It's official. My 19 month old nephew can officially "head bang". I taught him how last night to The Scorpions and I am a proud Auntie. For those of you worried about him getting brain damage (like Mr. Mock was), it was the toddler version. He was only shaking his head back and forth ;) I promise not to let him damage his brain till much later! (<---joke)
But I also introduced him to Charlotte Diamond in the same night. He loved the "4 Hugs A Day" song and now I'm listening to it on repeat to relearn the words so I can sing it to him. He's just the literal best. He didn't want me to go and I felt so bad! He's at the age where he can communicate without a ton of words, with his adorable toddler gibberish. And he'll only speak on his own terms, which is some serious Mock vibes! Ha! Anyway, I could go on and on about this guy but that's not why you're here!
Today I decided to go with a Mads and Jude chapter. I wanted you to see how magic works in this verse and this is the intro to it. Magic in this verse will be a fantasied version of Quantum Physics which is a subject near and dear to Mock. I hope I've brought it to life for you in an enchanting way!
Also, go take a look at chapters 1 + 2 again (if you want). The edited and revised versions are up.
Dragon Tamer Chapter 3
Copyrighted Material to Mock
Jude understands why Payne didn’t know where to begin. Who would? How would that even go? Soooooo, two of your parents are dead but hey, know the potions professor who has been around your whole life? Who could have been there for you this whole time? Who could have prevented you having cold, petrifying nights in a barn with spiders nipping at your flesh? He’s your … “Which one are you?”
“You’ve gone off on a rant in your head. Before your wind yourself up, allow me to explain—”
“—which one are you?” Jude’s fingers burn with magic that wants to be released. It collected easy, without conscious thought or effort. He didn’t even know he was doing it.
Mads’s eyes flick to Jude’s fingers. “I am your father. You share genes with all of us, Jude—there are potions and spells, etcetera, to make that happen—but me being your father has some legal implications we’ll need to discuss.”
It’s a lot. Tumbling at him. A downpour. Jude can’t take all of it at once. He slides his chair out from the table, standing abruptly. He tugs at his hair. He can’t—he won’t lose control. It’s happened. He would lose control. Get angry. Take out a tractor. For one whole summer, Uncle Webster lowered his food rations to four days a week, claiming the money he would have used to feed Jude on the other days would go to buying a new tractor. His uncle worked him extra hours too.
It was so awful. He was so hungry.
Jude can’t freak out like other teens do. He’s not normal even for a wizard.
And while they hadn’t cuffed him, hadn’t issued more than the standard chastisement anyone else would have gotten when he’d destroyed his dorm room in primary school, worrying for a week that he would be cuffed and barred from his gift, paired with the anxiety of wondering if the Council would get involved and do just that was enough to make him extra cautious.
Part of him wondered if he and everyone else would be better off if he was cuffed and locked away from him gift, but the idea of cuffs terrified him more. Jude and his unusual powers have a complicated relationship. He’s scared to use them and scared to be without them.
Sometimes, they’re the only thing that makes him feel safe.
He takes three calming breaths. He needs a time out. Now. “Am I staying here then, Father?”
“You are but, Jude. We have to discuss—”
“—I can’t right now. Where am I staying?” Jude’s barely holding it together. His cells strain with effort to keep more energy from pulling into him. Why the professor hasn’t reaped what he’s already got in him, he doesn’t know. Payne knows what Jude’s capable of. Jude doesn’t tell anyone. He hadn’t known how Payne knew.
Now he knows.
Payne, his father, blinks at him. He nods. “Follow me.”
He leads Jude through dark hallways that light for him when he steps forth. They walk up creaky stairs. Everything around him has the sensation of waking up. Like yawning. Like the house has been asleep for some time.
Jude takes breaths and counts to ten multiple times. He won’t lose it. He won’t. This situation is … well there’s no other word, it’s fucked up. But he’d still rather be with Payne than set foot on that farm ever again. He doesn’t want to give Mads any reason to send him back.
His … father stops at a room. It lights up to reveal a large bed—larger than Jude’s ever seen—in the center of a massive room. The décor isn’t to his tastes. It’s typical, old-fashioned wizard style. But it’s got pillows—so many pillows—and a duvet comforter that’s going to be warm. He’ll get lost under that thing. He wipes a tear.
“This is the room meant for the Prince heir. That’s you, Jude. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
Heir? He’s an heir? And Prince? Is that a family name? Wait, that would make Mads Payne not a Payne.
No. He won’t let his curiosity about that or anything else distract him from his anger. “Thank you, sir. I can take it from here.”
“You don’t want me to dust anything off for you? The house should get itself back to rights by the end of the week, but it’s been asleep for a long time. Until then we may have to do some things without the manor’s assistance.”
Fine with me.
Even at school Jude doesn’t use his gift if he can help it. He certainly doesn’t need a house doing magic for him. Other than to practice for schoolwork and to play football, he uses his gift minimally, afraid to get too used to it and do something in front of Uncle Webster.
“As your magical guardian, you have my permission to use any of the spells and skills you’ve learned at school in our home. But are you sure you don’t want me to help you out this time?”
He would insist on dusting it himself, but he’s not sure he can, and he needs it gone. Dust makes him itch. It’s already bothering him. There’s no way he’ll get enough of it out of that comforter without magic. Plus, Payne owes him. He’s not exactly sure why, just that he does. “If you wouldn’t mind, sir. And can you…? Please.”
He holds his glowing hands out.
“I thought you’d want to keep that. To feel safe.”
Jude shakes his head. “No, sir.”
Mads’s razor brow dips. He looks like he’s calculating pi in his head. He relaxes and moves toward Jude. Unlike earlier, when he burned Jude’s magic away as quickly as snuffing out a candle, his father places a calloused Potions Master hand over each of his. “You’re going to take a breath and then you’re going to exhale this into me.”
Jude panics. “But, sir, I’ll—”
“—please, Parker. I don’t have a death wish. I want to show you something so you can relax. Do it.”
Fine. If he’s blasted to smithereens, he’ll have only himself to blame. Jude pulls a breath and exhales heavily. His father catches the energy—all of it—as easily as if Jude’s only tossed him a baseball rather than enough energy to blow apart a football pitch. “How did you do that?”
Jude knows Mads is powerful, but he’s never seen anyone do that.
“Magic,” he says.
Mads smirks. “You’re going to have to get a little older if you want to harness enough energy to blow me apart.”
“Is that why I’m … because you’re…?”
“The Prince line is one of the oldest wizarding families in existence. Not far behind Merlin himself. Your mother was also a skilled and powerful wizard despite not coming from an old line, but this,” he wiggles his fingers, the massive amount of energy sprinkling out as no more than pixie dust, “you get from me.”
Jude crosses his arms and presses his hawk-like brow into a glare, unamused by his father’s display, which is clearly him showing off. Something he’s been told by Mads not to do.
“I invented that look, Parker. It’s not going to work on me. I just wanted you to know, I can handle whatever you throw at me so you can loosen up. You’re not going back to that place,” Mads assures him, speaking to his unspoken concern. “C’mon. I’ll show you how to get the dust off your bed.”
That little demonstration works. Jude relaxes. Knowing that something—someone—even more powerful than you exists is comforting. Payne is okay. Jude could be okay, too.
Payne can handle Jude.
His father shows him how to take the energy that builds in his hands and shift it into the air he holds in his mouth. “Blow gently at first until you can gauge how much you need to move the dust and hold your intent in here,” he says, placing a hand on his belly. “Magic is a least fifty percent intent.”
“Shouldn’t I hold it over my heart if that’s the case?” Some professors teach it that way, over the heart. They all argue over how much intent and this and that and everything else goes into casting.
“Only if you want to evoke more powerful magic. We’re just lightly dusting here, Parker.”
He’s teasing but it’s fond teasing. The man before him is different again. Gentle. Teaching with care, like how Myra taught him and Preston. Jude fills with warmth. He’s always wanted something like this, which only makes his heart squeeze more painfully knowing he could and should have had it at any time. He didn’t need to be an orphan because he wasn’t one.
He attempts to blow his gifted air toward the bedspread. He’s not as successful as the professor. “That was a good first try,” Mads says finishing the job in one gust of air. “You’ll get better with practice.”
Jude wants to sink into the praise, but he forces himself to maintain a frosty exterior. “I should be getting on,” he says.
“Right. All the important things you have to do.” Jude scowls. “Very well. But in the morning, we talk. I can make you, you know.”
“How do you figure?”
“Because I am your father.” Jude’s stomach swoops at the word. Is he teasing Jude? He is. He’s teasing again and it’s weird. The man isn’t supposed to have this many layers. He’s supposed to be his usual spine-chilling, one-dimensional self. “I’m sorry, Jude. I’m just happy you’re here. I’ll go. A word of caution. Don’t leave this room—too many things to wake up. I’m sure I’ll have to do some exterminating. I’ll set wards for your room so nothing can get in.”
What the hell is this place? “Yes, sir.”
He leaves. Jude doesn’t care about dust. He falls on the bed intent on sleeping and figuring this out tomorrow. The bed, the comforter, the pillows … they’re so warm and soft. A stark metamorphosis from the dank barn and prickly hay.
He’s still hungry—maybe he should have had tea before bailing on their conversation, it would have filled his belly. Payne will feed him tomorrow, won’t he?
Jude reasons that, yes, he probably will. Before he closes his eyes, he catches the moon again. Same moon, different angle. Still too cheerful and maybe a bit cheeky like she knows something he doesn’t. Like she knows everything he doesn’t.
Jude closes his eyes.
Jude can’t sleep. There are too many noises as the house wakes up. There’s too much on his mind. He absently lights and snuffs out the candle on his bedside table, repeating the action several times and allowing it to calm him. It reminds him he has control now, unlike when he was younger.
It stops him from gathering when he’s scared.
In primary school when they were learning how to light candles, Jude flopped. Such a tiny wick. How was he supposed to match its energy with what he’d gathered? It was too precise.
Gathering the energy from the field into his person and then moving it as a spark to that itty bitty wick ended with a lot of wax explosions. It was defeating and he scraped by primary school barely able to light a candle, worried he’d never be a real wizard.
When he reached high school, Professor Mads Payne had ripped him out of bed one night, furious. He dragged Jude stumbling to a large meadow on campus still in his pajamas and ordered him to sit in the cool grass. He waved a hand and the whole place bloomed with various colors of energy—the air, the grass, the flowers, the trees. Everything.
All things carry energy—have an energetic field—and that energy can be used for magic. The atmosphere was particularly affluent that night with dancing, luminescent energy ready to be plucked.
“You see that, Parker?”
Jude blinked. He was thirteen. The professor was terrifying. He knew how much power and talent it took to light up that much of the earth’s energy field so that it could be seen with the naked eye. “Y-Yes, sir.”
Professor Payne held out a candle. Jude watched the now colored threads seep into Payne as he took energy from the field and then used them to light the candle. Then he snuffed it out. “Now, you try.”
He wanted to yell at the professor. It’s not like he hadn’t tried that a million times. But he stared expectantly. Fine! Jude clambered off the ground. He reached out to the field amassed with energy. All the threads of energy sucked toward him. All of them. The color vanishing from the sky until it was black. The grass withered. Flowers wilted. His hands glowed with the orange-white light.
He gave the professor a worried glance.
“Stop,” the professor said. “If you try to light the wick with all that power, you’re going to have a wax palette.”
“But sir, it only feels like a little,” he said. He didn’t know how else to say it.
“I know.” Payne reaped the threads of energy from Jude’s glowing hands and released them back to the field. The air lit up in multi-color around them again. “Slower. Less, much less. Pretend you’re cradling an egg.”
Jude pulled the energy to him slowly. Having the threads of the energy field painted with color allowed for him to see if less energy moved toward him and into him or if he was taking too much and needed to slow down.
He catalogued the feel of taking less.
“Good,” the professor said. “It has now touched your essence—the part of you that is magic bearing—and when it’s released, the energy will contain you, have your power.” On the word power, his black eyes paused with poignancy. Like he was trying to say something without saying it. “You’ve got to let go of it with even less force than you used to pull it to you. Think of how you’d rub ointment into a bruise. At the same time, reach out to the energy of the wick—everything has an energetic aura defining its existence in the field—then join them with your intent.”
His flame was still too much flare, but he did it and no candles were harmed. “Wow. Why don’t they teach it like this?”
“Because they don’t know how to teach someone like you.”
Jude snuffed it out and then sucked more energy to him but only released just enough to light the wick gain. He caught on fast—the candle sparked to life.
He thought the professor would be proud. Instead, he scowled. “If I catch you showing off, you know what to expect, Parker.”
“Why would I show off?” he shouted.
“Because believe it or not, I was once a teenage boy myself.”
The candle was the beginning for Jude and easier than mastering the other many spells and hexes and artforms of magic. Learning how to work with the colossal amount of power within him has been tough. There have been accidents.
Returning to the simple candle flame grounds him. Centers him. It reminds him he can learn to control the wild power within him and often puts the anxiety thrumming through him to rest.
He lives in conflict. He wants to know how to use his gifts and doesn’t at the same time.
He pushes off the bed and when his feet hit the ground, the lanterns light on their own. He thought Payne had been doing that but maybe it’s the house? The ground’s cold. Would have been nice for his “father” to give him slippers or something. At least a house robe.
Jude rubs his arms. He’s crazy to leave the warmth of his new bed, but he’d rather face the cold than lay there thinking about how two of his parents are dead and the third is his unyielding potions professor.
Bri has two mums and a dad, but Preston’s just got the one mum and the one dad. He didn’t think he’d be the one with two dads and a mum.
Though it’s father now. Payne is going to be a strict, pain in the arse isn’t he? Jude should be more upset about that, but a strict pain in the arse is better than someone who sleeps comfortably in the house while Jude freezes in the barn.
Jude leaves the room—the one that’s supposedly for “Prince heirs” and ventures out into the darkness despite his father’s warning. There’s no sneaking around here though, the lanterns light as soon as he steps forth. The first thing he sees are two eyes looking at him from the corner of the hallway, which is still shrouded with darkness. Jude crouches. “C’mon then. You gonna come out?”
It’s so ugly it’s adorable. Its grey hair sticks up everywhere, from every surface of its body. Its eyes are sad, and the creature carries a general edge of melancholy. Carefully, it makes its way over to Jude. It’s about the size of a kitten. It could be a kitten if you stuck one in the washing machine on spin-dry and moved its eyes too close together and made them too large for its face. The whites are a pale blue—so not like a kitten—and its ears are as tall as a rabbit’s only shorter and wide midway up like a mouse. “You’re an odd thing, aren’t yah?”
Jude holds his hand out for the little guy to sniff like he would any strange animal. It checks Jude out and then sinks four small, sharp teeth into Jude’s forearm. “Ow!” Jude whisper yells snatching his arm away. “That wasn’t very nice.”
The thing scares easy. It runs off, its long tail waving with its motions. It doesn’t leave though, too interested in Jude, watching him from the shadows. Jude sucks the blood from his wrist. It might be a baby version of whatever it is. Jude doubts it meant to harm him. “You can come with me,” Jude tells it. Jude knows what it’s like to be scared and crave the simple comfort of an energy that’s maybe trustworthy.
It follows, staying close to the floorboards as Jude carries on through the old house. The walls creak and crack. Gusts stir up from nowhere, energy shifting, changing, waving. Other things skitter by that don’t feel as calm as the bite-y ball of fur still following him. Maybe he’s not as scared as he should be.
Mischievous laughter fills the night. Not a good sort of mischief. “Hello?” Jude says. A current of air rushes by him. For all the light in the hallway, he doesn’t see anything. It rushes by him again, this time closer. On the third round, he senses the energy build. He leaps having to dodge or get bowled over. He lands at the feet of his unimpressed professor-father guy. He’s put on a robe over his casual dress clothes and smells like burning cauldron.
“I told you to stay put.”
“You did, sir.” Jude covers his head with his hands. “What was that?”
Payne grabs his collar and pulls him up. “You’re blue, Parker. Why in Merlin’s name are you blue?” he says, releasing his grip on Jude’s collar and stalking off like a whirlwind. He’s down the hall and down the stairs with Jude following behind him checking out the bare skin of his arm.
Bloody hell. He is blue.
Downstairs, Payne’s in the cupboards looking for something.
“Your lousy whatever that thing was did this to me. It’s a wonder I’m in one piece.” Jude glares at his father, crossing his arms. They haven’t talked about much yet, but the feeling in the air is different between them. Already, something’s changed. Subconsciously, Jude’s in the process of testing his father as children are prone to do, even when they haven’t grown up away from their parents. The immediate and easy comfort washes over him and he sinks into it. After all, he has known Payne since the start of secondary school even if he wasn’t aware of their relationship.
“Merlin, spare me,” Payne says, returning with his robes floating behind him. “That does not belong to our house. It’s a time imprint. They take the form of whoever’s imprint they are. Great Uncle Duke was quite the prankster. Drink this.”
Jude accepts the flask taking a whiff. “That’s vile.”
“I said drink it, not smell it.”
“How do I know this hasn’t been poisoned?” Jude doesn’t really think it has been. He just feels he should ask. Not only does Payne feel different, he’s acting different too. He’s relaxed, which is an odd thing to say about the cantankerous Potions Master.
Payne smiles, amused. “You don’t. But if you fancy looking like a … what are they called? Right, Smurfs. If you fancy looking like a Smurf, far be it from me to stop you.”
Payne knows what a Smurf is…? Wait, not important right now. Focus, Jude. Bliming, bleeding, bloody Payne. He shoves the flask back. “I’ll get Brianna to tell me the incantation, thank you very much. Worked the last time.”
“Of course, there was a ‘last time’.” Payne shoves it back. “I’m sure it did, but this time the incantation won’t work. The work of an imprint is more powerful than teenage magic, Parker. You need the potion.”
Jude has half a mind to stay blue and to try his luck with Bri, but if Payne is telling the truth, he’ll have to come crawling back to him for the potion and that would be worse than downing the vile thing now. Ugh, fine. Jude chugs it back, retching afterward. “Disgusting. Can’t you make it taste like cherries or something else nice?” He inspects his hand flipping it over and over. “Why’s it not working?”
“Give it a moment, Parker. It’s a potion. It will take a bit of time to get into your system. While we wait, have a seat on the sofa. We’ll have our chat now.”
With a wave of his hand, the fireplace roars to life. Huh, so homey and nice. Or is Payne just trying to lull him into a false sense of security? Jude sits but his nerves are a bit frayed and he’s on guard. “Do we really have to talk about anything? Can’t we just move on with our lives?” Jude isn’t good at talking and it’s freaking weird having Payne look at him like … well like, maybe he does actually care about Jude.
Jude knows Payne’s ire well and this, right now, isn’t it. Instead, he resembles a concerned Darth Vader.
Payne sits on the sofa across from Jude. “We need to talk whether either of us likes it or not. It will be uncomfortable, it could get heated, but we need to talk, Jude.”
Jude’s not sure he’ll ever get used to the man calling him by his first name though it really is kinda nice. He relaxes some more. Can he live in this world, even just for a minute where he’s getting the father he longed for when he was cold and lonely in his uncle’s barn? Jude doesn’t care who his father is, as long as the man will be his father.
Payne as a father is likely to be a nightmare. He’ll be strict for starters. Ugh, is he going to have to learn every potion that ever was? No. No! He won’t do it.
Then Jude remembers. Payne said his parents were part of Merlin’s Elite. He meant himself too. He was a spy. He’ll be good at elaborate tricks. What if Payne locks him in a worse barn? It’ll be filled with owls. They’ll all munch crisps around him. That’s it, that’s what he’s doing. Has to be. What other reason could there be for taking on a snarky teenage boy when it would have been much easier to leave Jude with his uncle?
“Calm down, Parker. I’m not going to do whatever it is you’re winding yourself up about.”
Jude keeps his face like stone. “It’s not like I don’t have a good reason to get wound up.”
Payne sags. “You have every reason. We have much to discuss and I don’t presume we will repair sixteen years of wounds in one night. Not to mention, you have a bedtime, which we’ll need to respect.”
“Bedtime? I don’t have a … oh.” Jude gets it. His first rule from “Father”. He’s getting a bedtime. Payne hadn’t given him rules before even though he was technically Jude’s magical guardian. He hadn’t seen the man much. He’d been gone.
A spy for Merlin’s Elite.
“Ten o’clock on school nights, eleven on the weekends and midnight when you win at football,” he explains with sly eyes. “For the rest of the summer you may stay up until eleven.”
“Why later when we win?”
“Don’t you want to be able to attend the victory party for as long as possible?”
Why would he care about something like that? Jude nods.
“I’m electing not to wait until we sort through what we need to, to begin parenting you. My parental rights have been restored and you need structure … yesterday. I will make rules for you, and you will follow them whether you like me or not. And I would obey me if I were you. I’ll be able to tell if you’re getting sleep or not, and the last thing a child wants is his father coming to check on him in front of his peers. If I have to speak with you about it too many times, there will be punishment.”
That takes Jude’s breath away. He should be arguing, he should tell Payne to stuff his bedtime nonsense and all his rule nonsense for that matter, but he doesn’t. It’s nice to have someone care. If anything, Payne has pinpointed the most effective way to make Jude feel safe and looked after. It’s like he knows him already. Jude’s well aware of the difference between consequences for his actions and what his uncle did to him. Living at school most of the time helped him with that distinction. He’s always appreciated the structure school provided for him, maybe because of his home life with Uncle Webster.
Payne fluffs his loose robes while Jude stares at him with awe. A sense of brightness washes over him and though he has no reason to let go of his suspicions, the little orphaned boy inside of him who wants this to be true, speaks, “A-Are you really my father?”
“I am and I plan to prove it to you. If you are anything like me, and I have observed that you are, innately you’ll be suspicious and require proof. I have access to your birth certificate and there are potions for proving paternity. You will require both.” Payne doesn’t say why. “I will provide any other proof you need.”
Jude wants the proof, but that Payne would go through this much fanfare and with such confidence—Jude can predict what the proof will reveal. “You all abandoned me,” Jude says, and he can’t help the wobble in his voice. He imagines it was for a good reason—no one spies for the hell of it—but he does wish they’d chosen him instead.
“I know. I can’t say a thing that will make you feel better. I am regretful about all of it. You can mark my words, I will make it up to you. We will see the family therapist about it,” he says. “Both separately and together.”
“Family therapist?” Payne is willing to do therapy with him? That alone is more than any adult has done for him. Maybe … maybe there’s hope?
“You’ll meet her this week when we have our session together. Her family has counselled the Prince family for generations. We’ll choose another day for you to go on your own as well and for me.”
“Prince? About that. Aren’t we Payne?” Maybe Jude’s jumping on the bandwagon a little quick here, but what does he have to lose? If this doesn’t work out, he’s no worse off.
“Merlin, no. Payne is an alias used for my spying days, which are now over. Effective immediately.”
Payne, isn’t even Payne? The world must be ending. “Have you really quit spying? For me?”
“Indeed, I have. You need me and that’s more important than the whole world. It should have been all along. Do you know how The Elite works?” Jude shakes his head. “The Elite doesn’t exist till it is formed. When you’re called, you and whoever you’re working with are The Elite. Before that, we were with the WBII.
“Each mission is different. The parameters vary. But what is guaranteed at the end of the mission is that The Elite is disbanded until a new Elite is formed. Therefore, I am no longer Elite, and I resigned from my post with the WBII effective immediately. I plan to remain as potions professor until you graduate.”
“The Wizarding Bureau of Illusion and Investigation lets you quit, just like that?”
“I didn’t give them another option,” Mads says, like maybe he could disassemble them like an ungifted folk child’s Lego set. “We do have to lay low for a bit. Just in case. Prince Manor and Ravyndell have enough warding to be considered reasonably safe. I would consider the Westley’s by Christmas.”
“You would allow that, sir?” Mads isn’t Preston Westley’s biggest fan. Preston and Jude tend to get in trouble together and as Jude’s guardian this annoyed the piss out of Mads. Plus, the Westleys multiple like rabbits—Preston has nine brothers. Mischief is a trend. Most professors groan when they know they have a Westley in their class for the year.
“Who do you think signed off on it before, hmmm?”
Oh. Oh. That made a lot of things make a lot of sense. He hadn’t been able to go for all of primary school. Sometimes Myra and Marshall—Preston’s parents—would visit at the school and Jude would see them then, but no one would let him leave school. In high school, Mads must have deemed the Westley’s safe enough to spend Christmas with.
“Above all, you’re safest with me.”
There’s that confidence again, like a superhero. Jude wants to believe him. He also wants to forgive him because he wants this. Maybe he’s fucking crazy, but yeah, he wants this more than he’s wanted anything. Even if Mads is strict and occasionally terrifying, Jude suspects there’s more to him that’ll balance him out.
“What happened to Mum and Dad?” Jude uses the words Mum and Dad tentatively. He’s in a place of conflict: elated to have a parent, gutted that two are gone.
Payne’s eyes harden again, sliding his mask in place, but he can’t stop the silent tears. “Your mother died first, just before you began at Ravyndell. Your dad was last year. I couldn’t tell you. The spells prevented me from speaking about them to others.”
Silence sits between them. Jude sheds tears with his father. “Would you rather talk about something else?” Jude says.
“I’ll be fine. Ask what you need to.” He wipes his eyes with one long finger and then his thumb.
“How did you three … how did that work?”
Mads smiles. “Your mother, Sebastian, and I were a family—though I was married to Sebastian. We didn’t have the chance to make it official with your mother, but we would have. Unlike ungifted folk, wizards allow for multiple legal spouses. Did you know that, son?”
Jude did not. Not really. He’s always known the kind of relationships existed and that people—like Bri’s parents—engaged in them. He didn’t know they were legal in the magical realm. He nods anyway.
“Do you have other questions?”
“Loads, which we probably won’t get to before my, ah, um, bedtime, but I would like to know what this means going forward.” Jude squirms. “We are going to acknowledge our relationship, yeah?”
Mads nods. “Absolutely. I am going to be your father in every way. You need a proper family and a proper parent. No one’s been looking after you and that’s going to change.”
The way Mads looks at him says all kinds of stuff and Jude knows he’s probably going to get hit with a bunch of rules, but also a lot of love and care and that’s fine with him. Still, he has to ask. “What if I don’t want it?” He’s always wanted a family, but family isn’t a word he can trust.
“You don’t have much choice, I’m afraid. I still have full parental rights since my name is on your proper birth certificate. Parker is also an alias. As you know, a wizard doesn’t reach majority until he’s twenty-five. You’re stuck with me until then, Parker,” he explains, not sorry about it.
“Why do you keep calling me Parker then?” Jude says, annoyed. If Jude’s to be his son, why call him by his fake name?
“It’s what you’re used to.”
“You could call me Jude.”
“You assume Jude is your real name.” Mads quirks a brow, the one that makes the sharp, upside down “V”.
Mads shakes his head. “Not exactly. You have Mads, my name, as your first middle name as per Prince tradition since you are the Prince family heir. Sebastian for your dad. Prince is your legal surname of course.”
Mads pauses. He’s stalling again. “What’s my first name, sir?”
“Emrys.” He bites it out like he wants to pull it back again.
Jude can’t breathe. “I’m not … but I’m not …”
The druids called Merlin, Emrys. No one is supposed to use that name—why did my parents use that name? It’s a rhetorical question. He has no interest in knowing. His gift has been enough problems for him without adding that to the mix.
Father places a hand on his shoulder. “Jude. Rest assured, it’s not as bad as you’re thinking but we won’t talk about it tonight. It doesn’t have to be talked about for a long time.”
“Never.” Jude hardens everything. He has to work to stop himself sucking the energy out of this room. “Change it. I want it changed.”
Jude looks away. At the fire.
“We’ll check in again when you’re older. Do you want to know where Jude Parker came from?” his father says, ready with a distraction Jude’s grateful for. He nods with his eyes closed. “Jude is from a song the three of us loved. Parker is because your dad liked Spider-Man.”
Jude laughs. He’s able to push the other thing far into a box of denial in favor of it.
“Am I no longer Jude Parker?” Finding out your professor is actually your biological father is one thing—but to not be Jude Parker at all?
“I think you’ll always be Jude Parker just as I will always be Mads Payne. We can decide what we’d like to be called by our peers. However, our roles to each other will change. You’ll be my son, Jude, and I will be your father. That’s what the truth is. There’s no use denying it.”
Of all of it, that’s the part Jude minds the least, looks forward to even. Jude’s always wanted a real parent. It was his greatest wish as a little boy. Jude’s most afraid of finally getting a father only to be denied everything that accompanies that.
Declaring Mads as Father is a stamp of ownership he’s going to use with pride.
“Prince men and women are territorial,” Mads explains. “Now that I can, I’m letting the world know you’re my son.”
Jude nods, relieved. “F-Father is your preference, sir?”
“It is. Princes are often formal as you will soon learn. But I don’t mind Papa for less formal times. I’m just not the dad sort. I rather think Sebastian would have been,” Mads says.
Jude nods, thinking about everything his father had to say. “So, I could still refer to him as Dad then?”
“Of course, Jude. He most certainly was your dad. Do you have any other burning questions for me?”
“Not for tonight, sir.” They’ve already covered a lot that Jude needs to process. He wants to know more about how the spell worked and …
… why they didn’t come for him.
But that’s … he’s happy to be here and not in a barn for tonight.
“It’s fast approaching bedtime. Consider staying in your room this time, Parker?” He arches that one deadly brow. It’s only disguised as a suggestion.
“I’ll stay put, sir.”
“Good, but a stop to the loo may be required to confirm you’re no longer a Smurf.”
Jude holds his arm in front of his face; it’s returned to its usual color. “Hey, I’m not blue anymore.”
“Nor are you poisoned,” Mads says, with a giant smile Jude’s never seen before. “Wonder of wonders.”
Jude rolls his eyes. “All I’ve learned is that you take your time with your victims. Lull them into a false sense of security.”
“Get to bed, Parker,” Mads says, but he’s still smiling, which is really starting to weird Jude out.