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A Stone Heart: Chapter Seven

Time to unwind. Or is it?

 

“I want something simple today. I want you to make it rain. Nothing heavy, just a light shower to water the trees and flowers the groundskeepers put in.”

John, Trevor, and Hudd stood a good distance away, and it was easy to see the uncertainty on their faces. I’d done that, and I couldn’t apologize enough for it. Huey told me they’d forgive me or they wouldn’t, there was little we could do to make it right other than learning control.

I gazed to the heavens and drew in a breath. Nothing happened for several agonizing moments, but then Huey reached out and took my hand, giving it a squeeze. From deep within me, the energy roared up and out, dragging the clouds together. They were pitch black and angry.

“Control, Dexter,” Huey whispered in my ear. “This is your magic, so it does what you want. Even if it goes wrong, I’m by your side and I’m going to be here no matter what.” He chuckled. “Make it rain, Dex.”

I twisted the spirals of magic that flowed out of me and into the sky. I drew the majority of them back, leaving only a few to drag the clouds in. The sky lightened, becoming gray.

“Yes, that’s it. I knew you could.”

Huey’s trust in me was all I needed. I poked a mental finger into the cloud, letting the water seep from it and fall to the ground.

“Listen to the ground. What do you hear?”

I closed my eyes and did as Huey said. The ground gratefully accepted the gift of the water, drawing it to the roots of the plants. For years my mom had tried to tell me how everything is connected, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But now, with Huey, it all made sense. The clouds provided the water, the water nourished the plants, which in turn gave the animals oxygen. Okay, that’s a simplistic way of looking at it, but it was way better than I’d done I the past.

“It’s thanking me.” The earth was like a living thing. Whatever humans did to it, the earth reacted in kind. The thing of it is, the earth is very forgiving. Even pushed to the edge like it is, it would still be more than willing to forget the centuries of abuse. When I was a kid, my mom told me stories of people who did their best to live in harmony with nature. The earth blessed them with fertile grounds, allowing them to take animals that would sustain them. Their winters were mild, their summers were warm and the lakes crystal clear.

Huey stroked a hand over my shoulder. “You’re your parent’s child. A good man, who cares for everything around him. Of course the earth is going to recognize it.”

Lake, clearly astounded, trotted over to where Huey and I stood. “You did it.” There was awe in his voice that couldn’t be missed. “I admit, I had my doubts that this would work, but clearly, Huey helps to control the magic in you. He’s helped you accomplish in less than a day, what it took us weeks of frustration to try and get you to do.”

I glanced over at the guys, warmth filling me when John gave me a thumbs up and a smile.

“Of course, this is only the beginning. We have a lot more to do if you’re going to master everything you can do.” He turned to Huey. “You’ll stay?”

Huey smiled down at me. “I’m going nowhere without Dex.”

A clap of his hands, and Lake called to the guys, “Since we got so much accomplished today, we’re going to take a break. Call up, order a pizza, and relax.”

There were whoops and hollers from the guys. I turned and trudged toward Huey, but Hudd called my name.

“Dude, where you going?”

It should be obvious. I wasn’t about to try to join a group I wasn’t welcome in. I’d done that in school, and had the bruises to show for it. “I was going to head to our room.”

“Bullshit, man! We’re going to celebrate. Bring ya guy with ya.”

Huey nudged me with his shoulder, propelling me forward. “See? Maybe now you’ll start listening to me. Your power scares people, but if you show them you’ve got it under control, they’re more likely to not be so afraid.”

Warmth surged through me, knowing that Huey had my back. “This is because of you, you know that, right?”

“That’s not how I see it.” Huey put an arm over my shoulder and headed toward where the guys were waiting. “You remember when we watched Smallville? Clark Kent had to learn to deal with his powers. He’s one of the strongest people on earth, but even he had to learn control. That’s you. You’ve got so much magic, even I can feel it. You’re different than you were when you left. Now you’re crackling with energy.”

“Dex!” Lake called out, “don’t forget tomorrow’s session starts with our one-on-one meeting. Eight o’clock, and this time don’t be late. You’re learning bad habits from Trevor.”

Trevor rolled his eyes, then called out, “Whatever, dude!”

Huey cocked his head. “What’s that about?”

I huffed out a breath. “New age bullshit. Every other week I go to his office, sit in this super uncomfortable chair, and after Lake turns down the lights, I’m supposed to sit in the dark and think about what I’m doing here and how everything I do affects everyone around me. We all have to do it. Lake says it’s important for us to get into the minds of other people.”

“Doesn’t sound bad to me. Has it helped?”

“Well… I have to say, when I come out, I’m tired and more than a little…disconcerted. Usually I go back to the apartment and crash. Last time I slept until the next morning.”

“Sounds like it takes a lot out of you.”

I chuckled. “Yes, now I understand how a kitten feels. All weak and washed out. The next day, I eat like a horse—you know, oats and all—and by the time I go to bed, I feel better.”

That big arm was dropped over my shoulder pulled into a headlock.

“Nice to see you haven’t lost your smartass attitude.”

He gave me a noogie, and I might have groaned a bit. When Huey touched me, sparks always went through me. I loved and hated it, because there was nothing I could do to make them stop, and at the same time, I never wanted them to end.

“C’mon, let’s go get some pizza.”

We followed everyone to the common room, and talked while John ordered for us. When he came back he had a wide grin, that was both mischievous and a little scary.

“All right, I ordered four thick crust and two thin. For Dex I got a vegan special with a shit ton of vegetables. I also ordered a couple plain cheese, and a meat lover’s for Trevor.” He cupped his crotch. “Unless he wants this meat instead.”

I was shocked, at least until Trev reached out and tugged John down onto the sofa beside him. He curled up next to John, his head resting on John’s shoulder. They were the picture of contentment. I guess they did know how well they worked together.

“So how long has this been going on?”

Trevor gazed at John. “Since the second week after I got here. John was assigned to show me around campus, and he was on his best behavior. By the time I figured out what he was like, it was too late for me to save myself.”

John laughed, but he didn’t take his eyes off Trevor. Their feelings practically poured from them. It was nice to see, and I admit, I was a little jealous of how easy they fit together. They were so in sync, they could finish each other’s sentences. And wasn’t that hella annoying?

When the pizzas came, John paid the driver, then came back with a stack of boxes, and something in a paper bag on top.

“What did you do?” Trevor asked, his gaze narrowed.

“Dex did great in training. I thought we’d celebrate.”

He opened the back and pulled out several bottles of hard cider. He handed one to Trevor who flopped back against the couch and huffed a sigh as he twisted off the top.

“You got these so you could make jokes about us putting hard things to our lips.”

That cracked us all up. Even Huey laughed, and that was rare if we weren’t alone. I thought I’d be jealous, seeing Huey with other people, but oddly I wasn’t. He was laughing, having a good time. He seemed loose and relaxed in a way I’d never seen before.

“So how long have the two of you been together?” Hudd asked Huey.

“I’ve known Dex since he was six years old. The day I met him, he was playing with…” Huey glanced at me, uncertain.

“A doll,” I finished for him. “I was playing with a doll. When I was a kid, I had a thing for Ken. He was rugged and handsome, and I liked that. Of course, I didn’t find out until I was a teen that he was so far from anatomically correct. Let me say, that killed my crush right there. Anyway, I took Ken to show and tell one day, and there were a few boys in the class who were calling me a queer. I didn’t know what the word meant, but when Huey showed up and stood over me, they backed off and left me alone.”

“That’s sweet,” Trevor said. “When did you become a couple?”

Huey’s forehead scrunched. “Couple?”

“Oh, we’re not together like that,” I added, sensing Huey’s discomfort. “We’re best friends, but nothing beyond that.”

“Oh.” Trevor glanced between us. “I’m sorry. It seemed you’re so in sync, and I thought…” He sighed. “Never mind, forgive my presumption.”

We masked our discomfort by grabbing some pizza. Huey sat quietly, nibbling on his. I stuffed mine in my mouth, because I wasn’t sure talking was a good idea. Whatever good vibrations there had been we’re now gone. I was pretty certain everyone felt it too. Hudd slammed several bottles of cider, while Trevor clutched John’s hand and whispered something to him that I couldn’t hear.

“Look, I’m going to head back up to the room.” I stood, trying not to let the awkward silence crush my spirit. It was stupid of me to think that I belonged with these people. Hell, I was an idiot to think I belonged with—a hand slammed down onto my shoulder.

“Don’t, Dexter.” He pulled me back down onto the couch. “I’m not sure what’s got you so agitated, but let it go, Elsa.”

I wanted to be angry, hurt, and get away, but Huey had an iron grip on my hand. He tugged me closer and threw an arm over my shoulder.

“Whatever is going on in your peabrain, push it away.

“But you—”

“Dex, let it go. Enjoy the moment. Remember how talked about staying grounded in one time, not letting the past weigh us down or the future scare us? That’s what this is.”

“I—”

“No. Just leave it. Live in the moment. Today you did something amazing. For the first time, you controlled your magic to a degree you’ve never done before. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? Like these guys said, that’s worth celebrating. So sit down, shut up, and eat.”

Trevor cleared his throat. “I’m sorry if we made you feel—”

“You didn’t,” I hastened to answer. “I’m—neither of us—is really good with other people. I spend most of my time at our place or communing in the forest.”

“And by communing you mean…?”

“I live inside a tree.”

Hudd scowled. “You live in a…how the hell do you do that?”

I chuckled. “My mom is a dryad. She’s part of the living earth. I know the stories aren’t really clear on what they are, but a dryad is a protector of all living things. She’s not exactly a goddess, but pretty damn close.”

“Your mother is…holy shit.”

“His father controls the elements,” Huey chimed in.

John sputtered, pizza spraying out onto Trevor who looked horrified. “Your dad is an elemental mage?”

“Well, yeah, but—”

“I didn’t know any still existed!” His eyes were wide, his voice humbled. “My father used to tell me about elemental mages, and how amazingly powerful they were. He said they all went underground, because they couldn’t be among humans anymore. He said they died out.”

“Nope, he’s still pretty spry for an old guy,” I retorted.

The rest of the evening was spent discussing our parents. How Hudd’s were so proud of what he’d accomplished, outshining anyone in his family. Trevor said his parents could do one or two animals, but that was it for them. Anything else was too much of a strain. And John’s father tried to control ice, but usually ended up making puddles of water.

“They all still come here once a month, and they work with Proctor Lake. My dad says he can do more with ice now, but he’s nowhere near my level.”

By the time the night ended, I felt a lot more confident about my place with these guys, but a lot less certain about my place with Huey. I’d never before been afraid that I would outgrow him, but what if he was right and people were always going to be afraid of me? What if one of them was Huey? Could I handle that?

 

Huey Daystar

 

Dex was quiet as we headed across the campus toward the room we shared. It was disconcerting to say the least. In all the time I’d known him, I’d seen plenty of moods. Playful, sad, angry, confident. But never had he been…I don’t even know what the word was for how he was acting.

“Dexter?”

“Why do you stay with me?”

I stopped, frozen in my tracks. “Where’s this coming from?”

“Don’t I ever scare you? I saw the looks on their faces, felt the sheer terror coming off them. I couldn’t stand it if you looked at me like that. I—”

He dissolved into tears. When I reached for him, he pulled away.

“Do you really think it’s that simple?” I grabbed his wrist to keep him from running. “I could never be afraid of you. It’s not in you to hurt me.” He snorted. I let go of him and stepped away. “Okay, do it.”

He cocked his head. “Do what?”

I splayed my arms open. “Hurt me. Do whatever you can, but I want you to call down all your magic and hurt me.”

“What? No, I—that’s stupid.”

“So you’re saying you can’t do it?” I prodded.

“No, I’m not saying I can’t. I don’t want to, but what if—”

“Do it, show me you can. I want you to.” I snorted. “I don’t think you can. You say you’re so powerful, but I’ve never seen it beyond a few clouds. I’m standing right here, so prove me wrong.”

“Huey, I—”

“Fucking do it, Dex!”

There was a flash—literally—in his eyes, and the ground rumbled beneath my feet.

“That’s it, show me how out of control you are. Open the earth and swallow me whole.”

He clenched his fists tight, and his eyes rolled back as his body shuddered.

“Let it rip, Dex! C’mon, show me what you’re afraid of becoming.”

And just like that, everything stopped. Dex’s hands opened and he wrapped his arms around his waist, and breathed harshly. I rushed to him and pulled him into a hug.

“See? It’s not in you to hurt me. I will never be afraid of you.”

Before today, I admit I had no idea Dex was so strong that he could cause a mini-earthquake. I mean, he said he’d done it, but I couldn’t see this sweet man losing control like that. That was the thing, though. Dex was pure and light. He was everything good in the world, and I knew no matter what, he had limits even he would never breach.

“I could have killed you.”

“Nah, you couldn’t,” I assured him, squeezing him tight. “You’re not that guy. We all get angry, and we all lash out. That’s part of who we are. There’s no way to hold yourself in check for your entire life. That’s why this training is so important. Even if your control slips, you’ll still be able to mitigate the problems.”

Dex’s lip trembled. “I don’t want to disappear.”

That had me on alert. “What do you mean?”

He glanced around like he was afraid someone would overhear, then leaned in close. “There are rumors that people who can’t learn to control themselves vanish and never heard from again. I don’t want that to be me.”

“That’s never going to be you.” I gripped his shoulder and kneaded the tight muscle. “If anyone tried anything, I would tear this place to the ground.”

He cocked his head, as though assessing my words. “You would, wouldn’t you?”

Now Dex had always been nervous and uncertain, but I’d never seen him this bad.

“I’ve been protecting you since you were a kid. You think I’m going to stop now?”

And it was true. The only way I wouldn’t keep him safe is if I was dead. Hell, even that might not stop me.

“I’m scared,” he whispered, as he squeezed his eyes tight.

I hugged him a little tighter, wanting him to get strength from me. “I get it. This is monumental, you know. Your magic has finally made itself known. You’ve already missed out on years of training, so I can only guess at how terrifying that is for you.”

“What if I can’t do this? What if something goes wrong and—”

“That’s enough!” I snapped as I took a step back. “I did not come all this way to see you slip into self-doubt. You are the most amazing person I know, and I won’t let you talk bad about yourself. If I didn’t think you weren’t the single most incredible being I’ve ever met, I wouldn’t bother with you, and I think you know that.”

It wasn’t the total truth. I would help anyone if I could. Dex, however, held a special place in my heart. Since the day I met him, I knew it was up to me to take care of him, and I would, even if that meant protecting him from himself.