Where The Heart Is

This is a spanking brand new story idea I just came up with. Not sure where it’s going or if it’s going anywhere. My mom came up with the suggestion of a kid’s coming of age coming back from school. I decided to give it a bit of a twist. Let me know what you think.

“Ma! I’m home!”
Billy kicked the door closed behind him as he dropped his single duffel bag on the floor. It had been a long six months at school, and he was glad to be home. There had been so much he had had to learn, his head hurt with all he had in it. Even though Billy was home for the holidays for the next three weeks, his mind was still racing with the formulas, the catechisms, all the other pieces of information that had been crammed into his head by what he called cruel and exacting taskmasters and what the headmaster called professors.
“Ed! Billy’s home!” Sonia floated into the room, bypassing the dark green bag and wrapping her arms around her son. She squeezed him tight, as he bent down to return the hug. Billy had inherited his mother’s black hair, but his father’s blue eyes and height. “Oh, you’re skin and bones! Aren’t you eating up there?”
He laughed as he inhaled the scents of family and home. Familiar, bringing him back to his formative years. Billy caught the hint of the chocolate chip cookies she made on a weekly basis to send to him. There was her sachet, light in the air, permeating everything with a welcome scent. So comforting, so heartwarming.
However, the smells were alien after so long away. Each time he came home during his breaks, and he was by now in his junior year, the disconnect from his youth was stronger, deeper, and the memories of his life before school seemed to belong to someone else.
Like he was never young.
Like he had never grown up there.
Like his life had not started until the moment he had walked into his first lecture at school.
“I’ve been eating when I can, Ma,” Billy said, smiling down at his mother. He marveled at how little she had changed over the years, though he knew why she seemed the same. Much as he had wished otherwise before, he knew why. He knew also he had to change the subject or she’d be forcing food into him, and she always made it impossible to say no. “How’s Dad?”
“Oh, you know your father,” she said, releasing him and gesturing at the door to the basement. The lights brightened for a moment. “He’s down there, trying to blow everything up.”
Billy theatrically rolled his eyes. “Again? Didn’t he already get a warning from the zone manager about that?”
Sonia swatted at her son with a dishtowel. “Yes, and it went right into the furnace with the rest of the warnings he’s gotten over the years.” She gripped Billy’s hand and led him past the basement door, towards the last place he wanted to go: the kitchen. The boyish fat he had had growing up had finally left him after many weeks of sweating in the gym, and he had only maintained the muscles he had discovered by keeping to a diet and passing around the care packages he got from home. “He’s a lot more careful these days, but you know him.”
Billy knew that his father being “careful” meant he would only blow out the windows of the house and not every house in the neighborhood. That did nothing for his sense of well-being but quite a bit for his nostalgia. “Yeah, I know how Dad is.”
“Oh, aye, ye think ye do, boy?”
The voice was gruff and coming from behind the young man. Billy, usually able to be pulled anywhere by his mother, stopped in his tracks. His father had always had that effect on him for any number of reasons, though he had tried to break that power for years. Billy turned to face his father, a smile forming on his face.
It died the moment he saw his father.
“Ye took yer sweet time ta come home, William,” Aristotle grumbled, leaning his left shoulder against the door he had just came through. A giant of a man, both in substance and personality, Billy had never heard his father call him anything but William, and always with a tone of, perhaps not disapproval, but something very close to it. Aristotle’s dirty-blonde hair was cut short save for a mop on top of his head, the close-cropped beard giving him a look of aristocracy. Billy knew the beard was only to cover several scars from the older man’s youth, and the lesson of how he had gotten those scars had given Billy nightmares for weeks.
“The cab couldn’t get through the gate, Dad,” Billy said as evenly as possible.
“Oh, aye, ye took a cab, did ye, William? Aren’t we fancy?” Aristotle fluttered a hand the size of a dinner plate at his son. “An where did ye get the money fer that? Yer mum? Some floozy ye shacked up wit at the bleedin school we sent ye?”
Billy silently counted to ten before answering. He wouldn’t lose his cool in front of his mother; he wouldn’t give the old man the satisfaction of throwing the first punch again. “No, Dad, I got a job. It isn’t much, but it pays what my scholarships won’t cover.” Billy accented the word scholarships, so his father knew that Billy was there as much by merit as by money. “I do the best I can.”
Aristotle pushed away from the door, an imposing head taller than his son, and twice as broad. His dirty white shirt, covered in soot, stretched over his chest near to bursting, and Billy knew from harsh experience that there wasn’t an ounce of fat on his old man. “Aren’t ye so soddin proper? Ye fergot the last time ye cracked wise ta me like that?” Billy said nothing, not sure why his father was so ready to fight again, but readying himself for the confrontation. “Can’t ye talk, boy?”
“Aristotle,” Sonia hissed, “stop it! Billy just got home!”
“I kin see that fer meself, woman,” he rumbled, the sound of deep thunder on the horizon. “He’s home ta try is hand at me again.”
Billy found his voice and injected it with the steel he had discovered buried deep within him. “I’m not here to fight, Dad. I came home to visit.” Looking from his mother back to his father, he said with finality, “That’s all.” Billy turned away from the both of them and headed for the kitchen. His back was open and he knew his father wouldn’t be able to resist.
He was right.
“Ye useless git!” Aristotle shouted. “Don’t think ye’ll catch me off-guard like that! I did that ta me own father before ye were a gleam in yer mum’s eye!”
His mother’s scream was the only warning he had, and even then it was close. Too damned close. Billy twisted to his left, against his dominant side, bringing up his left hand in a claw and aiming the palm at his father’s chest, which had been left completely exposed by the older man’s attack. Billy knew the attack; it was a textbook stonehand, one technique with which he had plenty of experience receiving. Aristotle had always known exactly where to hit his boy in the back and not hurt him permanently, at least not physically.
The younger man felt the fist scrape his back, the Power emanating from his father’s hand burning through the cloth. Billy gritted his teeth in pain and, with his own left palm nearly resting against his father’s chest, he focused the pain into his own Power and whispered a Word.
Aristotle flew back off his feet, hurtling through the hallway and coming to an uncomfortable stop against the mithril door he had forged several hundred years ago. The older man crumpled to the floor, a bright red spot on his now-shirtless chest, his head hanging lankly down. Tendrils of smoke curled from the burn, wafting upward into the semi-conscious man’s face. There was an actual dent in the metal door, something that anyone, especially Aristotle, would have thought impossible.
Billy kept his hand in the same position, drawing Power back into himself for the next part of his attack, and his defense, if needed. Twirling his fingers on his right hand in the Way, he sent out five bands for power, whispering his Words carefully. He knew he had very little time, as his father was old, crafty, and much more powerful than Billy. Surprise would only get him so far for so long.
Each band wrapped around a wrist or an ankle, and with the Word spoken, they tightened. “Carcerati,” Billy hissed, each syllable infused. The fifth band found its way around Aristotle’s mouth, covering it and pulling his head up and against the door. Billy pinched his thumb, fore- and index fingers on his right hand together quickly, humming the Word “Gravise” over and over, the bands sunk into the floor and door, pulling Aristotle’s limbs down with ever-increasing force. The young man had spent weeks perfecting these bonds; he suspected not even the Headmaster could escape them without resorting to asking for help.
Still, Billy kept his left palm up, the fingers still curled, the hand itself thrumming from the Power he held at bay with his will alone. For the first time he could remember, he was no longer afraid of his father. He knew that, even if he never returned after this day, he would always know that he had shown his father that he was no longer the boy.
Aristotle had completely regained consciousness by then, and if the movements of his mouth behind the golden band were any indication, he was furious. Billy could see the hatred in his father’s eyes, could see it was hatred brought on by fear. Aristotle had not been thrashed this way since he was a boy. Fear was good, and necessary for the last. It was time for the third and last part of Billy’s attack.
Billy’s combat magic instructor had always said that a good plan always has three parts: Initial, Follow-up and Follow-Through. One of his classmates had been foolish to ask the instructor why there had to be a Follow-Through, since by the time the Follow-up was complete, there was not likely a response coming. “If you beat him,” the fool had said, “he’s not going to ever come after you again, right?”
“Master Hosen,” the instructor had intoned, “you would be correct were this a retaliation scenario, where you had no time for a plan.” Serrabed continued, “However, when you are the attacker, you must defeat your enemy utterly.”
“That’s the Follow-up, though,” Hosen had interrupted.
“No.” The finality of the word finally shut the student up. “The Follow-Through is to drive home the point.”
Billy took the obvious question in an attempt to save Hosen. “What would be the point, sir?”
Serrabed saw the ploy for what it was, but answered anyway. “The point, Master William, is to make sure that your target knows that they were utterly defeated, and that you will do it again.” The slit-eyed instructor’s skin around his mouth, that day a scaly green iridescent in the light, rippled in what one would call a smile. “You would happily do it again, and you would enjoy it.
“You want the target to fear you.”
Billy had that fear in his father’s eyes; he knew what it looked like, having seen it reflected back at him for years on end. The young man kept the pressure up on the bonds, which he knew were keeping the equivalent of Jupiter’s gravity on his father. Billy smiled slightly, and it was not a smile of triumph, but of sadness.
“Dad, I didn’t want this to happen,” he said, trying to ignore the pain on his mother’s face. “You wanted a man as a son. You got him. You won’t push me around anymore. You won’t hurt me anymore. I learned my lessons well, and I owe that to you.” Now the smile became bittersweet, as did the words. “You taught me how to hate, how to plot. I don’t hate you, though. I hate what you nearly made me become. I will never go down that road again.
“I love you, Dad,” Billy continued. “This was a long time coming, and I love you. I won’t let you keep hurting me because of Clara, though. It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t Mom’s fault, and it sure as the Nine Hells wasn’t my fault!” Billy roared, letting pain through to his voice again. “She died, yes. She’s gone, yes, but Mom and I are still here! We’re still family! We didn’t die that day!” Billy sighed, the hurt and the anger fluttering out of him. “I’m just sorry it came to this.” A single tear slipped down Billy’s cheek, then steel came into his voice. “Don’t think, though, I won’t do this or worse if you try it again. You taught me too well.”
The older man had struggled against his bonds at first, but stopped when he saw it would be futile to continue. Aristotle listened to his son, for the first time since sweet Clara had died from such a stupid accident. Had he been that blind?
Sonia wept openly, working her own Way to get the bonds loose. She recognized the Words her son had used; she had supplied the idea herself, even though Billy had been so circumspect about it. She had kept the peace for so many years, even after Clara, her only daughter, had passed on. It was almost more than she could bear.
“I’m sorry, Ma,” Billy said, the tears held back by his will. He lowered his hand, letting the Power he had built up flow out like a breeze over a field. “I’ll go now. I’ll come back soon.” Billy took a deep breath and turned to grip up his duffel bag. He took a moment to collect his thoughts before standing up. As he did, he heard a very large man stand up.
And keep his distance.
Billy turned to face his father, his right hand holding the bag’s strap. Aristotle stood, his arms at his sides, the hands loose. There was nothing threatening about his father now, and Billy was unsure how to feel about that. For so long, Aristotle had been the aggressor, the attacker, and yet…
And yet, his father stood, his shoulders trembling in suppressed sadness.
“Ah’m sorry, son,” he said, the burr in his voice blurred by long unshed tears. “Ah’m sorry aboot everythin. It’s joost Clara dying…”
“She was my sister, Dad,” Billy said. “I loved her too.”
“Ah knoo,” Aristotle said, shaking his head, covering his eyes with his hands. “She was me little lassie, ye ken. My little girl.” A few moments passed as Aristotle dropped to his knees, weeping openly. Sonia held him in her arms, cooing to him in their secret language, one they had developed over their decades together. The older man buried his face in her bodice, shuddering from the braying sobs, all the time whispering that he was sorry. Sorry to her, sorry to his son, sorry to his daughter, dead so many years. Sorry for it all.
Billy shouldered his bag. He hadn’t wanted things to go this way, would have preferred just another frosty visit with his parents. The young man turned to leave through the kitchen, not wanting to cause any more problems. He made it three steps before his father stopped him, not with Words.
With words.
“Billy, Ah’d like ye ta stay fer a wee bit, if ye could.”
“You sure, Dad?” Billy said, not trusting himself to turn to his father for fear of tears running down his cheeks.
“Ah only lost one o’ me children, son. I dinnae want ta lose t’other un.”
This time, Billy turned, smiling. He set down his bag and for the first time in so very long, he ran to his father instead of away. The mountain of a man enveloped his wife and son, the Power of all three humming as it had not done since the night Clara had been taken away from them. For the first time in forever, Billy was home.
When they finally released and Aristotle stood, he asked his son, “Noo, whut in the bluidy hell did ye hit me with?”
“The force of one-tenth of one-percent of a F5 tornado,” Billy smiled.
“An the bracelets?”
“The core of Jupiter, at least as near as astrophysicists can tell.”
Aristotle shook his head. “Och, in my day, we didnae have such fancy things. We went by guess and by gosh an we liked it!” He slung an arm around his son and pulled him close. “Might have ta show ye that sometime.”
“I’d like that, Dad. I’d like that a lot.”
Welcome home, Billy.

~ by Walker on February 25, 2013.

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