A Stone Heart: Chapter Nine (the penultimate episode)
So Dex knows what Huey is, but where’d he come from? And why can’t those who created him do anything to Huey?
Obviously we couldn’t call the police, and with Huey freaked out over his sudden appearance change, he wasn’t much help. After I got Lake to the infirmary, I gathered the proctors I could find and called my parents. To a one they repeated the exact same mantra. The Lake family cares for the Academy and its students. They could never be involved in something nefarious.
Yes, they said nefarious. Not suspicious at all. I got into Lake’s office and went to his desk. There I found a notebook with numbers in it and started dialing. After about the fiftieth call, I got in touch with Proctor Tobias Mand.
“Do you have any fucking clue what time it is?” he growled.
“I’m sorry, do you think I fucking care?”
He chuckled. “Guess that answers my question. Who are you and what the hell do you want?”
So I explained, telling him everything I could, but leaving out the bit about Huey.
“You know I don’t work there anymore.”
“Nope, had no clue. And for clarification, still don’t care. I need someone who hasn’t been brainwashed or mindwiped or whatever else they’ve done here. Is that you?”
And if he said no, could I believe him?
“They’re up to nefarious things here.”
He drew in a sharp breath. “Nefarious? What are you, sixty?”
Okay, that put my mind at ease, at least a little. “Will you come?”
A beleaguered sigh. “I’ll be there by morning.”
I hung up and went to retrieve Huey, who was hiding outside in the trees. I thought it was an interesting choice, especially considering that was where I normally hid. We stuck to the shadows where we could, and got to the room unseen. Considering where we were, I didn’t think anyone would freak over a gargoyle, but also considering where we were, I was afraid Huey might.
Gargoyles were incredibly rare. They’d been hunted to near extinction by the churches in the dark ages, as they were considered demons. The truth was, gargoyles were magical constructs. They were put on buildings to ward off evil, but they were imbued with a spark of life by the person who…who…
But Huey’s not made— I wish it didn’t have to be like this, Dex. Your father and I want what’s best for you, and Huey isn’t that. He’s cold, and you need someone filled with warmth and light. A plant can’t bloom when there’s no sun to nurture it.
They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Could they? I helped Huey into the shower to wash off the blood.
“Are you going to leave?”
“Hell, no.” God, my heart broke for him. “I’m going to be right outside. Get it through your head, I am never, ever going to leave you.”
“But you saw what I am.”
“My best friend. The guy who’s always been there for me. And I expect that won’t change.”
“But I don’t know… I thought I was… I’m sorry.”
No, this wasn’t going to do at all. Someone was going to answer for this bullshit.
“Take a shower. When you get out, we’ll get you into bed. You need rest.”
He nodded and stumbled for the bathroom. As soon as the water came on, I grabbed Huey’s phone from my pocket and called my mother. When she answered, I snarled, “What the fuck did you two do?”
She sighed. “How did you find out?”
She didn’t deny it, and that made everything so much worse. “He jumped in front of a bullet for me. He would have fucking died for me.”
“He can’t die. He’s immortal stone. Your father created him, and I imbued him with that little spark to mimic life.”
“But his skin…”
“Combinations of plants that I used to recreate flesh. Huey was literally made to protect you, Dex. He did what he was programmed to do.”
“That’s such bullshit. You didn’t see his face, Mom. He was out of his mind with panic, and right now he’s terrified I’m going to leave him. He has a heart, and he has a soul.”
“Dex, he’s stone. That’s all he can ever be. We had our friends take him in to give him a more human life, but it wasn’t real, none of it.”
“You are unbelievably cruel. He keeps trying to get memories of his parents, of his foster family. He can’t, because none of that exists.”
“He’s not alive, Dex! He mimics life, that’s all.”
“You don’t know a fucking thing!” I raged. “You’ve never seen his eyes when he looks at me. You’ve never been touched by him. There are emotions there, and he’s filled with goodness. How could you do this to us?”
“You needed a protector, but you were always so willful. Your father and I talked, and he came up with the idea to create one. Every night, Huey would go back to the place we kept him, unaware of what was happening. Your father would mold the stone, making it seem like Huey aged, and I would adjust the parts I’d created.”
My stomach clenched at how clinical she made it all seem. On the one hand, I was furious that they did it, but on the other, it brought Huey into my life.
“Mom, you have to believe me. Huey’s more than a gargoyle. He has thoughts, emotions, a sense of humor. I know you don’t see it, and that’s okay, but—”
“No, Dex. You’re not seeing it. What you perceive in Huey is only what you want.”
“Bullshit! You want proof? Okay, fine. Think back, Mom. That day that Huey carried me home from school. What was his expression like?”
“Think, goddamn it! I am so fucking sick to death of you telling me he hasn’t got emotions or he’s cold, because I can promise you he’s not. Think.”
She was quiet for a few moments.
“He cradled me in his arms, Mom. We were both kids, and he beat up the boys who were hurting me, then he carried me all the way home, and he never once stopped promising that I would be okay. There was genuine fear in his voice. He was terrified they’d hurt me. When you opened the door, he held me out. You looked at him. What did you see?”
“What the fuck did you see? Tell me!”
Yes, I was screaming, but I was beyond pissed. Huey wasn’t just stone. He was alive and he… He loved me. At least in his own way.
“He loves me, Mom. Maybe not sexually, but Huey loves me with his whole heart.”
I was desperate. Huey was alive, and I had to make her see it. “He got a wart on his tongue from something I made him drink. The doctor removed it. How does stone get a wart?”
“Your father created him, I gave him a semblance of life. It’s not possible for him to—”
“What did I give him?”
“I don’t… I don’t understand.”
“I have magic. You always told me I had to keep control. But Huey has always been my touchstone. What did he get from me? You were the ones who always told me how strong I was going to be. You showed me how to breathe life into a body. What. Did. He. Get. From. Me?”
She went silent again. Then I heard her whisper, “It’s not possible.”
“You need to bring Huey here. Right away.”
“Sure, as soon as this whole Academy mess is straightened out.”
“No, now Dex. It’s vitally important.”
Her tone worried me. I hung up and called Proctor Mand back.
“It’s four in the morning, man. Let me sleep or I’ll have to kill you.”
“You need to get here now. I have to go. Something might be wrong with my… with my friend.”
He sighed. “Fine.”
One moment he was on the phone, the next he was standing in my room, dressed in sleep shorts and nothing else.
“Happy you demanding little shit?”
I opened my eyes wide. “How did you do that?”
“What? It’s a simple teleportation spell. I followed the signal from your phone.” He tilted his head. “Most magic classes can do it in some way. I’m surprised they didn’t teach you how to do it. It’s a really basic spell.”
I laughed, and it was harsh and ugly. The thought of what they were doing here, who they were hurting, was finally starting to sink in. “They wanted my magic, and they didn’t give a damn about training me.”
Just then the bathroom door opened, and Huey stepped out.
“Holy fuck!” Mand shouted, as he stumbled back.
Huey’s eyes went wide, and an angry expression crossed his face. He move toward Mand, but I held up a hand. “No, he’s okay. He’s going to take care of things here. Mom says you and I have to go back home right away.”
“He’s not hurting you?”
I loved the concern in his voice. “No, he’s not.”
“How am I supposed to get home? I can’t very well get on a plane, and I’m not sure my car will get us there for a couple days.”
I turned to Mand. “Can you help?”
He gritted his teeth. “You know, if you were my student—”
“Please, Proctor. It’s important, or I wouldn’t ask.”
That pained expression turned into a smirk. “I’ll make you a deal. You take care of whatever it is you have going on, then you come back here and let me train you. No bullshit, no lies. I will help you reach your potential.”
“Dex caused an earthquake,” Huey put in.
Mand’s jaw dropped. “Your very potent potential, apparently. Let me help you. Please.”
And I trusted him. After five minutes, I felt safer with him as a teacher than I ever felt with Lake.
“Deal. So you know, there are some guys who are going to have lots of questions. They got screwed over by the academy pretty badly.”
Mand rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’ll take care of it. You have my word, no one is going to be left high and dry.”
I held out my hand. “Then you have a deal.”
We shook, then Mand turned to Huey. “Take his hand.”
When Huey slipped his hand into mine, he squeezed.
“It’s going to be okay, Huey. I’m yours, you’re mine.”
A smile appeared on his craggy face. Despite the fact his flesh was gone, and he looked nothing like the man I loved, that didn’t matter. I always knew appearance was nothing but a crutch. What was in a person’s heart determined their worth.
“Okay, I want you to focus on where you need to go. See the location very clearly in your mind. That’s important. Now, since you caused an earthquake, I assume you have some kind of earth ability?”
“And fire, wind, water, and plants,” Huey threw out.
Mand’s eyes widened. “You’re Dex Alexaskis.”
“Mhm. Does that matter?”
“You’re the reason I left here.” I opened my mouth to say something, but he sped on. “I don’t mean it badly. I wasn’t happy with how the Lakes were, always trying to get your parents to send you to them. Now I understand why. You’ve inherited the abilities of both your parents. That’s unheard of.”
“So I’ve been told.”
He grinned. “I cannot wait to train you. Though, to be fair, I’m sure you’re going to teach me more than a few things too. Hurry back. We have a lot of things to do.”
“Thanks. I think.”
“Okay, think of where you need to go. Hold that picture in your mind. Now, while you’re focused, let everything else fall away. Don’t let your thoughts stray. That’s the most important—”
The man didn’t even get the words out, and reality shifted. There were colors I never knew existed, and I couldn’t believe they were so beautiful. Dex squeezed my hand, and I realized true beauty was standing by my side. Seeing him now was eye opening for me. When I touched myself, it was Dex I thought of. When I had my orgasm, it was Dex’s face I saw. When I thought of Dex, my heart beat faster.
But I didn’t have a heart, did I? I was something made of stone. Huge, hideous. I’d stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at my reflection. Even I was horrified by how I looked, so I could only imagine how Dex must feel. Still, like a true friend, he didn’t comment, and I was grateful for that.
“Dex? How… I wasn’t expecting you to get here so fast.”
I turned and found Dex’s mother staring, open-mouthed. Her gaze shifted to me.
The door opened and Dex’s dad stepped into the room. He made a beeline for me.
“My wife tells me Dex has some pretty wild stories about you, Huey.”
I peered down at Dex, who smiled up at me. “I don’t know, sir.”
“Well, let’s find out if they’re true or not.”
He led me to a chair. I was scared to death of letting go of Dex, but he kept pace with us. I noticed his parents watching us with fascination.
“I want you to close your eyes.”
I let them slide shut.
“Okay, good. I’m going to touch you, and I want you to tell me where my finger is.”
It was a moment later when I felt it. “My nose.”
“You’re touching my hand.”
“Hm. Okay. What about now?”
“Now you’re not touching me at all.”
I opened my eyes. Dex’s dad ran a hand over my arm.
“I can’t change the stone.”
Mrs. Alexaskis stepped forward. “What do you mean?”
“Just what I said. I can’t make anything happen to it. You try.”
She waved her hands over me, then withdrew, her eyes wide. “I can’t feel the plants.”
Dex grabbed his father’s hand and placed it on my chest. “What do you feel, Dad?”
He tore his hand away, his expression one of incredulity. “That’s not possible.”
“And yet it’s there, isn’t it?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
Mr. Alexaskis went white as he turned to his wife. “He has a heartbeat.”
She gasped. “I don’t understand.”
“You can’t affect him because he’s not yours,” Dex said loudly, his voice stronger than I’d ever heard. “He’s mine. He’s been mine since we met, but only recently have I gotten strong enough to care for him on my own.”
He stepped up, bold and beautiful. “I had an orgasm thinking about you,” I blurted out.
Dex smiled at me and reached out to stroke my cheek. “I’ve had many thinking about you.”
“But you won’t anymore. Not with how I look.”
“You’re so stupid,” he grumbled. “I’ve loved you for almost my whole life, and this? It’s not going to change that at all.”
His words tore at me. I wished I could return them. “I want to say I love you, but I don’t understand what that means.”
“You stepped in front of a gun today to protect me. You tore a man’s arm off and beat him with it. If that doesn’t say love, I don’t know what does.”
He leaned over then and kissed me softly on the lips. Synapses fired, my brain filling with sights and images and sounds. Dex standing in front of a tree in the park, his arms spread wide, the sun beaming down on him. Him dipping a toe in the water, then deciding it wasn’t warm enough for him. Me sitting with him on the beach, his head resting on my shoulder. Me curling an arm around him and holding him to my side. Hundreds of thousands of memories that we shared since we were kids, and every one of them vividly on display. And with each of them came that warmth in my stomach that I always associated with Dex.
Mr. Alexaskis moved closer. “What are you feeling right now?”
“I have a tingle in my stomach. And I’m thinking about all the times I spent with Dex. Each one of those times makes me have warmth in my body.”
“Astonishing.” He clutched Dex’s wrist and pulled him closer. “Put your hand on Huey’s arm.”
He did, and it calmed me.
“Now, call to the stone. Tell it what you want it to do.”
Dex closed his eyes, his face scrunched with that intense concentration of his. A moment later, my hand raised in the air of its own accord.
“Damn,” Dex’s dad breathed out. “I understand now. Dex is right. He’s the one who is giving Huey what he needs. His magic is suffusing Huey with actual life. He always thought Huey was alive and—”
“Huey is alive, Dad. I’ve always known it.”
“And that’s what did it, I think.” He turned to Mrs. Alexaskis. “We always worried that Dex’s magic was going to show up in a big, destructive way. I think Dex has been giving Huey his excess, and that’s causing this change in Huey.” He came closer to me. “Huey, I want to see something, but I can only do it with your permission. It might hurt a little.”
“What? No way, Dad. You’re not going to hurt Huey.”
I smiled up at him. “It’s okay, Dex. Go ahead, Mr. Alexaskis.”
He turned and went into the kitchen. A moment later he emerged, brandishing a large knife. Dex got between me and his father.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
“I can’t find the smaller one. I swear to you, I won’t do any permanent damage.”
“Dex, let him try. Please?”
He hesitated, but then stepped aside. “You hurt him, and I swear you’ll regret it.”
Again, that warmth. Was Dex right? Was that love I felt? If so, I enjoyed it. Mr. Alexaskis took my hand and placed the tip of the knife against a finger. Very gently he pushed and gasped when a dot of red appeared.
She gaped. “Is that…blood? But you can’t get blood from a stone.”
“One more thing, okay?” He put my hand on the table. “I want you to imagine Dex being hurt, like you did earlier tonight. I want you to think of what happened to him.”
Rage boiled up from inside me. Dex could have been killed and—
The knife came down in an arc and slammed into my hand. Dex screamed, but when the blade shattered, he seemed as confused as I was.
“It’s as I suspected,” Mr. Alexaskis said. “The two of you have achieved the impossible. You’ve done something no one else has ever accomplished, at least that I’m aware of.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t you see?” Alexaskis said excitedly. “Your magic took what your mother and I did and supercharged it. We did everything we could, but still could only give Huey the very basics; just enough to make him appear alive. Somehow, that magic in you that we always worried about was being channeled into Huey.”
And it made sense. I always loved touching Dex. It made me feel…alive.
“You created life, Dex. Actual, living, breathing life. Huey isn’t just a gargoyle. The two of you are an amalgam. Because of you, Huey’s both stone and alive. Because of him, you’re in control.” He seemed so excited over this. Me? I just wanted to be alone with Dex.
“One last thing, and then we’ll let you rest. Okay?”
“Close your eyes and think about who Huey is. Picture yourself in your mind. How you look, how you act. What makes you who you are.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. I thought about all the things I saw when I looked in the mirror. Not the dark gray stone, but the man Dex smiled at. Not the talons, but the fingers I used to brush through his hair. And most certainly not the face that couldn’t smile.
“Oh my gods,” Mrs. Alexaskis whispered.
“Huey?” Dex stroked a hand over my face. “How did you do that?”
I opened my eyes and caught my reflection in the mirrored back of the china hutch. I was me again.
“The two of you did it together, Dex. Huey pictured what he wanted, and you gave him the magic to do it. That’s why your magic never got released like we were afraid. You were giving it to Huey.”
“Then why am I having so many problems now?”
“I’m not sure. If I had to guess, I would think it was a combination of distance from Huey and something they did to you at the Academy. Your mother and I thought we were losing our magic because of age and being away from the core of our abilities. What if they did something to all of us?”
And that made sense. “Dex caused an earthquake.”
He groaned. “Do you have to keep reminding me?”
“You’re getting stronger. That’s good, but…”
“But?” Dex asked. “But what?”
“If Huey truly is keeping your abilities in check, you might not be able to be away from him for too long. He might have to stay with you for the rest of your life.”
Dex chuckled. “Let’s be honest here. Do you really think, after all this, I’m going to let him get away?”’
He leaned over and kissed me again, and it felt heavenly.
“I love you, Dex.”
His eyes widened. “I love you too, Huey.”
“No, I mean I love you. My heart tells me that it’s true. The feelings I have when I’m with you? Nothing else even comes close. That’s how I know it has to be love.”
And I was determined to tell him every day for the rest of our lives.