Charlie was tired, and glad to be heading home after a long day at school. The biology exam had been nothing short of the purest torture. He felt like he could never fully enjoy anything ever again, the exam had been so painful, so dull, so unfair, so-,
“GRANDPA CHARLES IS COMING! GRANDPA CHARLES IS COMING!” Lizzy and Izzy grabbed his hands and spun him around the lounge room almost the second he walked in the door.
“Grandpa?” Charlie looked at the pair, dumbfounded.
“YUP!” The pair grinned back.
“OH MY GOD! GRANDPA CHARLES IS COMING! GRANDPA CHARLES IS COMING!” The three danced around the room. Charles Howzat had been working in Central Ostraya as a teacher. He had been pretty close to retirement the last time Charlie had spoken to him, and was looking forward to coming back home to Pleasantville.
“Will you lot can it!” Thomas walked in.
“Why is Grandpa coming home? Is he retiring?” Charlie asked.
“Yup. He's been told that he's too old to continue working. So he's off to the Happy Old Farts home.” Thomas sat down on the couch.
“Joe will be pretty thrilled too – he, Grandpa Charles and Grandpa Timmy were best friends.” Izzy said, unable to contain her excitement.
“Those two will be able to chat about the old times. I bet they have a lot of stories from the war they can share!” Lizzy added, bouncing around the room.
“He can show me his old sword fighting moves.” Charlie grinned. Thomas and Betty were a match made in heaven, as the Beglys by trade were blacksmiths and metalworkers, while the Howzats had a history of sword fighting.
“He can babysit you three while your mother and I get some quality time together.” Thomas thought out loud.
“No. No more siblings!” The three children cried out.
It was late Saturday morning when Charles arrived at the Begly house. Betty had gone to pick her father up from the airport in Brisvegas, while Thomas and the children got his new accommodation sorted.
They were just putting the television in position when the car pulled up at the apartment.
“GRANDPA CHARLES! GRANDPA CHARLES!” The three Begly siblings ran out of the apartment towards their grand-father.
“Hey kiddos. Look at how big you all are!” Charles climbed gingerly out of the car. He hadn't aged well, and his joints were stiff and sore.
“Grandpa! Let me take your bag!” Charlie grabbed the old mans luggage.
“Come on Grandpa, we cleaned everything up for you!” Izzy grabbed his hand while Lizzy got the door.
Charles smiled at the three, and sighed as he walked in the door. “It's true then. I am old and retired.” He looked around the room.
“Did we set everything up right Grandpa?” Lizzy looked up anxiously.
“You guys did amazing, thank you.” Charlies sighed.
“You're coming to our place for dinner tonight, aren't you Dad?” Betty asked, looking at some of the art on the mantelpiece.
“Of course dearie. Just let me get freshened up.” Charles smiled at his oldest daughter.
It was early evening when they finished dinner, the Beglys and Masters sitting in the shared backyard eating barbecued ribs.
“This is GORGEOUS!” Belle grinned, stretching out her arms, belly full of pork.
“Isn't it just?” Joe agreed with her. “And my best mate is back too.”
“Everyone knows you and Tim Begly were the best of friends Joey, I just tagged along.” He took another mouthful of beer. “Those were the days.
“Yeah, you and Timmy going at each other hammer and tongs, and I always had to break you two up.” Joe smiled at the memory.
“He was such an arrogant tosser though.” Charles smiled fondly. “Don't know why, he was such an ugly mug.”
“Still managed to woo Denise!” Joe laughed. Charles scowled. “Oh don't look like that Charlie, you didn't say anything!” Joe patted his old friend on the back.
“What happened?” Izzy asked innocently.
“Your Grandma Denise Fairweather was the most beautiful woman you ever saw. I was madly in love with her until your Grandpa Tim got a hold of her.” Charles sighed melodramatically. Inside, the wound still burnt hot.
“Tim had a way with women. Thomas seems to have gotten his mojo from him.” Peter laughed.
“I call incorrect use of the Improbability Clause!” Bill chortled, making the table erupt in hysterics.
“Do you lot STILL believe in that stupid dumb luck?” Charles asked. “I suppose you still follow that Code religiously too!”
“The Masters Code and the Improbability Clause are over 500 years old.” Joe pointed out.
“And besides, without the Code and the Clause, we wouldn't be able to be Chuckles and Giggles.” Belle piped up.
“Ah, yes, I've been wanting to talk to you two about that.” Charles straightened up. “I want to join you on your crusade.”
The table went dead silent.
“Um, aren't you a bit old to be running around Pleasantville in a dodgy costume?” Charlie asked.
“Nonense. A bit of experience would help you.” Charles brushed him off. “I don't understand why Joey hasn't put his hand up to help you.”
“Because I know I'm too old and I'd be a liability.” Joe said quietly. “I coach from the sidelines if I have to be involved.”
“Ah, I see. Being the “strategist” as it were.” Charles frowned.
“It was my job.” Joe narrowed his eyes at Charles.
“Was hiding behind the Code your job too?” Charles shot.
“You know I'd never willingly take the life of another, no one should ever be expected to!” Joe snapped.
“We had no choice, it was WAR!” Charles fired angrily. “You're still a coward I see.”
“YOU TAKE THAT BACK!” Peter and Bill roared furiously. NO ONE called their father a coward!
“You and Tim, always hiding behind those old family traditions which should have died out a long time ago!” Charles muttered bitterly. “At least one of us has gumption.”
“Charles, listen to me, you know you can't go out and fight anymore. Even these two shouldn't be out there.” Joe tried to reason with his old friend, but Charles was having none of it.
“At least your daughter seems to have her priorities straight.” He looked at Belle, who recoiled and hid behind her father.
“I still follow the Code. So does Charlie.” She said quietly. Charles narrowed his eyes at his grand-son.
“No. You two need to listen to me and stop relying on these outdated methods that this old man preaches. He nearly got us all killed 40 years ago with his stupid moralising.” Charles frowned. “If you're going to do a job, do it right. If you're too scared to get blood on your hands then leave it to those who will.”
“It's not about being scared Charles, it's about doing the right thing and following the rules!” Joe began to seethe. Peter and Bill stood behind him.
“What are rules if they allow people to get hurt?!” Charles fought back.
“It's not the rules that are getting people hurt, it's the people who can't be bothered following the rules that are doing the damage! Listen to yourself!” Joe stood up, an imposing figure in front of his two sons.
“Boys, sit down. Why ruin a lovely dinner-,” Betty tried, but was cut off by her father.
“YOU listen to yourself! You're a coward, you always have been, and you're now trying to stop the one member of your family who actually has any guts from fulfilling a very noble destiny!” Charles stood up too, just as furious.
“Grandpa, please sit down. We're just trying to do the best we can, and Joe is right, you'd only get in the way and cause issues.” Charlie tried.
“You still don't need to follow that stupid Code! If you had disposed of Revolver and Marion properly, then you wouldn't be here sitting on pins and needles waiting for them to get back out and cause harm again!” Charles bellowed.
“Yes, but that would make the children as bad as the ones they're fighting!” Joe tried to reason with the now irate man.
“At least the city would be safe.” Charles growled.
“At the expense of the childrens innocence?” Joe glared.
“How can any child be innocent in this day and age?” Charles sat back down. “You're a fool Joey. An old fool.”
“We'll just see about that won't we?” Joe continued to glare. “I can't believe you'd sacrifice your own flesh and blood-,”
“Some sacrifices need to be made Joe, don't you DARE judge me for mine!” Charles was back up again, knocking over his chair.
“Maybe we'd better get out of here…” Belle whispered to Charlie.
“Don't you DARE leave this table!” Charles rounded on her.
That did it. Peter stood between the two and glared threateningly at Charles.
“Beauty. Please leave the table.” He said coolly. Belle skipped away as quickly as she could, this was one fight she didn't want a bar of!
“Don't you move young man.” Charles stopped Charlie from walking away. “You're not a coward like her.”
Peter growled. Charles eyeballed him.
“Go on. Hit me. Or are you just as cowardly as your father?” He taunted the oldest Masters son.
“I don't hit unless I'm struck first.” Peter replied. He felt his fathers hand on his shoulder.
“You're a good boy Peter. You and Bill head inside with Belle.” He said. Peter nodded and headed back inside, his brother putting his arm over his shoulders.
Joe looked at Charles, and shook his head sadly.
“I'm sorry about dinner Betty, I know you went to a lot of trouble to put this together. I thank you for inviting us, and hopefully we can get together sometime without the arguments.” He walked back inside where Peter and Bill were comforting a shaken Belle.
“Well. That was a bit of a downer.” Thomas sighed as the Beglys cleared the table.
“I have half a mind to never invite those Masters over again!” Betty seethed. Thomas was taken aback.
“What do you mean?! Both of them were equally to blame dearest, besides you can't just cut off our closest friends over a stupid little incident like that!” He tried to comfort her. She rounded on him.
“I knew you'd take their side, you always do! My father happens to be your FAMILY Thomas, or have you forgotten that?!” Betty snapped angrily, slamming down the cutlery on the bench.
“The Masters are as good as family, and the Improbability Clause-,”
“IT'S STUPID, that's what it is! Nothing more than make-believe rubbish!” Betty stormed on.
Listening in were the three siblings. Charlie was indignant.
“The Improbability Clause isn't rubbish, I've used it plenty of times!” He said.
“It's dumb luck Charlie. You need to grow up.” Izzy pointed out.
“What the-? You're Beglys just as I am!” Charlie was shocked. How could his sisters deny their own birthright like that?!
“We're also Howzats Charlie, and unlike Beglys, we stick to our familys side and defend each other.” Lizzy narrowed her eyes at her brother.
Charlie couldn't believe his ears. His own sisters, who had looked up to him for years, were defying him.
“I love Grandpa Charles as much as you do, but even I know he's wrong on this one. Just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say.” Charlie tried to reason with them, but the girls were just as stubborn as their grand-father.
“He's not wrong Charlie, I can't believe that you'd say that!” Lizzy cried in anguish.
“You're pretty much asking me to choose Grandpa Charles over Grandpa Tim!” Charlie tried to defend himself.
“No we're not!” Izzy looked insulted. “Grandpa Tim died a long time ago!”
“Come on Iz, let's go to our room.” Lizzy pulled her sister away, leaving Charlie feeling lost and alone.
Back at the retirement home, Charles lifted an old wooden box out from underneath the bed. He opened it carefully and laid the contents out on the bed.
Two long blades. Both had a solid leather strap near the end so they could be worn along the users arms.
Charles strapped them on, and started shadow-boxing. The Arm Scythes had served him well over the years, and they would serve him well again.