A Stone Heart: Chapter Five
Dex needs Huey, and he needs him now.
“Calm down, Dex. You have to keep control.”
Said the fucker who hit me and sent a lightning bolt at my feet. Anger churned within me. I’d show this asshole what power was. He’d regret ever screwing with me. I lifted my gaze and glared at the azure skies. For my purpose, that would never do. Clouds rolled in, dark and pendulous. The smell of ozone already scented the air, and in the distance thunder rolled across the sky.
This was better, but not nearly enough. Not by far. Lake thought he was powerful? He had no idea what true power was, but he was about to take a masterclass.
I clenched my hands into fists while I ignored Lake’s entreaties. The winds picked up, and ripped across the quad, knocking over tables and trees. Hudd was there, doing his best to contain it, but even though he’d mastered his abilities, they were still dwarfed by mine. A blast knocked him from his feet, and only him merging with the air kept him from being blown down the street. John called ice to form around them, trying to hold off the winds, but they broke through the shield with ease.
Lake’s eyes went wide. “Dex, you have to contain it. Pull it back in.”
Pull it back? Why would I want to do that? He wanted to see my power, so I’d show it to him. All of it, at once. Then we’d see who’d—holy shit. I saw the fear in Hudd’s eyes, and Trevor was saying something, but I couldn’t hear him over the winds. What the fuck was I doing? I could kill these guys without meaning to, and I sure as hell didn’t want to do that. No, the power needed to be pulled back. Only… it refused.
No matter how I tried, the magic continued to surge through me. It was intoxicating, but also terrifying. Water vapor formed around me, dancing in the air.
“Dex, no!” John cried out.
A moment later, the ice John was forming exploded, shards slicing through everything nearby. The cries of agony from Trevor and Hudd caught my ear over the winds, and I redoubled my efforts to contain the magic. It was fruitless. I was like a sieve now, the energy flowing out of me with no way to draw it back. Trevor shifted into a polar bear and battled against the winds as he moved toward me. John was doing his best to help by locking himself in place with ice around his legs and a shield to mitigate the wind for Trevor. I was amazed by his fortitude, but I knew it wasn’t going to be nearly enough.
John lifted his arms, and the vapors that swirled around me began to coalesce, forming a thin layer over my body. He was doing his best to entomb me. It was a smart move, but ultimately futile. My magic lashed out, shattering John’s ice, as well as his anchors. There was a yelp as he was knocked off his feet and went ass over teakettle down the lawn toward the parking lot.
“Listen to me, Dex. Control. Think of what you do when you need to call the magic back.”
I spun to find Lake close to me. The hair on the back of my neck prickled, and the electricity crackled in his eyes.
“You have to pull it back now, before people get hurt.”
“Do you think I’m not trying?” I growled through gritted teeth.
“Dexter, what the heck are you doing?”
The gravelly, deep voice rolled over me and in that instant, my magic waned. The winds calmed as if they never existed, the guys stopped being buffeted about, and the ground breathed a sigh of relief. With the exception of the devastation, everything was back to normal.
“Huey, help me,” I pleaded. “I came here to learn control, and nothing is working.”
“Don’t you know why?” he asked. “Because you need me, stupid. I anchor you.”
I did! It was always in the back of my mind that Huey pulled the strands of magic together and bound them tightly within me. I knew Huey wasn’t really there. I’d learned my lesson last time. But it helped to understand why I needed him so badly. I focused on Huey. His smile. His eyes. The way his rough skin felt when he slid his fingers over my cheek. His voice as it tickled my ear.
Huey was all I ever needed. He protected me, and he kept me from hurting others.
“I need Huey,” I ground out. My voice didn’t even sound like me anymore. It was dark, filled with anger. “Bring him to me….now!”
“Stop that, Dexter. You need to focus on me, not them. It’s no wonder he hit you with sticks. I’d smack you upside the head too. You’re twenty-four, and acting like a child denied his favorite stuffed animal. You want me? Show them that you’re worth it.”
Metaphysical hands reached out and grabbed the energy that flowed from my body. It was such a weird feeling, me struggling with my own power, but in that moment, I knew it was a fight I had to win.
“You’re doing it, Dex. Keep it up.”
Lake again. I wasn’t doing this for him. It was for Huey. Everything I did was for Huey. Still, Lake needed a reminder of who I was. I peered at the heavens again and the slightest whim was enough. A lightning bolt stabbed the ground near Lake, making an eight inch divot in the ground and knocking Lake back a good five feet.
“Really, Dexter? Are we being that petty?”
Yes, we were, damn it. Even two weeks after my arrival, Lake continued to irritate me. I had no idea what the problem was. The man was nothing but professional, and pushed me hard to get myself under control. Yet beneath the surface was like a pool of tar. You’d step into it, and you’d be dragged below the surface. The other guys didn’t seem to see it or, if they did, they never brought it up.
“I’m the only one who has your best interest at heart, you know.”
Huey was the one constant in my life. He never judged me, never treated me unfairly, and when I did something stupid, he had no problem calling me on it. Even my parents, whom I loved with my whole heart, seemed… I can’t even explain it. After the blowout with my mom over Huey, I noticed a few other things in our history where she would make a comment or try to steer me in a direction that looking back wasn’t a good idea.
“You know what you need to do for me, Dexter. It’s up to you if you’re going to do it.”
And I was, damn it. “I need Huey. And if you don’t bring him here, I’m going to end up tearing this place down to the ground.”
The fear on Lake’s face was as obvious as it was delightful.
“You need to think this through with a clear head, Dex.”
Lake had to stretch his legs to keep pace with me as I set about trying to clean up my mess. Once I had my emotions under control again, saw the things I’d done, guilt swamped me. My mom was the original treehugger, and here I was, tearing everything she loved apart. My hands shook as I lifted the tree branch and moved it out of the way.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered to the tree.
“Damn it, stop and listen to me. We have groundskeepers who tend to that kind of stuff.”
His attitude pissed me off. I spun on my heel, doing my best to rein in the anger that was once again building. “You listen to me. I want—no, I need—Huey here. He’s my touchstone, and he grounds me. It’s taken me years to realize he binds my powers, and he keeps me on an even keel.”
Lake put his hand on my arm. “I can do that for you. You’ve said Huey is a norm, so how could he possibly understand your magic?”
Normally that would have given me pause as I contemplated the question, but there wasn’t any need to. Huey was it. He was the only one I could rely on. I’d put his life in Huey’s hands before anyone else’s. Then it hit me what Lake had called Huey. A norm. That was a slur to me. Humans weren’t any different than those with magic. Sure, they might not be able to live inside a tree the way I could, but I couldn’t blow a six inch snot bubble like Huey.
“Don’t ever call him a norm. No, you know what? Don’t ever use that term around me again.”
The flush of Lake’s skin told me he was taking my words for what they were. A threat. God, I’d never been like this before. Why was I being so hostile?
“I’m sorry. I just… I need Huey.”
A look flashed over Lake’s face. I would have sworn it was anger, but then it was replaced by that perpetual smile.
“If you think having Huey here will help, then by all means call him.”
I narrowed my gaze. “Why do I sense a but?”
Swear to the gods, Lake leered. “If he comes and he can’t help you with this problem you’re having, then he goes home, and you start your tutelage under me. No more hesitancy, no more fighting me.” His gaze softened, now looking more like a snake than any other type of animal. “You need help, and I think you know it.” He waved a hand around us, and I winced as I took in even more damage than I’d initially thought. “What you did here? If that’s what happened when you were back home, you could have caused a catastrophe. You were pumping out magic on a level I’ve never seen before, and even with three of our best students helping, we didn’t stand a chance against you. I’m going to level with you, unchecked it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Or worse.”
Huey could keep me in check, I was sure.
But what if he can’t?
The voice in my head was mocking. “Really, Dexter? Do you doubt me? I’ve been taking care of you my whole life.”
That snapped me out of my funk, at least temporarily. No, I didn’t think for one second Huey wouldn’t help me get through this. Not one jot. “I agree to your terms.”
“Then call Huey and ask him to come out. We’ll have a dorm room assigned to him.”
No, that wouldn’t do for me at all. I needed Huey where I could see him, could smell that earthiness I always detected on him. “He’s staying with me.”
Lake’s brows furrowed. “What? No. We don’t—” I scowled, and he paled. “Yes, maybe it would be for the best if the two of you bunked down together.” He turned to leave, but called over his shoulder. “We’re going to help you, Dex. We’ve never given up on a student before, and you won’t be the first.”
He rushed to the other side of the quad, where the guys were busy trying to clean up my mess. I could hear Lake directing them, telling them how to use their magic to clean up. Watching John create ice scoops and Trevor shifting into a rhinoceros to push the debris to the side, I was struck by the 70s Superfriends cartoon with Zan and Jana. I wondered if the guys realized how well they worked together. Hudd, for his part, created a vortex to draw the garbage up and stack it into a larger pile. What took me minutes to do, would take weeks to fix.
I chastised myself for losing control again, but promised that once Huey was here, I would get better again. It had to get better, because I’d heard the whispered tales of people who couldn’t control themselves and how they disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. I vowed that wouldn’t be me, because I had too much to live for.
Not that I could think of anything pressing off the top of my head, of course. I mean, here I was, the child of two powerful creatures of myth and legend, twenty-four, in love with the best friend who didn’t return my feelings, and my magic—which should have shown up long before now—was making itself known in violent, destructive ways.
I went to the office, since cells weren’t allowed on campus, and told them I needed to contact Huey. Of course, they made me sit and wait until one of the other proctors went to speak with Lake. When he came back, there was a gleam of something in his eyes that didn’t sit right with me, but he told the lady at the desk I had permission. She waved a hand toward the phone.
“Dial one, then the area code, and number,” she informed me, like I was a five-year-old who didn’t know how to make a call.
My hands shook as I punched the buttons. What if Huey said no? What if he’d changed his mind and left? What if—
For me, hearing Huey’s voice was like taking the top off a boiling kettle. The steam that had built up in me escaped in a long, slow hiss.
“I…” Shit, no matter how I said this, I was going to sound like a pathetic baby. “I need you.”
“I’m on my way.”
That was it. No denial, no condemnation. “Really?”
“You’re a true blue idiot, do you know that? I told you I will always be there for you. Today, tomorrow, a hundred years from now. You’re my guy, and I’m never walking away from you.”
God, I wish he meant that the way I dreamed of, but that wasn’t the point right now. “I’m losing it, Huey. I… I…”
Fuck, now tears were rolling down my cheeks. At least the woman behind the desk had the decency to look away. The devastation I could have been responsible for played in my head on a loop. I saw John, Trevor, and Hudd laying there, their bodies buried beneath a building that I’d brought down on top of them. Then my gaze pulled back, and I saw the truth. Everyone on the campus was dead, and it was my fault. I was in danger of becoming a monster.
“I’m on my way, Dex. Don’t panic, don’t hold it in. Just know that when I get there, I’m going to pull you close to my chest so you can hear my heart, and know that it’s beating for you.”
That poet’s soul again. “I’m scared,” I whispered. I would never say it to anyone else, but Huey knew me.
“I know you are, but I’m coming, and I swear I’ll make it right. I just need you to hold out for an hour.”
“An hour?” I scoffed, because I knew even if he got a plane ticket now, it would still be at least a day before he’d get to me. “It took me eight to get here.”
He was quiet for a moment.
“I’m in Joseph, about forty miles from you” he said, his voice soft. “I caught a flight the day after you left, because I could sense you would need me. I tried to stay away, but I couldn’t…” He drew in a sharp breath. “I’m sorry. Please don’t be angry.”
Angry? Oh my gods. The man had come because he thought I needed him. It was a big, grand, sweeping gesture that would blow away anything on television. We’re talking romance novel stuff, with declarations of love when you’re both about to die kinda thing.
“Why would I be angry?”
“I know the way your mind works, Dexter. You’re going to take it as me not trusting you, or something.”
No, I never gave that a thought. “Not even remotely. I do need you, and that’s never been a question. It’s… I thought I could do this, make you proud of me, but apparently not.”
“You’re not bright at all, are you? I am always proud of you. From the frosted tips of your hair, to the shiny red polish on your toenails, I couldn’t possibly be prouder. When we were kids, I looked at you and I saw this perfect thing, like a little bird. You knew, given the chance, that the bird would grow to be something special, like a peacock. That’s what you became. Once your plumage came in, and you stopped fussing about what everyone else thought of you, and had the backbone to tell them to screw off? That was the day I could stand back and tell people, ‘That’s my best friend’, and know you’d realize it wasn’t pity or anything else. It was because it was true and real.”
“How’d you know about the polish?”
He laughed, and it was warm and rich, and made my insides quiver. “There’s nothing I don’t know about you, Dex. You think people don’t see you, but I do.”
It was a nice thought, even if it wasn’t quite true. If he did, as he said, see me, there was no way he could miss how desperately and madly in love with him I was. It was okay, though. He was still my friend, and that was worth everything to me.
“I’ll see you shortly, Dexter.”
He hung up, and I couldn’t get rid of the smile on my face, because Huey was coming for me.