People Can’t Help But Influence Each Other, for Good or Ill
“We’ll come see you again soon.”
“Past experience has made it hard for me to believe that.”
“We will. Maybe after Ron’s birthday in a few weeks.”
“All right. Well, you know you’re always welcome here.”
“You’re not always welcome at our house,” Jay said.
“I’m coming over anyway.”
Ron smiled as he watched James interact with his family, the easy way he was with Jay and Tana nothing like how strained he’d been last year. It was closer to the way Ron had been with Owen before he’d left.
Ron missed Owen. He wondered if there was some way to talk Owen into coming and visiting him in the forest. Maybe a letter. Owen would totally leave home after a mysterious letter.
He’d inevitably start hitting on Tana, though. Ron wondered if she would kill him.
“Alright,” James said, sighing. “We should go.”
“Thank you for having us,” Ron said, smiling at Josephine.
“There is always room for family, Ron,” she said to him, smiling. Ron coloured, not having expected that.
“Actually,” James said, looking at Ron, also oddly red in the face. “There’s one more thing. Ron, can you…” he made a ‘go away’ gesture. “Just for a minute?”
“Uh, sure,” Ron said, wandering off towards the path, glancing over his shoulder as James bowed his head and started talking to his grandmother about something.
“What are they on about?” Spike asked, landing from nowhere on Ron’s shoulder.
Ron shrugged his other shoulder. “Something secret.”
“Hm.” Spike gave them a look. “Okay. How did the meeting go? Did James get what he wanted?”
“No.” Ron shook his head. “He was looking for a traitor on the Coven. He didn’t find one.”
“And that’s bad?”
“I guess it depends on whether there really is a traitor or not,” Ron said. He knew James was worried there was, but he couldn’t well keep the Coven here indefinitely and probe them for answers. He was a little frustrated.
“I guess.” Spike crossed his arms. “How’s everything else going?”
“Fine,” Ron said.
“Everything is fine,” Ron said, before Spike could ask anything else.
Spike looked at him for a second. “Okay.” He nodded. “I’m going to go see what’s up over there. See you at the house later.”
“See you,” Ron said as he buzzed away.
Ron wasn’t left alone for long, though. “Hey,” Jay said, joining him with Tana, also looking over at James and Josephine, who had summoned Julia to talk to them as well. James’s stance said he wanted to hide.
“Can I just say…” Jay looked from James to Ron and back. “He seems really happy.”
“Yeah,” Ron agreed, nodding. “He does.”
“With you, he means,” Tana added. “You’re good for him.”’
“After what happened, he became a grumpy, insular jerk,” Jay said, shrugging. “But can you blame him? And we didn’t help.”
“We ignored him,” Tana agreed. “Didn’t make any effort to connect for a long time.’
“He killed your dad,” Ron told them, gently. He understood, and he knew James did too. “He knew why.”
“Yeah. Our dad was an evil piece of shit who tried to kill our mom and kidnap us, and who helped Aunt Jocelyn kill Grandpa and the baby and Delilah and Joey.” Tana crossed her arms. “He was our dad, though. We were just kids. We didn’t…”
“We didn’t take it well.”
“And we took it out on him.”
“He understood,” Ron told them again. “He understands.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem,” Jay said. “He let us do it. He never told us off for blaming him. And we let him blame himself. He was just a kid too. He…well, he let us ruin whatever we had, and by the time we realized we had to stop and be a family again, it was too late. We’d pushed him away.”
“He loves you guys,” Ron insisted.
Tana smiled. “What we’re saying is, he deserves someone like you. And having you around has made him happier than anything else. He’s talking to us again.”
“I didn’t have anything to do with that.”
“Sure you did, Ron,” Jay said, nodding. “Anyway. We just wanted to say thank you. And that we’re glad you’re staying with him.”
“I am too,” Ron said, smiling at them. “Come over for supper in a few days, okay? I’ll make something good.”
“We don’t want to…”
“He’d like it.”
They looked at each other, then over at James. “Well, you’re the expert,” Jay said, laughing to himself. “We’ll come by, then. But if he kicks us out, it’s on you.”
“He won’t,” Ron promised.
“What are you three conspiring about?” James asked, joining them.
“Yes. Answer the question.”
“I’ll tell you later,” Ron said. “And when I ask you what you were doing over there with the two of them you’re going to say the same thing.”
James held Ron’s gaze for a minute, but he sighed. “Okay. Let’s go. I’ll see you guys later.”
James waved at his cousins, and at his grandmother. “Thank you,” he called out, raising his voice just a bit.
And they were off, James sighing. “I want a nap.”
“Only five more hours until we’re home.”
“Don’t remind me. Grandma gave me an idea for a spell to get rid of all the roots, but I don’t think I’m up to trying it today. Remind me tomorrow.”
“Don’t remind you of the walk, remind you of the roots. Got it.” Ron nodded, putting his arm around James. “It was good to see your family.”
“Yes. It would be nice if we could do it for something other than a Coven meeting sometime.”
“Well, it’s not like you need permission to visit your family, James,” Ron reminded him. “You could just…come over.”
“I guess.” James sighed, looking out into the woods. “I kind of…wish the house wasn’t so far away. But at the same time I like being on our own.”
“I know what you mean,” Ron said. “It’s nice to be alone together.”
“Yeah.” James nodded. “In any case, that was a huge waste of time. I didn’t figure out who was working with Solomon’s people.”
“Maybe nobody is?” Ron asked. “Do you think Sam could have lied to you?”
“It’s possible.” James made a face. “Anyway, this whole thing is going to be a right mess. Going to the capital, and the coalition and, just…ugh.” He huffed out a breath. “Ugh.”
“It’s okay,” Ron said, kissing James’s cheek as they walked. “You don’t have to wade into any of it alone. I’ll be here with you the whole way.”
James smiled, wrapping his arm around Ron as well. “Then it should be easy.”
Walking with arms around each other, they headed home.