This is an original work of fiction meant for entertainment purposes only.
He almost couldn't believe it.
He stood at the mailbox, gaping at the embossed envelope he held in one hand, ignoring the other letters he held in the other. He had not expected a reply. Certainly not so soon. Yet it was here. Now. In his hand. Yet part of him was still uncertain.
Maybe, his sometimes too logical mind suggested, it was more bad news?
"Marcus. You coming in sometime today," his often annoying stepfather growled from the door. "Come on, damn it, boy. I'm expecting some important correspondence."
Marcus walked over to the tall, stocky man, and handed him the day's mail. Sans the letter with his name on it.
"Here, what's that," he asked, taking note of the letter Marcus held.
"Mine," he stated blandly.
"And just what are you…..?"
"I need to see, mom," he said, and walked into the kitchen after slipping past him with an ease that likely surprised him, since Marcus knew the man had his own ideas about his status.
The big man that glowered at his back said nothing, though, but then all he did was carp and complain when he did speak. Marcus wasn't his son. Not his real son, not like Marcus' twin half-brothers who very definitely took after his step-father. Marcus, however, wasn't big, muscular, or overly macho. He didn't like sports. He didn't join clubs. He was obviously far too smart to be a normal kid. In short, his stepfather considered him just another nerd.
James Watters was the sort that likely used to pound kids like him.
At just barely sixteen, and not even five-ten, Marcus looked like the usual stereotype that often got beat up by stronger, and bigger kids.
Unless one knew his secret.
A secret Marcus had fought hard over the past years to keep. It had been hard, too. Hard enough that by now he was deemed a sickly, craven, and far from 'real' man even if his step-father should know better. After all, the guy was married to his mother.
"Mom," he said, coming up behind the still attractive woman in her forties that was smiling with genuine happiness at being a domestic matron.
Then again, that was also part of his mom's secret. She liked being a wife and mother. Her past, however, had been spent as something far from her current tranquil state.
"Still home on a Saturday afternoon, son," the smiling brunette turned to eye him. "Supper won't be ready for two hours. Don't you want to go…..?"
"I have a letter," he said, and simply handed it over to her.
She eyed the embossed envelope, and then turned it over before she looked at him again.
"You haven't opened it?"
"I was nervous, too," she smiled when he trailed off, shrugging. She eyed the letter again, and then opened the long, fat envelope with a deft rip of the end.
She pulled out the papers, and unfolded them; eyeing the cover page, then sifting the other pages in short order. Some people thought his mom could speed-read. Then again, most people didn't have a clue just how powerful she was when she cut loose.
"Well, it looks like you're finally in, son," she beamed at him a moment later.
"In what," James asked as he walked into the kitchen just then, eyeing the papers she now handed to Marcus.
"Our son," she called him, still blind to the fact stepfather and son seemed to still loathe one another, "Has been accepted to Camelot," she beamed.
"You're kidding," James sputtered. "Him?"
"Remember who you're talking to here, mister," Mary growled now, her expression one that had daunted many a man in the past.
"I'm sorry, Mary. But, I always thought…."
"I know Marcus plays a role, and he's gotten so good at it that even you believe it. But, James?"
"Yeah," the big man frowned.
Mary Watters sighed.
"Marcus, tell James where you went last weekend," she said blandly. Her smirk knowing.
"Mom," he sighed in complaint now.
"He can keep a secret. He is your father," she pointed out.
Marcus merely lifted a brow.
"Fine," she sighed in resignation. "Stepfather. Honestly, you both are just so pigheaded. Just tell him," she snapped.
"I went to the moon to get fresh moon rocks for my research project with NASA," Marcus shrugged as he eyed the other man, now gaping at him as if expecting a joke.
"The….moon," James stared at him, unable to help gaping. "You….went to the…..?"
"He is my son. And remember who was his biological father," she told him quietly. "Frankly, Marcus has to be very careful not to break things when he is tiptoeing around us. Camelot is ideal for him. It will not only allow him to socialize with true peers, but he'll finally get the training he needs to actually live an ordinary life without fearing a loss of control. If that is what he wants," she smiled at her son.
Marcus didn't like the way James was eyeing him now.
"So, what about all those boys that pick on you? Beat you up?"
"If I don't fall down, they'd hurt themselves hitting me," he sighed the admission. "Frankly, it's been kind of a pain."
"I think he still needs proof sweetie. Now, you need to be packed, and ready by Monday, so…."
The breeze blew past James, and then again, and Marcus was still standing there, now wearing a clean shirt with his usual black jeans.
James had barely had time to blink, and the boy had somehow changed in front of him.
"All done," Marcus told her, and gestured into the living room.
"You're kidding me," James sputtered, and turned to see a mountain of five old suitcases now stacked near the couch where Marcus had pointed.
He eyed Marcus again, and then daringly threw a big fist at him.
"Sorry. But if you had actually hit me that hard, you'd have broken your hand," Marcus told him as he held the hand the seemingly scrawny boy had caught without effort.
"Damn, boy," James sputtered. "I guess I should be happy you do ignore your brothers. You could have…."
"I would never hurt anyone, sir. Not even my brothers," he told him quietly.
"Marcus is a good boy, James. As I have said more than once, he's one you will never have to worry about," she smiled. "Now, Marcus, why don't you take the letter, and go shopping with your father until time for supper."
"Shopping," they both groaned.
"Whatever else, you will need a few things I know you don't have," Mary smiled at her son. "Use the card, and buy whatever he needs," she told her husband.
"Read the paper. Check the list. Go. You have two hours. Or, an hour and a half. Unless you favor cold meatloaf."
"Let's go," James sighed even as his own twelve year old twin boys burst into the house just then, juggling a football between them.
Both boys were stocky, already heading for jockdom with their builds, and they knew it.
They paused, eyed the suitcases, and one asked, "Hey, we going somewhere?"
"I am," Marcus told them, a faint smirk only then crossing his usually bland face.
"Where," Tim asked suspiciously, the sort that wanted whatever he had, plus more. He also liked to stir up things.
Jim only liked to hit people. Twelve years old, and he was fast already headed for bully status.
"Private school," James growled. "Now, unless you want to join him learning to march in straight lines, you'll have that homework done before Monday, and those grades rising before the midterms," he declared knowingly.
"Then why is he going," Tim demanded with a sneer. "He's already a nerd."
"It's a special nerd school," Marcus told him with a now somber expression hiding his inner mirth. "Only libraries, no sports. All you do is study. All day. Every day. Sure you don't want to come?"
"Hell, no," Jim and Tim both exclaimed in horror.
"Boys, language," Mary shouted, making all four of them cringe.
James couldn't help but smile as Marcus actually sniggered this time as he headed for the door.
"Loser," they sputtered. "You probably think you're going to heaven," Jim huffed.
"I'm getting away from you two nosy packrats, aren't I," Marcus sniggered again.
"They still pilfering your things," James asked seriously as he noted Marcus did still move slowly now, and seemed to be hesitant about everything he did.
Even he had been thinking it was because the boy was just…..less than capable. Less than healthy. He never once thought….
"Nothing that matters," Marcus told him as he settled carefully into the passenger seat of the family sedan, and pulled out the papers from Camelot to review the list his mother had referenced. "I started keeping my….important belongings someplace else of late."
"I know we don't always get along, Marcus," he began uncomfortably.
"I don't really see you as an issue, sir," he persisted in calling him. "I am by now well aware you're here to stay," he remarked in a dry tone.
James chuckled himself now, remembering a skinny two year old that saw only a stranger, and even demanded he leave when he started staying over to visit his mother. Back then, Marcus had been so sure his daddy was still going to be coming home any day. Any day. At the time, he had not realized that Adam Winters, AKA Icon, had been dead well over a year.
"It only took you fourteen years to admit it," James remarked just as dryly as he pulled out of the drive.
"I was a child. I admit it. Still, I have not appreciated your attempts to mold me into something I'm not. Nor will ever be," Marcus informed him.
"Apparently, I couldn't have even if I had truly tried. So, how long have you been….?"
"Powered," Marcus used the acceptable term for genetic augments that some called heroes. Unless, of course, they were villains. Most simply said augments were freaks, or monsters. Unless, of course, they needed a hero.
"Yeah. How long?"
"It came with puberty. Just about the time I learned to…..hide."
"And I didn't make it easy on you," he frowned now as he realized how Marcus must view his attempts to mold him from the start.
"You treated me no differently from your own children, and you made mom happy. That's all that matters."
"You're being surprisingly mature about all this now."
"I'm about to leave," Marcus smiled thinly. "Also, even I know that training at Camelot can be…..problematic."
"Your mom told me a few horror stories of her own days there," James admitted.
"Yes. I've heard a few of them, too," he admitted.
"May I ask why you didn't apply sooner?"
"I did. For some reason, everyone thought you were my biological father at the time, and no one accepted that a Norm, and a Powered, was likely to have spawn that would be…..potentially powerful enough to train. I didn't realize that was their reasoning at the time, so I accepted their initial rejection."
"They know the truth now?"
"NASA caught me on the moon during my trips a while back," he sighed, grimacing now. "The NRH wasn't happy."
"I'll bet. Wait, trips. Plural?"
"Last weekend was just the latest. The Feds got kind of upset I could just zip up there when it took NASA over ten years just to get another remote probe to the moon."
"When you say….zip?"
"I'm fast," Marcus nodded, saying no more.
"And you can survive in space?"
"Not really an issue. I simply stop breathing while I'm out there," he shrugged.
"You can do that? For how long?"
"Well, I was only out there for…..six hours for the longest time, and it was no issue."
"Wow," James sputtered, knowing he couldn't hold his own breath six minutes. Even at his prime.
"I hope you know I'm not boasting. I'm simply stating a fact. Of course, mom worries. And the first time she found out I was flying, I almost didn't hear the end of it. Especially when she found out I could out-fly her."
"And when did she find that out?"
"Last month," he sighed. "I think that's why Camelot took another look at me. She insisted."
"I'll bet," James grinned. "Your mother can be….forceful."
"Oh, yes," Marcus murmured, and eyed the mall they were approaching. "This shouldn't take long."
"Mom's insistences aside, I really do already have most of the things mentioned on the list. I just need a few fresh stationary supplies, and some decent running boots to replace my old pair."
"Shoes don't really last on my feet when I start running. Found that one out the hard way," he sighed again.
"Suddenly, you're making my boys seem…..less than they were."
Marcus suddenly chortled.
"Just remember, they do still share mom's DNA. And they are hitting puberty. I'd set them down early. You don't want them getting into trouble with the anti-Powered laws. Not with their current attitudes regarding their newfound masculinity."
"Yeah. I'd probably better talk to Mary about that when we get back," he grimaced.
"I don't suppose I can just take the card…..?"
"Nice try, boy," James growled now, and parked near a main entrance. "But this plastic does not leave my hand. Your mother does enough damage with it if I let her have it."
Marcus did laugh now, and then carefully climbed out of the car. "I was just looking to save time."
For the first time, James understood him moving like an old man, afraid of his own shadow.
If he weren't careful, Marcus could likely destroy the sedan just by slamming the door.
He shook his head, and frowned as he climbed out, too, and moved to follow him.
How had he missed that? Why had Mary never said a word?
Why hadn't Marcus?
He felt a moment of chagrin as he followed Marcus' carefully measured pace as he realized he had often told the boy, "No excuses, boy. Men don't use excuses," so many times it became a refrain.
"So," he asked as they approached the door. "When I was always lecturing you….?"
"Should I admit I was snickering over every word you usually said," Marcus admitted with a rueful look.
"Snickering," James sputtered.
"Well, every time you started with 'men do this,' or 'men do that,' I always wanted to ask if men used the restroom, because you almost always caught me on the way. It was almost as if you had a Power yourself," he smirked.
James laughed himself now.
"I'd probably have belted you for that one," he admitted.
"Or tried," Marcus allowed.
"So, how do you make it look like those kids beat you up if you are so…..?"
He trailed off as someone walked past them, and Marcus made sure the couple was well away before he spoke again.
"I do move fast. I simply anticipate their moves, and fall the moment they make contact. They're usually so egotistical they don't stop to think they are only brushing my chin, and yet knock me flat."
"Egotistical? I'd say delusional. Even I know you can break your knuckles on just ordinary flesh and bone."
"I wouldn't know," Marcus smirked now.
"Boy," he growled.
"Just look at it this way. If I make the cut, you won't be seeing me again for a while."
"Apparently, while everyone gets one term, or six months of Powers training," he said, reaching for the door himself as if proving a point. "You have to survive some kind of serious combat trials to be put into the full-time curriculum."
"You think you can make it," James asked earnestly, lowering his voice even as they entered the mall.
"I'm just hoping I don't hurt anyone," he said just as earnestly.
"Sir, that asteroid that shattered, and just missed the planet last winter?"
James stared at him now, feeling his breath catch as Marcus nodded.
"That was me," he told him.
James didn't ask anything else.
To Be Continued…..