Life in general was going swimmingly well for Protector Leal Grayson ever since relocating to Timeline Delta 3. He had been on a roll lately with his intuitive predictions leading to the Department of Defense most successful missions against the Entity in recent times, effectively causing its plans to go awry and stop dead in its tracks.
His family life had also exponentially improved with his relationships with his charge Aurora and their daughter Avery (and even their daughter’s older doppelganger whom they adoringly referred to as a daughter as well) getting better by the day.
Aurora, Leal’s charge, who had been adverse to affection and had at one point had trouble reciprocating the loving actions of her Protector in spite of their bond, had slowly but surely began opening up to him little by little to a point where their relationship was no longer a burden to her but rather, a welcome addition to her life.
With each successive mission passed due to his predictions, he was recognized and rewarded both financially and non-financially until eventually, he received one of the greatest accolades of his career- a promotion to the coveted Golden Elite Status.
His charge had never been prouder and added to the fact that she was also excelling in her scientific career, eventually going on to receive an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Quantum Physics and further winning that year’s Nobel prize along with her partner in the Alison-Clarke Machine Project (that allowed for traversing across the Alternate Realities), his happiness was seemingly boundless.
However, even as he made merry due to how blissful his life had become, Leal was terrified of the prospect of his secret to success being exposed especially to his charge Aurora. Then when he thought about it, it felt so wrong for him to have hidden it from Aurora in the first place but by then, it was too late to look back.
Leal had been grievously injured not too far back in recent memory to an extent that he had developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His PTSD had gotten to a point where he had become a threat to his own charge, Aurora, whom he could not differentiate from her evil doppelganger who had been the cause of his incurring the disorder in the first place.
Growing ever so desperate, Leal had turned to the Advanced Medical practices of D-3 to help him snap back to his peak form so that he could get his life in order. His decision to turn to D-3 had been his best decision yet for not only was therapy in the future timeline vastly improved as compared to his original timeline, but the medication he received for his disorder had been exceptional.
D-3 had futuristic pharmacists named Medchanics (Medical Mechanics) that tailor made medications that were very specific to each individual. Working together with Leal’s therapist, the Medchanic assigned to Leal’s particular bout of PTSD had designed truly exceptional drugs that had almost immediately resolved his problem and essentially given him his life back.
However, as he would soon discover, the medication he received would have some unforeseen consequences which began to occur about a year prior. Leal had momentarily began to confuse between his charge Aurora and her evil counterpart that was one of the Entity’s top henchmen.
Leal began to notice that whenever he thought about Aurora’s evil counterpart, it was no longer because he hated her or thought about her being a threat to his charge’s safety and overall well being. He often found himself lost in thought about how beautiful she was and above all, how much he admired her strength.
He had began to fantasize about Aurora and his heart and mind were often filled with a deep longing to be with her. Terrified that somehow the evil Aurora had somehow began compelling him, he had decided to seek help from his MedChanic and Therapist who encouraged him to note any other strange side-effects of the medication. The Therapist theorized that perhaps the medication had began to cause a Stockholm Syndrome-like effect in Leal where he felt a bizarre connection to his tormentor.
Leal faithfully followed their advice and noted any strange side effects he experienced as a result of the drug all the while keeping everything he was experiencing to himself terrified that his Aurora would leave him if she found out about it. After a few weeks, the after effects began to manifest in stranger ways still…
He not only felt a deep longing to be with his tormentor accompanied by the fantasies he had grown so accustomed to, but he began to experience vivid auditory and visionary hallucinations, so vivid, in fact, that Leal began to think that Aurora was truly physically present.
Through hypnosis, the therapist was able to record several of the conversations Leal and the hallucination of Aurora were having. The therapist then worked hand in hand with the MedChanic to produce medications to drive these hallucinations away. Leal was strictly ordered to ensure he took the medications provided religiously which he did until one fateful day while undergoing Simulations training, he forgot to take his medication.
What occurred was that Leal’s head was suddenly filled with that burning sensation he had felt the first time he had been telepathically assaulted by Aurora so much that it brought him to his knees in pain. He held onto both his knees and rocked back and forth as he recalled the agony he experienced at her hands.
Suddenly, he felt the reassuring yet firm touch of his charge and he looked up at her in confusion.
“Leal, darling, what’s wrong? What happened?” Aurora asked him worriedly.
Leal looked at her in shock and then looked around him. He was no longer in the Men’s Locker Room at the Department of Defense but instead, was in a lavishly furnished Apartment he had never seen before which felt far more homely and familiar than it should have.
“Leal? You’re scaring me. What is going on?” Aurora repeated. Leal gawked at her for several moments before it hit him. She was not his Aurora at all but was the evil doppelganger he hated so much and yet, he didn’t feel any feelings of anger and resentment but instead, felt so much love for her, it astounded him.
“Headache,” he responded casually.
Aurora lovingly touched his Temple and he was carried away by the softness of her touch.
“You’re not running a fever,” she announced in relief.
“I… I love you, Aurora,” he stated in earnest.
Aurora smiled and said, “I love you too, Leal but take it easy. You know that the moment you let your guard down, that weird Cosmo and the Psycho Twins are going to take advantage of you and turn you into a mindless zombie,”
It took Leal quite a while to understand that Aurora was talking about the Three Super soldiers of the Entity. He understood then that what he was experiencing was not a hallucination at all but was in fact, very real. Leal had somehow managed to tap into the consciousness of his evil doppelganger.
“Well, luckily I have you to protect me,” Leal teased her.
She rolled her eyes playfully at him and threw a comfy pillow at him.
“Anyway, remember we have to catch up to that Traveler so hurry up and get ready, okay?”
“Sure mom,” Leal teased and then paused to reflect on how tone deaf his teasing had been. For several years both Aurora and Leal had tried to have a baby but had been unsuccessful unlike their Timeline B-3 doppelgangers.
“I’m sorry for saying that, Rory, that was… Insensitive,”
“Yeah, you’re an asshole but maybe that’s just because you’re stuck with me,” Aurora offered.
“Nah, if anything, you are the unfortunate soul stuck with me who can’t even properly tease his charge, gees. I’m hopeless,” he countered.
He got ready and enjoyed some banter with Aurora for what felt like mere minutes before a jolt suddenly broke him free from his reverie and returned his consciousness back to his host body.
“Leal buddy, you okay?” asked his colleague Protector Marx.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just um, I got a headache,”
“That was some kind of headache then. I found you rocking violently and talking to yourself like a mad man,”
“I- I need to go to my Therapist but Marx please promise me you won’t tell a soul,”
“Tell them what exactly? What is up with you man?”
“I got tired after Training but please-“
“Yeah, yeah, don’t tell a soul. Got it. Gees,”
Leal thanked him and went back to report what had happened to the Therapist and further, went to turn in an ‘anonymous’ tip that a Traveler was being targeted by the Entity which panned out and was averted in good time.
His therapist would later advice him to continue taking his Anti-Hallucinogenic medication terrified that the after effects of his PTSD medication would only worsen. In time, Leal secretly stopped taking the Anti-Hallucinogenic medications prescribed altogether, using the strange ability he had acquired to drop into his evil doppelganger’s consciousness to get a drop on Aurora and Leal with great success.
Leal kept it up for a year and his evil doppelganger seemed none the wiser about it. He was very careful about how long he stayed in his evil doppelganger’s mind, usually setting a timer to a shock device he had strapped on that would go off after a few minutes thus bringing his consciousness back into his body. He had half the mind to confess to Aurora but knew she would certainly disapprove of his methods.
However, during a celebratory dinner held in honor of Aurora and Dr. Clarke that year, he finally popped the question of marriage to her and she said yes despite his prediction that she would not accept his marriage proposal. Then when faced with the prospect of finally marrying the love of his life, he began to reflect on whether it truly was acceptable to keep the secret to his success to himself.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Shall Leal finally confess his secret to Aurora? What shall become of this special effect he has when he takes his medication? Stay tuned to find out!