A Stone Heart: Chapter Six
Huey and Dex are reunited, and there’s a guard who is going to regret touching Dex.
“This is the last time I’m saying it. Move, or I swear I’ll move you myself.”
The growl, thick and heavy, had been carried on the wind, was so damned good to hear. I rushed outside and found Huey talking to one of the campus guards, who stood like a rock, unmovable.
“And I told you, no one gets to come here without an invitation. Unless you have one, you’re going nowhere.”
For the briefest of seconds, Huey’s eyes flashed, his annoyance obvious. Then he saw me, and just like that, he had that grin that made me weak in the knees.
I ran to him and jumped into his arms. He enfolded them around me, and as promised, I heard his heart thumping in his chest. I was about to say something, when a hand landed on my shoulder, squeezing.
“Go back to your classes.”
Faster than I would have believed possible, Huey clutched the guard’s hand and yanked him upward, his feet dangling six inches off the ground. I winced when I heard the snap and cry that followed.
“You don’t touch him, ever.”
Huey stood there, a tight grip on the guard’s now limp wrist, his fingers digging into the soft flesh.
“Close your eyes, Dex, you don’t need to see this.”
No, this couldn’t be happening. “Huey, he wasn’t hurting me. You have to let him go.”
The guard whimpered when Huey tightened his grip. “He shouldn’t be touching you.”
“You’re right, and he knows that now. Let him go, okay?”
He blinked twice before he turned loose of the guy, who dropped to his knees, clutching his wrist to his chest, his eyes wide.
“This is assault!”
Huey’s lip curled. “So is putting your hands on someone. From what I can see, it’s justified if I’m protecting him.”
The guard sneered, but said nothing. I bent down beside him and ran a hand over his wrist. I wasn’t the healer my mom was, but I could at least soothe a bit of his pain until he could get it taken care of.
“I’m sorry about this. Huey’s protective of me.”
Huey said nothing, standing there with his arms crossed over his wide chest.
“Huey, don’t you have something to say?”
“Yeah, I do. Touch him again and I’ll rip the arm off clean off.”
His expression told me he was totally serious. “Huey?”
He turned to me and his gaze softened. “Dexter,” he said on an exhale, his voice cracking. “I’ve missed you so much.”
It struck me then. If being away from Huey was so hard on me, maybe being away from me was just as rough for him. I turned back to the guard.
“Go to the infirmary. One of the healers will take care of you. Again, I’m sorry. He needs me to keep him calm.”
The man said nothing, but got up and stumbled away. I went to Huey and slipped my hand into his. His fingers tightened and he sighed softly.
“I was going nuts,” he whispered. “I kept hearing your voice in my head, telling me you needed me. I wanted to come, but I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was.”
Now Huey had always been touchy-feely with me. He forever had his hands on my face, my shoulder, the small of my back. I always thought it was a subconscious thing. What if we were linked somehow? I’d heard of other magic users who needed a familiar, something that would focus their powers. One without the other never worked. A sorcerer without a familiar found his magic to be weak, often ineffectual. A familiar whose master had died, was often listless, lost. Maybe my familiar wasn’t a cat, but a Huey.
I slid my arms around his waist and rested my head on his chest. “I can’t believe you did this for me.”
He ran a hand over my spine as he buried his face in my hair. “Anything, anytime. This is what I’ve been trying to tell you for years. I’m never leaving you, because I can’t stand to be away from you for too long. It hurts enough when I go to work or when you’re on your jaunts in the woods.”
“What did work say when you told them you needed time to come after me?”
He was quiet. I stepped back and gazed up into his face. He seemed nervous, unsure.
“Youdidtell them, right?” His expression told me everything I needed to know. He’d dropped everything to come after me. “Oh, Huey.”
“I couldn’t think when you were gone. After you said you were going, I locked myself in my room and… My head was filled with so much crap. In my mind, you wanted to come here so you’d learn control, then you’d leave me and go live in the forest like you’d always dreamed.”
Holy shit. That was my fantasy from when I was being teased for being gay. It seemed like the perfect way for me to get away from my tormentors. Even then, I knew it was wishful thinking on my part, but I could never walk away from Huey.
“I was a little kid at the time. How do you even remember that?”
He gave me a watery smile. “I remember everything you’ve ever said or done,” he assured me, giving me a watery smile. “I’m a walking encyclopedia of everything Dex.”
I chuckled. “Oh yeah? Prove it. What was I wearing the day we met?”
“A blue jumper your mom made. It had white threading on the front pocket in the shape of a tulip, and your dad had given her black tourmaline, which she sewed into the buttons to keep you safe. You also had on gray sneakers with scuffed toes, and the rainbow socks that had the cutest kittens on them.”
No way could he know that. Hell, until he reminded me, Ididn’t remember it. “How could you…”
He grinned. “You tried to tell me what the stone was, but you mangled the word tourmaline about a billion times, then got frustrated and said it was a rock.” Reaching up, he cupped my cheek and rubbed his thumb over it. “I’m not kidding, Dex. I remember everything about you. You’ve been the one constant in my life, and I don’t believe in gods like you, but I’m grateful to whatever put us on the same path.”
Right then I wanted nothing more than to give him a kiss. To sink into his warmth, to have him take control and show me how much he wanted me. My mom was right. It had been a long time, and if I was smart, I would go out and find someone else. What was I waiting for? The answer was obvious. No man would ever—could ever—be like Huey. It wouldn’t be fair for me to try and find someone else, because I would constantly compare them to the man who now held me in his arms. Maybe I’d spend the rest of my life alone and a virgin, but that was a small price to pay to keep Huey in my life.
Dex drew back a bit, but I tightened my grip to keep him where he was. I buried my face in his hair, noting the scent that I always associated with him. Cedar, the deep forest, and the sharp tang of a babbling brook filled my nostrils. I sighed because I could finally breathe again. Though I did my best to understand why Dex needed to do this, the last few weeks had been torture for me. Every morning I would wake up and think that the whole thing had been a bad dream. I’d go out, start his morning caffeine jolt, then sit at the table, and wait for Dex to roll out of bed, looking all sleep rumpled, his hair standing up in peaks, and growl at me as soon as his door opened, wanting to know if I’d made coffee yet.
That was the start of my day. Dex would sit there, a scowl on his face, which became less pronounced with each sip of a blend his mom made. Finally, after he’d drained his second cup, it was safe to talk with him again. He’d tell me a joke that in all likelihood I probably didn’t really get, but would laugh anyway, just to see him smile at me. After we had a healthy breakfast of muesli and soy milk, with bilberries Dex had snagged from his mother’s garden—that woman had an amazing green thumb, but I guess that was to be expected—and Dex’d ask me what I had planned for the day.
My perfect day would be the two of us, sitting in front of the television, watching Star Trek. Dex would sit in his chair, his legs curled under him, and stare at the screen for hours. While I loved science fiction, it didn’t hold a candle to seeing Dex’s reactions to the situations. It was as close to perfection as I could imagine.
I wanted the day to start just like it had for the last few years.
Only Dex never came to the table. The pot of coffee sat there, untouched, until it grew cold. I’d empty it and have it ready to go in the morning, just in case he snuck home during the night. I’d go to his room, open the door, and sit at his desk, doing my best to fill my mind with things other than my loneliness. It was worse than me going to work.
Let me say, those eight hours on the job were interminable. I tended bar at the club until two in the morning, chatting with strangers who thought they were my best friends. At least they tipped well. With me being the only one who had a job, it was necessary to bring in a good check. Dex told me many times he’d go out and get one, but his mother forbade it. She told him that he had no idea if—when—his magic would kick in, and to be in a room or office with a bunch of people would be hazardous to their health. She paid for him to stay at home, but encouraged him to take time to go into the woods and commune.
I can’t explain what it’s like to see him walk out the door, telling me he’s going to be gone a few days. It’s like the moment the door closes, all the light is sucked from the room. The pressure crushes my lungs, making it hard to draw in a breath, and my head aches at thoughts I couldn’t understand.
The only thing in my life that made sense was Dex. Seeing him, being with him, made life less complicated. A woman at work asked if I lived alone, and I told her no, then mentioned Dex. I told her all about him, and she sat there, smile at me as she took it all in. Finally she asked if I was in love with him. I answered truthfully, no, I wasn’t. She laughed and said from the way I talked about Dex, it sure sounded like it and if I wasn’t, I ought to be. She said her husband never talked about her like I did Dex. It made me think.
The problem with her declaration was I honestly had no idea what it meant. Love was a foreign concept to me. I mean, I knew I cared about Dex, but I’d never experienced love before. I watched Dex, and the people around him, trying to understand what love was. I saw the love Dex had for his mother and father; familial, friendly, frustrating at times, but beneath it all, a genuine bond. I watched hour upon hour of television, only to decide that the shows I watched weren’t love at all. They were sex, not relationships. I tried reading some popular romance novels, and those sounded good, but pretty unbelievable, at least to me. Music? No, those songs talked of love being equal to sex or heartache. In the end, I could only come up with one answer. From everything I’d seen and read, I was not in love with Dex.
I wanted to protect him; keep him safe. I didn’t want to leave him, I didn’t want to treat him like he had no worth. I didn’t want to have silly misunderstandings. What else was there to love? Unless there was something I’d missed, there was no love between me and Dex.
A few days after he left to go to Markwith, I jolted awake from a dream where Dex was screaming in my head. He was crying, pleading for me to help him. I tried to tell myself it was only a dream, and that he was fine, but I didn’t believe it at all. I flew to Oregon, then rented a car and drove to Joseph and waited there for Dex to call me. Every night I had the same dream, Dex begging me to come help him. I got in the car more than once, ready to drive to the academy, but what if I was wrong? What if everything was going great, and I show up and things get messy?
So I waited. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I didn’t eat. I scarcely slept. The woman at the counter of the motel commented that I looked like I was getting sick, even though I’d never been ill a day in my life. She went to the kitchen and got me some chicken soup and crackers, but I left them sitting on the bureau in my room
When Dex called, my heart could have flown to him. He needed me, and I couldn’t wait to see him. But he sounded…off. His words weren’t filled with their normal spunk. Instead, they were listless, defeated. And that made me angry. I drove to the campus, and ran into the guard outside the building Dex told me he’d be in. The guard glared at me, even after I told him I’d come to get Dex. I was ready to go through him when the door opened and Dex stepped out.
He didn’t look anything like my Dex. His skin was pale, his hair was white without a hue of color anywhere, but his eyes…they looked haunted. He rushed to me and I opened my arms to him. The moment I encircled him, my heart could beat again.
Then the chubby guard in his blue polyester blend shirt did something he oughtn’t have done. He touched Dex. I saw red when I found his hand on Dex’s shoulder. The guard tried to jerk away when I clutched his hand, but that wasn’t going to happen. He’d touched Dex, the most perfect thing in the world. No one touched Dex. Ever.
I squeezed his wrist until I could feel the bones cracking beneath my hand. His cry of pain spurred me on, making me tighten my grip. When his wrist snapped, I felt ten feet tall, because I’d protected Dex. Then I saw the look on his face, and I knew he was unhappy. Still, I’d done what I needed to do, and would do it again. When Dex asked if I had something to say to the guard, I told him yes.
“Touch him again and I’ll take it off.”
Dex wasn’t pleased with my choice of phrasing, but I knew I’d do it over again if anyone dared to touch Dex.
“Huey? Where’d you go, man?”
I shook my head, trying to clear the thoughts. “Sorry, I haven’t been sleeping well. What did you say?”
He grinned and ran a hand over my arm. “I said I was so damned glad you’re here. I need you to help me learn how to use my magic. You’re my buffer. You bind the magic in me, and keep it from exploding out. I know it’s a lot to ask, but—”
I moved a bit closer. “Yes to whatever you need. Always. No questions asked.” I bit my lip “Will there be a problem after what I did to the guard?”
“Pfft. He needed to keep his hands to himself. If they have issue with you, then we’ll leave. I’m not staying here without you.”
I reached out and dragged him back into my embrace. Dex once told me he’d give me the world if it would make me happy. What he didn’t seem to understand is that he was my world, and I had no need of anything else.
Though deep down, I wished I understood love and could give Dex what he needed from me.