The Family Home Is a Collection of Memories
“Stop here for a second?”
“Sure, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I just want to stop for a minute.”
“You’ve already extended stopping time from a second to a minute.”
“Don’t get smart with me.”
Ron grinned. “Sorry.”
“No, you aren’t,” James told him, leaning against a tree and glancing in the direction of his grandmother’s house. They’d been walking all morning and were almost there. “You’re never really sorry.”
“I am,” Ron protested.
“You’re always hoping I’ll punish you, at least a little.”
Ron made a bit of a face at that. “Of course not. I’m always trying hard to be on my best behaviour.”
“You know if you want a spanking, you can just ask.”
“I know.” Ron paused, trying to figure out how best to put what he was thinking. “But it’s more fun if I can push you, just enough to get you to do it to me.”
“Within the parameters of the game,” James agreed, nodding. “Do you find it embarrassing when I spank you?”
“Uh…a little,” Ron admitted, colouring. “Makes me feel like a little kid who misbehaved.”
“Hm.” James smiled. “You like being embarrassed a little, though.”
“Next time I think I’ll make you ask me for a spanking. Won’t that be embarrassing—having to ask me nicely for something that’ll embarrass you.”
“Compound embarrassment,” Ron muttered, looking away. He liked the idea, though, so he nodded. “Okay. Next time I want a spanking I’ll ask you.”
“I won’t make you do it all the time,” James told him, looking up at the leaves on the tree, which were slowly turning colours. “Just this time for now. I like the part of the game where you push me too.”
“I know,” Ron said, smiling again. “Or you’d never let me get away with it.”
“That’s right.” James sighed, looking up the road. “We should get going. Grandma’s expecting us.”
Ron nodded, taking James’s hand. “What did you want to stop for?”
“I was tired.”
“It’s a long walk,” Ron agreed, as they headed down the road again.
“Better than teleporting. I hate teleporting.”
“It wasn’t fun last time.”
“It never is. It’s like being sucked through a tube when Spike does it.”
Ron looked at James sideways. “Is it different when someone else does it?”
James cocked a smile. “Sometimes. Depends on how they are with different kinds of magic. When I do it is like sliding down a muddy hill that never ends.”
“That doesn’t sound fun either,” Ron said. “I didn’t know you could teleport.”
James squeezed his hand. “I don’t like to. It’s exhausting and walking doesn’t take that long. I do hope that there’s lunch when we get there, though.”
When they got to Josephine’s glen—notably warmer than the surrounding area—they were met by Spike, who looked agitated. “Turns out I’m still banished,” he reported. “But hey, stay of execution since it was your fault I came back.”
“I told you that you could stay home,” James reminded him with a smile. “And the king probably forgot he banished you, which means you insulted him again, didn’t you?”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Not insulted. It’s not insulting to point out that someone is a fat, impotent old bastard who couldn’t hump his way out of a flower. At least, it’s not an insult if it’s true.”
James sighed. “You need to learn to get along with him.”
“Nah, he needs to learn to get over the fact that I dumped his son’s scrawny ass years ago. He wasn’t that good a lay,” Spike confided in Ron.
“Yeah, but we’re buddies, and buddies talk about their sex lives. Speaking of which, how’s the sex going? You’d better be having a lot of it like I said.”
“We are,” James assured him. “But maybe you and Ron can talk about that later. We’ve been walking all morning.”
“Yeah, yeah, the old lady made you lunch. Don’t think I don’t see you brushing me off, kid,” Spike said, giving James the eye. “I’m not forgetting about this.”
“Okay,” James said, smiling in that noncommittal way he had. “I’m going to go talk to Grandma now,” he added, nodding at the house, where Josephine was emerging. The big tree stump table and chairs were already set up for the Coven meeting in two days, and she set some plates on the table.
“I’m watching you,” Spike told James, darting away.
James sighed. “We’re going to have to have a chat with him about boundaries, I think.”
“Yeah,” Ron agreed, following James over.
“Hello, James,” Josephine said, taking him in her arms and kissing him on the cheek. “You look good.”
“Thank Ron for that,” James said, smiling. “How are you?”
“Better once the damned Coven leaves us alone,” Josephine told him. “But we’ll talk about that later. I made you lunch. Hello, Ron, good to see you.”
“You too, ma’am.” Ron smiled. “The food looks wonderful.”
“Don’t think compliments will get you out of cooking for the meeting. You did it once and now I know I don’t have to.”
Ron chuckled. “Yes, ma’am. I don’t mind. I just want to help.” He had some recipes he wanted to try out on the Coven instead of on James.
“Can we…” James looked at the table. “Could I visit Grandpa, just for a minute before we eat? I want to take Ron.”
Josephine’s smile was replaced with something more sombre. “Of course,” she said, stepping back. “I’ll wait here and we’ll catch up after.”
“Thank you, Grandma.” James kissed her and then took Ron’s hand again, leading him around the side of the house. “Sorry if this is a bit morbid,” he said as they walked. Near the treeline there were four stone markers set up. “I just…”
Ron squeezed James’s hand. “It’s not morbid. I’m glad you’re going. And that you’re taking me.”
James nodded, didn’t say anything until they stood in front of the four stones. James sat down in the grass, and Ron sat with him. “This is my grandfather,” James said, setting his staff down. He pointed at the grave on the far right. “His name was Joel. He was…he carved me this staff, for my birthday.” As he spoke, flowers were sprouting around him, slowly, hesitantly. “My mother killed him when he tried to stop her.”
Ron covered James’s hand with his, not saying anything. James pointed at the next grave in the row. “That’s my uncle Joey. I didn’t know him very well. He laughed a lot and liked to sit in trees. And…” he skipped the next grave, pointed at the one on the far left. “That’s his wife, Aunt Delilah. She was from up north somewhere, a clan of witches near the northern coast. She could tell the future by looking at stones. My parents killed them to kidnap their baby.”
James pointed at the last gravestone now. The flowers were everywhere. “That’s the baby. Mom killed her after I bound the stone to myself.” There were tears on his cheeks. “She and I had the same birthday. We…were going to be really powerful together. She was only a day old.”
“What was her name?” Ron asked quietly.
“She didn’t have one,” James whispered. “Aunt Delilah said it was bad luck to name a baby right after she was born. She…” He squeezed his eyes shut, fighting tears.
Ron moved closer, hugged James. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “You’re okay.” Ron…couldn’t think of anything sadder than dying without a name.
“I…” James got himself under control quickly, letting Ron hold him without complaint. “I’m never going to be completely okay. They killed part of me that night, I think. But…” He smiled at Ron, wiping his face. “I’m better, than I was. I’m mostly okay.”
“I think that would make them happy,” Ron said, nodding. His own eyes were wet with tears too.
“I think so too.” James sniffed, nodded. “I think they’d like you too. Anyway, I just…I just wanted you to meet them, that’s all.”
“Thank you,” Ron said, kissing James’s hand. “I think I’d have liked them too. The flowers are pretty.”
James looked a bit embarrassed. “That wasn’t me…sort of. It just happens whenever I sit here. Like your hair. Just a reaction to my power, I guess.”
“Maybe,” Ron said, brushing a red flower thoughtfully. “Or maybe it’s them trying to make you smile.”
James snorted a laugh, reached down and picked a flower, stuck it behind Ron’s ear. “Maybe. Come on,” he said, grabbing his staff and pushing to his feet. “Let’s go eat lunch.”
“Okay,” Ron followed, but stopped a few feet from the graves. “Hey, James?”
Ron pulled James back into the hug, held him there for a second. “I love you.”
James was silent for a moment before he hugged back. “I love you too, Ron. Thank you for coming with me.”
“I’ll always come with you, James,” Ron promised. “You know that. Always.”
“Okay,” James whispered. “I think they’d like that too. Knowing that I’ll always have you.”
“So do I,” Ron agreed, holding James close. “I think they’d like that too.”