think I know what her demonic power is. She can manipulate souls."

Chrono sighed and put all the paperwork away in his desk drawer, locking it with a key. The sixteen year old wanted to believe the best about those living under his roof, but it didn't hurt to be cautious. "That's assuming she has any demonic ancestry. We have no idea where she comes from."

Aion shook his head, "You know as well as I do that she must have demonic powers. There's no way I'd be able to see into people's souls otherwise."

"I know that demonic powers are transferred almost exclusively from the maternal bloodline, but it's possible that you got your powers from Father, isn't it?" Chrono murmured, "There's a possibility that she's an ordinary human."

Aion was silent for a moment, looking deep into his brother's eyes. After a few moments, Chrono could no longer handle the scrutiny and looked away, breaking the eye contact. Aion sat back down into his chair and smiled an angry little smile. Chrono knew that smile meant nothing good.

"You're lucky I can read your heart," Aion sneered. "If I wasn't able to read into your heart, I would think that you were just a naïve idiot. But you believe me. You're playing the devils advocate, but deep down you know that I'm right. You know that Pandemonium has demonic powers. You've seen how easily she manipulates weak souls. And even more importantly, you know that she's dangerous."

Chrono was silent, which was all the confirmation that Aion needed. The platinum-haired boy's face softened. His older brother was kind and gentle, but he wasn't an idiot.

"Why don't you time-freeze her? We could keep her body in the cellar. It would be safer to keep her out of the way until we're both eighteen. You heard her earlier: I'm still a minor, so she still has some legal sway over me."

Chrono's jaw dropped. "You can't be serious. I can't time-freeze her!"

"Why not?" Aion insisted, "How would it be different from freezing injured horses or servants until the doctor arrives? We wouldn't be killing her, just freezing her until we're old enough to be completely out of her reach. Oh! I just thought of something! We could freeze her, and then get out of the country. That would be the smart thing to do."

"I can't do that Aion. How could we hide her away? Where would we put the body?" Chrono anxiously looked at the half-opened office door. "This house is saturated with demonic energy, so we couldn't possibly keep a body here. If we did, there's a chance that the ambient demonic energy would influence her. I've only frozen things for a few hours or even a few days... any longer and who knows how this house would affect my powers."

Aion raised an eyebrow and looked rather impressed, "I can't help but notice that you've already given this a lot of thought."

Chrono looked away and sighed. "I have. But I hadn't thought about time-freezing Pandemonium."

"Dare I ask?" Aion's interest had been stirred. He leaned forward and rested his elbows in his knees. "Who were you thinking of time-freezing?"

"I wanted to time-freeze Mama. I keep thinking that maybe if I had frozen her, then some doctor in the future would be able to figure out what was wrong and cure her." Chrono admitted sadly.

Aion's expression softened, as it often did when Chrono mentioned Mrs Black. Although Aion had grown from an angry little boy into an even angrier teenager, he had loved Mrs Black with unparalleled devotion. She was the only one exempt from his harsh words, from his sneers. He had treated her with a loving gentleness that shocked everyone who knew him. Although the Black brothers were as different as night and day, they seemed to be united in their love for their mother. "She wouldn't have wanted that. Mama had seen the future and knew that it was her time."

"I know," Chrono admitted, "but wouldn't it be nice if she were here to tell us what we should do?" He pulled out his pocket watch and glanced at the time.

Then Chrono closed his eyes and reached a hand forward. Energy started to glow around him, weaving between his hand and the watch. Slowly, so slowly that no one would notice if they weren't paying attention, the second hand on his watch slowed until it stopped completely. Chrono opened his eyes and glanced at the watch, pleased to see that he had successfully frozen time. Those outside his office would be frozen until he released them.

"I'm going to check to make sure no one overheard our conversation," Chrono set the pocket watch down on his desk and stood up. "I think I heard Pandemonium go upstairs, but it's better to be sure."

Aion nodded and watched as his older brother stepped out of the room. Reaching forward, Aion took Chrono's pocket watch. The platinum-haired boy glanced at the frozen face and set it back down on the desk, eyeing it speculatively.

"We don't have much time left, do we?" Aion murmured, his expression dark. "I hope I get to hand out the killing blow."

Present Time

"I'm trying to get all the demonic power business straight here", Rosette closed the fridge and turned to Chrono, who was seated at the kitchen table. "So you got your powers from your mother. She could see the future, and you can control time."

Chrono nodded. The early morning sun filtering though the window made him look almost ethereal. The effect was ruined by Joshua's sweatpants and the slightly too small t-shirt, but Rosette liked it that way. It made him look real and alive. "Yes. Powers are matrilineal and normally related. Our powers had to do with time: Seeing through time, and controlling time."

Rosette nodded and bit into an apple, "And your half-brother Aion could see into people's souls. That's why you think that your stepmother's powers had to do with souls. So she might literally have been a soul-eating bitch?"

Chrono tried to keep the corners of his lips down but didn't quite succeed. Rosette shot him a wide mischievous smile, which he returned with a fond expression.

"I wouldn't have put it in those words, but you're probably not wrong. Aion and I noticed that she normally got what she wanted a little too easily. We think that she was able to bend weak minds to her will with eye contact, and tear out souls with physical contact."

"So when I go to the past, I need to stay the hell out of her way. Got it." Rosette smiled and sat down next to Chrono, letting their legs brush together.

It had been a week since she had found the 'memory' unconscious on the kitchen floor. Although he had been weak and almost incorporeal at first, Chrono was now even stronger than before the power failure. This was both good news, and very bad news. It was good news because Rosette's boyfriend was back to being substantial. It was bad news because it meant that whatever was locked in the cellar was also getting stronger.

"What about Magdalene? What was her power?" Rosette suppressed the twinge of jealousy she felt when she talked about Magdalene. The woman had been beautiful, and also had been Chrono's fiancé.

"Her powers were to amplify any other powers. My powers were always much stronger when she was with me." Chrono replied in a factual kind of way that set Rosette's jealous heart at ease. He certainly didn't sound like a guy still mooning over his lost fiancé. And besides, the poor girl had ended up being married to Aion Black. That fact alone earned her some sympathy points.

"So it would be helpful to have her around to send me back in time, wouldn't it?" Rosette sighed, thinking of Magdalene's resting place: the Black Family mausoleum. Weren't women supposed to outlive men? It hardly seemed fair that Aion Black was still in perfect health even though he was nearly a hundred years old, while his wife was sealed away in that graveyard. Why did she die so young?

"The more you use your powers, the shorter your lifespan becomes. And because women with demonic powers are usually more powerful than the men, they normally die younger." Chrono answered Rosette's unspoken question as though she had spoken it out loud.

Rosette looked at him speculatively over her apple. "You read my mind again, didn't you?"

Chrono's knee bumped into hers as he shifted in his seat. He smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry, you were thinking very loudly."

Rosette took another slow bite out of her apple and chewed on it, scrutinizing Chrono as she did so. "Aren't you weirded out that you have some of Aion's powers? And they seem to be getting stronger."

Chrono shrugged. "I still don't remember the events leading to my creation, but I'm fairly certain that Aion was involved."

"I don't like the sound of that," Rosette muttered, "I wonder if he knows you exist?"

Chrono cringed and looked away. Having known Chrono for a while now, Rosette didn't miss how guilty he looked. Whatever Chrono was hiding, she knew she wouldn't like it. But since it involved her evil boss, there was no way she was going to let Chrono keep his secrets.

"What aren't you telling me?" She put her apple core down on the table and turned her chair so that it was facing his. Chrono seemed to shy away a little at this, but she trapped one of his knees between hers. "If you know something, you should tell me. There's no use keeping me in the dark. You really should come clean before I go to the past."

Chrono seemed to struggle internally at this, and looked everywhere but her eyes. She leaned forward and placed both her hands on his knees. His legs were uncharacteristically twitchy under his sweatpants. This didn't bode well.

"Tell me." Rosette repeated firmly.

Chrono took a deep breath and seemed to be trying to steel himself. "I can use telephones."

This wasn't what Rosette had been expecting. Thrown off, she blinked. "What?"

Chrono took another deep breath and kept avoiding her eyes. "The post office had telephones installed before I died, and I often had to phone my father's creditors in New York City. I can use a telephone."

"That's great Chrono, but what does that have to do with anything?" Rosette asked, genuinely confused. "It's not as if you could call anyone. Who would you call?"

Chrono was silent. Dread filled Rosette's stomach as she realised that she probably really wouldn't like the answer to that question.

"They would have to be an acquaintance from when you were alive."

He nodded once, and seemed to be trying to blend in with the wall. This couldn't be good.

"You called someone you know. Who do you know that's still alive?"

Both were silent while Rosette mulled over this information. It couldn't be anyone in this town, since most people were too young to have known Chrono. Maybe he could have called the post-master, but what would have been the point?

Then the answer seemed to click into her brain like two lego pieces.


"Rosette, please don't be angry..." Chrono started, but shut his mouth quickly when he saw he murderous expression.

"You wouldn't betray me like that."

"Even if you don't trust Aion, please trust me," he reached forward for her hand but she pulled it away before he could take it.

"Why have you been calling Aion? Why did you lie about it?"

"I didn't lie about it... I just didn't mention it because I knew you'd be angry."

"Angry doesn't even begin to cover it," Rosette pushed her chair back and stood up, putting the table between them. "What the hell have you been telling him?"

"Nothing!" Chrono protested, hurt that she didn't trust him. "I just called him after you had fallen into the river. It seemed like the right thing to do. He told me never to call him again and that he would take care of your medical bill. And then yesterday while you were out grocery shopping he called the house. He said that you have to use the watch in the graveyard. That's it, I swear!"

Rosette stared him down, but this time he didn't avoid her eyes. He looked back at her earnestly, as though willing her to look into his heart to see that it was the truth. Her jaw clenched and unclenched several times as she tried to calm herself down.

Chrono's phone call would explain why Aion had been in the hospital when she woke up. It hadn't been pleasant to have her evil boss see her in a hospital gown that didn't cover her ass. It hadn't been pleasant to have to face the Spanish Inquisition as soon as she woke up. But now that she thought about it, he had been asking about Chrono and making sure she had seen him. Aion definitely knew that Chrono existed.

And the more Rosette considered it, the more she realised that she really wasn't that upset that Aion had come. After all, she wouldn't have been able to afford that hospital bill.

"And that's all?" she asked, her tone promising painful things to the one who lied to her. "You haven't talked to him other than those two times?"

"I swear to you that I haven't." He held her gaze and reached out a hand placatingly. "I'm so sorry I didn't tell you."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Rosette shifted her weight to her other foot. "How did you know his number? And why did you act as though you couldn't talk to him?"

"I don't know why I didn't tell you. I guess I should have, but I was afraid of your reaction." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I memorized Aion's number off your phone the first night you slept here. After Joshua brought you to the hospital I used the phone in the barn to call him. I wanted to just leave him an anonymous message saying that his employee had been involved in an accident, but he knew who I was the second I spoke. He told me he never wanted to speak to me again, so that was the end of it."

"And yesterday?" Rosette asked, crossing her arms. Her expression wasn't as stormy as it originally had been, but she wasn't ready to forgive him quite yet.

"I should have told you about his call as soon as you came home, but..." Chrono trailed off with a sigh.

"But?" She tapped her foot impatiently. Chrono sighed again and stood up. Slowly, he walked around the table to stand in front of her. Once he was certain that she wouldn't punch him, he reached out and put both hands on her shoulders. Almost reflexively she relaxed and seemed to lean into his touch.

"I didn't want to mention going into the past. I was hoping we could stay together a few more days, and I was afraid that if I mentioned Aion's message, that you would want to go to the past right away."

"You're probably not wrong." Rosette grumbled, uncrossing her arms, "But you should have told me anyways."

"I know," Chrono admitted, pulling her closer, "I'm sorry."

She sighed and all her anger seemed to melt away. She took a step closer to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him close. "We can't avoid it forever. I need to go soon. Tomorrow maybe."

"I know."

"The more we wait, the more powerful the thing haunting this house becomes."

"I know."

"Once I go back, we'll finally know who killed you." Rosette whispered. Chrono buried his face in her hair and tightened his arms around her.

"We won't ever be able to be together like this again." He was glad she couldn't see the bitter smile that graced his features. "Everything will change."

"Don't be silly. I'll figure out who killed you, and then I'll come back here. Nothing has to change." Rosette took a step back and took his face in her hands. "We'll still be together."

Chrono reached a hand up to cup hers. He leaned into it and closed his eyes, savouring her certainty and her warmth.

"I'm getting stronger than I've ever been. That means the barrier won't hold what's in the cellar for much longer. Maybe it'll even develop a corporeal form. You have to go to the past soon. You're right. We've put it off long enough."

Rosette frowned, "From the way you're talking it's as though you think something horrible is going to happen."

"I have no idea what's going to happen, and that frightens me. We have to put our trust in Aion, and I'm not sure I trust him with your safety." Chrono admitted, kissing her palm.

A shudder ran through her body. She didn't know whether it was from Chrono's warm breath on her hand or from the thought that Aion Black held her life in his hands. "It's true that I really don't trust Puppet Master Aion Black. He has all this information and just dangles it out of our reach."

She pulled Chrono's face closer to her own and kissed him tenderly. She pulled back and gave him her best confident smirk. "But you don't have to trust Aion. Put your faith in me. I'm going to kick ass and take down names."

"I don't doubt it," Chrono murmured. "I'd feel better if you brought a gun with you though."

"I found an old Glock and its ammunition at the antique store yesterday. I didn't only bring home groceries."

Chrono smiled and captured Rosette's lips with his own. He pulled her tightly against her body and didn't protest when her hands roamed a little lower than his back.

"It doesn't matter what the past throws at me. I'm going to win." She whispered harshly when they finally broke apart.

"I believe in you."

Somehow, to Rosette, those simple words were better than any confession of undying love. This serious, intelligent, gorgeous boy trusted her. Her, Rosette Christopher. An orphan with no real future, who had nearly failed high school, and until coming to Black Manor hadn't had two pennies to rub together. Who was better at getting into fights and manual labour than anything else. She felt like she had been waiting her whole life to hear someone say those words.

"The past won't know what hit it."